By Alex Miller
Call me Ishmael. Actually, call me something guttural from one of those Germanic languages. Eardwulf or Hrodgar. That’s what I’m talking about. Something with an umlaut. Call me fucking Ödön. So yeah, lots of changes lately. Check out these biceps. They’re new. Feel my abs. Like plates of bronze, right? The physique comes with the job. I stand before you as the slayer of the Lernaean Hydra. You’ve undoubtedly heard of me. I’m the guy who choked out the fucking Nemean Lion. That’s real hero shit! Bet you don’t get many like me around these parts. So yeah, what are you drinking? Meade? How quaint. I drink straight ambrosia. Nectar of the gods. Ah, I see you checking out my weapon. Takes a real man to swing this thing around. Looks like a yard of steel, right? Wrong! That’s pure mythril. Mined deep in the center of the earth by a long-dead race of dwarves. Who killed them? Heroes like me. The sword’s name is Dyrnwyn. Don’t touch. Its fires burn any who would draw it for an unworthy purpose. I ganked this bad boy from the elder lich lord of Svartalfheim. He cursed me as he died. What curse? Some nonsense about walking the earth alone. What does that even mean? Walking the earth alone? To Hades with all that. I don’t worry about the curses. Bad for your mental health. You know, you remind me of a woman I once loved. Sorry, did that freak you out? I don’t mean to be forward. You’re free to leave, if that’s what you want. Seems like they always leave. Anyway the chick’s name was Freyja. Do you know her? We had a thing. For a time. It was good until it wasn’t, if you know what I mean. A wiseman once told me the wheel is always turning. If you ask me, Freya was more goddess than woman. I loved her deeply with my whole heart. Did I ever tell you about the time I slew the world-serpent Jörmungandr? What a beast. The length of ten oxen. But he had nothing on Freyja. She was a real one. Sometimes I think I should have given up all this hero business and settled down with her. Lord, could that woman cook. I hunted Jörmungandr for 100 days and 101 nights. Trapped it in his lair beneath the arctic glacier. I’ll never forget what it was like to kiss Freyja. Her lips tasted like the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent Jörmungandr put up a tremendous fight. Lashed me with his tail. Chilled me with breath like the cold winds of winter. So cold it froze the soul right out of my body. The last time I saw Freyja, she blessed me with rose petals and holy water as I departed. Your boy Ödön had things to do. Hero things. Monsters to kill. Armies to slaughter. Eldritch evils to banish. Great troves of ancient treasure to plunder. But Freyja. She is lost to me now. Her memory haunts me when I lie awake and alone in my chamber at night. I would put aside my horde of gold and jewels to wed her. I would burn down my castle to spend a night in her bed. Jörmungandr possessed a terrible strength. Mine proved stronger. I threw down the fiend and thrust mighty Dyrnwyn into its breast. Oh how it thrashed and roared. Jörmungandr bled the black blood of the ancients. Freyja, oh Freyja. The world serpent Jörmungandr cursed me as it lay dying. They always curse you. Oh Freyja. The creature spat. Laughed. Choked. I remember how it grinned crazily, as if somehow it were the victor and I, the vanquished. At long last the wyrm spake. May you love deeply and with your whole heart.
Alex Miller is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Denver. His fiction has appeared in Pidgeonholes, Back Patio Press and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. His novel, “White People on Vacation,” is forthcoming in 2022 by Malarkey Books.