‘Start the car, start the car!’ Nate yelled as the monster loped across the car park, roaring. Not a monster, a bear.
The bear that attacked me.
His hair was wild and loose as he swung a bloody great branch at the windshield and I wished we were in a Volvo. But it turns out a Fiat Uno can take a bit of punishment too as it basically just bounced back off and the Viking yelled in anger. I was fumbling for the car keys, my fingers clumsy with pure terror.
It was Friday night, I thought. How wasn’t I at the cinema or out for a pizza with a couple of colleagues? Trust me to be stuck in a carpark in the middle of nowhere with a 1000 year old weapon after me.
He ripped the rear view mirror off and started to shake the car.
I turned the ignition but with shaking hands managed to jam the gear stick and the car stalled.
‘Where’s Åke?’ My voice trembled around chattering teeth.
The viking managed to rock the tiny car precariously. Surely he couldn’t tip it with two people inside? I know these guys could give Popeye a run for his money in the muscles department, but it was a car for heaven’s sake.
‘I think Åke can take care of himself, don’t you? This guy is his buddy, isn’t he?’
‘Obviously not,’ I snapped, catching sight of the viking’s blood soaked knuckles as he whacked the windscreen again. ‘We can’t leave him.’
‘Run him over with the car.’
I managed to get it on then and revved the engine, hoping the noise would freak him out, but it seemed our friendly neighbourhood viking was made of sterner stuff than that. I reversed so we were out of his reach for a moment, and backed into the fence. I hoped the Kerrs had insurance.
I couldn’t run him over.
Call me a bleeding heart, call me a big softie, but I just don’t have it in me to mow down a human being with a car, even if they are centuries old and having a bit of a homicidal tantrum. And even though I’d just been party to another murder. Everybody has their limits.
‘He can’t kill us.’
‘He can’t kill us,’ I repeated as the viking squared up to the car as though facing it in combat. ‘We heal.’
‘Linley, we have no idea how that actually works, or even if it works every time.’
‘Well we’re about to find out,’ I said, unclipping my seatbelt. ‘I’m not leaving Åke to this bampot. He’s only out here to help me and Gran.’
For the record, I’m making myself out to sound way braver than I felt. The truth was I was numb with fear. So numb I almost couldn’t feel it any more, as though I’d gone so deep into terror I’d come out the other side.
I’d fought this guy before and survived.
Weirdly, that was scant comfort right about then.
The next thing I remember is going flying against a tree. A huge gnarly tree, all twisted and turned in on itself. It crossed my mind it was probably a totey wee seedling when this dude originally landed in Scotland, then I reminded myself to ponder on the nature of time some other time.
I’d landed crumpled in a heap at the foot of the tree and he was coming at me, His footsteps reverberated in the puddle I was nose to nose with, which I didn’t take as a promising sign. I scrambled to my feet wondering vaguely where my useless Granda was and ran at flipping Asterix and rammed him with all my might.
He basically flicked me off like a midge.
He yanked me off my feet and took my head in his massive paws. He jerked my head to the side and I felt a pain that made my eyes cross as he snapped my neck. I couldn’t scream, I was winded with the sheer, pulsating agony —
Then I blinked and it was gone.
I was fine.
‘Oooowwwwwww,’ I roared, even though I didn’t feel any pain any more. I rubbed my neck as though I’d just had a crick in it. Weirdly, I could feel a sort of echo of the pain; my ears were ringing with it.
The viking stared at me, as one would if one had just broken someone’s neck and they were glaring at, one, and swearing under their breath.
He backed away a step or two, then said something in a surprisingly high voice. I don’t mean comedy high, more just that for such a humungous dude I would have expected a really low, rumbly sort of voice, and it was… normal. Didn’t help me have a scooby what he said though.
Then he got down on one knee and bowed low to me.
‘Where’s Åke?’ I demanded. ‘Have you done something to him?’
‘Åke?’ he repeated. ‘Veistu Åke?’
‘I don’t know what you’re saying pal, and gonnae get up?’ I yelled in frustration. Where was bloody Google translate when you needed it?
He was still talking, sort of half muttering under his breath. He raised his arms, which, given he was still sort of lunging on one knee, made him look as though he were doing warrior one, which I suppose was appropriate.
Was he praying? Was he praying to me?
This homicidal maniac who had tried to kill me twice was… praying to me.
It was then that the headlights of the Fiat Uno blinded us both right before the engine revved and it ploughed into us.