“Hey! Hey, you!”
I almost didn’t stop. I’m still not sure if I would have been better off if I just kept walking, ignoring the shout from behind me. Maybe, if I’d just turned up my collar against the chill in the air and kept on striding across the park, I wouldn’t have arrived late to my meeting. Maybe I wouldn’t have even seen that monster in the lobby, tentacles thrashing as they came rising up out of the central ornamental fountain, smashing the expensive furniture and tearing poor Tina in half…
But you can’t buy shit with wishes, as my dad used to tell me. I heard that shout from behind me, and I paused for a second, turning and glancing back over my shoulder.
Just a second. But that was enough time to get me into this mess.
“Yes, you!” came another shout, and I now saw that the words emanated from a huge, raggedy, stained beard. Presumably, there was a man somewhere under that mess of tangled hair, although I saw little of him besides a blur of dirty clothes and a pair of flashing, brilliantly blue eyes.
I opened my mouth, intending to tell this crazed specimen of humanity that I didn’t have any change, sorry, and best of luck with his growing flea collection. But before I could speak, the man thrust something forward, into my hands.
“It’s dangerous to go alone,” the man muttered to me, spitting out the words from between teeth like tree stumps. “Take this.”
Instinctively, my hands tightened on the object thrust upon me. Before I could even glance down to see what I’d been given, the man had already turned away, dashing into the crowd.
I wasn’t certain, but I thought that I heard him mutter “sucker” under his breath as he left.
I looked down with dismay at the object now in my hands, wrapped in a grimy cloth. Under the wrappings, it felt hard, approximately three feet long and heavy, like metal. A crowbar? A baseball bat? Had I just been given a murder weapon?
I sat down on a nearby park bench, aware that I was growing more and more late for my 1 PM meeting by the second. I unwrapped one end of the grimy cloth-wrapped package – and gasped as I realized what I held.
A sword. This crazy man had just given me a sword! What in the world did I need a sword for, in the age of taxis and cell phones and cans of Mace?
Maybe I could just drop it in the garbage can – but no, a kid could pick it up and hurt himself. I glanced at the time on my smartphone again, and cursed. I really was going to be late. I’d just have to take the damn thing with me.
Clutching the wrapped sword awkwardly in my hands, I hurried across the rest of the park, towards the gleaming tower of my office building. I just needed to get up to the fifteenth floor, convince Marketing to drop this insane idea of handing out free product with every customer sign-up, and then figure out what to do with this blade-
Arriving at the entrance, I pulled open the door – and then instinctively ducked, as something flew just over my head and shattered the glass above me. What the hell? Were there protesters in here?
Nope. Not protestors. I blinked, trying to wrap my mind around the sight in front of me.
When I had left to get lunch, the lobby looked much like most other office buildings – a large fountain in the middle of the open area gushed water into the air, while expensive and uncomfortable lounges sat in little clumps around it, and the elevators softly dinged on the back wall. A large desk held our silicone-inflated receptionist, Tina, whose flirtation acted as our first line of defense against irate customers. Rumor had it that she’d banged three of the C-level execs… all at the same Christmas party.
That was how the lobby had looked when I left.
Now, it looked considerably different. Most of the lounges were smashed to bits, and one of the elevators gaped open, its doors dented and askew. Tina’s massive desk was overturned, and I caught a flash of cleavage as she crouched behind it, screaming at the top of her lungs. Even those screams, however, were barely audible over the roaring coming from the ruins of the fountain.
“Someone must have ordered sushi,” my mouth cracked, apparently making jokes on autopilot now that my brain had shut down.
Kraken. That was the name of the monster, I distantly thought to myself. A dozen huge, rubbery octopus arms reached out of the fountain, lashing out wildly in all directions. Each of them, at the base, looked as big around as a fifty-five gallon oil drum. The tips of those tentacles, extending out at least twenty feet from the fountain, cracked like whips as they lashed wildly at everything within range. From the middle of the fountain, a single huge, unblinking eye glared balefully out at the world.
Tina’s scream suddenly jumped up an octave as one of those seeking, grasping tentacles managed to wrap itself around one protruding ankle. The beast effortlessly hauled her into the air – and then, with a second tentacle, ripped her apart!
“Oh god, I think I’m going to be sick,” I groaned, lurching forward as the screams abruptly stopped. The motion, however, dumped the sword out of my hands, out of its wrappings to clatter against the floor.
And at the sound, the beast turned its raging attentions towards me.
Tentacles lashed out towards me. I barely had time to react – and there seemed to be only one thing to do. I snatched up the sword from the floor and, trying to keep down the rising gorge from my stomach, slashed wildly as they came closer.
To my surprise, the sword cut keenly through the tentacles nearest to me, and the monster drew back with a howl of pain! I pressed my advantage, pushing forward and slashing at anything and everything that came near me. Closer and closer to that baleful eye, now streaked with splashes of blood.
“I’d been flirting with her for weeks, you DICK!” I screamed, plunging the sword into the eye of the beast.
It let out a single, ear-piercing howl, all of the tentacles thrashing across the floor. I yanked the sword back, slashing any of them that came near me to ribbons, but the damage was already done. Still howling, clutching at its ruined eye, the monster shrank back into the the depths of the fountain.
A minute later, I stood alone in the ruins of the lobby, still holding a bloody sword in one hand and breathing heavily.
“Holy shit,” I said aloud, to no one in particular. “That was crazy.” I vaguely wondered if I could file a worker’s compensation claim for this.
But a second later, the silence was split by a roar. My head jerked up. This one sounded like it came from outside the building! I turned and rushed to one of the unbroken windows of the lobby, peering outside.
It took another roar before I realized that I needed to look up. Only then did I see the huge shape winging its way between skyscrapers, occasionally letting out a burst of fire that licked at the buildings.
I looked down at the sword, groaning. “Somehow, you’re doing this to me, aren’t you,” I told the object. “And even though the National Guard is probably on its way, it’s somehow up to me to fix this. Isn’t it?”
The sword didn’t say anything.
I sighed, looking up again at the dragon. I needed to get up there. Maybe from a higher vantage point, I could attack…
I headed for the elevators, shaking my head as I climbed into the lift that appeared least damaged. I definitely wasn’t going to make that marketing meeting now.