Authors: Pat Kelleher
Richard clutched the table, his knuckles white. Condiments rattled on the table as he shivered violently. “What... what the fuck are you?”
Coyote cocked his head and looked hurt. “I’m Coyote,” he said, as if that explained everything. He sighed. “I’m a being of the creation myths. You call us gods, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.”
Richard shook his head, not loosening his grip on the table; right now, its solidity anchored him. “I’m an atheist.”
“Yet here we are,” said Coyote with a grin.
“There are gods,” said Shu simply. “You need to know that.”
Richard looked at Coyote. Coyote replied with a hapless shrug.
Shu indicated the food. Richard’s hand still shook as he picked at the burger, but calmed down as he ate. After a couple of mouthfuls, he had stopped shivering.
“Gods?” he said through a mouth of food. “What, are you for real? Gods?”
Shu shrugged, as if it were no big deal. “Thirty years ago, the Great Usurper cast down all the pantheons, folding the dimensions into each other, trapping us here in yours, our powers diminished. All the gods and monsters of myth forced into this sink estate, this ghetto of a dimension. So many paths crossing. So many crossroads. It keeps me busy.”
“Sorry, this is just hard to get my head around. You mean all the gods from all the pantheons are here on Earth? They’re real?”
“Well, no one’s compiled an exhaustive list, but pretty much I guess,” said Coyote. “And yes, we’re real. Imagine a downcast diaspora, dispossessed of their respective Valhallas, Nirvanas and celestial manses, licking their wounds and having to make a home here, on a plane that many saw as nothing but sport.”
Shu interrupted with a cough as he studied the pair. “You two shouldn’t have met,” he said, with no small amount of glee.
“I wish we hadn’t,” said Richard, casting a sideways glance at Coyote. “I wish I hadn’t met either of you.”
“There is a new pattern forming. Someone is tampering with the tapestry and making a great effort not to be noticed. Why, I have no idea, but there is not a ripple of concern among the bigger pantheons and that worries me. Your meeting would seem to be an unintended consequence of those actions, a loose thread,” said Shu, delighted at the prospect. He couldn’t have done better if he’d planned it himself. “For better or worse, you are entwined together until you both regain what you have both lost. Follow the thread. East, toward the old lands. East, the direction of paradise. The ripples of consequence that wafted Richard here originated in his country. There is a crossroads approaching and the fate of the world could go either way.”
“Right now, your schemes don’t interest me,” said Coyote. “My only concern is for my younger brother. Get Loki to follow your thread. I will follow mine.”
“Your only concern is your wounded pride, Coyote. If you weren’t sat here on two legs, I’d take a rolled up newspaper to your nose. This is more important. I still haven’t forgotten that Kansas business, or your part in it,” said Shu. He smiled, but there was an element of menace to it now, like a mafia boss making an offer you couldn’t refuse. “The Earthmaker created you to protect the mortals, pecker or no pecker. Shoot, you might even think better without it for once. It always leads you into trouble anyway.”
Coyote fell silent at the mention of his creator. He toyed with a paper napkin, his mouth upturned like a petulant child.
“I’m going to collect my war bundle,” said Coyote, getting up to leave. “But only because, when I find out who took my younger brother, I am going on the warpath.”
“Don’t think you’re going anywhere without me,” said Richard. “I’m sticking with you until you find him. I want my life back.”
Shu, still smiling, sucked on his straw with relish, noisily hoovering up the last of his shake.
Coyote Takes a Road Trip
OYOTE, HIS DEERSKIN
wrapped war bundle on his back, surveyed the check-in area at McCarran International and picked out his marks as they passed through: the Holden brothers from Chesterfield, those terminals, that TSA official, and those Las Vegas police officers. His plan was simplicity itself, if by simplicity you meant an elegance and intricacy bordering on the fractal. In fact, his plan was nothing more than a delicately localised Rube Goldberg warping of fate and destiny.
“No one will see me. No one will even notice me unless I want them to,” said Coyote.
“Oh, well that’s great,” said Richard. “What about me? I have no money, no boarding pass, and no passport. Do you?”
“I don’t need them. I have a plan. Trust me.”
“That’s what you said last time.”
Richard hadn’t even had time to salvage his belongings from the hotel.
“Luggage is baggage. A warrior must discard everything that is unnecessary,” Coyote had told him.
By the time they got across the main concourse, weaving between the groups of travellers, they had a couple of passports. It didn’t matter whose passports. Coyote could make anyone believe they belonged to Richard and him.
They made for the self check-in terminals. A little psychic flexing and the machine spat out a couple of boarding passes, and then off to find their security checkpoint.
They drifted past airport police, to join the queue.
“What are we going to do?” hissed Richard.
“Well, I was rather hoping Dwayne over there was going to do it for us,” said Coyote, indicating an overweight TSA agent. “He’s got an attitude,” he added, tapping the side of his nose.
Besides, they weren’t going to stick his war bundle through one of their scanners, or root through it with their unclean hands. That stuff was
. And they sure as shit weren’t going to pat him down and feel around his junk. Not that he had any junk right now, which in itself could cause problems.
The opt-out queue shuffled toward the security checkpoints, the large scanners and the sullen minimum wage stares.
ON’T WANT THE
body scan, eh?” said Dwayne with a leer. “What’s the matter? Got something to hide? If you wouldn’t mind stepping over here—
. And you too, sir,” he said to Richard.
“Me?” he protested.
Coyote stepped calmly from the line and followed Dwayne to a clear area nearby. Richard looked like a jackrabbit caught in the headlights.
Passengers watched with morbid curiosity as the pair were ushered to one side for special attention.
“I’m going to have to give you an enhanced pat down, sir,” said Dwayne.
He snapped his blue latex gloves for emphasis. “I’m going to run my hands up your thighs, and then feel your buttocks, and then I’m going to reach under you until I meet resistance.”
Coyote arched an eyebrow. “I don’t think so, Dwayne.”
Dwayne’s face began to change colour, darkening. “You can’t opt out, mister! What are you, unpatriotic? Are you a terrorist? What’s in that package you’re carrying?” Dwayne demanded, pointing a quivering blue finger at Coyote’s war bundle. “Open it up and let me see.”
Time to push his button. One little phrase.
Coyote leaned in. “You wouldn’t be so tough if you weren’t wearing that uniform.”
Dwayne blinked. A nerve twitched. The vein at his temple began to throb.
Bullseye. This was too easy.
“Coyote. Kai. What the hell are you doing?” hissed Richard, panic flaring in his eyes.
Dwayne squinted poisonously. “Are you trying to be funny, mister? Are you?” Sweat beaded his upper lip. He licked it away in a manner that was vaguely obscene. “Oh, you’re for it now. Tell me you’ve got a bomb in there. Make my day.”
“Okay. You’ve got a bomb in there,” said Coyote, deadpan.
Dwayne’s eyes narrowed.
“You told me to tell you that you had a bomb.”
“No, not, ‘you’ve got a bomb’; ‘I’ve got a bomb’.”
“You’ve got a bomb?” said Coyote, perplexed.
“No! Ya dumb sack of... read my lips,” said Dwayne, sweat flying from his face as he spat the words out. “I’ve got a bomb!”
The screening checkpoint went quiet.
“I’ve got a bomb!” screamed Dwayne again, panic in his eyes this time. He tried to clamp his jaw shut, but the words spewed out again, because Coyote was making him say the one thing you shouldn’t say in an airport. The final taboo, or should that be final taboom.
“I’ve got a bomb!” he screamed.
Chaos erupted. People panicked. Coyote smiled. The area around Dwayne cleared. TSA agents advanced on Dwayne, who thrust his latex gloved hands into the air, the phrase still blurting from his lips. “I’ve got a bomb.” A taser buzzed. “I’ve gttttaabb...” Dwayne spasmed and fell, before disappearing under a pile of security personnel.
In the commotion, Coyote nodded at Richard. Nobody paid them any attention as they slipped through the security checkpoint to the relative calm of the boarding area, where he gave the patented Coyote Winning Smile to the boarding staff.
“What the hell happened back there?” asked Richard after the commotion died down.
Coyote grinned. “Pronoun trouble.”
HEY LANDED AT
Manchester Airport fourteen hours later, thanks to the delay caused by Dwayne’s bomb scare. Funnelled down a tunnel, with passengers from other flights—boiled red families in shorts and T-shirts, rumpled businessmen, and backpacking students—they emerged in the Arrivals hall.
“So, what do we do now?” Richard asked, tired, stiff, and longing for a proper bed.
A middle-aged man with a Mediterranean complexion, close-cropped white hair and wearing a pastel coloured windcheater and slacks, held up a piece of cardboard that read, ‘Mr Coyote.’
Coyote and Richard exchanged a glance.
Coyote’s face broke out in a broad smile. He knew a god when he saw one.
“Ask and the world answers,” he said, striding off toward the sign.
Richard sighed and followed.
“You’re expecting me?” said Coyote.
“I think I may have found what you’re looking for,” said the man.
“And what’s that?”
The man glanced at Coyote’s crotch. “That which you have lost.”
A piercing look. “I have the greatest tracking skills of all the People, even I cannot sense it,” said Coyote. “How is it that you can?”
“Though it may be hidden from your senses, its absence leaves a hole in the Tapestry. I am drawn to such negative spaces. It is my nature. I’m Nataero, god of lost things.”
“Well, in that case,” said Coyote, giving the man a hearty slap on the back, “You’re the god’s bollocks!”
Nataero caught sight of Richard. “Who’s he? I was just expecting you.”
“This,” Coyote said with delight, “is my change of plan, my temporary Dick. He’s with me.”
Richard gave Nataero a weary smile.
“Don’t you have any luggage?” asked Nataero.
“No,” said Richard sullenly. “Apparently, we’re warriors.”
ATAERO LED THEM
out of the building and off toward the long stay car park. He stood for a moment, as if waiting for something to happen. Then, finding his bearings, made a beeline for a two-door silver Nissan and clicked a key fob he’d taken from his pocket. The lights flashed.
“Hey,” said Richard, grabbing Coyote’s cuff. “I thought we had something else to do first?”
Coyote took him aside, his voice low. “And you want your life back. I can only do that if I’m reunited with my pecker. Nataero here says he can lead us to it. I get my younger brother returned, my power restored, and you get your life back. We’re both happy, then I can take care of Shu’s task. So, what do you say? Your choice.”
To be frank, it sounded like a good deal. The sooner he could leave these people behind the better. He’d had enough madness.
“Well, if you put it like that,” said Richard.
ATAERO DROVE THEM
from the airport, Coyote in the passenger’s seat, Richard in the back. Trees, bushes and lights swiped past in blurs as they headed down the motorway. He knew where he was going, without even having to use the satnav stuck to the windscreen.
Coyote was quiet. The thrum of the engine and the vibration of the road surface should be giving him a boner. It always did. He missed it. He missed its delightfully wilful tumescence and the weight of his balls, he missed those little pulses of pleasure as it strained against the denim. But soon they would be reunited. That gave him a little thrill. It wasn’t the same, but it would do for now. He stared out of the rain-streaked windows as drops careened along, colliding and merging, and tried to think of something else.
Richard, trying to make conversation.
“Not mine,” said Nataero. “Someone lost their car keys on holiday. They’ll find out tomorrow.”
“You mean you stole it?”
The man turned his head briefly, flicking a gaze at him in the rear view mirror. “You’re not listening. It’s not stolen. It’s lost.”
“Are you a god, too?”
“Of the Roman pantheon. God of lost property. It’s what I do, find lost stuff.”
Richard smirked. “I guess that explains your taste in clothes then.”
Nataero slammed his foot on the brake. The tyres locked, throwing up loose chippings as the car slewed to a halt on the hard shoulder.
The abrupt stop slammed Richard’s body forward into the seatbelt.
lost your manners,” said Nataero, his tone hard.
“Sorry,” said Richard hurriedly.
“Oh look, there they are.” Nataero glared at him in the rear view mirror. “I’ve found them. Don’t lose them again. Not around gods. It’s not a wise thing to do.”
Staring out of the window, Coyote smiled to himself. Perhaps this Richard had some potential after all.
HE STROBE EFFECT
of passing cars and the heat from the air conditioning made Richard feel drowsy. The jet lag rushed in on him and he nodded off; his dreams a kaleidoscopic confection of events from the last few days. Casinos and laughing girls, dirty alleys and diners, and then the sudden rushing and roaring of the world as Shu showed it to him, with things prowling around the edge of his dream, waiting. Once more, the terrifying vertigo seized him, only this time he began to fall...