Trope or Choke: Episode 4

The challenge: write a complete story in 500 words or less following these guidelines:

Setting: In a sleazy casino

Genres: Noir + Paranormal romance

Trope: First alien contact

Characters: A space wizard + King Arthur

POV/tense: 2nd person/future tense

The result:

Merlin’s Delight

You’ll incarnate savagely, a murderous pain as your spirit merges with another discarded body.

You’ll taste burnt almonds. This body was poisoned. Targeted. Your latest incarnation may be brief. Briefer still if that infernal wizard finds you.

You’ll rise like Lazarus and think of her in a tumble of ancient melancholy. You’ve chased Guinivere for eons, your vengeful love tangled by the wizard’s curse. You’ll rub the death from your eyes and sense her near. You’ll assess your face. Not a king’s but it will do. Then you’ll peer into a sky of drifting stars. On a spacefaring craft yet again.

A knock pounds your door. You’ll open it to a lipstick blonde who eyes you suspiciously. “Octavio, hon, you’re looking fresh as a daisy.”

She’s not Guinivere. “I don’t wilt,” you’ll say.

“Apparently not.” She’ll hook your arm. “Come. Brando’s on roulette. You know what that means.”

She clacks her heels down the corridor, nodding at women who stream flirty laughter and men who shrink away.

“You’re armed?” she’ll ask.

Oh, Excalibur, gone so long. “No.”

She’ll bring you to a doorway framed by neon. Merlin’s Delight, it reads. The gall of him.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she’ll say.

“Soon enough, perhaps.”

You’ll pass a surly doorman and enter a room of gaming tables and preening bodies. In the midst of the clamor you’ll feel her essence throbbing in your chest. The blonde will plant a Judas kiss against your cheek. “You shouldn’t have done it.” Before you can ponder her meaning a man ratchets your arm behind your back.

“Brando, I assume,” you’ll say.

“Hard one to kill,” he’ll growl. “Care for a trip to the airlock?”

You’ll smirk. “Flirt.”

“Very funny. Now let’s go.”

This peasant won’t stop you. After a kick to his shin and a fist to his nose, a posse will subdue you both.

“Gentlemen, violence is forbidden in my establishment.”

“Apologies, Mister Wells,” Brando will say.

You’ll stare into familiar black eyes. “When will this game end, Merlin?”

“It’s only half begun.”

Your pounding heart becomes unbearable. “Where is she?”

“Impatience was always your Achilles, Arthur.”

“Mister Wells,” the blonde will say, “this has nothing to do with your operation.”

“He is my operation, child.”

“Don’t cross us,” she’ll say.

“Don’t you challenge me, girl. Your science pales next to my powers.”

The pull of Guinivere will become a fishhook in your flesh. You’ll scan the crowd. That sultry redhead? No. That ebony cocktail waitress? No. The lanky man slouched against the bar? No. Then you’ll spy a fluid form, skin like rusty sunset. A six-fingered hand sweeps tendrilled hair. You’ll gasp. You’ve never seen an alien. Its head turns your way. You lock onto silver eyes. It’s Guinivere! The only woman who ever mattered. You’ll ache for one more night with her, one just like that first in Salisbury among the bonfires.

As your fingertips graze her skin you’ll hear a pop. Pain will sear your chest. Then, blackness.

[Photo by Giancarlo Corti on Unsplash]