I NO LONGER OWN THE BIKE
MEET THE AUTHOR
This is the area of the site where Randall P. Fitzgerald pretends that Randall P. Fitzgerald isn’t writing Randall P. Fitzgerald’s own biography.
Randall was raised in rural North Carolina and is currently living in Portland, Oregon. He’s trying not to let the constant motion sickness caused by rapidly moving plaid destroy his productivity. Other than that, he writes books. Sci-fi and fantasy, probably. Maybe with some other stuff in there.
Requisite snide remark about Portland out of the way, Randall is continuing to refer to himself in the third person and it makes him sick. He’s going to stop writing this bio now.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Erik groaned in his bed, rolling over and doing his best to ignore what was an unnecessarily loud and strangely accented voice. A deep thud sounded on the floor and the voice boomed again, louder than before.
“Haki Erik Styrsson! Rise! You are chosen!”
He rolled his head around without opening his eyes. No way he was getting back to sleep now.
“Look, I don’t know if—”
He opened his eyes and saw a tall, muscular blonde woman standing at the end of his bed dressed in gold-trimmed leather from head to toe and holding what looked like a spear. She looked to be in her mid-twenties at the most and stared at him wordlessly with ice-blue eyes.
Unable to contain an annoyed sigh, he rolled to the edge of the bed and put his feet on the ground. He eyed the clock and saw it was nearly two in the afternoon. Ignoring the massive girl at the end of his bed, he called out through the apartment.
“Guys, this is hilarious, okay? Very elaborate.” There was no answer. He put his head in his hands. “Great, so they just left her…” He turned to the girl. “Look, this is really funny, honestly. I’ve got Icelandic parents, you’re in valkyrie dress-up. I get it. So, I mean, I don’t know if they paid you or what but you can go home.” He stood up from the bed, suddenly aware that he was wearing only underwear in front of a strange girl. “Right. Right. Sorry, just, uh, don’t look below my waist for a few minutes.”
She looked immediately.
“I said… I’m sorry. Jesus. This doesn’t count as… I mean you aren’t why it…” He gave up trying to muster a defense. “Probably shouldn’t have drawn attention to it. I’m going to take a shower. Don’t worry about locking the door on the way out.”
The bathroom was an awkward, careful walk across the room but he was happy to have the privacy. The door was locked and he turned on the shower. It heated up quickly enough but he hadn’t heard the front door open and shut when he got in. He normally could. Maybe she was waiting in the living room for Derek or Chris to get home and pay her. It wasn’t the first time they’d done this sort of thing. It was a subtle one, by comparison. Not that he was free of guilt. He’d hired a clown to run into Derek’s room at three in the morning once with a chainsaw. Fair enough response for giving up the embarrassing knowledge that a 24-year-old is scared of clowns. The clown had taken a kick to the gut and that had been when they’d put a moratorium on that specific brand of friendly torture. This one was new by Erik’s estimation though. It wasn’t frightening or particularly strange. No zombies at the table for breakfast, no fake burglary.
He turned the shower off after a halfhearted once-over with soap and pulled the curtain aside.
He nearly lost his footing, barely slapping a hand against the plastic wall of the shower. The girl was standing right in front of the curtain, eyes fixed on him. He reached out and whipped his towel off the rack.
“Jesus fucking Christ, how much are they paying you? This hasn’t turned into some weird… you know, thing? Right?” He stared at her waiting but she said nothing. “How did you even get in here? I locked the door. Did you…”
He looked past her and saw that the door knob had been broken. It was dented, even. How had he not heard her hammering on it? Looking at her, she was definitely capable of the feat.
“You can’t just… you know, I have to pay for that out of my security deposit. Do you rent? It’s not just my door. I don’t own the door.” Nothing. He sighed, trying to keep his anger in check. “Can you move at least? I’d love to get dressed and go ask whichever one of my asshole roommates set this up what the magic word to get rid of you is.”
She backed away, indicating that she at least understood more English than whatever she’d said when he was still barely awake.
He pushed past her into the bedroom and walked to his dresser. The girl followed him, keeping only a few feet between them at any given time. He sighed again, the edges of his patience really starting to fray.
“You’re going to see my dick, okay? Is that part of the job? Look at my dick?” Her silence annoyed him all the more, so he dropped his towel. “There you go!” This was definitely a crime. “Happy?”
She didn’t bother looking down, which somehow dinged his pride. The wounded ego was enough to trigger a sane thought about exactly what it was he was doing. Time to get dressed. Quickly. He kept shooting looks her way and at no point did she stop staring at him. It was, frankly, starting to get a bit weird and the thought entered his mind that this was just some crazy arts and crafts woman who’d escaped a house full of cats. When he was dressed, he decided that her lack of response wasn’t something he could live with.
He turned to her, looking as stern as he could manage. “Who are you, and why are you here? What’s your name?”
“I am Göll. You are one of Odin’s chosen and I will guide you to Valhalla.”
Erik rubbed his temples and shook his head. “Great. So we’ll go see Chris then. Is that okay?”
She said nothing.
Erik walked around her and went to the living room. Really, it was one big room with the kitchen at the far end containing the door out of the apartment. They kept their shoes there to at least pretend they weren’t slobs. He put his shoes on and opened the door, holding it open as Göll stood on the other side watching.
She walked out and stood beside him in the hallway while he closed and locked the door. There was no one to see them until they came out into the main parking area. A few people from the complex were there. They stared, pointing and laughing. It wasn’t so much embarrassing for him, but he wondered how Göll felt about it. Clearly she owned the armor, so presumably she’d worn it in public before.
As soon as they were outside, Göll paid much more attention to their surroundings, watching the sky and the paths ahead of and behind them.
They’d covered half a block when Erik got tired of the awkward silence. “So, how did they find you? Your accent is sort of Icelandic sounding. My parents were from there. I spent summers there.”
“We can talk, right? The whole joke is over now.” He paused, but she showed no sign that she was going to talk. “No? I’m not hitting on you or whatever. I just… small talk? What do you do?”
She looked at him with a serious expression. “I have come to guide you to Valhalla.”
“Right, stupid question. Þar sem þú ert valkyrja.”
His Icelandic was terrible and rusty, but he thought it would at least trick her into speaking or giving some reaction. A failed plan. She only looked around the sky and again to the sidewalk ahead of them.
The failure was enough to convince him to stop bothering with any attempt to make friendly chatter and so they walked on toward the burger place. Mercifully, there weren’t a lot of people on the street, though there must have been two dozen pictures taken of the pair of them by people in cars and standing at crosswalks. A few asked for permission to take pictures. Göll ignored them and to keep things from getting weird, Erik said it was fine and that she was in character, explaining the gag to a particularly curious set of girls at a stop light that seemed to last a month.
They made the last turn and Bosko’s Burgers was only a half block away. It was owned by this excitable Polish couple who were never there. Chris worked the place alone most days. Really, he ran the entire operation at this point with only a pair of high school aged kids for the busy times.
As soon as Erik walked in the door, Chris came walking out of the back of the empty restaurant, laughing and clapping.
“Oh, this is fucking fantastic, man.” He walked over to Erik and Göll, looking her over. “You finally lose it? How much are you paying her? This is a fetish, right? You’re the viking warrior and she’s come to send you to heaven? I dig it.” Chris slapped a hand onto Erik’s shoulder.
“Oh yeah, it’s hilarious. She broke the bathroom door.”
Chris laughed even harder. “Oh god, dude. I was just joking. You’re paying her to dress up like this?”
Erik rolled his eyes. “Jesus, so you’re not even in on this? I don’t even know who this girl is. And she just keeps saying she’s here to guide me to Valhalla.”
Göll scanned the windows, ignoring that they were talking about her.
“Holy shit, man, really?” Chris breathed a lazy laugh and pulled himself together. “Derek didn’t tell me shit. It’s the clown shit, isn’t it?”
Chris threw his hands up in the air. “Great, so I’m next. Going to get followed around by a mariachi band or some shit.” He turned to Göll. “How much did he pay you?” She looked at Chris and said nothing, then scanned the windows again.
“Yeah, she’s dedicated. It’s ridiculous.” Erik looked at Göll. “Hey, Göll—”
“Weird name. That part of her act?”
“Probably. She’s got an Icelandic accent. Listen. Göll, what am I? What have you come for? Tell Chris.”
She looked at Erik, dead in the eyes. “You are one of Odin’s chosen. I have come to guide you to Valhalla.”
Erik started laughing, and looked at Chris. “See?”
There was a confused expression on Chris’s face. “What’d she say? I didn’t understand it. Is that Icelandic or some shit?”
Erik shook his head. “No man, it’s English. You serious?” He looked at Göll again. “He didn’t understand you. Why are you here?”
“I have come to guide you to Valhalla.”
The words were plenty clear. Erik turned his face back to Chris, smiling expectantly.
Chris had stopped smiling, he shook his head. “There wasn’t a word of English in that sentence, man.”
Erik’s smile faded. “You’re not fucking with me, right?”
“No, man. Like I said, I’m not in on this. You understand her?”
Erik turned to Göll. “One more time, say why you’re here.”
“I have come to take you, Haki Erik Styrsson, to Valhalla.”
A shiver ran through his body and he looked back at Chris who shook his head solemnly. “You need to go see Derek, man. Figure out what this whole thing is.”
Erik nodded. “Yeah. Derek’s…” He shook his head, not sure why he’d bought the whole thing. Chris was in on it. “Yeah, I’ll go see him.”
Chris gave a nervous chuckle and patted Erik on the arm. “Alright man. Keep an eye on her. She’s starting to weird me out, yeah?” He paused a second. “Oh, almost forgot.” He ran to the back and came back with a bag full of food.
“Hey, I figured that’s what you came for.” Chris kept shooting glances at Göll. “How are you going to get to Derek’s work?”
Chris looked at Göll and raised an eyebrow.
Erik sighed. “Göll, do you have a bus pass?” She ignored the question. “Money?” Same response. “Super. So I guess we’re walking.” He started toward the door and Göll followed. “Thanks for the food.”
The walk to Derek’s job was probably only the better part of a mile, but it was a straight shot by bus. There almost definitely weren’t any pockets on the ridiculous leather costume Göll was wearing and she wasn’t likely to break character at this point just to make his life easier.
The walk wasn’t so bad. A decent burger and a bag full of fries made the time pass more or less without him having to over think the whole thing. He’d get to Derek’s job, he’d get laughed at, he’d tell Derek to guess who was paying for door repair. The burger also made a fantastic prop for all the people who wanted pictures of the two of them. A few asked to take a picture with her, but she always stepped away any time they got within a few feet. This led to Erik apologizing for something that had nothing to do with him, but it was fair enough. As much as she was obnoxious in her dedication to her gig, she wasn’t a prop.
It was nearing four when they came up outside of a standard beige shipping warehouse. The lot guard had seen Erik come past the booth often enough that all he got was a nod and a bit of an awkward look at Göll. He laughed and shrugged, going back to his cameras.
Erik walked in through one of the open bay doors to the warehouse. He could hear laughing in the distance. Word would probably get to Derek before he could find him, but he found the warehouse boss anyway. Tom was a stern old guy who had a pretty limited pool of patience for the sort of shit their group of friends tended to bring to the warehouse.
The already present frown on Tom’s mustached face deepened when he saw Erik walking up with Göll in tow.
“What sort of game are you two playing now? I told you about a million times this is a place of business.”
Erik raised his hands. “You can’t put this on me. Derek hired her and she won’t stop following me.”
Tom shook his head, his mouth turning in disappointment. “Buncha goddamn children around here.”
“Hey, I’m with you, Tom. We’re on the same side here. So if you could just tell me where—”
“He’s with a pull team over on C8, prepping an order. A big one, understand? I expect your ass out of my warehouse before I feel a need to make sure you’re gone.”
“Wouldn’t dream of making you walk anywhere, Tom.” Erik turned and started walking away quickly, immediately regretting his sarcasm.
“Alright, smartass!” Tom called after. Erik could hear Tom’s face reddening. “Tell your little boyfriend that this rendezvous counts as his break!”
Tom mumbled something under his breath, but Erik was out of earshot by then. He kept his brisk pace, though, just in case Tom decided to stay upset.
The aisle Derek was on was a short walk. Erik could hear the crew moving things. He came around the corner and found six workers largely standing around as the one with a forklift did all the work. Derek’s back was to him, so one of his co-workers was the first to laugh and point. Derek followed their pointing fingers around and his lips immediately curled as he tried to hold back a laugh.
“Holy hell, that’s amazing.” Derek came walking over, shaking his head and his face covered with amused disbelief.
“Yeah, it’s hilarious.” Erik shoved him as he came close. “Tell her to go home.”
Derek stumbled back a few steps holding up his hands, laughing. “Why would I tell her to do that? Oh, man. This is fantastic. Where’d you find her?”
“No, no. That game’s not going to work. I already talked to Chris.”
Derek’s laugh faded in his confusion at the statement. “Talked to Chris? Oh, did he do this? This is classic though. I get it. You’re like a viking guy. From Norway or whatever. I thought valkyries had wings and shit though. Big metal helmets. I mean the leather’s cool, but—”
“Look, I know Chris was in on it. The game’s up. How long’s she going to follow me around?”
“Don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never seen this chick in my life. Maybe she’s a long-lost cousin.” He laughed.
“Just tell her to go home.”
Derek shrugged. “Sure. Not sure what that’ll do, but fine.” He looked at Göll. “Go home, uh…” He shifted his eyes to Erik. “What’s her name?”
“No way I’m pronouncing that properly on the first try.” Derek shook his head and looked back at Göll. “Go home, Garrl.”
She stood there, looking blankly at Derek for a moment before looking toward the exits.
Derek seemed slightly confused by the lack of a reaction. “Does she talk or what? Is she deaf?”
“You should know.”
For the first time, Derek’s smile disappeared. “Why should I know? I don’t have any idea who the fuck this chick is. I thought you were fucking with me. So she doesn’t talk?”
“She can. I mean…” He waved a hand in front of Göll and she looked down at him. “Why are you here?”
Her eyes narrowed and her face showed just the slightest hint of annoyance. “I have come to guide you to Valhalla.”
Erik immediately looked back to Derek. His friend was not wearing the expression he’d hoped. It was blank, like Chris’s had been.
“What’d she say? What language was that? Some Scandinavian shit?”
Erik felt a flush of panic. “This isn’t funny anymore, man. She busted up my door, she’s been saying weird shit.”
“You can understand her?”
“Look, I know you and Chris worked this out.”
Tom came walking up, half shouting. “Alright. Break’s over. Back to work.”
Derek forgot about Göll, having heard that this was his break. “The fuck you mean, Tom. That wasn’t my break! And it’s barely been five minutes.”
Erik turned around. “Tom, listen.” He turned to Göll. “Tell them why you are here.”
She did not look away, only at Erik. “I have come to guide you to Valhalla.”
He felt the bottom fall out of his stomach and he looked at Tom, desperate.
“What? She from Europe or something? I barely know English, so if that was supposed to be impressive, it ain’t working. Five minutes, then I want you and your mail order bride out. And you,” he pointed to Derek, “back to work the second he’s gone.”
Derek came around in front of Erik and looked at his face. “Holy shit, man, you’re serious. Where’d she come from?”
Erik’s eyes moved slowly from Derek to Göll and back. “I don’t know.”
“Work!” Tom was shouting from the far end of the aisle.
“Look,” Derek said, his voice steady and sober, “Take her home. I’m off at seven, okay? She hasn’t done anything weird, right?”
“Weird like fucking following me around all day? Shouting me awake? Watching me shower?”
“Look, she hasn’t tried to hurt you, right?”
“Yeah, I mean…”
“It’s fine. If she was going to stab you, she’d have done it while you were asleep.”
Erik spun, throwing his arms up. “Fuck me, that’s your way of comforting me?”
“Well? I’m not wrong. It’s not like you can just attack her. And what would you even tell the cops? She says you forced her to dress up like that and you’re done.”
Erik shook his head. “Fucking… fine. Fine. But don’t fuck around after you’re off shift, alright?”
Derek nodded and went back to work. There was nothing Erik could do but grudgingly leave the warehouse and walk back to the apartment.
There were no pictures this time, at least not posed ones. Just shots of Erik walking as fast as he could manage with Göll following behind him. The apartment complex was a welcome sight. He nearly sprinted upstairs to the door, unlocking it. He was half tempted to leave Göll outside, but thought better of it, considering the bathroom door.
He locked the doors once she was in and dragged himself to the couch. She stood oppressively close, silently looking down at him.
“Do you have to do that?”
He looked up sharply. “So you can do more than tell me that you’re here to guide me to Valhalla?”
“Then why are you really here?”
“I have come to guide you to Valhalla. You are one of—”
“Odin’s chosen, I get it.” He gritted his teeth. “That’s not…” He took a calming breath, letting it out slowly. “That’s not funny anymore.”
“It was never said in jest.”
His heart sank and fear crept over him. “Then how will I—”
Göll’s head whipped toward the window. A half second later, the building shuddered and the sound of metal being crushed reached his ears. Göll adjusted her grip on the spear she’d been carrying and it began to glow with an intense heat.