I haven’t written a Mildthing story short in a while… so figured I’d rip a couple pages from the unpublished, unedited and (yes) uncompleted Chronicles and let you have a glimpse at the battle between Mildthing and Gylfi – who for those who don’t know was the ‘first’ King of the Nords… a kind of mythic King/God. It’s got snow… so that’s as close as you’ll get to a Mildthing Christmas…
………. Excerpted From the proposed short “Late Lament” (from Sept 2003) ………….
The cold seeped into my joints like a slow syrup of gnawing pain that coagulated around them. You could feel the sharp pangs of ice crystals as they formed between knuckles and scrapped against the bone with every motion. It carved into them like a mixture of broken glass and ice water as it flowed in and around them.
I clenched my fists and rubbed thumbs back and forth to try and get circulation going to little if any effect as I stumbled forward. My shoulder had gone numb, in part from pain and in part from the muscle and tissue exposed had begun to freeze. I leaned into the wind, and drove on. To stand still, was to die and I knew that. The dull throb of numbing pain within my toes as they burst through the crust of the snow blurred my mind as they found jagged rock beneath the snow. The snow crust scraping the flesh of my legs and the tops of my feet with each step, as the wind whipped and bit into my exposed legs was now pink and red from the abrasions and bleeding.
There, no more than perhaps fifty feet away sat my goal, unmoving, unblinking, judging my worthless existence with a fury and disdain for me and everything I was or had ever been. This critical hatred burned in eyes the color of slate nestled deep within an ancient face carved from weathered granite and framed in icy frost colored hair. He sat frozen and filled with arrogant disgust and for me that was enough.
He hated me. He was a god. He had unlimited power in his realm, a realm I dared to enter, and he hated me more than anything right now. He didn’t need a reason. I existed, and because I existed he hated me. That was it.
He hated that I was alive. He hated that I breathed air. He hated that I was here. He hated that I never lived up to what he felt I should. He hated my smell. He hated my face. He hated every single microsecond of my existence and if he had it within his power I would have been wiped from all of eternity… and guess what? That was within his power. His was the power of perfect hatred.
He was a god, and his hatred was perfect. It was something alive. I could feel it as if it was a living thing that moved and coiled about like a snake in freezing winds around me ready to strike. It floated and hung in the cold of the air, dodging in and out and made the winds blast at me that much harder. They did so because he hated me to the core of his being.
That was good. Most people wouldn’t think that. But I knew hate. You can’t hate something that isn’t there, and a mortal can’t touch something that isn’t there. it has to be real, to be so real you can reach out and feel it. So yeah, I needed him to hate me, because I needed him there. There, and real and where I could get my hands on him.
I stomped forward and bellowed, “You hate me. I get it. Good. We have something in common. It’ll give us something to talk about, if I make it the next thrity feet to kick–” was all I got out before he was upon me. Thirty feet. Maybe I’d misjudged the distance in the blowing snow and hypothermia, or maybe Gylfi could actually jump that far from a seated position in the blink of an eye. It’s one of those great philosophical questions that are a waste of time to ask like “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?”. It’s there, it’s happened – so the answer is “Yes”. Asking it is a waste of time, more so when you’ve got a pissed off Nordic god holding your throat and shoving a thumb made of rock into an open wound in your shoulder in a way it separates from the joint. It digs it’s way deep in between the bones and cartilage and pops it slowly out as if it’s broken – only to slide back and let it pop back into place just to hear you scream again.
I thrashed wildly but his grip did not give. I flailed and snapped at him and tried to bite like a dog held in place by that grip of iron but there was no moving from him, no slipping free to fight back. I beat on his arms that really were, to my surprise, not just looking like but made of frozen stone. Unmoving. Unfeeling. I fought and fought while he glared that unfeeling uncaring glare of perfect hatred and held me fast in the air.
With each blow I tried I grew weaker. My fists bouncing off and rebounding with frozen pain from the strikes. I gave up exhausted and stared like a goat who’s accepted his fate and just wants the knife drawn and the unholy sacrifice to be over. Then, when fatigue had drained my resolve. He pulled in close, and the wind blew the white frost hair from his face and I recognized the craved stone features. They weren’t just familiar. They were my own. He grinned as I grasped the dark twisted irony of him wearing my own face to kill me. His — My — stone face grinned psychotically at me with an expression that was not my own, and he drove his stone thumb deep into my shoulder again and I screamed once more.
“Hvor er ditt hjem?” , he demanded.
I was silent. I was tired, frozen, dying, with agony and anger and pain and I had no idea what he was saying, all I could do was pant in silence and wait. In movies when mystical creatures talk they always speak your language. You can understand them. In reality, they generally don’t speak much. They just try to kill you. So it wasn’t a big shock that he spoke in some nordic dialect I had no clue what it meant. It’s not that he couldn’t speak english or understand it… In fact, was fairly certain he did. He just wouldn’t. Nords I’ve met were a stubborn bunch that way, and this was the King of stubborn.
He leaned in close enough that I could smell his breath, a horrid odor of decay and something rancid with breath as cold as the wind. “Hvor er din ære? Hvor er din verdig liv?” he whispered inches from my face, whatever fight was inside me was gone as he released me and I dropped in the snow on my knees.
The chill of those words had cut into me. I didn’t even know what they meant, and yet somehow I did. They swirled in my brain like a freezing rain that chilled and bit into whatever exposed life they touched.
My pain, my anger, my misery, faded. I was left with nothing. Empty. Defeated. With words I didn’t know or understand, I was cold and empty in a way I’d never been before and for the first time since this began unsure of why I was doing this or for that matter why I’d done anything in my life. I was nothing and I knew it. I had been judged and I wasn’t just unworthy, I was nothing. I was something that took up space in the universe that was so unimportant, that until now, I didn’t even deserve to be wiped from it.
Tears welled up as I watched Gylfi slowly move back to his throne, and it dawned on me that even if I wanted to there wasn’t a way to beat him. He was a god, by all accounts he wasn’t just any god he was the first, the basis for Odin, the all father, the wisest, strongest, most whatever… he was it. He hung himself upside down over the great void and bled out his soul to the universe for fun. This isn’t a demon you shoot in the head… it’s a god. This was his universe and I just happened to fall into it. No malice, no evil. He was what he was, and that was ancient and powerful beyond imagining and pissed off. He turned back for a moment and he whispered and the winds spoke for him, “Who do you cry for?”.
The air whistled this furiously around me and then was perfectly still. The kind of stillness you see in the deepest forests after snows blanket everything. Not even the air makes a sound. Now, that stillness was louder than a deafening roar as the snow flakes seemed to hang suspended to punctuate the words that came not as sound, but as a whisper of a breeze.
Words that came from the moment, not from the man, as if they were carved somewhere in stone. Gylfi’s grey eyes fixed firmly on me, and inside them I knew was the stone the words were carved upon. “A man cries not for his home. His home is what he builds. You have not lost your home. A man cries not for his honor. His honor is what he is when no one is looking. No one is looking at you now. Your honor is not lost. A man cries for not for his life. His life was given to him, it was never his to lose. A man cries for what his life is filled with. So… pathetic creature… Who – What — do you cry for?”
The deafening silence was all that existed, a weight on the scales of the universe that held my soul on one side and Gylfi’s accusing eyes on the other, waiting for my response.
Our eyes locked and my soul bled out before him. All the people I’d known over the years. All the moments that brought me here to this moment. Even Fate herself, always there for me until now. All that I’d loved, all that I’d lost. It had been actually a pretty amazing life all in all, watching it play out before me. Not the best to be sure. Not one I’d have chosen. It was a biting, clawing, never give a sucker an even break existence. One near miss with death after another, one fight after another, one harrowing walk on the razors edge of sanity day after day. It wasn’t a life. It was a battle. Every moment of every day. But it was mine. Every day I survived, I had another to look forward to … it was an endless battle I never asked for and sad as that was, it was what I had. It was mine. And, now, this bastard was taking it from me. It was all I had ever had, all I ever might be, all I’d never be… And just like that, I understood why I cried. I knew what I cried for.
What was it Fate had said? Something about winning not about defeating what we despise the most but learning to endure it and gain strength from it?
Gylfi grinned an evil grin, and I had to grin right back. From someplace, I have no idea where, I found the strength to stand. I wasn’t cold any more. I wasn’t angry. I can’t really say what I was, I just know I wasn’t empty, I was filled with a sweet rage of life. We now moved and thought, almost as one, we had one thought, Gylfi turned and began to stomp back towards me, grinning, I stomped forward to him, the same evil grin on my own face now. We spoke together now, as one, and the winds which had frozen in time howled our voices to the night sky.
“Jeg Gråte for Kamp!!”.
*…. “I Cry for Battle” – loose translation