A Taste of π

A Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge. Pie-flavored mixed drinks and Ancient Math Mummies! I hope it’s amusing. Random critiques/comments welcome.

This story is based on a homebrewed cocktail. Goes by the same name.

One part Raspberry Vodka

Two parts Mountain Dew Voltage

.14159265 part Blackberry Merlot (just a dash, really)

Anyway…

A Taste of π

Derek sits in his booth. The smell of stale cigarettes and the sounds of distant, foreign conversation fill the tiny dive. No one looks familiar around him, no one knows him, and yet he can’t shake the feeling that someone’s eyeing him.

He slaps his face. Maybe to keep the mosquitos that never stopped harrying him since the tomb. Maybe it’s to keep himself in reality; out of his thoughts.

“Hanamathra?”

“Yeah. Never heard of it?”

“No, it sounds stupid. Like one of those mystical places you hear about in a Mummy rip-off.”

“Hear me out. You can go ahead and not believe it just like everyone else after I’m finished. You’re safer for it at the very least.”

“What do you mean safer?”

“What do you think I mean? I mean it’s a real place you’re better off not exploring. In it lie buried the artifacts of ages long gone. And anyone willing can take them if they’re brave enough.”

An eager bartender. Cute too. Derek can admit the second trait of hers contributed more to his interest in what she said. Brown hair like woven oak framing her perfect, desert-kissed face, a body that earns more tips and compliments than any fancy shot-pouring can, and the way the hex-shaped piercing in her nose caught the low-swinging lamps of the stateside bar had him glued to her the entire night.

Eight months with her on his mind. Eight months of hunting down the Rod of Eck’kroner.

“I can’t help you find it, of course.”

“Why not? You’re the one with the map after all.”

“True enough, but that’s not why I can’t go.”

“No, it’s just why you should go.”

“My interest isn’t in ancient bric-a-brac. Mine is in the someone who’s willing to get it.”

“Oh?”

“My life goes beyond this bar. I don’t have time to fling myself into the nearest burial ground for dusty treasures like you do.”

“You think I have that kind of time?”

“I think you could make that kind of time.”

He should have been insulted. In retrospect it reeked of verbal footsie; conversation coitus; a set-up any anti-social person could evade with the word whatever.

But he fell for it.

He spins the last coin he has, watching it dance around the carved jade tumbler that accompanied him since he left her bar. As it makes another rotation, he raises his hand for another drink.

“Just one thing before you go.”

“You dun even know that I’m going.”

“I know you’re thinking about it.”

“And jess wut makes you think that I’m thi-…thinking about thinking about it?”

“Shut-up and have another shot. This is the one that saves you.”

“Hmm?”

“Two parts Mountain Dew. One part Raspberry Vodka. Schmirnoff’s your easiest bet. And a point-one-four-one-five-nine-two-six-five part of blackberry Merlot. The cheap stuff. Don’t go screwing up your good wine with this.”

“.14159265. 3.1415 parts in all? Oh wait, pi. Math. Cute.”

“Ah, so you did graduate Junior High.”

No more coin. Just the tumbler glass now. He still hasn’t cleaned it out. The faded rust-shaded flakes along the rim remind him to check the bandages on his hand. Still need to be cleaned too. As soon as he finds a First-Aid kit in this rugged dugout of a bar…or around this town at all.

A hand sets a poorly washed glass rather than a shot glass and Derek’s initial confusion turns to shock as he knows the drink’s color. Not the amber of whiskey like he ordered; a strong drunking drink to pass out and drift away, but the deep, viscous blue of π.

“So a shotta some fruity drink’s gonna get me through these Eck’kroner ruins?”

“Poetic in a way, don’t you think?”

“Coincidence seems like a better term.”

“Fine, don’t get excited about it. Just know it’ll save you.”

“Whatever you say, Milan.”

She sits across from him and Derek’s palms sweat like his newest task is trying to shove an elephant out of his booth. Their booth. He expects a thank you, a hello, even a noise. No words, just a smile, and her eyes staring at his drink. Insisting. A long moment passes and Derek wonders if anyone notices their silence before he swills back the fruity drink that tastes like the syrupy-sweet pie filling from the grocery store. His olfactory senses though send him reeling; bitter memories of dusty glyphs marking him for death that make stomaching the mix a trial in its own right.

“I knew you would do it.”

“You didn’t know a thing. Just with the map and everything you said, it sounds pretty brainless not to try.”

“That’s why you’re my favorite.”

“I…I am? Wait, what do you even mean by that?”

“Just look for me when you’re done with it all, Champ.”

“Sure…whatever.”

Her hand turns up to the ceiling and two perfectly manicured fingers extend and curl, extend and curl; beckoning their prize. Derek reaches into the ragged leather satchel representing the last of his possessions. The rod holds a strange magnetism about it. A fuzzy sensation that he had noticed since leaving Eck’kroner’s grave site like he might break a computer if he waved the shiny stick around it. The gilded omega symbol tipping the platinum-plaited item pokes from the bag and Miss Mathers’s eyes light up. While the sight melts Derek’s spine from his neck down to his pants, he reminds himself he’s not her puppet. Not after the crap he’s been through. It disappears into the re-stitched bag and her face sinks.

“Hey, how’d you get my number?”

“You left it at the bar with me, remember?”

“N…I mean. Yeah. Right. At the bar.”

“Just wanted to give you one more bit of advice.”

“How kind. Look I’ve got to get going, the flight’s taking off.”

“Then listen quick. Your blood is not all he’ll need.”

“What?”

He looks at Milan, insisting in his own way. He’s at least earned her interest. The affection promised eight months ago. He leaves the other questions to the side. How she got here. How she found him. How, that when in the very depths of the tomb, did he find more and more her words saved him. The thought reminds him of the others. The corpses long past or sickeningly fresh that held various instruments, notes, and pamphlets all designed to overcome the various trials all solved by that stupid glass and that stupid number.

“AND IN ITS INFINITUM CAN THERE BE NO SUCCESS WITHOUT FAILURE. GAIN WITHOUT LOSS. LOVE WITHOUT HATE. IN ITS INFINITUM NO MAN NOR EARTH IS SAFE. SAVE ONE.”

She smiles and moves the two glasses to the side, gripping Derek’s shirt and yanking him forward. Her lips are like two slick, silken pillows; clouds puckered just for him. The air around her smells of sweet spices and vanilla and the man clings to his senses just to remain functioning as he weakly returns what favor he can.

The kiss abates and Derek gulps in air he didn’t realize he needed. She only smiles. No words still. Her hand upraised and waiting for her prize. Derek practically rips the bag open in his rush to give her Eck’kroner’s rod. The gleaming artifact matches everything about her.

He shifts in his seat, the injuries that dot his body fade to a distant memory in the wake of Miss Mather’s intoxicating presence. Her hand clutches it tight and her smile widens and her finger beckons once more. Derek wastes no moment in lurching over the table like a starved dog. They kiss again and he breathes in the delicate smell of her near him again.

“MAY THESE WARDS SAFEGUARD THE WORLD.”

The kiss lasts ages, eons, and Derek lives in each moment. He hears nothing of the world around him. Feels nothing but her soft hair through his fingers and her flawless skin. Smells nothing but the exotic woman she is.

And dust. The scent of forgotten stone.

He recoils but Milan’s hand grips his scalp. Her long fingernails feel like icepicks in his mind and his once-probing tongue finds nothing but the hollow, dessicated tendons of preserved muscle; like kissing up on dried jerky. She releases him and he springs away. Her hair lies limp on her head and in two sunken sockets sit suppurating, half-deflated orbs for her eyes. He wants to scream. For a moment he thinks he is.

“I’m not the one.” He croaks. His cotton dry throat keeps his voice faltered and weak.

She taps an on the nose gesture on the still gleaming piercing that bites into her leathery nostril, confirming his suspicion.

“Not yet.” Her words groan from a useless voice box and dribble out over her rancid teeth. She blows through lips that look like week-old spaghetti noodles and a wetness with the peculiar scent of that disgusting drink sprays out. She grips his head in her hands once more and kisses him before the deep dark of the world consumes him…

Derek slips into the bar with an introductory wink to some uninterested hottie. The bar lights bathe the room in a low glow and the music is slow and quiet. Just the way he likes it. A long day deserves a long, easy drink.

The girl’s reflective gem piercing catches his eye first, affixed to the most gorgeous face he’s seen. Her brown hair and her sun-kissed skin stand out exotic in this stateside dive. He sidles up on a bar seat, giving a perfunctory nod to the booze-addled trucker next to him, and offers a hand. She seems impressed…or amused. She leaves his hand lonely.

“What can I get you?” She asks. Her lips frame the words with an elegance that staggers the man. His nose catches the brief scent of Vanilla.

“What would you recommend?”

She smiles and turns to the liquor shelf, dressing up a glittering green tumbler with blue soda and darker wine. Derek’s eyes wander the shelf, looking at the strange brands of foreign alcohol stacked on the top shelf. Above them, a glittering, platinum rod with an omega symbol stamped on the end lays affixed across the wall.

“Interesting trophy up there.” He says, taking the fruity drink and downing its contents in one masculine chug. The sweet aroma of pie filling sends his mind spinning like a broth of buried memory. It lasts only a moment before retreating into his mind. Maybe the drink is hitting harder than he thought.

“Oh it’s just a trinket. A gift from an old friend. The same who gave me this.” She tapped her piercing.

“Looks like the guy spoils you.”

“He did, yes. But these are nothing compared to some. Not like the ones you can find in Hanamathra.”

“Hanamathra?”