Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning's not supposed to strike twice, Jenny thought frantically, clutching the bag of groceries tighter to her chest. Obviously the lightning didn't know what it was and wasn't supposed to do, and she didn't have time to educate it-- time to save Gunnar as he stood atop the hill where she had first seen him a few days ago.

He had frightened her a little that first time, Jenny owned to herself. His strange horned helmet, green skin and ragged clothing had blinded her to the gentle heart which beat within--the heart that he had sworn passionately was hers to hold or trample over with a herd of elephants. He had a lot of funny expressions like that.

She flinched as yet another bolt came down and struck him. She was torn between the urge to run and help him somehow and the urge to run for shelter in her apartment before the driving rain disintegrated her paper grocery bag. She had gotten cod like he had asked for, although nobody at the A&P had ever heard of "lutefisk".

That decided her. Gunnar couldn't eat the cod if he was dead, and it would stink up her apartment. Jenny dropped her bag of groceries and ran towards the hill. "Gunnar!" she called as she ran.

He whirled, surprised. The lightning which had been branching towards him swerved and hit a tree to Jenny's left. Blinded, she stumbled over a rock and fell on her face in the mud. She lay there, stunned and breathing hard, until she once again remembered Gunnar. She lifted up her head and saw him kneeling before her, his look somewhere between apologetic and annoyed. The rain, driving so hard a few minutes ago, had stopped.

"Djinny, art thou okay, or hast thou been rent limb from limb and trampled by elephants?" he asked seriously.

"I'm fine." Jenny smiled tremulously.

He touched her forehead, and she flinched. "Methinks thou hast a bruise 'pon thy fair bow, which will swell 'til it doth encompass the size of a grapefruit." He took her hand and lifted her effortlessly to her feet. She stole a glance at the rippling muscles on his glistening body, suddenly filled with a desire to...no. She averted her eyes, looking instead down at herself. She was, indeed, a mess.

"Look at my dress," Jenny wailed. "It's half falling off."

"Did you bring the lutefisk?" Gunnar asked. His eyes held a strange intent light. "I hath need of some."

She shook her head, trying to arrange her muddied dress a bit more decorously. "They didn't have any at the store."

He sighed. "Well, no matter. Hast thou cod? With that and lye, I may feast as well as on lutefisk."

"Um," Jenny said. "I did have some, but I dropped it in the mud when I saw you on the hill."

"Dear Djinny," he sighed. "Knowest thou not that what thou droppest thou must pick up?"

Slightly miffed--she had done this as a favour to him--she returned to pick up the groceries from where she had dropped them: in a puddle. The bag was completely gone, and the tartar sauce jar had broken, but the cod was fine, apart from being a bit damp under the plastic wrap. Well, it was a fish, wasn't it? A little water wouldn't hurt it.

Gunnar didn't seem to mind. Smiling happily, and showing off dimples the size of thumbprints, he bit into the fish. He frowned. Tsking, Jenny gently reached up--he was really rather tall--and removed the plastic wrap from his teeth and the cod. "Didn't you want some lye with that?" she reminded him.

"Of course," he said, pulling a scrap of plastic off of one tooth and tasting it. "So thou hast of lye, then? A prolonged marinade would be best, but a quick dunking would probably be enough for the nonce."

Jenny fished in her pocket. "I couldn't find any, but I remember hearing once that soap was made out of lye." She handed him a bar of Zest and couldn't help noticing how well it matched his skin tone. Sara at the cosmetic counter couldn't have done it better.

Gunnar looked from the bar of Zest to the cod and back. "I am more used to lye in a shape more watery, but an thou swear this bar holds lye, I will believe thee." He thought for a moment, then said, "Perhaps if I rub it on the cod..."

"Would you like to come inside and do that?" Jenyn said, suddenly conscious that they were standing in a public park, she muddy, and he half-naked, green, and ready to soap his fish and eat it.

"Nay, this place will serve." He started rubbing the bar on the cod, pausing to let Jenny unwrap it for him. Eventually the cod was smeared with a thin green film all over. Then Gunnar opened his mouth, his jaw seeming to open to an impossible angle, like that of a snake. He popped the cod in, and it slid down his throat, making a noticeable lump in his neck as it did so. Jenny shuddered as she saw the lump, but she reminded herself it was better than his not eating, which he hadn't up to this point.

Gunnar closed his jaw with an audible click, rubbed his cheek for a moment, then said, "That--" A funny look crossed his face. "--was--" He raised his hand before his face and looked at his fingers. "--not lye?"

Jenny looked on in horror as Gunnar started to dissolve. "I'm melting!" he said. She lunged forward to throw her arms around him, but all she did was smear him on her dress. Soon nothing was left of him but a green scum on the surface of the puddle, and stains all over her dress.

[Co-written with my wife, mostly alternating passages]

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com