Passing the Hammer
Patrick S. Baker
“It was fifteen, maybe twenty feet tall, with four arms,” the wizened old man shouted as he burst into the Tolliver’s Bar and Grill. “It was a giant, I tells ya, a giant!”
“Now, Bobby Joe Swenson,” the bartender said shaking his head. “I told ya and told ya not to drink that ‘shine y’all whip up in old car radiators. I told ya it’ll make ya blind, or crazy.”
“No, I tell ya, Beau Tolliver,” Swenson insisted to the bartender and the customers. “I ain’t had a drop. I’m as sober as a Baptist on Sunday morning.”
“Sure, sure,” Tolliver tried to humor the old man. “Let me call your’n wife, have her come fetch ya. I cain’t let you drive like this.”
“No need to get Bridy to come all the way out here,” Deputy Sheriff Rusty McKee said as he finished his coffee and settled his hat on his head. “I’ll get Mr. Swenson home. Not like this is the first time I’ve done it.”
“No, Rusty McKee,” Swenson practically shouted at the lawman. “I demand ya do your’n duty and check out what I seen. Just passed the old wooden bridge on County Road 19, the field that back-ups up to the Old Cherokee Cave. That’s where’n I saw the giant.”
“Right, Mr. Swenson,” the lawman said in a soothing tone. “First, we’ll get you home and then I’ll take a run up there to see about it. Will that do?”
Bobby Joe Swenson nodded as the lawman ushered him out of the door into the bitter, unseasonably cold North Carolina afternoon.
A tall man, once huge, now somehow shrunken, with gray-streaked red hair, and sagging skin, wearing woodland camouflaged hunting gear and a brown leather jacket finished off his schooner of beer in one gulp and stood.
“Barkeep,” the tall redhead asked. “Where is this place the old gentleman spoke of? Where he saw the giant?”
“Heard that, did ya?” Tolliver replied. “Don’t pay ol’ Bobby Joe no never mind. He drinks some and when he drinks his own homebrew, he sees things. Last time it was a mountain lion as big as a horse and with two heads.”
“Ah, yes,” The big man nodded. “Still, I would like to see this place where he thought he saw the monster.”
Tolliver shrugged. No business of his if the old guy froze wandering around the mountains. So he took a napkin from the stack behind the bar and quickly drew a map.
“Many thanks to you,” the man said and dropped a small gold coin on the bar. “Your ale is excellent, if served in mugs that are too small.”
As the man left, Tolliver looked where the old fellow had sat. Four twenty-four ounce glasses were lined up on the bar. The barkeeper merely shook his head, he collected the gold coin, decided it was worth much more than the four beers and tucked into his pocket.
The old man didn’t seem to notice the frigid cold and bitter wind as he walked up the road following the hand-drawn map. A car approached. The old man put out his huge, boney hand, thumb up. The car slowed and pulled over on the gravel shoulder.
“Come in out of the cold, old-timer,” the driver, a young, muscular redhead, said as he rolled down the window.
The old man climbed in the passenger side.
“Miles Thorsten,” the old redhead introduced himself.
“Skeet Tallman,” the driver said and took the outstretched hand. “Where you headin’ to?”
Thorsten told him.
“Well, that’s a bit of hike in this weather,” Skeet said. “But that’s a good place in the summer. The cave is nice and cool. Lots of guys drink and take girls up there. I went there myself, coupla times. Before I joined up.”
“Joined up?” the older man asked. “You’re a soldier?”
“I was, First of the Eighty-Second, Iraq and Afghanistan, one tours each,” Skeet said. “How about it? You a vet, too?”
“Yes. First of the First Marines, Chosin, Korea.”
Skeet nodded. He knew about the “Frozen Chosin.”
“What brings you out on such an afternoon, Skeet Tallman?” Thorsten asked.
“Since I got back, I’m so itchy, so restless, I can’t sleep. Driving helps me chill. I drive around a bit and I can clock maybe four or five hours sleep without pills. You’re a vet, you understand?”
“Yes, soldier,” the older man replied. “I understand.”
“This is a fine car,” Thorsten said suddenly, changing the subject.
“Yep, my daddy restored it,” Skeet said. “It’s a 1969 GTO, it has a 400 cubic-inch V-8 engines and all original interior. The paint job was supposed to be solid white, but something went wrong. It kinda looks like wool to me.”
“Looks like wool to me as well,” the old man said and then asked. “Some people call a GTO a ‘goat’ do they not?”
“A goat?” Thorsten said with great satisfaction. “A goat!”
“Rusty,” came the radio call as the deputy sat back down in his cruiser after delivering Bobby Joe Swenson back to his house.
“Go ahead, Joanie,” he said to the dispatcher as he picked up the handset.
“Carol Lawson, says Sally didn’t get home for dinner. She might be up near Old Cherokee Cave, with the Kyle Jindal, they play together up there sometimes. I called Ms. Jindal and she says Kyle in not home either. Could you drive up there and check it out.”
“Sure,” the deputy replied. “I’m at the Swenson place. About half an hour away. I’ll check in when I get there.”
“Right,” Joanie signed off.
Skeet and his passenger rode silently as the muscle-car roared up the mountain roads, higher into the Appalachians as the sun sank lower behind the peaks.
“Well, here you go, Mr. Thorsten.” Skeet said as he pulled over to the side of the road. “Just go up that path a piece and the field is just over the hill.”
“My thanks, Skeet Tallman,” the older man said as he got out. “I hope you are ‘chilled’ now.”
The older man turned and strode away.
“Wait a minute,” Skeet said suddenly on impulse, as he hopped out of the car. “I’m coming with you. This is no place to be out alone.”
Thorsten stopped, nodded and said: “Your company would be most welcome, soldier.”
Skeet pulled on his field jacket, went to his trunk and pulled out an M&P-10 .308 caliber rifle, pushed home a magazine and loaded a round.
The two walked over the hill.
“Look at this,” the older man said and pointed.
Skeet saw a huge barefooted print in the mud. He put his own size-11 boot next to it and it appeared at least three times as big.
“Good God,” Skeet said with real feeling and gripped his rifle a bit more tightly
They advanced a bit further into the meadow and in the twilight they both heard a child weeping and crying for help. Without a word both men sprinted to the cave. Just inside was a dark-haired little girl of about ten. She was bound hand and foot, face streaked with tears.
“What the f. . .!” Skeet started to exclaim
“No time,” Thorsten said, his voice now deep and full of authority. “Get her out of here. I’ll wait for the jotun.”
For some reason, Skeet obeyed the old man, he slung his rifle, scooped the weeping girl up and sprinted away across the field.
Thorsten went to the mouth of the cave and took a simple-looking multi-tool from his pocket.
Skeet reached his car with the child just as the Deputy McKee pulled up in his cruiser.
“Hey Skeet, what’s up?” The lawman said as he got out and saw what the other man had.
“Me and another guy, named Thorsten, found her in the Old Cherokee Cave, tied up like this. He told me to take her and run. So I did.”
“Put her down and untie her.”
Skeet did so.
“That’s Sally Lawson,” McKee said as he quickly examined the girl. “Her ma just called the station and said she and young Kyle Jindal didn’t get home for dinner.”
Sally hugged both the men.
A shout of “RUN, BOY RUN!” came through the trees and a moment later a dark haired boy, about eight years old, sprinted up to the men.
The boy was weeping and gasping for air.
“A giant, a giant grabbed me!” the youngster said between gasps. “He’s at the cave.”
McKee hustled both the terrified children into his cruiser.
The young men heard a loud, inhuman roar then an explosion from the meadow.
“Rusty, get the kids out of here, I’ll go get Thorsten.”
The deputy hesitated, torn between his duty to save the children and his need to help his friend face an obvious danger.
“Come on, let’s both head down to town. I’ll get the sheriff and some guys together to come back.”
“No time!” Skeet shouted, turned, unslung his weapon and charged over the small hill.
McKee shaking his head, hopped in his car, did a tire spinning U-turn and roared down the road.
Skeet rushed over the hill. In the middle of the field stood a roughly human figure at least fifteen-feet tall with four brawny arms and frost-white hair. Its lower left arm hung limply, but the other three waved huge knobby clubs. A man stood facing the giant. He was at least six-and-a-half-tall with shoulders like a linebacker and long red hair. The big redhead wore the same clothes as old man Thorsten had, and he also wore an iron gauntlet holding a huge hammer flashing with lightening.
“Your human vessel is weak, Odinsson,” the giant roared. “You are weak.”
“Shut up, jotun,” the man replied with an equally booming voice. “Your words bore me. You have eaten your last child.”
Without a wind-up, Odinsson flung his hammer. The giant warded the blow with one of his clubs, which shattered, spraying splinters everywhere. After striking the blow, the hammer turned in flight and returned to the huge redhead’s hand. The giant stepped forward and swung a club. The redhead tried to dodge. The club caught him a glancing blow, lifted him from his feet and sent him spinning back into the cave.
Skeet roared in fury and ran forward, firing as he went. The heavy .308 rounds stung the monster. It turned and swung its club at the young man, who duck under it.
Skeet lost his footing and tumbled to the ground. He came up and fired five more rounds at the giant’s head. The monster took a step back, hurt by the modern weapon.
Skeet dodged into the cave and knelt beside the big man.
“Are you hurt?” Skeet asked “Where’s Mr. Thorsten? What is that thing?”
“Skeet Tallman, I am Miles Thorsten, I am also Thor Odinsson, the Thunderer. Some of the old gods still walk the earth as spirits. In times of danger we occupy a human and fight to defeat the enemies of humans, like the jotuns, the frost giants.”
A wracking cough convulsed Thorsten/Odinsson. Blood dripped from his mouth.
“Miles Thorsten and I have fought and won many a battle,” Miles/Thor went on between coughs. “But he is old now and bound for Valhalla. I need a new host to continue the fight.”
Skeet stood and stepped back.
“Sounds a lot like demon possession.”
Thorsten/Odinsson laughed and coughed.
“I possess no one. We share. Like two different people in the same house. I only come to the fore when fighting is to be done.” Now his voiced changed to a human timbre. “Thor and I have lived with each other for forty years. I had a wife and children, I lived a full life on my own. Only being Thor when I needed to be.”
“Skeet Tallman,” the voice changed back to Thor’s. “I must defeat the jotun here and now. After I do that I will leave you in peace, if you desire that. But I must fight and I need a human to do it.”
A large, ghostly figure detached itself from Thorsten and wafted over to Skeet, enveloping the young man. Skeet felt suddenly better, stronger, clearer thinking than he had since returning from the war. He blinked hard. Two tall, lovely women on white horses appeared.
“My daughters, take Miles Thorsten to Valhalla, as he has most truly earned his reward,” Skeet heard himself say with Thor’s voice.
A young and fit Miles Thorsten now stood between the Valkyries. He waved to Skeet and said “Good luck, son” and in a blink of eye all three vanished.
“To battle,” Thor/Skeet shouted.
The new being stepped out of the cave. The giant approached from across the glade.
Skeet/Thor hurled Mjolnir again just as the jotun threw a club. The two weapons met in mid-flight and the club shattered and the hammer flew off at a right angle.
Skeet/Thor raised his rifle and fired ten quick rounds at the giants face, one good, or lucky shot, took out the monster’s right eye.
“We’re out of ammo. Where is your hammer?” Skeet said to Thor in their mind
The god mentally shrugged.
“That is not helpful.” Skeet declared.
The giant hurled his last club at them. Thor/Skeet tried to dodge, but the bludgeon hit their left leg and tripped them, they slammed face down into the rocky soil.
“Well that hurt,” Skeet thought. “You’re supposed to be a god, how come we’re not acting so god-like.”
“It’s always like this with a new partner,” Thor responded. “It takes time to learn about each other.”
The giant strode forward to finish off his foe. Thor’s hammer finally returned and hovered above the prone figure.
“Wish we had a rocket launcher!” Skeet said in their head.
“Show me what you mean. Mjolnir can be any weapon.” Thor replied.
Skeet recalled his training on the M136 AT-4 system. They reached up and grabbed Mjolnir from the air and with an audible pop the magic hammer transformed into a copy of the anti-tank weapon. Skeet/Thor pulled themselves up on to their knees and went through the firing procedure exactly as described in the field manuals. They shouldered the weapon and fired at the on rushing giant.
The 84MM rocket shot out and impacted the monster squarely in the chest. The jotun disintegrated into a blue mist, bits of flesh and blood rained down on the vale.
“Most impressive,” Thor thought.
“Yea, worked out pretty good,” Skeet replied as a feeling of deep satisfaction filled him at the killing a child-eating monster.
“I guess you can stay around, if’n you like, Thor,” Skeet thought to the other being.
“Many thanks, Skeet Tallman.”
Mjolnir reassembled itself into its hammer form and then changed into a harmless looking multi-tool. Skeet, now just himself, with Thor the merest shadow of a presence in his mind, put the tool in his jacket pocket, shoulder his rifle, and walked back to his GTO intending to get a beer or four.
Patrick S. Baker is a U.S. Army Veteran, currently a Department of Defense employee. He holds a Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science and a Masters in European History. He has been writing professionally since 2013. His fiction has appeared in Aurora Wolf, magazine, Broadswords and Blasters Magazine, and Mythic Magazine, as well as the Uncommon Minds and After Avalon anthologies. In his spare time he reads, works out, plays war-games, and enjoys life with his wife, dog, and two cats.