Because all of life is stories.
Alright. So I’m really really late with the last Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig. But since he hasn’t posted another yet, I’m counting this as a win. Please enjoy the story of what happens when two aliens wind up dead, and not at all where they expect to be. The challenge this week was to write a story based on a song title. My phone shuffled to a comedy bit, called Soda & Cake. Please enjoy.
A field of wheat.
A big, gigantic, never fucking ending field of wheat.
Soda and Cake found themselves standing, clad in full battle garb, in the middle of an inexorably and somewhat unfathomably large field of wheat.
“Well.” said Soda.
“Shit.” said Cake
Soda was a nine foot tall, six armed, marble blue behemoth. His real name was not soda. His real name was Sordralamax of the Headless Nebula. But he was vaguely shaped like a two liter bottle, appendages and death glare aside. Cake was a short and squat creature, vibrant green skin almost luminescing in the pale light of day. His real name was Anatolius. But the nickname stuck. Everybody was afraid to ask why. (Incidentally, the reason for the nickname was that one day, quite by mistake and with the best intentions, Anatolius launched an attack on what he though was a covert invasion of a small bakery by a race called the Foraxians, when in fact it was just a multitude of wedding cakes.)
Up until very recently, Soda and Cake had been fighting side by side in a pitched melee over a small planet of no little regard. It had deep lakes, high mountains, and thousands upon thousands of pre-built breeding chambers that the inhabitants referred to as “Hotels”.
They were attempting to conquer Earth.
“Do you uh,” said Soda in a deep bass voice, “remember what it was we were doing?”
“If I remember correctly,” said Cake, his voice vaguely British in intonation, “You were holding some scrawny little alien up by his whatsis and I was prodding him with my Spear of Unfathomable Despair.”
“That’s what I thought too.” said Soda.
They were both quiet for awhile, watching the wheat sway back and forth in the light breeze.
“Any idea where the hell we are now?” asked Cake.
“Nope.” said Soda.
For the sake of clarity, on the behalf of the readers if not our stalwart conquering protagonists, Soda and Cake were very much dead, having been ripped to shreds and sundry pieces by a very large and very angry human in a battle mech suit. Having died on Earth in the charred remains of a town called Athens, they were even now standing in the fields of Elysium. Little did they or anyone living (other than people of Alpha “Party Central” Centauri) know that most afterlives worked according to geography, and not belief. Thus is was that two beings, only vaguely aware of Greek deities and their heavenly paradises, found themselves dead and alone in a strange and quite alien landscape.
“You know,” said Cake.
“Yeah?” said Soda.
“I don’t think I like it here very much.”
“I was just thinking that.” said Soda.
“Wanna go somewhere else?”
Soda contemplated this for a minute before replying. “Yeah alright.”
The pair of warriors and friends began marching. As the view was the same in every direction, they walked away from the sun, as tradition dictated. They walked for a very long time.
ENDING THE FIRST
Several days later, long after they had both become tired, long after they had both become bored, long after they had both burnt large tracts of wheat to cinders with their powerful alien weaponry for the fun of it, Soda and Cake happened upon a villa. They saw it from a great distance off. Colorful statues and pillars decorated a large square with a resplendent fountain at its center, and people sat about lazily enjoying their days. Some feasted on grapes or a variety of succulent meat, while others drank themselves into a pleasant stupor and fell asleep in the fountain. It was a quiet paradise.
“Let’s conquer that.” said Cake.
“Yeah.” said Soda. He was very excited, but his voice made it sound like he’d just as soon joining a bowling team or a sewing circle or some equally challenging task.
They each drew weapons. Cake’s Spear of Unfathomable Despair had fallen from his hands at the moment of his gruesome departure from the living, and so had not made the trip with him. He drew his two sidearms. With a bubbling fizz and a satisfying hum the weapons came to life. In his right hand the Everyman’s Face Dissolver Mark 427 continued to bubble and hiss. Every punch would release a small shot of acid to the spot where it made contact, producing a very satisfying scream from whoever was unlucky enough to have just been punched, right before their face dissolved into a putrescent muck around their bones. If they had bones.
In his other hand was a more conventional sidearm. The Blasty Blast Family Edition was a limited run handgun from the Markstrom, Arglcroark, & Blaaaaaaaaargh Munitions Corporation. It was so named because of its ability to vaporize and otherwise disintegrate an entire family with just one shot. Not that Cake would ever disintegrate a family. A battalion or two though, that was about right.
Soda carried only one weapon. Size made it inconvenient to carry any more than that. The Behemoth Class warriors of the Headless Nebula carried only one weapon. The Six-Handed Smudge. Its name was fairly self-explanatory.
“So uh, should we do anything fancy?” asked Soda.
“Like flanking and maneuvers?” asked Cake.
“Nah. Let’s just blast some things.” said Cake.
“Alright.” said Soda.
They rumbled forward, Cake having to jump and hop to see over the wheat stalks, Soda just walking through them. The rumble of Soda’s steps began to shake the ground. Over in the small square a few of the people noticed what was going on. They looked at each other in confusion and fear. Nobody had ever invaded Elysium before. How would they even get here? Cake roared, it was less than intimidating, a little nasally. Soda was more than enough to make up for it. He was quiet. But he smiled. A smile of intense and childlike glee. The smile of a slayer.
He didn’t get to slay though.
He was stopped by an old man. An old man who stuck appeared from thin air. He let Cake run by him, but Soda ran into him. The man was three feet shorter than Soda. Soda stopped in his tracks and fell backwards to the ground. The old man stayed rooted to the spot. He had lightning in his eyes.
Cake heard two noises that stopped him running. The first was a “whoof” that sounded less like a bark and more like the quick, surprised loss of all the air in one’s lungs. The second was the altogether more distinctive “thud” of Sordralamax of the Headless Nebula, Spear Head of seventeen conquests, personal favorite warrior and nephew of Lord Parlamamax, High Emperor and God Kind of the Headless Nebula, being knocked on his prodigious ass by a scrawny man wearing a toga and flip flops. Cake turned and fired the Family Edition. It impacted the old man and washed over him like a light summer breeze. Without turning, he snapped, and Cake was blown to the ground in a clap of lightning and thunder.
“You two,” he said with a toothy grin, “are in heaps and heaps of fucking trouble.”
ENDING THE SECOND
Soda groaned. His gills fluttered along the sides of his head. “Ow.”
Cake was busy trying to put out his head in the nearby grass. The old man spoke. “Yes, I imagine that hurt quite a bit. Now, I’m sorry that you’ve died and wound up here rather than in the afterlife of your choice, but them’s the breaks. Now, if you’ll follow me-“ Behind him, Cake had put out his head, and through the smoldering had worked out enough of a thought to rush the man, and slug him in the side of the head. The Everyman had landed home. Rather than the screams of pain that Cake had become accustomed to and a satisfying crunch under his fist, he fell to the ground wincing.
“We ain’t dead.” said Cake, holding his hand.
“You is dead.” said the man in the toga. “You and a few million of your brothers and sisters in arms. And a fair lot of you wound up here.”
“Haven’t seen anyone in days.” coughed Soda.
“You wouldn’t have. Do you have any idea how large this place is? We’ve been trying to keep you from everyone else until we figure out where to put you. We’ve never had aliens here in Elysium.”
“We ain’t dead.” croaked Cake. He belched a smoke ring and fell face first back onto the ground.
The world around them shifted. Once again they found themselves in a desolate city. Unlike last time, when it had been filled with the sounds of glorious battle and screaming, now it was silent. The battle had moved elsewhere. Corpses still littered the landscape. Underneath a gigantic marble pillar, Soda and Cake’s bodies slowly rotted. Soda had been crushed from the waist down, and the half of him that remained inflated was a mottled grey, tongue lolling out to one side. All that was left of cake were his legs.
“Believe me now?” asked the man in the toga. Soda and Cake looked back and forth between each other.
“S’pose we do.” said Soda dejectedly.
“Your invasion has caused quite a ruckus in the afterlives. Yahweh and Buddha have been screaming in our ears all day about the new influx. We haven’t even heard from the Zoroastrians and the Voodoo priests yet. Zeus and the cabal are locked away in conference and we’ve got to keep an eye on all of you before you wreck the place up.”
“I should be soaking in the blood of enemies and drinking from wineskins made of their spleens!” said Cake. “I should be frolicking through fields of charred flesh and taking potshots at my in-laws!” He stomped and jumped and fired randomly into the sky.
“Yes. Well.” the man in toga was examining his nails, clearly uninterested in Cake’s tantrum. “About that. I don’t know about the rest of the universe, but here on Earth not many people are aware that the afterlife works by geography, not by belief system.”
“What?” said Soda.
“Yes. Each religion is granted a territory based on the number of followers in the area, the birthplace of the religion, and a handful of other factors. Whichever one is dominant and currently in ownership of a region is responsible for all the souls that perish there. So, you die as warriors, in Greece, you come to Elysium.”
Soda and Cake regarded each other for a moment. They holstered their weapons.
“So no drinking blood out of the spleens of my enemies?” asked Cake.
“No races on the backs of enslaved warriors through the Chasms of Orglsplaxx?” asked Soda.
“Afraid not.” The two warriors looked glum and dejected.
“So what do we do?” they asked.
“Well, if you’re still in the mood for conquering there are several million of your brethren that need calming down. We figure it would help to see a few friendly faces accommodating well in their new home.”
“And we can shoot at them?” asked Cake
“If they prove difficult.”
“Like we did?” asked Soda.
“And there are how many of them?” asked Soda.
“Millions. And more arriving by the hour.”
Soda and Cake exchanged a malicious and gleeful grin. “I think we’ll find this afterlife to our liking after all.” said Cake. Soda just grinned, unsoldering his massive weapon. An ominous glow emanated from within it.
“Yes.” said Cake. “Let’s go meet our comrades.”
ENDING THE LAST