Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Mister Zapak Presents: The Cost of Sport
By David Edward Nell

After walking around in circles in the Moor Drylands, I'd finally found my client on a small mountain that belonged to a village of dwarves. I knew he was there because I was in ear of his boisterous taunts and the pained screams of his opponents; and, of course, this was a normal day.

Abbo ceased his brawling for a second to shout at me, “Where have you been? Slow as usual, Mister Zapak.”

“I'm not the one who wears a snail's shell on my back,” I muttered under my breath. Following that, I said to him, “If you'd given me any directions, I would've been here sooner.”

He spat then wiped his mouth. “Bah. It's not important now.”

“You said you have something to tell the world?”

“Bring that one up for me, will you?”

“What one?” I said, and then kicked it. The head of a dwarf lay by my foot. I brought Abbo what he wanted, though felt ill doing so. I witnessed the heap of bodies he'd left. At least half the dwarf population must have been slain. He snatched the head from my hand and threw it in his shell.

“What's the matter?” he asked me, as though I wasn't supposed to see the bodies. I'd garnered the same reaction from him in our previous journeys, always after his battles. And I always wondered if he felt guilt.

Abbo was picking up all the remaining heads from the ground with his free left hand. Under his right arm, he was carrying one still-living dwarf. Much like one would be carrying a small child.

He laughed at my pause. “Have you been swallowing mushrooms as of late?”

“I was just thinking about something,” I replied.

“Enough with your thoughts, then. Aren't you writing any of this down?”

I bore my teeth to him, and so prepared my quill and sheepskin. I was a reporter, after all. Yes, that's what I was.

Ever the dolt, I tripped forward. Ah, but what an embarrassment. Thankfully, our hero caught me before I could fall. He stood me on my feet.

“You pierced my arm with that quill of yours,” he then observed.

“I did what? Oh, my goodness. I'm so very sorry,” I said, motioning to soothe the mark I'd left.

He pushed me aside before I could kiss his wound. “Never mind. Just watch it,” he said. “I have news for you.”

“Let's hear this news, friend.”

“Remember when I said our journey will come to an end?”

“Yours or ours?”

“Ours and mine.”

“I don't understand. But you still have so many more heads to chop,” I said.

“My travels were never just about hunting heads,” he said. Which I'd always known. I previewed the gold he had stolen today, before he closed off his shell again.

“Is this really the end?” I asked Abbo. “What about me?”

“What about you?”

“It's just, well, I'm going to miss you.”

“We've only been on five journeys together,” he said, looking at me funny.

“And what's going to happen to our hero?”

“Retirement,” he replied, simply.

“The most legendary warrior of Cackalathian times, retired? Is the world shaped round now?”

I couldn't hear him so well as he ran down the mountain, leaving me behind, but it sounded like he'd told me goodbye.

“Goodbye? Abbo?”

I followed him to a tavern in Bragur, and sat beside him as he had his face in a chalice. Apart from the presence of the bartender, we were alone.

He spat in surpise on seeing me. “I know what you want. I know your plot, dark wizard.”

“Abbo, we've been through this before. I am not a dark wizard. And I feel I have to remind you that, right now, you're drunk.”

“What's the difference? I know what you're up to. Even when I am sober, I know. You're here to steal my gold. But try and I'll slit your throat.”

He raised his battle-axe with a mighty roar, and then the weapon slipped from his grasp and made a loud noise on the floor. He sank in his stool and released a bit of gas. I didn't flinch once.

“Why would I want your gold? I'm rich myself.” Which was the truth.

I waited for him to reply, but he simply stared at me. I decided to point out something to interrupt the awkward moment. I said to him, “By the way, that dwarf is still under your arm.”

Abbo was surprised by that as well, and showed no mercy. I felt sympathy for the poor dwarf as it had its neck squeezed until it couldn't breathe anymore. I'm sure our hero was envisioning your humble narrator in its place.

“Anyway,” I said, looking around, “how much is a drink around here?”

Abbo banged the table broken. I had nowhere to place my arms, but no matter, I could use my knees. Abbo leaned across and fingered my cheek. I could smell and feel the alcohol-tainted heat from his nostrils. The bartender was watching from the counter like it was a normal event.

“You play with my mind,” Abbo said.

“Not at all. There's some more secrets I mean to uncover of our legendary hero.”

“I told you, I'm finished. You've enough material for your audience.”

“It's no interview I am requesting.”

“Then what is it?”

I called to the bartender to bring me some salt. While he did, I revealed my plan to our hero, vaguely so, “I've been meaning to try something since I met you.”

“Something? Such as what? What are you on about?”

“You'll see.”

I received the salt, thanked the bartender and sprinkled some into my palms. “Just a little...”

“What are you doing?” Abbo asked.

“Eh. Just give me a minute,” I said.

Once I calculated the proper positioning and distance, I threw the salt in our hero's face. And then it was done. A mixture of surprise and anger seemed to have come over him. The latter reaction was what I'd been yearning for. He stood and clenched his fists, as predicted.

“What did you just try to do to me?” he said, wiping his blushing face.

“My uncle once taught me that snails hate salt. Well, it turns out it's just an old wive's tale.”

“So you were trying to murder me? After you gained my trust and...”

I shrugged, and this rude gesture of mine Abbo must have interpreted as a yes, because he then wrapped his hands around my throat and strangled me. But hurrah! As he grew angry, I could see him giving in. I could feel his grip loosening. He was entering a new alchemical madness. His anger was translating into a sort of subservience. What I'd wanted all along.

“Who are you, Mister Zapak?”

“Perhaps I lied about everything. But don't you think that makes you completely stupid?”

He shook his head incessantly. I can't imagine how internally conflicted he must have felt, and I did feel sorry for him, but what was done was done.

“And you're right,” I told him, intentionally feeding his inner fire, “there was an agenda.”

His eyes widened.

“I followed you around so I could have this moment. After you slaughtered my people ten years ago, I made this meeting my life's mission.”

My plan was working. Or so I presumed. All at once, his choke resumed its tenacity. The effect I'd intended for him wasn't happening fast enough, or at all. I wasn't certain of anything that moment.

“Then they must've gotten what they deserved,” he retorted.

“The Daisies did nothing to you–”

“Daisies? You, of the Daisies? Ha! Those same-sex mongrels are most deserving of my blade. Certainly, you've proven to me why your people were worthy of my blade; you, being the most conniving of all, have shown to me first-hand what kind of vile, treacherous blood which you were bred from. Ha! Five journeys – I've never let anyone go on that many journeys with me. But now I see. Perfidious mongrel.”

I was losing air. “It was just a joke,” I gasped forth. “I'm still your friend. We can still have many travels...”

At last, Abbo let go. I thought perhaps he'd come to peace. Then he laid me on my belly and got his battle-axe. “You can die with your people in the inner world for all I care.”

I begged softly as he raised his battle-axe in the air. I closed my eyes as he brought it down. I heard it strike into wood. I opened my eyes and was elated to see it was next to my face instead.

He began to cry, you see.

He fell on his knees and hid his face in his hands. “What have I done?” he whispered to himself, rocking back and forth. It was then, I knew, that the ink of my quill was truly coursing his veins.

I assured him everything would be alright. I took him in my arms and waited for the final process to enact. It would be soon.

“Ssshhh. I forgive you,” I told him. “Now you must accept what fate I've delivered.”

His stomach swelled. Abbo the Headhunter became pregnant in an instant.

“What's happening to me? What have you done?”

“Behold, the cost of your sport.”

“Kill me.”

“I am not a murderer, Abbo. I do not like the sight of blood.”

He threw fists at my chest but they were meek. “What hell is this?”

“You will help me rebuild my population, Abbo,” I said.

“I'm going to kill myself,” he said.

“No, you're not. From now on, I will care for you. I love you, Abbo.”

He quit his rebellion and cried some more. I hugged him tighter against my chest and sat with him for a while, not wanting him to notice I had urinated in my pants.

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David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa. He can be touched at: .


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