Friday, October 22, 2010

Ep 7. Honor Among Jerks

Plot Summary: Thoki has been kidnapped (after abandoning Lor) and taken to a gathering of trickster gods from other pantheons. Woo Kong (the Monkey of Buddist Legend) has just revealed the name of the ultimate chaos Thoki is Looking for, ISFAT. Thoki wants to use Isfat for his grand scheme of world conquest. Lor is stuck at the Youth Hostle and wondering which hand on the clock is the hour hand?

            “What is ISFAT?” asked Thoki hungrily.

            “‘In the beginning there was void’…” said a deep voice. Turning to find it, Thoki saw Anansi lean forward in his armchair and cast a penetrating stare in his direction.

            “…so says the Hebrew text, yes?” Anansi asked him. Thoki thought that the spider’s voice sounded very deep and rich, like an ad for male hygiene products.

            “I guess,” he said, shrugging. “I’m a little fuzzy on stuff that wasn't written by Snorri Sturluson… or Stan Lee,” he admitted.
            Woo Kong shook his head in exasperation. “You’re confusing the boy, Anansi.” He turned to Thoki. “The ancient Egyptians had different views on morality than most people. There was no struggle that was essentially good versus evil.”
            “What about Seth and Osiris?” interjected Eleggua, not even looking up from his game.
            “Even that was about brotherly rivalry and the symbolism of life after death. Even Seth had aspects in him that the Egyptians admired.”
            “Like the Greeks with Hades,” supplied Hermes.
            “Just so, but there was no Devil, no Hecate. There was only just punishment for the wicked. There was no good and bad. There was only order… and chaos.”

            Thoki had only been nodding absently through this spiel– he could care less about ancient morality–but now he sat bolt upright.
            “The goddess of order,” continued Woo Kong “… and the keeper of the laws of Man, was–”
            “Maat,” interjected Thoki. He had researched that much.
            “Correct. Maat embodied reciprocity, justice, truth, and moderation. Her counterpart was the antithesis of this – an all-consuming, annihilating hunger known as Isfet.”
            “Isfet is the god of chaos?” asked Thoki in a reverential whisper.
            “A god? No. Isfet is neither male, nor female. It cannot be defined by avatars or imagery. The Egyptians themselves hardly dared mention its name. Isfet is a force, an all-consuming, negating power. According to legend, Isfet was the black-starless waters of Nun before Atem gave birth to Shu and Tefnut, and they became the heavens and earth.”
            “In the beginning there was void,” said Anansi again with a cryptic smile.

            “That passage has another interpretation, ‘In the beginning, there was chaos’,” finished Woo Kong.
            Thoki stared, his mind blown by this revelation.
            “D’yah see now?” asked Puck, breaking the reverential silence with his jagged consonants.  “This t’ing you’re lookin’ for. It ain’t a trickster god. It ain’t even a god. It don’t take orders, and you can’t talk it into anything. It ain’t even a bloody metaphor for the transience of life, or nuffin’. Isfat isn’t a force of change like we are.”
            “It’s a force of oblivion,” finished Hermes. “It is void.”

            “So you see? It’s not some ultimate trickster rock of ages, Thoki. It won’t give you the power of a god, and it can’t be controlled, because by definition, it is uncontrolled,” finished Woo-Kong.

            “There was only one trickster who tapped that source of blasphemous chaos…” To Thoki’s surprise, Coyote had risen to his feet and was addressing him. His eyes were stern and his expression humourless. Musta been one hell of a fun guy as a trickster, thought Thoki.

            “Alright, who was it?” asked Thoki, who already knew the answer.
            “Your father, Loki.”
            “Thought so,” said Thoki glumly.
            Coyote rubbed his neck, regarded the slight Norseman before continuing. “Loki actively set about destroying the Aesir.”
            “He didn’t start out that way,” protested Thoki, wondering why he was defending Loki. “Things were just, sort of…exacerbated.”
            “Yes. From the moment he stole Sif’s hair. His subsequent humiliation, as his lips were sewn together with leather thongs, set into motion a chain of events that led to the destruction of your gods.”
            Raven now stood and joined his brother. “Yours is the only pantheon that was completely obliterated.”
            “What about the Babylonians, or the Celts? Hell, even the Greek Pantheon has fallen. Most of you are on the fringe now. Besides, people still pray to the Norse gods.”
            “The Norse gods are dead Thoki. Not in hiding, not dwindled, like many of us. Dead.”
            “Well, when you put it that way,” conceded Thoki. “Alright, so my dad was a bastard. So what?”
            “So we want your solemn oath that you will not attempt to unleash the powers of Isfat,” said Anansi’s deep voice. The old gentleman slowly unfolded himself from the armchair and strode to the others’ table. He extended a gloved hand towards Thoki and held it there, waiting for it to be shaken.

            “I still don’t get what’s the big deal,” said Thoki petulantly. He felt a knot press in his stomach as he eyed the gloved hand warily. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was in trouble now. If he shook Anansi’s hand it was over. No backsides, no crossed fingers. There was too much power, too much magic in this room. No, a handshake on a bargain in here would be as binding as a Hollywood contract.

            “If you unleash Isfat, the seen and the unseen will be cast into terrible peril,” said Reynard, still hunched over the table. He didn’t even look up as his raspy whisper made Thoki’s blood freeze. “More than likely the universe would be consumed by the primordial chaos it was spawned from.”

            “Damn,” said Thoki in a faint voice.
            “You must promise,” insisted Anansi’s tombstone voice again. His hand crept in microscopic increments toward Thoki.

            Thoki felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead, and he shivered feverishly in his damp clothing. To make matters worse, he felt two hands drop onto his shoulders. One was Puck’s and the other was Hermes’. They weren’t hurting him, but the weight of their hold left no room for doubt that hurting was an option should Thoki decide to be difficult.

            “Uh…er….uh!” stammered Thoki, squirming in his chair. Puck’s and Hermes’s grips became a little tighter. The air crackled and stung with energy as the hand advanced, and the fingers on his shoulder bit deeper. Thoki was, by now, well and truly terrified. His breath came in ragged gasps as he felt his heart thrum like a hummingbird’s. The other trickster’s stares bore into him as they leaned forward in anticipation, their collective breath held in suspense.

            “SHAKE IT ALREADY!” shouted Eleggua, jumping off of his stool and flinging his game console to the floor where it clattered and broke.

            As the plastic cracked and smashed into pieces, so did their hold on Thoki.
            “YOU FOOL!” Woo Kong snapped at the boy.
            Thoki wriggled out of Hermes’ and Puck’s hold and tried to jump up from his seat, but another set of hands held him down – Raven, had seized him by the arms and shoved him back into it. Hermes then hooked Thoki around the neck, while Puck wrapped his stout arm under his armpits.
            “Make him shake hands!” shouted Reynard.
            Raven nodded, and using all his strength, tried to man-handle Thoki’s arm into position. Thoki cursed and struggled, fighting them off with all his strength as Anansi’s hand grew dangerously close.
            “No! HE has to do it!” cried Puck, releasing Thoki and standing back. Thoki got his legs under him, and managed to pull back a bit.
            “He’s right!” shouted Woo Kong. “This violates all laws. Thoki has to do it of his own free will.”
            “He’s not going to! We can’t take that chance!” countered Reynard.
            “At the risk of the magic turning on us?”
            “Better cursed than erased for all time!” countered the Frenchman.
            “Help me!” grunted Raven. Coyote watched his brother in discomfort and seemed to be dithering on a decision. Eleggua had no such qualms and launched himself on the chair. It toppled over, smashing into Hermes’ nose and giving Thoki a second of unfettered freedom. It was all he needed. In a flash, he’d rolled to his feet and scampered out of the room. He ran with his heart pounding in his throat, certain that any second he’d feel a blow to his kidneys, or the tread of a foot on his heel.

            It never came. Turning around he realized, to his surprise, that they weren’t even chasing him. 
            “What gives?” he muttered uneasily.
            He heard a laugh by his ear that made him whip around. A short, sloe-haired and decidedly sexy woman was standing next to him. In her hand was a gold-plated iPod.
            “I thought you could use my help,” she said with a grin.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

PART SIX: Tricksters Anonymous

Recap: Thoki and Lor have gone their separate ways. Thoki has run across the Greek Trickster, Hermes.  Hermes has "kidnapped" Thoki and his intentions are unknown. Lor has forgotten by now that Thoki has said goodbye and left. He currently thinks Thoki's in the loo.

          Thoki opened his eyes and peeled himself off the concrete floor. He found himself in a darkened restaurant kitchen. Dusty range stoves lined the musty walls. The air smelled of rust and mildew and made Thoki sneeze.  He squinted in the gloom as he rose to his feet.

          A bare lightbulb flicked on above him, and Hermes was standing over him. Thoki shivered and wrapped his arms around his body for warmth, his hands touched cold wet fabric.

            “Why am I soaking wet?” he asked between chattering teeth.
            “It rained on the way,” shrugged Hermes, who was bone dry.
            “Where am I?”
            “You’ll see.

          A door burst open on the left and Thoki recoiled instantly from a figure entering the room. He looked dangerous. He wasn’t a tall lad, but he was tightly packed with condensed muscle. His shaven head made his steel grey eyes all the more prominent in his pale face. There was nothing but dead earnest in the set of his jaw and his determined stride. A jean jacket covered in faded paint marker flapped heavily around an ancient Sex Pistols tee-shirt. His heavy work boots clomped on the flagstone floors as he rushed towards the pair.

            He stopped short of Hermes, and stared at the purple-lipped Thoki. His face suddenly became benign, and even bemused.
            “Wotcher,” he said. His face broke into a lopsided grin, revealing several chipped teeth as he offered a hand to help Thoki to his feet. “So you couldn’t talk him out of it?” he asked Hermes in a thick cockney accent.
            “I would have brought him anyway, Goodfellow,” said the Greek with a sneer.
            “Sure you woulda,” shrugged Goodfellow, and clapped a hand on Thoki’s shoulder. “Come wif us, sunshine,” he said a little more harshly. “You need to know summat.”
            Thoki shook off the hand.
            “About what?”
            Goodfellow hesitated and glanced at Hermes before answering, “About your Dad.”
            “Don’t–” began Thoki.
            “I’m sorry if it’s hard to hear but–”
            “Why the hell does everyone think that I give a damn about Loki?” cried Thoki.
            Goodfellow was struck dumb for a moment. “Wh-…What, didn’t you get on?”
            “Why the hell would I?”
            “Well…” Goodfellow shrugged. “I dunno…he was just so…charming, y’know? Seemed like a real nice guy.”
            “That’s what Baldur said,” was Thoki’s answer.
            Goodfellow coughed nervously and motioned to the doorway he’d just gone through. Thoki’s eyes darted from side to side, looking for an exit.
            “I wouldn’t,” warned Hermes, flanking him.
            “You wouldn’t want to miss the party, anyways,” said Goodfellow’s grainy voice as he marched forward, steering Thoki ahead of him.
            “Party?” asked Thoki, uncertainly. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t involve balloon animals and a piñata.
            “More like a convention,” came Hermes’s drawl behind him.
            “Yeah. Tricksters anonymous,” added Goodfellow with a dry chuckle.
            Thoki had the sudden mental image of the skin-head standing up in a circle of animal gods and saying ‘Hello, my name is Puck and I’m a dick,’ (hello, Puck).
            They marched up a steep step and into the restaurant’s dining room. Most of the tables were cleared, except for one set up near a rustic stone fireplace. A cluster of several men, who seemed to represent all ages, races, and cultures, occupied a set of mismatched chairs. If it was a party it was more depressing than quarterly sales pizza-fests at INDTco.

            There was an anemic-looking Frenchman hunched up in a cardigan and coveralls. He sported a shock of red hair, a long nose and scraggly sideburns. He sniffed dolefully at Thoki, by way of acknowledgement, before muttering a string of profanity under his breath. Thoki recognized him as Reynard the Fox.

             Next to Reynard sat two men, shoulder to shoulder, in adjoining chairs. To Thoki, it seemed they could have been brothers. Both had russet skin and aquiline noses between high cheekbones. Both had dark black hair, which was so black it was almost blue. There the similarities ended. The one on the left had left his hair long, while the one on the right had his cut down to the “high and tight” regulations of the armed forces. The long haired man wore a plaid shirt with a white vest underneath, he was wearing a hemp necklace that was nearly rotten with wear. It had bone beads and in the middle was a carved hematite raven. The short-haired man was sporting military camouflage and dog tags. His skin was tanned darker than his brother’s and had a line-art tattoo on his inner wrist. It was of a howling coyote.

               A young American boy, probably in his early twenties, had his expensive athletic shoes on the table as he leaned back in his chair. He seemed to be made of all arms and legs, as his bright “Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets” jersey kept attacking Thoki’s eyes in the dim room. He was eating a sponge cake (there were a plate of them) and had another poised in his hand, waiting to be devoured.  He seemed familiar, but Thoki was uncertain.
            “Hare?” he asked.
            “Nah, I moved to America,” he said, “’M called Brer Rabbit now.”
            “Oh,” said Thoki, blankly. “How’s that working out for you?”
            Brer Rabbit snorted. Coyote and Raven exchanged grimaces.

           A Chinese man in his forties, whose face seemed to be constantly creased with suppressed laughter, sat at the far end of the table. The button holes on his yellow Nehru jacket bounced and fluttered as he bobbed his head. It seemed he was waiting for everyone else to get “the joke” and laugh first. He looked like an amiable man without a shred of malice in him, which made Thoki instantly distrustful of him and wonder who he was.

           An African man in his seventies was sitting away from the low table. He had grabbed the most comfortable armchair by the fireplace, and insinuated himself in it. He was dressed in a handsome three-piece suit. He held a cane between his gloved hands. The handle was a shiny gunmetal orb with the shape of an hourglass picked out in tiny rubies.  His eyes twinkled merrily and his smile revealed a set of teeth that were astonishingly white and straight. They seemed to radiate light, in contrast to his dark cheeks.
            “Anansi,” gasped Thoki in awe. He flinched when the old man nodded at him.

          In the far corner was an incongruous character: a small child, about seven or eight, with skin the colour of caramel, wearing an Iron Man 2 tee-shirt and jeans.  He was seated on a barstool swinging his legs with pent up energy. He was playing with a Nintendo DSI and chomping ferociously on a wad of gum the size of a grapefruit. He glanced up briefly at Thoki and gave him a precocious smile.

         “Who the hell are you?” asked Thoki; he fidgeted. Kids made him nervous.
         “I’m Eleggua,” said the boy happily, in a voice tinged with a Creole French accent. “Who the fuck are you?”
         “I’m Thoki Lokisson,” said Thoki, arching an eyebrow.
         “Good for you,” said the kid, before turning up the volume on his game system and ignoring him.

           “Good grief,” spat Thoki turning back to the other men. “What the hell is this?” he asked them.

            The other men, glanced at the Chinese man in yellow who had suddenly gained some gravity. His eyes were still smiling, but his face was set in a serious expression.

            “Who–?” began Thoki.
            “I am Wu-Kong, the Monkey King,” he said in a musical voice. “I, and the men you see here before you, are avatars of chaos: the tricksters. We represent eternal change and flux in the human condition. We act as everymen who challenge and provoke powerful gods on behalf of the mortals. We are cautionary tales to encourage mankind to be merciful to each other. We even entertain the world with our failures. Our offices make us the bridge between life and death and back again. Messengers, creators, fire-bringers, ferrymen, voice of the downtrodden: that is what we are. That is what your father was, except in one aspect…”

            Thoki took in Wu-Kong’s grave expression and steeled himself.

            The monkey god continued: “Trickster gods are the officers of mischief and luck. We embody both good and bad, but we are never evil. Loki broke that trust with mankind when he killed Baldur.”

            “Twice,” said Thoki acidly.
            “Just so,” nodded Wu-Kong. “That malice came from a different source of Chaos, unlike that of a trickster–an ancient evil force. It is called ISFAT.”


Friday, September 3, 2010

Beware of Greeks Wearing Versace

Recap: Thoki & Lor have been journeying across the Mediterranean towards Egypt. Thoki's wants to learn more about the Source of Ultimate Chaos and use it to rule the world. Lor wants to learn "where the bread goes" when he makes toast. 

Young Thoki entered the dark cave. He’d never been here before, his mother had wished to spare him the pain until he’d been prepared. What pain? Thoki and his father had never been close. Even now as he descended into Loki’s prison, Thoki was urged on by curiosity not compassion. He would hold the bowl. He’d promised his mother that, and he would do his best to keep the poison from falling on his father’s face. Still if his hand should slip or during those moments when he had to empty the bowl, it’d be interesting to see his father writhe in pain.

His feet grew heavier as he approached the interior chamber and he hesitated. Odin had told him not to go, that it could lead to disaster, but he had to go, to see. Most of all, Thoki wanted to know that his father was finally in a place where he couldn’t hurt him anymore.

Thoki heard laboured breathing and rounded the last turn of the narrow passageway. There he was. Thoki remembered his father being handsome. Like all the Aesir, Loki had been the epitome of his sex and forever young. Now he looked gaunt and withered, his mouth still scarred from where leather thongs had once bound his mouth shut. His fiery red hair was streaked with grey and lines framed his boyish face. As always his eyes were black coals, twinkling with disarming energy. It was impossible to hate Loki, not when he went out of his way to make himself appealing. It was the trickster’s mark. It had never worked on Thoki, however, since Loki had never cared whether the boy’d liked him or not… until today.

            Loki lifted his heavy head, and smiled charmingly at his youngest son through his marred lips.
            “Hey, sport. How’s it going?”


“You’ve got everything you need?”
“Yes, Thoki,” answered Lor.
“You’ll remember to eat three times a day?” Thoki asked the lumbering giant.
“Yes, Thoki.”
“And not just junkfood, okay?”
“Yes Thoki.”
“I’ve done your laundry for you. Your Thomas the Tank Engine shirt is on top. I know that’s you’re favorite.”
“Yes. Thank you, Thoki.”

Thoki shouldered his backpack, full of his few possessions and prepared to leave.
“Look, I’m really sorry about this. It’s nothing personal, you understand.”
“I understand.”
“It’s just I think we need to go our separate ways.”
“Yes, Thoki.” Lor only nodded with no expression on his hammy face.

It made Thoki’s stomach feel even more squeezed by guilt. He tried to swallow it and walk away.
“You know I’m not coming back, right,” he prompted.
“I know,” answered Lor.
Thoki grimaced and walked out the door to the youth hostile. Lor, seated on the flat bug-infested bed said nothing. There was no need. Thoki always came back.

Thoki felt like scum as he walked down the streets of Bastia. After a grueling month or two adrift at sea (he’d lost count of the days) he and Lor had run aground on the island of Corsica. It had come as a relief somewhat, since Jormungandr had been singing show-tunes at them the entire time. After a day the serpent had run out of songs and started repeating them. Thoki reflected that if he ever heard “One Day More,” one day more he’d have to suppress the urge to make a pipe bomb.

It was colder these days, and Thoki wrapped his zip hoodie tightly around himself as he walked without direction. He just had to get away. He had been getting closer to Lor, and that was dangerous, so he left. Oh, sure, he’d left about eight times already and always ran back when the loneliness became so depressing he’d thought he would die. But this time was different. He was leaving for good this time. Friends were a liability. They made you vulnerable–made you weak.

He found that his feet were taking him to very swanky part of town. The shop windows were full of handbags, and shoes, and silk shirts, and absolutely no price tags. Tanned women and men were strutting down the sidewalks in designer clothes and sunglasses. Thoki suddenly felt shabby and inadequate… and very pale. He wondered what he was doing here, why had he felt compelled to wander into this district? And then he saw the reason.

A bronze-skinned young man in a floral silk shirt and scarf was seated at a wrought iron café table. His dark brown hair was expertly styled, his white pants dazzlingly clean and immaculate. Thoki sniffed at the leather purse dangling on the back of the man’s chair. He’d heard of a “manbag,” but had never seen one before. Then again, he’d never seen a man in lilac silk before either.

The man had a carefully calculated air of casual elegance. He was sipping a cappuccino and admiring the beautiful women that clipped past (Thoki amended that–beautiful women and men that clipped past). While he leered, the man absently fingered the gorgeous silk scarf around his neck.

“Hermes?” inquired Thoki approaching him.
“Yes it is, but it’s pronounced, ER-MAY,” said the man, before looking up. (Thoki thought the word, ‘queer’ instead of ‘man.’ Vikings were not typically raised to be open-minded.)
“Oh you mean me,” said the man with a polite smile.
“Yeah, you’re the guy with the wings on his ankles. Hermes, right?” asked Thoki ducking under the café awning.
“I’m wearing Manolos today. Hello, Thoki, I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Me?” cried Thoki, taken aback. He didn’t think Hermes knew he existed. “What do you mean waiting.”
“We all have been,” said Hermes. “Take a seat, will you?”
“We?” Thoki eyed the seat warily, like it might have poison spikes on it, and eventually decided to sit. He tried not to think about how it might appear to other people to see two men, one in pink, seated at a café table.
“Antonio, please bring my friend a coffee and a selection of pastries,” said Hermes to one of the waiters.
“Yes, Signor Fattorino,” replied the waiter before scurrying off.
“Fattorino? Messanger boy?” translated Thoki, when Antonio had left. “Cute. Real cute.”
“Less is more,” replied Hermes with a shrug. “But let’s talk about you.”
Thoki tried not to look uncomfortable as the god’s dark eyes swept over him with unmasked interest. Hermes, another trickster, was turning on the charm. “The source of ultimate chaos, was it, Thoki?”

Thoki blanched whiter than his Nordic pallor. “How did you know that?”
“I know it. I know more than you think about it, perhaps. The Greek and Egyptian pantheon were united briefly, if you recall.”
“It was after my time,” said Thoki, who wasn’t sure.
“I even know the name of what you’re looking for,” continued Hermes.
“You do? What is it?” said Thoki leaning in.

For the first time since their meeting, Hermes looked uncomfortable. He shifted in his iron chair and glanced towards the street. “I don’t have permission to tell you, but… it’s not what you think it is. This Chaos you’re after, it’s nothing any of us can master or contain. You’re a fool to think you could harness it.”

Thoki bristled at this effeminate nancy-boy trying to tell him off. “Oh really?” he said with a sneer.
“It’s not going to bring him back,” said Hermes gently. “I know you’re doing this to please your father but–”
“EXCUSE ME?” cried Thoki sitting up, abruptly. “Where do you get off? I’m not doing JACK to please my dad. Not all of us are happy with our deadbeat fathers, Hermes. Here in the loosey-goosey Adriatic, you might enjoy being a little bastard, but in Norway, father-son relationships are a bit more complicated.”
“We’re in the Tyrrhenian Sea, dolt,” said Hermes acidly.
“Whatever. Just don’t mess with me, douche-bag. I have my own reasons for doing this.”
“Well, if I can’t convince you… maybe you’d be willing to come with me. I know someone who can tell you all about the Source of Ultimate Chaos.”
“No,” said Thoki.
"You don't trust me?"
“Well at least wait until after breakfast,” said Hermes indicating the plate of éclairs and the steaming hot coffee that had just arrived.

Thoki tried to ignore the heavenly scent that was wafting from the coffee and food. He hadn’t eaten a decent meal in over a year, and he hadn’t eaten solid food for about 2 months. His stubborn pride vanished utterly as he grabbed the cappuccino from its saucer and took a deep drink. It was bitter and very strong, but filled him with gorgeous warmth and caffeine. He then bit into the éclair, and saw stars. He never realized that food could taste like this.

Overcome with fatigue, remorse and emotion, Thoki burst into tears and cried face-down onto the table. Hermes almost regretted clubbing Thoki over the head with a blackjack.


Back at the hostel, Lor hadn’t moved. He was still waiting for Thoki.

Thoki and Hermes

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

4. "DA-DUN"

First published, August 19, 2010

“I think I see it again.”
“Oh, crap, you’re right. Paddle faster!”

Thoki and Lor were on the western side the Atlantic Ocean heading roughly east towards the Mediterranean. Standard forms of travel had been out of the question. Between the two of them, they had managed to save up only $128.34 from various odd jobs and petty thievery. That wasn’t enough to get a plane ticket for Thoki, let alone Lor who would have needed to purchase an extra seat to accommodate his backside. Plus he would have had to hunch the entire way to keep from banging his head on the overhead compartment. 

Thus stymied, they had tried to stow-away aboard a cruise ship. This plan had worked for all of twenty minutes. Thoki was still nursing some bruises from when they were arrested and put ashore in Florida. Stupid Disney. Down to their last Benjamin, Thoki attempted to be resourceful. He waltzed into a beach-shop and began to purchase/shoplift supplies. 

Now he was 40 miles out to sea, with his cohort, in a crude raft made of inflatable alligator pool-toys held together with duct tape. Three inflatable beer-coolers swam beneath them, acting as ballast. They were filled with containers of Ensure, Red Bull and Dasani, which were their only concessions to hydration and nutrition. The Red Bull was for Lor, who was currently acting as the outboard motor. He was wearing a large innertube around his waist, and orange water-wings, as his massive legs thrashed the water, keeping up the steady “kick, kick, kick,” they’d been doing all morning. Lor never got tired, he didn’t have enough imagination to get tired. 

Right now, however, he was kicking more frantically as Thoki called out to him.
“Starboard, kick starboard!”
“Is that left or right?” asked Lor.
“It’s that way,” said Thoki, pointing.
“So left?”
“No, that’s… wait. Does it matter which way I’m facing?”
“I think it depends on which way the boat is facing,” said Lor in one of his rare moments of lucidity.
“Oh… so port, then?”
“No thanks, I don’t drink.”
“Too late! Here it comes again!” cried Thoki in a panicked voice. He pulled on the tether holding Lor to the craft, and tried to pull him aboard. After a few close calls and near-capsizes, the giant managed to clamber onto the squeaking wet alligator toys.

The two stared in growing anxiety, huddled beneath a pile of stolen beach towels, as a large dark shape came closer to the boat.
“It might just be a whale,” said Thoki in a whisper.
“Or not,” he added mournfully.
“I’m scared,” said Lor quietly.
“Just don’t make any sudden moves,” said Thoki. “Keep quiet and don’t touch the water.”
"Okie-dokie, Thoki."
“It’s getting closer,” whimpered the giant, trying pathetically to make himself smaller.
The water began to boil and churn as the dark shape got closer and closer. Thoki and Lor, held each other tightly as scales and fins began to flash beneath the surface.
The ocean rose suddenly in a column of green water that erupted from the waves. A terrifying creature rose sixty feet in the air and came down again in a horrible splash. It was a sea serpent that seemed too big to be possible. The undulating coils were larger and longer than a freight train as jaws, the size of a drawbridge, snapped at them. 

“BADA-BUN!” sang the snake-head joyfully. Its breath tore at the two sailors, smelling of death and chocolate milk. In confirmation, a few empty Ensure cans floated to the surface.

“JORM! KNOCK IT OFF!” screamed Thoki.
“Aw, don’t have a hissy-fit, wiener. I was just funnin’ yah,” said Jormungandr, the world serpent. 
“And stop eating our food supply!” Thoki snapped again at his half-brother.

Jormungandr was in his traditionally ‘mythic’ form this time, that of a gigantic cretaceous clidastes. He didn’t exactly run the length of the world–the Ancient Norsemen did like to exaggerate– but he could circle around Australia at least. The giant sea-serpent was supposedly so hideous that no mortal could look on it without going insane, but Thoki was used to it by now and tried to stare down the mad rolling yellow eyes. 

“And do you have to sing the theme to ‘Jaws’ every time? It’s getting old.”
“I could sing the theme to the Poseidon Adventure. There’s got to be a morning afterrrr, If we can hold on through the niiiiiiiii–!
“Aw, you got such a stick up your ass.”
“Can you sing something from an ocean-themed movie where nobody dies?
“Alright. Have it your way,” said Jormungand with a poisonous grin. “Under da Seeea! Under da Seeeaaa!...
“Is he going to do this all the way to Egypt?” asked Lor meekly.
“Or until he gets bored and tries to eat us,” said Thoki.
“I prefer the singing.”
“Me too, actually– he’s not that bad.”
Up on de shore, dey work all day…” sang the serpent.
“This is going to be a long freaking trip though,” sighed Thoki.
“Who wants to hear me sing the theme to Spongebob?” cried Jorm turning happily in spirals.
“Ooh! Ooh! Me!" said Lor, raising his hand.
"I can't heeeere yooou!"
"Aye-aye, Captain!"

Drama queen,” Thoki muttered.

3. Land of the Vikings

First Published August 5, 2010
“Say it!” said Fenrir.
“NO!” cried nine-year-old Thoki.
“Say it, or I’ll drop you!”
“Alright! I’m a weenie!”
“What kind of weenie?” said Jormungandr in Thoki’s ear.
“I’m a sissy weenie who plays with dolls!” cried Thoki, tears streaming down his face.
“And you eat your own boogers! Say that!” added Fenrir
“I don’t––“
“Say it, or Earth gets a new hole to Niflheim!” snapped Jormungandr.
“Nah, changed my mind,” said Fenrir.

Thoki awoke in a cold sweat. He hated those dreams about his childhood. In them were the memories of countless wedgies, swirlies and pink-bellies doled out by his two half-brothers. This time, Thoki remembered when Fenrir had dangled him (by his underpants) over the Bifrost Bridge. Thoki had seen Earth with crystal clarity sparkling thousands of miles below. And while Earth hadn’t gained a new crater, it did receive a brief shower of slightly warm rain. 

It took Thoki a few minutes to convince himself he was no longer nine years old, then he picked himself off the ground and brushed the pine needles from his arm. They’d been camping in the forest for the last few weeks. He got up, stretched, and poked his traveling buddy, Lor, with a pointed stick. 

“Hey. Wake up.”
Lor blinked and sat up at his usual glacial speed. “Time to make the donuts?” he mumbled, still half asleep.
“I wish,” sighed Thoki. They’d been eating suspicious plants for nineteen days now. “Any clue where we are now? What’s the name of this Fjord?” said Thoki, pointing to the water lapping at the shore.
“It’s not a Fjord. It’s a lake.”
“It’s a big wet thing! Same difference!” snapped Thoki.
“Well technically, a Fjord is a long, narrow arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs usually formed by glacial erosion; while a lake is a body of fresh or salt water of considerable size, surrounded by land.”

Thoki just stared. Usually he would have argued with Lor, but when it came to “jography” he didn’t question Lor. The wooly-headed giant had trouble reading most 3-letter words, but when it came to reading maps, the behemoth had a talent bordering on the supernatural. Lor being clever unsettled Thoki. It was as if a sheep had suddenly donned a tie and begun offering financial advice.

“This is Lake Superior,” yawned Lor.
“Does that mean we’re in Minnesota?” cried Thoki in excitement.
“Yes. We crossed over from Wisconsin last night. I think we’re near Duluth.”
“HOT DOG!” Thoki’s petite figure broke into an impromptu jig. He stopped as the butterflies rose up in his throat. “Well, I suppose I better call him,” he said with less excitement.
“What can I do?” asked Lor amiably.
Thoki sighed. “I dunno. Go play.”
“Kay,” said Lor, back to his monosyllabic self. He lumbered over to a cluster of cattails.
“Alright… here we go,” said Thoki, psyching himself up. 

He pulled a reel of cofilament, thermal-fused fishing line from his pocket. Only one guy in the world had been stupid enough to fish for Jormungandr, and he’d used an Ox-head for bait. Thoki, who knew his half-brother a bit better than mighty Thor, wrapped the sturdy fishing line around a six-pack of Miller Lite. Using a log as a float, he cast it onto the lake’s surface. Hel said he’d need to fish for Jormungand, “At the great fjord near the home of the Vikings.” Thoki deduced that the only place left on Earth with Vikings, was Minnesota.

Two hours ticked past with no change. Thoki was now nursing a sunburn on his neck and he looked longingly at the chilled beer floating on the lake’s surface. 
“Lor? How you doin’ there buddy?” asked Thoki. Lor was being very quiet, usually a sign that he was doing something Thoki wouldn’t like. That or he was confused by life again.
“Whatcha doin?”
“We were planting seeds in the ground so they could grow into ducks.”
“What kind of seeds?” asked Thoki, glad Lor was being stupid again.
“Duckweed seeds.” 
“Makes sense… Wait. We?” asked Thoki, looking at his partner for the first time.
“Me and Mr. Onion.”
“Mister…Onion…” said Thoki slowly, craning his neck to see what was in Lor’s hands. It was a rock. Thoki shrugged. “Alright. Have fun, you two.” 

Thoki turned his head, to watch his bobber and screamed. A large, muscular chest was blocking his view. It was clothed in a black T-shirt sporting the legend, “Han Shot First.” Thoki tried to back up and lost his footing. Sitting on the ground, hard, he stared up into the face of Jormungandr, who was busy downing the contents of one of the beer-cans. He belched politely and threw it over his shoulder.

“Hey, wiener,” said Thoki's brother. He was in a human form, but there was a definite serpent quality to him from the blue-veined skin, to his hair the color of parsley. His eyes were the greatest giveaway–yellow, with slit pupils, and a transparent ocular cap which twitched as he regarded his younger brother and opened another can.

Miller Lite? You gotta be kiddin,” he said with disgust.
“It’s all I could afford,” said Thoki. He’d spent his last tenner on it too.
“How touching. What do you want?” 
“You wrap around the world right? You see everything.”
“Everything connected to water, but I concede your point. Continue.”
“I’m looking for something. Something I’ve only read in passing, but I need more information.”
“Jeezus, try the internet, dumbass. Do I look like Wikipedia?” said Jormungandr turning towards the water. 
“Wait!! Jorm! Do you know anything about a source of ultimate chaos?” cried Thoki frantically.

The snake-man paused. His diamond-shaped face looked at Thoki again. There was a strange smile playing on his thin lips.
“Now why would you want to know about that?” he asked.
“Tell me,” said Thoki, drawing himself up.
The ocular cap flicked up again. “Egypt. It’s in Egypt.”
“Egypt! But how––?“
“Not my problem. Ask when you get there. But it’s in Egypt. Later, runt.”
And Jormungandr sank into Lake Superior without so much as a ripple.