Prose Header

The Man Who Couldn’t Fly

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Jonas lay and stared at the ceiling. There were many cracks there. Jonas did this every day, into the night, and had done so for a few months, ever since he returned from Africa. Even his imaginary friend Friðjón no longer paid him visits, because he thought Jonas was so boring.

Jonas lay and stared into the air. This is what he was working on when there was a knock on the door. Jonas went to the door and, when he opened it, saw a rather ordinary man. It was a man in his prime, if such a thing exists: medium in height with rat-brown hair, and normal in all respects.

Jonas couldn’t remember having seen such an ordinary man. On the other hand, one never really notices perfectly normal men, he thought. But the man was still unique in some manner that Jonas couldn’t quite place.

And the man got right to the point: “You are Jonas, assassin amongst other things. That I know. Do not try to deny it. I want to hire you to... Since you are an assassin, you know what I want to happen to a certain person. Now, I do not want you to just walk up to him and shoot him. That is primitive. I do not want you shooting anything at him, be it a bullet, a spear, an arrow, or anything else you might think of shooting him with. You have to slay him with a special weapon that I have for the job.

“No, I do not have it on me. It is in Texas or Arizona, depending on which documents you refer to. It’s in a town named Redville. It is a very small town. You go to the airport tomorrow, and there my contact will await you. He will take you there in his small plane.

“As for the one you are seeking, you do not have to seek him, he will find you. And one more thing: you must have this amulet around your neck, because then you can use his own power against him. Yes?”

“Power? An amulet? Is this some sort of Voodoo thing?” asked Jonas.

“No,” answered the man. He handed Jonas a bag, that contained one hundred percent pure gold in chips similar to corn flakes.

Jonas put it in his pocket. He also took his handguns with him. Even if he was not supposed to shoot the target, it was better to have a gun and not need it than not have a gun and suddenly need to have one.

The next day, Jonas spent the night staring at cracks in the ceiling from a slightly different angle than usual. He had pushed his bed up against a different wall. He had not slept much to speak of for four months.

Jonas went to the airport. His condition was such that after he arrived, he could not remember anything of the trip over the sea. Instead, he was standing in the middle of a desert, alone, with a bag full of gold, two .45 caliber 1911 handguns, and enough ammo to waste all the fans of Manchester United. But no water.

Jonas was not thirsty, and he knew in which direction to go, even though he had never been in this desert before. He suspected the pilot might have told him, but he was not sure, because he could not remember anything about the pilot.

Jonas was drowsy but unable to sleep as he wandered over the wasteland. He had wandered for two days without feeling more tired or thirsty when he spotted a town in the distance. Perhaps calling it a town was too generous. It was ten wooden shacks, a few pickups and maybe about fifteen people sauntering in between.

When Jonas got close enough to the town that he could hear the voices of the people, he began sensing the presence of the target. Jonas followed that feeling. It carried him to the one street in town, a street that passed through and stretched into the unknown in both directions. Jonas stood in the middle of the street and looked around.

He saw people walking, a few pickup trucks, and a small car that was headed towards him, a Dodge Omni or something. And Jonas also saw, in the middle of the road, right in front of the little Dodge, a kind of altar, or a pillar shaped like one. And there, on top of the altar, lay the weapon that he had been assigned to use to eliminate the target. Jonas also saw that the Dodge was heading right toward it.

Jonas ran to grab the weapon before the car destroyed it. But Jonas was too slow, and he watched as the car ran unhindered into the pillar and passed through it as if it weren’t there. The car ploughed through, and the pillar still stood with the weapon on top, as if nothing had happened.

Jonas was too drowsy to contemplate what he saw, or thought he saw. He thought no more of it, grabbed the weapon, and checked it out. It was a sword with a blade more than meter in length. The blade was formed into the likeness of a winding dragon with a jagged crest along its entire back, its tongue sticking out, and claws spread out. It was the most winding and thorny sword blade that Jonas had ever seen.

Actually it was the only winding and thorny sword blade he had ever seen, for nobody has either the time or patience to build such an ornamental blade, with thorns that can easily break off with use.

Jonas decided to test the appliance. For that purpose he went to the sidewalk — or the part of the road that served as one — and drove the sword through one of the pedestrians.

An uproar ensued. A local cop drew his gun, aimed, and shot at Jonas. Jonas looked around and saw the bullet come flying towards him, slow down, and finally come to a stop about two meters away.

Jonas walked over to take a closer look at this rare phenomenon. But then he felt air resistance. It was like walking in water. He did not float upwards, though. He tried to tug on the bullet, but it proved to be difficult to move. He could nudge it about a little, and would have finally gotten it if he had not been disturbed.

“Good day, Jonas! So you have been sent to get me!” said the target.

“Who are you?” asked Jonas.

“Nobody in particular. But you are. As you can perhaps see, time has slowed down a little.” The target pointed the environment out to Jonas. Everything was stationary: the people, cars, a few rats, the bullet, the vultures, but not Jonas. “You have not come to a stop. Why is that?”

Jonas had no answer. The target continued: “When I have killed you, then you can tell them I don’t desire to return, heaven or not.”

“Ha? Uhm... yes. Uhm, I rather think it’s supposed to transpire so that I kill you. That is the deal, and I intend to make good on it. Well. Will you allow me to do this quickly and in a comparatively clean way?”

Jonas swung the unnecessarily gnarly sword, leaving pieces of meat floating about in the air in its wake. The slivers didn’t fall, since time was progressing rather slowly. They hung in the air for the time being.

The target drew his own weapon, also a sword, but not crooked or thorny in any way, nor in the shape of a mythical being. The target and Jonas fought for a while, swinging their edged weapons in all directions. Jonas noticed that when he swung, the blade left a trace, as when a photograph is taken of a moving item, or when you swing a sparkler.

The game moved on through the town streets. The swords swung through many pedestrians, but no marks were left on them afterwards. And Jonas and the target hacked at each other around the little Omni, often hitting the car itself, but Jonas never noticed any resistance, or any type of damage except for fine scratches.

They fought and fought. When they had fought for a long time — at least it felt like a long time; they couldn’t be sure since the cop’s bullet had not moved since they started — Jonas lopped the blade off his target’s sword, right at the hilt.

Jonas knew he had the upper hand. He took time to ask the target how it could slow time down. The target told him he did not know exactly, it was just an ability he had acquired when he stepped back down to earth.

That answer went a bit over Jonas’ head. He could not possibly understand what his target meant by “stepping back down to earth,” and “not wanting to go back and be one of them.”

Jonas asked who “they” were but the only answer he got was: “That I cannot explain, but it doesn’t matter. You will meet them in the end. Everybody does.”

Jonas cleaved the target down to the neck. Then the party started. All the people who had been still as the grave the whole time began moving, but not normally. Instead they fell to pieces, roughly where Jonas and his adversary had swung into them, and everything, body parts and innards of various sizes, flowed unavoidably everywhere.

Aside from that, a few pick-ups crumbled, two houses were razed to the ground, and the Omni broke into small pieces that spread over a larger area, because the car had been moving when it was hit. Pieces of the driver were left at various places, too.

The cop who had shot at Jonas came out best. He lost only one ear, the brim of his hat, and about four inches off the barrel of his gun.

When Jonas saw all this he hurried back into the desert.

Copyright © 2014 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Proceed to Challenge 586...

Home Page