Among the Gods (short fiction)

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest

During winter break, Troy Kawakami discovered he had a nemesis. He was surprised as anyone.

“Don’t I know you?” Troy asked of the broad-shouldered man standing on the porch. “It’s Smith, right?”


“Yes, you fought the cyclops,” said Troy. “I don’t usually forget a face. Glad to see you’re okay.”

“It was only a few broken bones,” said Smith. “A ruptured spleen. Some severe head trauma.” He shrugged. “But thank you for your concern.”

“No problem. Something I can do for you?”

Smith said, “You can be destroyed.”

Troy nodded. “I see. Come on in. Mom and Dad aren’t home right now.”
Smith followed Troy into the living room, where they took a seat across from each other.

“It’s nothing personal,” said Smith. “As you might recall, the gods decreed if I could defeat seventy-seven monsters, I could join them in the heavens. Unfortunately, my encounter with the cyclops ended that particular quest. Have a kink in my shoulder that makes monster slaying tricky at this point.”

He rotated his arm and winced.

“Sorry to hear that,” said Troy.

“I petitioned the gods, and they set before me a new task. If I can prove myself the most perfect mortal on this world, then I can join them. To do so, I must destroy those mortals who challenge me for the title. You, Troy Kawakami, are one of those mortals.”

Troy laughed. “I’m not perfect.”

“Close enough as far as the gods are concerned. And I don’t mean to rush you, but I have a long list here and very few of these opponents live near one another, so there’s an unfortunate amount of traveling involved. After you, I’m off to Tibet.”

“Sounds tiring.”

“Racking up the frequent flyer miles,” said Smith. “So how do you want to do this?”

“There’s more than one way to destroy someone?”

“Ah, yes, sorry for the confusion. I only need prove myself your better in some way. So what shall it be? Knife fight? Arm wrestling? Spelling bee? Trivia contest? The choice is yours as the challenged.”

“And if I win?”

“You won’t.”

“But if I do?”

“Then my quest becomes yours. But don’t think you’ll take my rightful place among the gods.”

“Gods forbid,” said Troy shuffled a deck of cards on the table. “High card wins then?”

Smith reached across the table and grabbed Troy’s arm. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not?” asked Troy. “If you truly are destined to join the gods, then how can you lose?”

Smith released Troy. “Fine.”

Troy shuffled. Smith cut the deck. They drew. Smith’s three of spades beat Troy’s two of hearts.

“Ah, shoot. Looks like you win,” said Troy.

“I did?” Smith smiled. “Of course, I did! I am the most perfect mortal. I can’t lose. No hard feelings!”

“No hard feelings.” Troy shook hands with Smith as they parted ways. “Good luck on your quest.”

“Luck is for lesser mortals.” Smith picked up his suitcase and trod to the waiting taxi.

Troy closed the door and, smiling, tossed the king of clubs he’d palmed onto the coffee table.

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