3 min read

The Eater of Worlds

Welcome to Fort Hook. Put up your dukes!
— 01 —

OK, what do we know and not know.

We know Batya Hull just wrapped up a job at a hotel on the northern docks of Fort Hook. She got paid to look mean and make sure a drug deal went smooth and nobody got cute. Not glamorous work but it pays the bills. Some of the bills. Anyway nobody got cute and now she’s cutting through the kitchen and—

She stops, her boot making a tiny squeak against the linoleum. She pockets the cash she was counting, listens. Doesn’t like what she’s not hearing. Bat’s been in the hired goon business her whole life, not an extremely long time but long enough to know when a room is wrong. The dinner crew should be here washing dishes. The radio should be blasting something stupid. A knife is maybe missing from that block?

Sure enough, a couple thugs emerge from behind the kitchen island. They’re wearing cheap suits just like hers. One’s sporting brass knuckles and the other’s got a curvy dagger that makes her queasily excited.

What we do not know is why these fellows are here to tune her up. She has a theory—the terrifying amount of money she owes a local loan shark—and is about to strike up a friendly chat when she hears another creep creeping out from the walk-in freezer behind her. And then someone crawling around up in the ducts, which seems like more trouble than it’s worth. And then what sounds like a big gent out in the seafood restaurant, grunting while doing some warmup stretches.

Pretty thorough ambush! She’s flattered. So now what? Most dames with your classic meat-and-potatoes combat training, they have a whole mental checklist they run through before a fight. But Bat tends to just go.

First, she kicks the dagger out of Dagger Guy’s hand while making an absurd banshee howl. She’s not proud of this. Then, Brass Knuckles comes at her and she decides to go ahead and take them to the jaw because she wants to know what it feels like. Turns out it feels awful, duly noted. If she still had her original teeth they’d probably be skittering across the chrome countertop. Then she squats in front of Knuckles and jabs his personal privates using an old technique called the eater of worlds. It hurts, very much, but the best part is it’ll give him a feeling of profound despair for the next couple days.

Then Duct Girl comes tumbling out of the ceiling vent and lands on Bat’s shoulders, and here comes Freezer Man running at her with a chef’s knife. (She knew there was a knife missing.) She awkwardly pivots and manages to toss Duct Girl right onto the knife. They hit the floor and—and it’s bad. Bat takes a second to wish she’d done something else, anything else. She didn’t get a good look at the girl, can’t really spend too much time celebrating her life right now, but, well, let’s see, she had strong calves and a piercing cry and was committed to her job. Bon voyage, Duct Girl.

Now Dagger Guy’s back for round two, but he misses her and crashes into a stack of dishes. And you know what? Bat’s pretty sure he did it on purpose. The look in his eyes was not one of bloodlust but more like I do not get paid nearly enough for this. He has no personal stake in this nonsense, definitely doesn’t want to end up like Duct Girl. All he wants is to go home and take off his pants and drink a drink, just like Bat does.

They speak the same language, so she gives him two quick gestures: thumb across her throat, index/middle fingers slashed from eyebrows to lips. He immediately drops down and plays dead. Good. Smart.

That leaves Big Gent outside. Bat grabs a canister of paprika and runs through the swinging doors, hoping she can blind him before he finishes limbering up. She stumbles into the restaurant and he’s even bigger than he sounded. He’s also nude, hairless, winding up, and throwing a cannonball at her chest. It connects, it hurts, and she’s out.

This has been Chapter 1 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: You Big Stupid