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With Gleaming Blades

fantasy by Anne Patterson Friedman

Melinda closed her AARP magazine, pushed back from the kitchen table, and shouted, “Turn that thing down.” Still, the TV’s volume failed to drop, allowing no relief from the screams of slashed Japanese farmers, victims of feuding samurai.

She tromped into the living room where her husband, Gordon, lay stretched out on his recliner with his morning coffee in one hand, the remote in the other.

“Please, Gordon, just pause that a moment.” When flashing swords froze on the screen, Melinda used her softest voice and said, “Honey, I’m worried about you. You’ve watched that same DVD a thousand times. You’re obsessed with that movie.”

He huffed. “Yeah, ’cause the hero’s amazing.”

“So you’ve told me.”

“He’s blind, but he’s got special abilities. Toss a candle in the air and stand back. He can raise his sword cane, unsheathe its hidden blade, then slice that candle clean in half, lengthwise, wick and all.”

As a crazed look settled on his face, Melinda shuddered. Was he losing it? She could live with his forgetfulness, but what if he turned violent? It seemed easier each day to trigger his anger.

“Gordon, it’s not healthy, sitting around, watching killing after bloody killing. Think back. You were a brilliant engineer with an active mind. You should find your old spark again, look for something to interest you.”

His expression turned darker still. “Like what?”

“Hey, I know. It’s been months since you tinkered around in the garage. We set it up with all those tools, a workshop just for you. Remember?”

“Boring. I need a taste of danger to feel alive. The movie gives me that.”

“It’s no substitute for reality.”

He chuckled. “Then I’m in luck. That’s gotten interesting, too.” He set his coffee down, picked the newspaper off the table, and handed her the front section.

After skimming the lead story, Melinda gasped. “That’s right around the corner! Poor Mr. Hager.”

“No suspects yet,” Gordon said, a hint of glee crossing his face. “Lots of body damage. Killer took the head clean off. No loss for the world.”

“Hey, I know you didn’t like the guy, but –” She read on. “Oh, that’s scary.”

“You should be scared. A few nights ago, I was out walking and, well, I caught a glimpse of something slinking around.”

“Something?”

“A big, scaly monster.”

“Oh, sure.” Hallucinations. Not a good sign.

He pointed to his dusty wrestling trophies, rolled up his sleeves, and flexed his muscles. “But don’t worry. I’m still strong. I’ll protect you.”

She noticed scrapes and bruises on his forearm. Strange. He’d switched his walks from morning to late at night, claiming it helped his insomnia. Now this delusion about a monster. Delusion or — diversion? A chill ran through her. What had he done?

“You’re banged up,” she said. “Tell me what happened.”

“Uh, I slipped on my walk. It’s nothing.” He stood, reached beside the chair, and grabbed the sword cane he took with him everywhere, an authentic weapon he’d ordered from a martial arts catalog. “As I was saying, I’ll protect you. With this!” He drew the blade from the shaft and slashed the air.

“Put that away!”

He scowled, but sheathed the blade. “Think I’ll take a stroll around the block, patrol for monsters.”

“Not with that, you don’t!” She grabbed the sword cane, stepped to the closet, and pulled out the metal walker he’d used after surgery. “That cane’s no good anymore. You’ll wreck that new hip.”

“Says who? I’m all healed now. I don’t need that shitty walker.”

“You fell, right? Dr. Wilson called about your physical therapy report. Your balance is off, way off.” That was a lie. The cane, probably, would support him just fine, but she had to get that weapon from him, at least until she figured out what was going on. “Doctor’s orders–use the walker!”

His shoulders sank. “That fall really hurt. So — I suppose you’re right. I just hate to admit it.”

“I know, honey. I know.”

“You were right about that movie, too. I’ve watched it enough.” He reached for the walker. “Think I’ll head to the workshop, get my mind wrapped up in some new project.”

That was easy. Maybe too easy. After watching him enter the garage, Melinda carried the sword cane to the bedroom and hid it behind the dresser.

#

That evening, Melinda lay in bed, trying to read, but she was too worried to concentrate. It was almost midnight before Gordon showed up from his nightly stroll. With the walker gripped tight in his hands, he stood by the bed, staring at her, eyes wild.

After catching enough breath to speak, she said, “Everything okay?”

“It followed me,” he whispered.

“What?”

“Shhh! I hear it now, circling the house.”

Something massive slammed through the window, scattering shards of flying glass. A blur of motion swirled in the center of the room. And then, there it stood — a towering beast! Melinda screamed and huddled against the headboard.

Gordon, his expression calm and determined, inched forward with his walker, lifted it off the floor, and aimed it at the drooling creature.

“I’ll get you,” Gordon said. “With this — my sword walker!”

When he shook the flimsy metal frame, the hollow tubing of the front legs sprang free, exposing two gleaming blades. The beast snarled and leapt on Gordon. Together, they crashed against the far wall. Then all was still.

Melinda, crouching on the edge of the mattress, watched Gordon slide from beneath a scaly leg. The creature lay on its back, unmoving, the walker embedded in its chest.

She rushed to Gordon’s side. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. Just fine.”

“You were amazing!”

He brushed a scale from his sleeve and grinned. “Damn, that was fun.”

copyright April2011 by Anne Patterson Friedman

Anne Patterson Friedman lives in LaBelle, Florida. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, and will appear soon in Short-Story.Me and Bards and Sages Quarterly. She blogs at Eight Is 4 Infinity.

[return to the April 2011 main page]

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