Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2. Dwindled

originally published June 22, 2010

The last one. The very last one. 

“I am going to eat you, last donut,” said Thoki standing over the greasy box of Sara Lee. There was a post-it note that had lost its stick and was now attached to the wrinkled box with electrical tape. It read:
“Shanes’ Donuts. Do not F---ing touch!!!! 

Thoki rolled his eyes. Shane didn’t even have the cajones to write out the f-bomb, just an “F” and four dashes. Like THAT was going to stop him. He wolfed down the stale chocolate-coated delicacy and gave a muffled laugh. He whipped out his pen and corrected the apostrophe.

He then went about eating and drinking some of the other things in the fridge he had been forbidden to touch, scoffing mentally at the pathetic notes scrawled on each one.

“Please don’t eat my lunch. Then I’d be sad. ~Melanie”
“Aw, ain’t that a shame,” Thoki wrote, while shoveling half of Melanie’s chicken-salad sandwich into his mouth. He immediately spat it out into the breakroom sink. 
“RAISINS? Who puts Raisins in chicken salad? That’s just gross!” he re-wrapped in the other half and dropped the squished lump back into Melanie’s lunch bag.

“Did you buy this soda? I don’t THINK so,” 
...said a note taped to David’s 6-pack of Mountain Dew. Thoki shotgunned a can and wrote, “thanks for treating us,” on Dave’s note with his pen, sniggering all the while. 

Jodi’s box of cheeseburger Hot Pockets had a badly-printed picture of a lolcat propped against it. A paper speech-bubble had been taped to the picture that said: 

Thoki had to stifle his laughter as he seized 2 pockets (eating them frozen) and writing “NO CAN HAZ” on the bubble in red pen.

He walked from the marketing department’s breakroom towards the cramped and musty engineering department. He felt a bloated sense of importance from outwitting the 6-figure earners. The engineers didn’t get a breakroom, despite the fact that the technology company basically relied on the bevy of dorks to survive. No, the stupid MFA morons in marketing, who spent all day at “focus groups,” got to have a fridge and a microwave. The engineers only got a coffee-maker that sat on a broken office chair and was plugged into the outlet in front of the ladies’ bathroom.

Feeling full, and a little sleepy, Thoki strolled back to his cubicle to look at the screensaver on his monitor. He had chosen it himself. It was a hi-res photograph of a glacial fjord in Scandinavia. Animation made it look like snow was falling over the landscape and that the sluggish freezing water was lapping quietly at the banks. Thoki imagined he could hear the hiss of snow hitting the water’s surface and the lulling whisper of moving water. He had been to that embankment once. It was the Skjomen fjord in Narvik, and it was the first place he had seen upon his escape to Earth.

Hel had swung that for him. She’d always had a soft spot for her half-brother, despite the fact she always called Thoki a “weenie.” She was the closest thing Thoki’d had to a childhood friend, but you had to stay on her good side. It took a lot of begging and manipulating to convince Hel to let him out of Niflheim. The “Land of Shadows” certainly didn’t have a revolving door, and actually getting out, once Hel had given him permission, had taken nearly 2,000 years. 

“You need to get out,” she eventually agreed. “You don’t belong here. The underworld is for people who once lived. You’ve never lived a day in your life, Thoki.”
“Thank you,” he’d said quietly as they walked by Nastrond, the shore of corpses.
“It’s not going to be easy,” she warned.
“I know. That looks like one mother of a climb.” Thoki stared up at the twisting labyrinth of roots that made up Ygdrassil, they seemed to go up forever, larger than any ocean, more vast than any night sky, tessellating upwards into infinity. That was the route ahead of him if he was going to get to Midgard: Earth.

“No, I mean it’s going to be very different than it is here. The plus side is that you won’t be DEAD anymore, but you’ll only be an Aesir in name. You can never truly be a god or a mortal.”
“Anything’s better than being in this hell. No offense,” he added quickly.
Hel only shrugged. Being an agent of death she wasn’t partial. To her, everything was equal, but she loved her down-trodden little brother. She reasoned that he was due a little partiality.

Of course, once he was outside he wondered what the big flipping deal was. He’d gotten out of Norway and went to the United States. (He’d watched a lot of television his first week of being a mortal, and that’s where everything seemed to happen). He and Lor had pooled their limted resources and made it to D.C. where they lived in a suburb of Virginia, or rather, UNDER it. They squatted in sewers for shelter; stayed in Libraries researching the world; and stole food from the breakroom fridges where they worked. No one suspected they were an Aesir and Jotun. The old gods had been forgotten, it seemed.

There did seem to be an awful buzz about “Thor coming out,” which had given Thoki some anxiety, until he realized it was a movie. His kind was unknown and unspoken of in this world of electronics and media. He considered it a blessing, for it made his life easier if no one knew what he really was; except for a pocket of weirdoes who believed in the healing power of crystals and smoked all manner of plant life.

Still, this was not the freedom he had envisioned as he stood on the Icy shores of Narvik. To him, the mortal coil was just another hell. He was a prisoner in a 5x5 cubicle, sentenced to another type of oblivion. Hel was right. He had never lived, and at this rate he was never going to. There was only one way to change his lot. 

To escape prison, he had to become the warden.

He grinned at the thought. He had stumbled across the answer in the smallest paragraph of a dusty tome in the reference section. “The source of all chaos.” A shiver had gone up his spine when he’d read that. He knew. He was certain that was the way to improve his lot. He just had to keep at this mind-numbing job a little longer. He had to endure the boot until he’d done his research and scraped up enough cash to go find the Chaos Source. 

The computer screensaver flicked off as an incoming memo flashed on the monitor: 

When he clocked out, Thoki was in a chipper mood. He’d screwed up a lot of things today, but there was nothing for it but to move ahead and keep going. He felt a small sense of triumphs amid the setbacks. He met his friend, Lor, in the Library.

He was in the children’s section reading “Bread and Jam for Francis.” Lor was struggling with reading it; “Francis” being a level 3 reader book. The Jotun was currently at level 2 on his own. Thoki whipped a copy of “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” from the shelves and handed it to his afflicted pal.

“This one’s a little easier,” he said to the seven-foot man curled up on a bean-bag chair.
“Thanks, Thoki. How was work today?’
“Ah, I think I need to find a new job,” said Thoki a little wistfully. 
“Oh dear.”
“But at least I get to sleep in tomorrow.”
“Look on the bright side,” said Lor with a slow nod. “What happened?”
Thoki only shrugged.
“Are we still on the H section?” asked Lor. Thoki regarded him and felt a sudden surge of camaraderie for the oaf. He was the last Jotun, just as Thoki was the last Aesir. They were two singulars in a world of plurals.
“Yep, c’mon,” said Thoki, leading him to the reference section after a brotherly punch on the arm. “I sent my sister a present today,” he added, rubbing his bruised knuckles.
“Oh, that’s nice.”

When the police concluded the death of EVERY Marketing Employee for INDTInc was from boric acid poisoning, there were very few clues. When checking the employee records, no one seemed to remember a disgruntled engineer named Thoki Lokisson.

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