Lynn the Ordinary
by Heather J. Frederick
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Normally, school was a place of boredom and social isolation. It was also well-lit, swarming with adults, and protected by locked doors. For once, Lynn was looking forward to going.
The Beast was, too. It was hungry and tired of this game. Steed or no steed, today was the day.
However, the first hour of school passed uneventfully. The Beast was puzzled, irritable, and sulking in a puddle behind the bus garage. The Prophecy probably didn’t call it The Final Battle for nothing. What was so special about this girl?
No soul could resist the Devourer. To prove it, The Beast consumed Lynn’s math teacher, who had strolled out to smoke a cigarette after first period. Would the Hero come to smite him?
No, she did not. She went to gym class.
Emboldened by her apathy, The Beast tried to eat the track team miserably shuffling outside to practice in the mud and rain. However, few planets are as moist as Earth. The Beast failed to account for the slippery conditions and crashed into the goalpost, terrifying many but killing none. All escaped unharmed. The Beast unleashed its wrath on the football field.
This did not go unnoticed.
Lockdown. Terrorist alert. All-school assembly. A gymnasium full of huddled, whispering, frantically texting students and pacing teachers.
And Lynn. Scribbling a note to Mr. Green inside her Math notebook, because her parents wouldn’t let her own a cell phone: My Dearest Mr. Green, I will likely never see you again. That thing from last night that you told me not to worry about? I think it’s back.
After she’d gained the courage to climb down, she’d run to Mr. Green’s house and described the monster in the park. His only advice was to bring the whip to school. It seemed a futile weapon of self-defense, but cradling the worn leather handle to her chest helped her sleep.
She had just written, I’ve never told you how I feel, but I’m probably going to die, so I might as well say it, when her Math notebook wrote back, in pink Sharpie: Meet me at the front entrance in five minutes. Bring the whip. --Mr. G.
Lynn blushed, squeaked, and slammed her notebook shut. For a girl who’d been stalked by the Beast most of her life, proof that her neighbor had magic powers was not the shock it might have been. But he wasn’t supposed to read the letter. Was nothing sacred anymore?
She excused herself to go to the lavatory and retrieved the whip from her locker, slipping silently through the empty halls. Though she longed for the comfort of the crowded gymnasium, she didn’t go back. It was clearly a trap waiting to be sprung.
She was at the front door in exactly five minutes. She opened the door a crack. Mr. Green was there, and he wasn’t alone. Like cinnamon candy, many questions burned on the tip of her tongue. The first one that came out was, “What is that?”
“It’s a pegasus,” said Mr. Green.
“It looks like a rhinoceros with wings.” She thought a pegasus should be white and feathery, but this one was oily black. A thick horn sprouted from its snout. Leathery wings folded neatly from his muscular shoulders, which towered over her head. Of great concern to her, he sported a deep saddle and thick — but short — stirrups.
“His name,” Mr. Green said, “is Frank.”
“That’s a silly name for a rhinoceros.”
Frank winced. “It’s short for ‘Straightforward to the Point of Being Brutally Honest’. You’re the Hero? You’re smaller than I expected.”
She turned wide-eyes to Mr. Green. “What hero? Does he mean you?”
As Mr. Green gently shook his head, the unusual pegasus snorted. “It’s you, silly girl, whether you’re ready or not. So suit up. Sit astride. Pray to whatever gods you have on this miserable planet. But do it soon. The Beast is here, and I’m on a budget.”
Lynn shot her wet neighbor a confused and accusing look. “The Beast? You mean you want me to fight that monster from last night, like I’m some kind of...” She thought back to all the activities her neighbor had encouraged over the years. “Have you been planning this?”
How could he explain the prophecy? The years of watching over her? It occurred to him he ought to have told her sooner. These humans grew up so fast. He really thought he’d have more time.
“Your world — all our worlds — depend on you. The Devourer of Souls won’t stop with a handful of lives. You were meant for this, my brave little warrior.” He leaned through the doorway and kissed her forehead, a gesture at which she felt no small thrill. “It’s your destiny.”
“How do you know?”
He only felt a little bad as he smiled and said, “There’s a prophecy.”
She didn’t feel brave. But if it was her destiny, maybe all she had to do was show up. Besides, if she stayed in the gymnasium, she had a feeling they’d all die anyway. “All right,” she said. “I’ll do it.”
Her neighbor pulled her out the door and lifted her atop Frank. Lynn wished Mr. Green had told her to bring her parka too, but there was nothing to be done about the rain. There was no bridle, nothing to yank back against her fate. Her stomach lurched at being so high above the ground in a saddle again. Surely Frank wasn’t going to fly her to battle?
Inexorably, and hooves reassuringly on the ground, Frank turned to face the Beast, who approached from the edge of the football field. The Beast loomed as high as Frank and wider than any two cars put together. The stench of sweat and rot preceded it like a parade banner.
You are nothing, it thought at her. Much smaller than I expected. At the same time it wondered to itself, Where’s the trick? Does she turn into one of those horrible cats?
For a soul-sucking devourer of life across the galaxies, she thought, it’s not so bad. For a gorilla, though, it was hideous.
They approached each other steadily. The Beast cautious. Lynn putting on a brave face. Frank satisfied by his bank deposit: the rest to be received upon delivery of the Hero to the Final Battle.
Which, it seemed, would take place in the middle of the teachers’ parking lot. Fog rolled in, obscuring the school. Lynn’s last view of Mr. Green was of him waving, then walking away.
Yearning for a closer view of its ultimate opponent, the Beast stepped to the roof of a Honda Civic. Its claws pierced the metal like a can opener. The car slowly buckled under its weight.
Frank stopped next to a minivan. “Well, I’ve done my part. What’s your plan?”
So far, Lynn thought, shifting in the saddle, a normal horse would have served just as well and been more comfortable. “You can’t leave me.”
She clutched the whip. “We’ll all die.”
“I’ll fly away and be perfectly safe. Jump down now.”
For a moment, she was afraid she would. All the forces that led to this moment swirled around her, lodged in her throat. Could any prophecy really have chosen her? To face that?
The Beast was wondering the same thing. There must be some hidden power. Some magic. It wanted to attack her and end this farce, but the prophecy held it back. The Final Battle could be its last.
The Beast believed it, and that could have been enough. Lynn didn’t. But that didn’t stop her. It’s my destiny, she reminded herself. I’ve trained for this. Although it would have been nice to know what I was training for.
She lifted her leg and slid from Frank’s back. He barely felt it, only heard the soft plop with which her tennis shoes hit the pavement. He almost spread his wings and soared away, but for this: what was she going to do next?
After witnessing the next moments, it was Frank who dubbed her Lynn the Ordinary.
Lynn grabbed the whip and uncoiled it. Blinked rain from her eyes and took a step. And started a cascade that was stronger than prophecy: gravity.
She let the whip fly, and it flew true. To be fair, her target was huge. It flicked the Beast’s deep-seated though vulnerable eye. Just a nick, but blood was drawn.
For the first time in millennia, the Beast felt pain. Surprise. Horror. There was no magic. No sudden revelation of inhuman strength. This puny soul had punctured it because the Beast had hesitated.
It wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Lightning-fast, its claw snatched the retreating length of leather and pulled Lynn to her knees. Though she was scared, she would not let go. And though the Beast was bigger, stronger, it was anchored only by the puny roof of a wet Honda Civic. For a precious second, Lynn held her ground.
Long enough for Frank, impressed by the girl’s audacity, to charge forward and sever the taut whip with his teeth.
The Beast sprawled backward, and slipped off the Civic. Curse this infernal dampness, it had time to think.
Lynn leapt to the hood of the smushed Civic, ready to dive, roll, jump up, and tackle the Beast with a whirling kick.
But a green Land Rover drove up behind the Beast and rammed it. How dare someone take over her battle!
The Beast fell back, barely stunned, but the LandRover kept coming. And coming. And coming, slowly pushing the Beast across the pavement. Each collision destroyed equal amounts of metal and flesh. The windshield was splattered with gobs of deep violet blood. Finally, the car wedged the Beast against a Dumpster at the edge of the parking lot.
Lynn caught up to it, and let the whip fly again. It burst the Beast’s other eye. What was left of the Beast howled.
A blip of yellowish-orange, and Stewvane stood next to Lynn, brandishing a flaming sword. Stewvane skewered each of the Beast’s three hearts in turn. The Beast shuddered, lay still, and dissolved to a thick, black puddle of slime.
Mr. Green pushed aside the LandRover’s deflated airbag, undid his seatbelt, and came to stand next to Stewvane, putting a hand affectionately on his shoulder. They made an odd couple: Mr. Green in his purple and teal reindeer sweater and Stewvane in his flowing, peach robe. Each offered Lynn a hand, which she took gratefully.
The rain stopped. The fog cleared.
“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Stewvane said while thinking to himself, I thought she’d be taller.
Lynn held her head high. I could have done it myself, she thought.
“I thought you didn’t believe in the prophecy,” Mr. Green said to his companion.
“I don’t.” Stewvane smiled at the strangely exuberant girl. “But a hero is worth believing in, no matter what.”
Frank rolled his eyes, presumably both, though Lynn could only see one from where she was standing. “I expect the rest of the payment by morning. You’ve no idea what you’ve done, you know.” He took a few thunderous steps and flew away.
Lynn looked up at Mr. Green, satisfied he’d done his duty by the galaxy and his home world, not understanding the rhino-pegasus’s words. His made-up hero had conquered the Beast — with his help, but that was to be expected. She was only a little girl, after all.
At a smile from Mr. Green, Lynn’s heart couldn’t help fluttering. “So,” she said. “What am I supposed to kill next?”
Copyright © 2014 by Heather J. Frederick