“That is one hell of a story,” Don says, wiping the sweat from his palm on his pants. “So how do we address you? Lord, sir, what?”
“Than will do,” I answer.
“Than, if you are going to be here, perhaps you should wear something less conspicuous,” Polus says, gesturing to my cloak.
I nod and swipe my hand over the cloak, transforming it into a black suit with a long jacket to cover my wings and a white button-down shirt open at the throat. I am wearing the special gloves my mother gave me so I can touch the mortals without killing them. I pull out a pair of sunglasses and put them on to mask my solid obsidian eyes.
“Now this wall you spoke of, what shade of blue was it?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Maybe a cobalt or…umm…indigo?” Don says, sounding unsure.
“Did this indigo or cobalt wall have black runes in it? They would appear to be fluid, constantly changing, and floating around,” I ask.
“Yeah,” Roger says in a low voice.
“Holy shit, a djinn trap! But they aren’t usually a wall. They are either a box or a—” Polus starts.
“Dome,” I finish.
The sunlight coming through the windows fades to darkness and is replaced by an unnatural indigo light. The burly one they call Roger lets out a small whimper. Polus rises from his chair and looks out, Don and I join him. An arc of indigo light blocks our view of the sky. Black ever-changing rune float within the barrier. The three of us leave the building to stand outside. Other citizens have wandered out as well. They all share a wide-eyed, wide-mouthed expression as they turn their gaze to heaven and see how the djinn has trapped them. Somewhere in the distance, the dragon lets his presence be known by letting out a mighty roar. Everyone looks in that direction as Roger emerges from the office to join us.
“Mr. Don, where were the initial reports of the wall?” I ask.
“The frontage road about twenty miles out,” Don answers.
“Then that is where we need to go,” I say.
“We can take my truck,” Polus says.
We head to the truck and find Pat waiting for us. She is smiling and holding two white plastic grocery bags. The smell of fried, greasy food makes my stomach rumble. On the hood of the truck, she had placed four styrofoam cups. She holds up the bags and blows an errant strand of blond hair from her face.
“You boys aren’t going anywhere without some lunch, and I don’t want to hear any arguing. I even ordered food for you…ummm…Mr. Death. You do eat, don’t you?” Pat says.
“Yes, I eat,” I say with a small nod.
“Burger and fries?” Pat asks, smiling widely.
I nod again, and she looks relieved. Roger takes the bags from Pat and Polus steps in close to her, brushing a kiss to her lips. He holds her against him, and they speak in hushed tones as Roger and Don check the vehicle for provisions. I continue to watch the runes in the sky change and shift. Something about the pattern and the symbols seems familiar. We load up, as you mortals say, and begin the trek down the frontage road to the spot where the wall originated. It is here the djinn’s magick will be at its strongest, and the titan or I can get a sense of it. I am sure of one thing. This djinn is of that arid world I went to many decades ago. The road ends, and we take the time to eat and drink before following Don down a small forest path to the wall of shimmering indigo light.
Polus and I approach the wall cautiously, while the two mortals hang back. Polus runs his hands over the barrier, probably looking for the axis point of the dome, more than likely he will attempt to break it. As for me, I am more interested in the black rune that has swum before my field of vision. It is a rune of a family crest and an image of my past. The djinn I fought in another world bore this mark on his forehead, even after I severed it from his body. His family has crossed the realm and taken up residence in ours. I reach out and touch the rune. It stays in place as if eager to receive my touch. It is similar to what mortals think of as the letter M only the tongs come to sharp looking points. I feel Polus on my right before he speaks.
“Well, I found the axis, but whatever magick is holding it in place is powerful. I can warp it, but not sure I can break it. Does this rune mean anything to you, Than?” Polus asks, nodding at the floating symbol.
“Oh yes, very much so. A powerful djinn family that I encountered during my wandering year. You won’t be able to warp it. The djinn must be killed to break this particular dome,” I answer.
The rune dissolves, and the black ink liquid moves and shifts from my hand as if to say, See you soon, Thanatos. We remember. I remember the hot and dry desert air, the cocky sneer of the djinn, his eyes alight with blue fire, and the permanent look of surprise on his face as his head hit the ground and rolled to the feet of his father. He had siblings, how many? I don’t remember. I pull my hand off the dome and turn to face Polus and the mortals. They, however, are not looking at me but above and past me. I feel it then, a rumbling through my boots. I don’t need to turn to see what is behind me. The horrified faces of my companions are enough.
“Fuck!” Don exclaims.
The dragon lets loose a mighty roar, announcing itself more formally. The breath of the beast behind me is as hot as Tartarus. The force of it pushes me forward and knocks the others down. We stumble and crawl away from the creature as it bellows again. Perched on its back in a black hooded robe is the djinn. In the darkened maw that obscures its face, the only thing I can see are the burning twin balls of blue fire where its eyes should be. It takes a few moments for us to regain our footing. As we turn to run to the truck, I notice that the robe appears baggy and oversized, as if to hide something on the small frame.
I have no time to think it through as the dragon opens its mouth, and an orange plume of fire shoots out, melting the blacktop directly in front of it. The flames are intense and suffocating. We run towards the truck, and the creature takes off. Flames chase us, more forceful than the initial blast, sending debris into the air and setting the vegetation along the roadside ablaze.
Why doesn’t it spout its flames in front of us? I wonder as we run. Is this djinn playing with us?
We pack into the truck and Polus floors it. The dragon is on our tail, bearing fire down behind us. Polus swerves, attempting to avoid the molten hot chunks of blacktop that rain down around us. The ground shakes as the dragon lands in front of the truck, causing Polus to slam on the breaks. We come to a screeching halt, throwing us all forward. The beast cries out and raises its massive tail, casting us in shadow.
With quick reflexes, Polus slams it into reverse and floors it once again. The impact of the tail sends fragments of pavement flying in all directions, leaving a gigantic crater and obliterating the road. Debris pelts the truck as Polus maneuvers us away, spinning us a full one hundred and eighty degrees before heading back the way we came. The dragon lets loose another volley of flames and screeches its frustration.
“Service road! To the Right! The Right!” Randy yells at Polus.
“Hold on!” Polus yells.
As we veer towards the service road, the dragon is on top of us. I look back to see the djinn give us a wave just as the flames hit the back and underside of the truck, sending it upward and flipping us over and over. The truck lands on the roof with a sicking sound and skids to a halt. All of us are laying there in shock, panting in an attempt to catch our breath. We hear the heavy beat of wings against the air. Everything slows for a moment and then speeds up when the truck is lifted and carried off.
I kick at my door with all the force I can muster. It falls away and lands somewhere below. I pant, looking back at Polus and the mortals who all seem to grasp what is coming next. I stand where the door once stood with my back to the open space.
“One of you, to me!” I yell.
Don throws himself over the seat into my arms. I allow myself to fall backward, and we free fall from the dragon and truck. My suit jacket rips apart as I unfurl my wings and roll. I fly towards the earth with Don holding on to me and I to him. Polus sails past me, falling backward and cradling a screaming Randy. I know the impact won’t kill the titan, but it will hurt.
I land on my feet next to the sizeable hole of Polus’s impact. I let Don go, and he staggers away from me, using a nearby tree for support. Randy stands looking directly down into the hole, waiting for Polus to emerge. I walk up and stand next to him as I fold my wings in.
“I think I pissed my pants,” Randy admits shakily.
“Under these circumstances, I believe that is completely warranted,” I assure him.
There is movement from inside the hole as Polus climbs out and gets unsteadily to his feet, rubbing and stretching out his back.
“Son of a bitch! Is everyone all right?” Polus asks.
“We are all present and accounted for. A little shaken but no worse for wear,” I say.
“That’s good,” Polus pants, “really good. Any sight of the beast?”
“Not as of yet,” I say.
“Holy shit!” Don exclaims, and all our attention turns to him.
“I was saved by death! Death himself saved me! No one is going to believe it,” Don exclaims.
“No, Mr. Don, they won’t,” I say.
“Well, we can’t stay in these woods, it’s not safe,” Polus says.
“Can we make it back to town? Maybe wait for nightfall or head to the cabins by the worksite for shelter?” Randy says.
“What about the people in town?” I ask.
“We need to get back,” Don starts. “There is a bomb shelter under the town hall. We get the folks in there and station guards with guns. I will deputize the lot of them and then take a small posse and hunt this thing, and whatever is controlling it down.”
“A noble plan, Mr. Don, but you should leave the hunting to Polus and I. We are immortal, neither the dragon nor the djinn can kill us,” I say.
“Well, I have to do something,” Don says.
“Guarding the townspeople that you have sworn an oath to protect is a noble pursuit, and I believe I overheard this was an election year. Think about it,” I say.
Don chuckles and nods his head.
“Got my vote,” Randy speaks up.
“Mine too,” Polus chimes in.
“All right boys, let’s get our asses in gear, we are burning daylight,” Don says.
“After you, Mr. Don,” I say with a small bow and a flourish for him to lead the way.
We follow Don and begin our march down the forest path towards the town. The djinn and dragon somewhere in these woods with us.