The Lord of the Beasts by Zac Smith

The Lord of the Beasts

“Don’t you have any bombs or anything?” I asked.

“Fucking shit.” The Lord of the Beasts got a hit off on her. She was ignoring me.

She paused, navigated through the menu, used a healing potion. Full health. I saw she had bombs in her inventory. Big black orbs with little white wicks. There’s always bombs in these games.

“You have some,” I said. “How much damage do they do?”

Her sword attack only did four damage, is why I asked. The Lord of the Beasts hit her for a cool thirty. Didn’t seem very even. Bombs seemed to be the way to go. She continued to ignore me. Paused the game, blew her nose, unpaused it. Back with the puny little sword.

She was sick. Sick and pregnant. Damned to the bedroom by evil witch doctors. No, just kidding. Just a few weeks of bedrest, advised by her doctor. But she certainly felt damned.

I didn’t know anything about this game. She did, though. She had only ever really played two or three video games in her life. This was one of them. Everyone in her family knew all the background music. Her little brother still has a binder of video game tips and tricks and this game has its own section in it. I wondered if that section of the binder notes that The Lord of the Beasts is immune to bombs, or that you need to keep all your bombs to use against The Dark Genie at some later point in the game, or something. And she knew this, knew better than to waste her bombs.

The sword would do. It would just take time.

Our bedroom was small. It barely fit the bed. And then it had to fit a bunch of other stuff – the dresser, the radiator, the end table, the window AC unit. And then it had to fit all the other stuff she needed to make her bedrest bearable – another end table, boxes of tissues, a pile of books, our tv, the old playstation. We sat on a boxspring island in the middle of a cold, dark sea, bathed in the glinting light of The Lord of the Beasts flapping his big, opalescent wings.

Everywhere else was hot. Middle-of-August hot. Cooking food was hot. Doing laundry was hot. Pissing in the bathroom was hot. Taking the dogs out was the hottest of all.

Every day I melted out there in the world and every night I congealed in the cold darkness of the bedroom. Whap! Whap! Whap! Look at those lizards pop and bleed out on the dungeon floor. Whap! Whap! Whap! Look at The Lord of the Beasts just flap around, elegant and monstrous.

When you’re pregnant, you can’t take most of the medications you get used to during the rest of your life. You can’t take NyQuil, or Sudafed, or any of the other pills that evaporate all the snot in your sinuses or knock you out cold for twelve hours. You just have to be sick. Awake, sick, and pregnant.

But The Lord of the Beasts is a straight-forward challenge. You hit it, and sometimes, it hits you back. It doesn’t slowly eat away at you, it doesn’t wrack you with convulsions, it doesn’t force you to lay in bed for weeks, it doesn’t make you feel anxious about the future. It strikes out at you, big, telegraphed movements. You can dodge and weave and roll with the punches. No surprises.

We sat in the cold, dark room. We felt unstuck in time. Or, at least, I did. None of it felt real. We were on pause, waiting.

Whap! Whap! Whap! More pitiful hits on The Lord of the Beasts. It groaned and shook, dislodged rocks from the ceiling. Stomped around in a little grid. Flapped its wings and bellowed out a thin stream of fire. But she dodged each of these things. Deft and determined. She tumbled, parried, ran around and hid. Cycled through her inventory, passed by the magic wands, the enchantment scrolls, the bombs. Drank another potion. Ready for whatever came next.

I imagined we both thought about how nice that would be. Just drink a potion and everything magically gets better. Open wounds, magical curses, chest coughs, fevers. All remedied with a single dose of a cheap serum. Full health. Next challenge, please.

She ran back over to The Lord of the Beasts. Struck out at it for the hundredth time. Whap! And the thing was dead.

Hell yeah,” she said. Relieved, proud. I was proud, too. It had felt like an impossible challenge, doomed for failure. Maybe that was just me.

The map was clear, no skeletons, no ghouls, no goblins with boxing gloves. The Lord of the Beasts had faded away. It left behind a magical pendant. A reward for her patience, deftness, cunning.

She opened up the inventory and selected a bomb.

“What are you doing?” I asked. I was perplexed. She had already won. There was nothing to blow up. The world was at peace.

She suppressed some coughs. Sad little hiccups with a closed mouth. I wondered how that felt for the baby. Our baby. Cough, cough, cough.

She carried the bomb over to a big statue. It was The Lord of the Beasts. A marble edifice in its honor, life-sized, looming over us. Diamonds for eyes, constructed, in the fiction of the game, by its hapless minions. She dropped the bomb at its feet, the wick a burning sprite against its polygonal chest. Big swollen belly full of gunpowder.

The bomb burst, a flash of white and orange, and a when the smoke cleared, we were facing a cavernous opening, surrounded by rubble. We went in.

The room went dark, dark as it had ever been.

And then we were surrounded by treasure.

 

Lord of the Beasts

 

Zac Smith lives in Boston, MA, where he likes to walk his dogs. His writing has appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Lit, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and other sweet online journals. His twitter is @ZacTheLinguist

 

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Image (modified): Medieval Public Domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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