VOLUME INDEX



For anyone who finds the Burger King mascot's visage particularly nightmarish. The dark side of Vexations humor.

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His bearded face towered over to me with such a serene quiet that I could have believed that I had stopped right next to him in order to complete the sigil—but he certainly hadn’t been there a moment before. A white gloved hand reached for me, and I knocked it away. I repressed the urge to put my fist into that smirking face—it may be my first instinct to go physical, but this time, I doubted that it would end well for me.

The Burger King once again opened his russet robes as if to flash me and withdrew a sandwich. A meatnormous sandwich. A sandwich so desirable that I could not turn away. I wanted to take it from him.

The world lurched. The Fast-food Monarch saw his reflection in the mirror inscribed with Ereshkegal’s gaunt hand. I released the mirror. Milliseconds ticked by as it started to slide from my fingertips, milliseconds became seconds, the seconds seemed to last forever—

Crack!

The mirror struck the parched Arizona dirt and shattered into a thousand scintillating splinters.

That delicious, meatnormous sandwich exploded into glittering fragments in The King’s grasp.

Caught by surprise, The King looked down at his empty hands and threw them up. In defeat maybe? I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I was hauling ass with a vengeance and both hands this time—and just as quickly running out of options.

Worse, a burger sounded really good right then.

As I went, I laid down a path of magical destruction. I threw marbles made from the stained-glass windows of St. Anthony’s Basilica, dropped entire packets of Zulu spirit ants, Navaho and Hopi Kachina dolls, even self-igniting hell money firecrackers, something had to stop this thing—I even accidentally dumped my gummy bears out onto the dirt behind me. I silently hoped the bastard would slip on those; I was saving them until they were nice and soft from the heat.

To no avail. Every time I looked behind me, that terrible parody of a human face grinned back at me, unmoving, but each time appearing a little closer.

The walls were closing in… Literally. I had turned a wrong corner. Ahead of me: a dead-end; behind me: The King.

From my pockets, I withdrew two cans of spray paint that I keep just for this occasion. I went to work on the wall with the silver and orange paint.

The Holocaust Star quickly emerged from my frantic flailing and I completed each of its points with supplications to every one of the thirteen deities of the Underworld. The world trembled beneath my fingertips as I labored.

A familiar shadow appeared behind me as I drew the last supplication—and, to my dread, my silver paint expired. Vainly, I squeezed the nozzle and shook the can. Empty. The orange spray paint was the same. I turned around and backed against the wall. I was so screwed.

That mocking, plastic visage loomed ever closer; and the bearded, demoniac caricature with its cavernous mouth enveloped my vision. The King smiled wordlessly as he hovered, inches from my face. The craving for a juicy, tender burger threatened to consume my willpower.

Then, he reached once again into his voluminous cloak and—

 

Two-Six-Four-Victor-Echo please respond,” squawks the radio in Vex’s cab.

“Damn, I have to go,” Vex says. She ditches the table and rushes to get the radio. “Again, thanks for the cocoa.”

“What?” Sharon’s voice sounds shocked, almost panicked. “Wait! What happened next?”

Vex looks over her shoulder as she climbs into the cab and says:

“As it turns out, even The King can’t handle a steel-toed boot to the Royal Jewels.”


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