The Competition

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Simple country boy Chad Thatcher meets a mysterious woman one night in a bar which begins a series of strange, unnatural events. Chad Thatcher is going to learn that his boring and ordinary world still has some magic left in it. Forgive some typos, I will edit the story next week.

Submitted: April 28, 2017

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Submitted: April 28, 2017

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The Competition

 

 

by Matthew Bissonnette

 

 

 

 

 

What had to be the strangest week in my entire life started when the woman sitting next to me in the bar asked, “what is your name?”

I looked at the subtly attractive woman and replied, “Chad Thatcher.”

Like I had just told her, my name was indeed Chad Thatcher. I was a simple farm boy from the small town of Galveston in the state of Iowa, and the only thing I owned in life was the land and farm I had inherited from my father like he had from my grandfather. I had spent my life doing labor on that farm and my physique revealed this since I was a burly young man who had just turned thirty with prematurely gray hair. Like I said, I was a simple farm boy for I had never left the county limits which Galveston was located in; and the world I lived in was small and predicable. I was not even at the halfway point of my life but I already knew how the rest of my life was going to go, a predicable routine of waking up early ever day and attending work on my farm. But in the past year things for me had become increasingly problematic, that was why that night when I would find myself venturing into a very odd and unbelievable series of events I decided drink a few beers at Red's Bar, the only watering hole in all of Galveston which the locals usually went to if they wanted to fraternize and socialize with their fellow towns people.

I had entered the bar and found it like it always was when I went to Red's which was on the outskirts of Galveston. It consisted of a large room with many tables which now many people sat at, the dimly lit room was thick with the smoke from the cigarettes that several men where smoking and also the idle conversation and banter of the jovial ravel that was in the bar that night. To one side of the room where several Pin Ball machines though for some reason I had never seen a patron of Red's ever use them. And at the far end was a long wooden counter behind which was Red himself, a slightly obese man with a thinning hairline who seemed to have a somewhat grandfatherly appearance. Over the bar hung a flat screen television which now a hockey game played on. I had sat on the stool in front of the bar and asked Red for a beer which he then provided and I drank my first several beers deep in thought as a country song from the jukebox in the corner kind of set the mood that night. But about an hour after I had sat on that stool, I had failed to notice the woman sit on the stool beside me at first. But when she asked Red for a beer, that was when I first looked at the woman.

She looked to be around my age. She had a very hourglass like figure though the woman, even through her denim jeans and shirt, seemed to have a somewhat athletic appearance. She had very smooth, alabaster skin and her hair was long and blonde, though the where some streaks of red in her hair. I could not help looking at her as she drank her beer as I watched, that was when she turned to me and asked my name to which I replied. And this is what started my odyssey with a series of events which where strange and bizarre.

The woman looked at me for a moment then said, “my name is Atha.”

I took a sip of my beer then replied, “Atha, somewhat of an unusual name.”

She, Atha, took a swig of the beer she had ordered from Red, and then looked at me; she had very deep, blue eyes which where haunting. She said, “I'm a bit of an unusual woman.”

“I have not seen you in Galveston,” I asked her, “are you new in town miss?”

She frowned then we both faced forward. She replied as we drank our beers, “I'm a bit of a wanderer. I move around a lot.”

I finished my latest beer and ordered another one from Red. After Red placed my beer on the counter I picked it up and said before drinking deeply from the bottle, “well, I appreciate some small talk tonight. It has sort of been a crappy month.”

“What is wrong Mr. Thatcher?”

“Well,” I replied, “my farm, which was an inheritance, is sort of failing. If I don't get a good crop in the next few weeks I'm going to lose my lands. Also, I'm recently divorced. And please, call me Chad.”

“Well in war, sometimes when you employ a strategy and in the midst of battle you find out such tactics are to the detriment of victory; you still have to see the initial strategy through to the end because in the midst of battle it is really not the time to think up a new strategy and implement it.”

I looked at the Atha as she drank her beer. I asked, “are you in the army?”

Atha shook her head. “Not really, it is just war and strategy are sort of my field of expertise.”

“What use is strategy if you are not in the army?”

She was looking at me. “Strategies and battle tactics have much relevance to ordinary life.”

I turned away from her eyes but said flatly, “could you give me a strategy on how to get my ex-wife to not take half my farm and my old senile dog Fido?”

“No Mr. Thatcher. But perseverance is useful in both war and life and I think you need to persevere through times of adversity.”

Then a deep, raspy voice spoke out from behind us.

“Baby, you just walked out of my dreams and into my life.”

We both turned around and saw the three men standing standing in front of us as I and Atha sat on our stools holding our beers. They stood shoulder to shoulder and the where all looking at Atha. The guy in the middle, a regular customer of Red's named Wally, was a large man in a flannel blue shirt and jeans and had dark hair. To his left was one of his friends Andy, a weaselly looking man in a white shirt and beige pants who had greased back dark hair. To Wally's other side was his other cohort Jerry, a thin guy in casual clothing who had messy blonde hair and glasses.

I raised my beer and asked to them, “nice night isn't it Wally?”

Wally was looking right at Atha when he said, “want to go back to my place and have some fun?”

Atha swiveled around on her stool and was facing away from them. She took a sip of the beer she held then said, “you are not my type.”

Wally then slapped Atha's derriere and said, “I'm your type baby.”

Atha then frowned and sighed loudly. “I guess I will have to teach you gentlemen to not touch a woman unless she gives you permission to lay your hands on her.”

She got up from the stool and was facing the men. They surrounded her as I watched from my stool at the bar. Wally then grinned and asked, “so, do you think you are tough?”

Atha then grinned. I watched in amazement as she then suddenly kicked Andy in the stomach, but the kick was so powerful that it sent Andy flying through the air and he slid across the wooden floor when he hit the ground and knocked over an unoccupied table before he came to a stop. She then grabbed Jerry by the throat and lifted him up into the air, she then pulled back her other arm and made a fist with her hand then punched Jerry in the chest and the blow sent him careening through the air and he hit the jukebox with a hard thud, the glass on the machine shattered and the dated country song came to an abrupt end. Jerry lay in the smashed jukebox as sparks jumped from its front. Wally was behind Atha and she was unaware that Wally had picked up a stool and was about to hit her with it, driven to do something I jumped up from my seat and struck Wally across the face with my beer and the bottle shattered on impact with his head and he fell to the ground unconscious.

Atha turned and looked at me. “Why did you intervene Mr. Thatcher?”

I shrugged. “Seems you needed help miss. And you seem like a very strong, tough woman.”

“You have no idea.”

Then Red, who was behind the bar, raised his voice as he sternly looked at I and Atha and shouted, “Chad, you and your friend there are going to leave before you two break anything else! Now you two get out!”

 

After I and Atha paid for our beers, we left the bar and where walking through the parking lot. Red's was on the outskirts of Galveston like I said, I could see the lights of the town in the distance shining out of that night. Around the bar where darkened fields and this scenery was under a sky of glittering stars.

We walked through the parking lot towards my truck when I said, “I going to sleep in the cab of my truck until I sober up.”

We stopped and where looking at my dented, red truck which was at the far end of the parking lot. I then turned to her, and a bit drunk, said confidently, “don't think I'm hitting on you Atha, but you are a somewhat attractive woman.”

She was looking at me and was frowning. “I wish you had not just said that Mr. Thatcher.”

“Why,” I asked.

She flatly replied, “you'll know why when you meet my sister and my step mother.”

I looked at my truck and said, “what are you talking about Atha?”

I turned back to her, but she was no longer beside me; she had mysteriously vanished. I looked around yet there was no sign of Atha. Perhaps then it should have donned on me then how unusual what had just happened was but I was to drunk to really reflect upon my strange encounter with Atha. I then got into my truck and fell asleep.

But the unusual series of events I had unknowingly gotten mixed up in had just started.

 

The next day during afternoon I was in Ma's hardware store and that was when I met Atha's sister.

It was a gray, dreary day when I walked into the store which was located on main street Galveston, it was sandwiched in between a dentists office and a discount clothing store. Like usual the hardware store's owner Ma, was behind her counter at the front of the store dealing with customers. Ma was an elderly lady who had silver hair done up into a bun and was wearing a blue dress. At the moment she was arguing with a regular customer named Ben Hanson, a young guy with neatly kept brown hair and wearing a leather jacket who often shopped in this store and always argued with Ma.

I was standing in an aisle in the store looking at different tractor parts since my Massey Ferguson tractor had broken down. I was so preoccupied that I had failed to notice someone approach me from behind. I was startled when a very seductive, coy voice of a woman spoke out.

“Hello handsome.”

I turned around and that was when I saw her. Standing in front of me was a woman around my age; but she was insanely beautiful. She had very pale, perfectly smooth skin without blemish. She had long red hair and there was a gold hairpin in her crimson locks of hair; and she had very expressive green eyes which where looking right into mine. And she was wearing a white sweater and matching skirt.

I looked around then turned to her again and asked, “are you talking to me miss?”

She coyly smiled, “who else would I be talking to?”

I nervously grinned then extended my hand and said, “the name is Chad Thatcher.”

She then shook my hand and still looked into my eyes as she replied, “the name is Aphra, I think you met my sister.”

I thought for a moment then nodded. “Oh, you mean Atha. Yeah, I met her the other night at the bar.”

She, Aphra, said, “yes, my plain, overly serious sister.”

I turned back to the shelf as I looked at tractor parts on display but talked as I searched for the part I needed. “Well, Atha seems like a tough woman; I watched her beat up two guys; of course she seems a lot stronger then she appears.”

Aphra giggled behind me. “My sister always was a tomboy, kind of to sturdy for a woman. May I ask you something Chad?”

“Sure.”

“Do you think I'm more beautiful then my sister?”

I looked back at her then waited a moment and replied, “asking someone if you are beautiful miss is like the Mona Lisa asking someone if she is a great painting.”

“Thank you.”

I then returned to looking at the tractor parts. “But I kinda of liked your sister; I mean I'm not saying I have any romantic feelings for her but I'm just a simple farm boy who appreciates the plain look.”

I could the argument between Ma and that young guy Ben. Then Aphra said gleefully, “I think this store's proprietor and that young man would make a nice couple.”

I and Aphra looked at the old woman and the young guy argue then I said, “those two hate each other, she thinks her shoplifts. And she is old enough to be his grandmother.”

Aphra leaned towards me and whispered. “Chad, I am about to show you why true love is blind.”

I watched as Aphra slowly walked towards the arguing Ma and Ben at the front of the store; they where so involved in their latest argument that they did not notice her approach. But when Aphra spoke up, they turned to her.

Aphra joyfully said, “maybe you two should look at each other for a moment, because I think you two are perfect for each other.

Ma and Ben seemed to have an appearance like they where in a daze with confused expressions on their faces for a moment then they turned to each other and looked at each other; but where now smiling widely.

Ben said, “you know Ma, I think I love you.”

Ma then said deeply, “I think I have always loved you Ben Hanson.”

Ben then replied, “how about you leave work early and we'll have lunch together; I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“You have a deal Ben,” Ma told him.

Ma looked at me then said loudly, “Chad, I'm closing up shop early. Get what you need some other time.”

I and Aphra watched as Ben and Ma left the hardware store, holding each others hand as they walked out the door. Aphra looked back at me and was smiling and had an expression on her face that was the look of the cat that had just eaten the canary.

She then said, “told you Chad.”

I grunted. “Thanks, it is the harvest and my tractor is broken down. Now I have to wait till tomorrow until I can get the part I need. Thanks again Aphra for helping the octogenarian and the young punk realize they love each other.”

Aphra giggled again and said as she walked towards the door, “You'll be seeing more of me, I promise. Goodby for now Chad.”

I watched as she walked out through the door. I guess this particular simple farm boy was just to simple to realize how strange what had just happened was. I just looked at the door Aphra had walked out of in silence for a few moments.

 

I was walking out of the only mega store in Galveston the next day around three; near the center of town was a large store which was a large building with a series of glass windows on the front through which you could see the people of Galveston shopping and over the doors was the name of the store. It was a clear day with a perfectly blue sky without any clouds and a bright sun shone down on the parking lot. I walk between cars towards my reliable, beaten up red truck parked at the far end of the parking lot, carrying a bag of groceries. But as I approached my truck, there was a woman leaning on the backside of the green station wagon parked next to my vehicle.

As I slowly strolled towards my truck, I got a better look at the woman resting against the station wagon. She looked about a decade older then me, though she still seemed somewhat attractive despite her age. She had very creamy, snow white skin, and she had long brown hair that was flapping about in a growing wind from the North; she she was wearing a gold, jewel encrusted terraria in her hair. She was wearing a very fashionable brown leather jacket and jeans; but her getup seemed somewhat mismatched with her very valuable terraria. And she was looking at me approach, a somewhat dissatisfied expression on her face and she gazed at me with very brown, piercing eyes.

I then walked up to her and we stood face to face. I took a moment, sighed and said lowly, “let me guess you are Atha's and Aphra's mother.”

The woman smiled, but she had an expression which just gave me the impression that she was looking down on me; like how a scientist might look down on a bug.

The woman extended her hand and said; “half mother to those two spoiled products of my late husbands infidelity. How did you know I was their half mother young man?”

I shook her hand as I replied, “in Galveston, well your two half daughters and yourself tend to stick out a bit. I'm Chad Thatcher.”

She released my hand and still was looking at me. “The name is Hera.”

I then walked to the flatbed of my truck and put the bag of groceries on it, I got the sense she was looking at me as I did this. With my back to her, she asked, “So young man, what are your first impressions of my odd little family?”

“I guess aside from you all having unusual names, you seem to be a little out of the ordinary. I'm a simple guy, but even I can guess you three tend not to be run of the mill.”

Hera laughed deeply, there was a tone of arrogance in the way she laughed. I turned back to her, Hera still leaning against the station wagon. She then asked, “so if you had to chose, which one of the three of us would you find to be the most attractive Thatcher?”

I waited a moment then answered her question. “Well, you all seem to be somewhat attractive, but I don't feel comfortable talking about how your daughters are good looking with their mother.”

Hera looked away. “It is Aphra, men always seem to find her the most enticing.”

“Can I ask, what is your family doing in Galveston and why are you all stalking me?”

“Stalking you?”

I sighed. “Well, it seems ever since I met Atha that the rest of her family just seems to coincidentally loitering about anywhere I am.”

Hera turned to face me again. “Well, when Atha told I and her sister that some young, dimwitted man complimented her we do what we sometimes do.”

“And what is that Hera?”

She grinned. “Have a little contest to see which one of us he finds most attractive. We are a very competitive family.”

“Again, what is your family doing in Galveston Iowa?”

She seemed saddened as she explained her families predicament.

“Some time ago we where a very rich, somewhat odd family; some people considered us royalty really. My husband was the type to be unfaithful and my step daughters where the product of my fool of a husbands unfaithfulness. We lived in a large home on the top of a hill; us three, my husband and the rest of our relatives. We lived in opulence and comfort until, well, a war came. Most of the men in our family perished in that war; us three are all that are left. So us three have traveled the world since then; trying to seek new experiences and trying to flee the past's painful memories.”

“That explains it,” I said.

“Explains what?”

“Why Atha,” I said, “talks about war and tactics.”

Hera was still frowning. “Well, that step daughter of mine has always bin a bit masculine and a little to involved in topics better left for men.”

“Hera, what does your family want with a simple country boy like Chad Thatcher.”

“Young Mr. Thatcher; we are just amusing ourselves by getting you to finally determine which you find to be the most ravishing.”

Then the voice of a man spoke out from behind her. The voice calmly said, “Miss, could you stop leaning on my car, I need to get home before my kids get back from school.”

She turned and we booth looked at the man standing in front of her. I knew him, he was a man by the name of Fred Sykes; a lawyer from a prestigious family in Galveston who I always knew to be calm, reserved and level headed. He had well groomed blonde hair and was wearing an expensive suit; he held to bags of groceries. And he seemed impatient.

Hera said flatly, “peasant, I will move when I decide to; for just wait until me and this young man had finished conversing.”

The man, Fred, raised his voice. “You can lean on something else, now could you please get out from behind my car! I am late!”

Then Hera looked right into his eyes, and she spoke in a deep somewhat menacing voice. “Sir, I hope you do not lose control and run amok.”

Fred just looked at her, he seemed to have that same dazed and confused look that Ma and Ben had when Aphra spoke to them the day earlier. Suddenly Fred let out a deafening yell and he dropped his groceries to the pavement of the road, he then towards the mega store as he screamed; and he knocked several people in the parking lot down to the concrete. I watched as Fred that took a discarded shopping kart and ran while pushing it, and he pushed it right through one of the large windows on the front of the store; there was the sound of shattering glass. Fred then ran through the broken window into the store; I could not see what he was doing but I could still her him screaming.

I asked, “I wonder what got into Fred, he always seems so reserved and polite.”

“Like one of my husband's bastards sons,” she said in a confident tone, “you just never know when someone is going to snap.”

I watched as Hera began to walk away, though she said as she left, “we will meet again young man, till then; try to have a nice day.”

As I watched Hera depart; it donned on me that I had found myself in an unusual and strange situation. I knew that there was something very bizarre about this family I had now found myself dealing with; but at that moment I just thought Atha and her relatives where just eccentric and that in the real world there was always a rational explanation for everything. I did not know I wrong I was.

 

The next day, I was working on my Massey Ferguson in the field next to my home during a warm morning as clouds drifted lazily across the sky over me. My tractor was old, basically a large red contraption which lately always had something wrong with it. I was kneeling beside one of the large back wheels of the Massey using a tire iron to try and unscrew one of the lug nuts on the wheel; but the nut was rusted and I was not having much luck. My back was hurting, a result from a life of nonstop work.

I stood, wiped the sweat from my brow, and looked at my home and farm.

My farm was basically several large fields of corn surrounded by a white, wooden fence; though this year's harvest of corn was going to be poor I could tell because pests have infested my field and my harvest looked sickly. In the center of my lands as my house; an old two floor home with brown wooden walls and a green tin roof, it had a wooden porch with two rocking chairs on it and between the chairs was the wooden screen door. Beside the house was an old, rundown red barn in need of maintenance badly and beside the barn was a grain silo. And sleeping on the porch was my old, senile dog Fido; a German Shepard who always slept on that porch and only would leave it to relieve himself then go back onto the porch and sleep again.

I then knelt down and continued to use the tire iron to unscrew the lug nut; occasionally grunting as I worked. But I was so involved with my task that I had failed to notice someone walk up behind me. But I stopped trying to futilely unscrew the nut when the sound of a beautiful, moving song of a flute began to play softly behind me.

I stood an turned around and saw Atha. She, still dressed in denim, stood in the field behind amongst my faltering crops and she held a small, brown wooden flute witch she blew into with her lips as she played her very masterfully. I just watched her play that very eloquent song for a few minutes when she stopped, lowered the flute and looked at me with her blue eyes. She was frowning as she put the flute inside her denim shirt.

I then asked, “where did you learn to play like that Atha?”

She looked away from my gaze and replied, “well, I should know how to play; I invented the flute.”

“You mean you made that flute yourself?”

“Something like that Mr. Thatcher.”

I turned back to the tractor's back wheel, knelt and continued to struggle to unscrew the lug nut with the tire iron. Atha walked up beside me and leaned against the tractor and looked down on me as I worked.

I asked, “how did you know where I live?”

“I asked around. You where easy to find.”

As I worked in vain to unscrew the nut, I said, “why is your sister and step mother stalking me?”

“Sorry,” Atha replied, “when they learned a man said I was attractive; well they will make it a point to prove that one of them is more attractive then me. You will be seeing a lot of them until you decide.”

“Decide what Atha?”

“Decide which one of us is most beautiful.”

I looked up at her and ceased working. “Could you tell them that I don't really feel like getting into another relationship with a woman, I'm recently divorced and I need some time to mend a broken heart.”

“My sister and my step mother could care less about you,” Atha told me, “they just want to prove to me that any man who makes the mistake of complimenting me is going to favor either one of them over me.”

I looked back to the wheel and said as I struggled to turn the lug nut with the tire iron, “my to busy trying to fix up this Massey pile of junk to worry about your family.”

“What do you mean a Massey pile of junk.”

“A pun,” I said, “this is a Massey tractor so instead of calling it a massive pile of junk as say Massey pile of junk.”

“Funny Mr. Thatcher.”

I looked up at her. “Can I ask, where are you from; your family I mean?”

She frowned as she replied, “we originally came from Greece.”

I looked back to the lug nut then said, “well, I would like to worry about this competition with your family but I'm to busy working on this tractor and unscrewing this damn lug nut.”

“Move aside.”

I waited a moment then got up and stepped aside. Atha slowly knelt down beside the tractor wheel and put her seemingly delicate hands on the tire iron. She then said, “in battle, you cannot not ever admit defeat because when you accept defeat then you have ensured your own shame.”

I watched as Atha let out a deep sigh then she turned the tire iron with a mighty effort. She took away the tire iron, the lug not was still on the wheel.

I shook my head and said, “well, you seem a bit stronger then me; but you stripped the lug nut; which means it will be a real Masseycacre to get that nut off the wheel.”

She looked at me. “Another pun, instead of massacre you said Masseycacre.”

“Sorry Atha, I like puns.”

Atha then looked at the lug nut and placed her fingers around it. I watched in amazement as she was able to pull the rusty nut right off the wheel. She then stood and threw the nut over her shoulder as she looked at me.

I said, “you are a very strong, somewhat unusual woman Atha.”

She looked to the ground. “I think you might have gathered Mr. Thatcher that I and my relatives are not ordinary women. I guess that bothers you.”

“Actually Atha, I find you refreshing. If I had to pick which one of you three I like most, it would be you; you seem like a very deep, somewhat meaningful woman.”

She smiled for a brief moment as she looked at me, then turned and walked away through my field of pest destroyed cornstalks; I watched her leave in silence and then she was gone.

I still did not realize then just how out of the ordinary Atha and her family was, I guess I was just to simple to believe that I had gotten mixed up in something unnatural.

 

The next day I was in one of my corn fields, inspecting a ear of corn. It was a gray, somber day and the sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. I stood amongst the stalks of corn which now where swaying in a mild breeze. I held the piece of corn, inhaled then shucked it and once pulling away the green encasing of vegetation I saw that the cob of corn was rotten, small little pests swarming over it.

“Damn it,” I yelled then threw away the cob of corn.

I knew that I was in trouble since this harvest could be chalked up as a failure, and I knew that my livelihood and family farm was in trouble. But my pessimistic pondering was interrupted when a familiar voice spoke out behind me.

“Having a bad day handsome.”

I turned and watched as Aphra walked out from amongst the wavering stalks of corn; as beautiful as she had been three days before and still dressed in a sweater and skirt. As she seductively walked towards me, I frowned as I watched her approach.

“This is not a good time Aphra.”

Now she stood in front of me, us standing in the middle of that rotten corn field as the occasional crash of thunder ominously echoed in the distance. She was looking at me with those deep green eyes.

I asked, “what do you want now?”

She smiled and said, “just a bit of your time Chad.”

I frowned. “Listen, if you and your step mother have nothing better to do then compete with Atha over who this particular hayseed thinks is most pretty, could you find someone else. I'm not having a good day.”

Then I bent over and placed a hand on my lower back and grunted.

Aphra noticed and asked, “what is wrong?”

I did not look at her as I replied, “a lifetime doing farm labor is hell for my back. I got this deep, throbbing pain in my lower spine.”

Aphra giggled for a moment. “Well, I have something that might cheer you up.”

“What are you talking about?”

Aphra reached for something in the back of her skirt, then she held in in front of me and the object lay on her flat, open hand. I looked closer, she held a golden, shiny apple before me. I mean the apple was not the color of gold, it looked like it was made out of gold; I could actually see my reflection on the apples reflective surface.

I looked up from the apple and at her eyes. “So you have an apple, big deal.”

Aphra was smiling. “There are no apples like this one, it is very special. Would you like to hold it Chad?”

I waited a moment then took the apple. I looked down at it in my hand, and actually it felt a lot heavier then a apple should have been. I then shrugged and took a bite out of the apple. Aphra looked at me with an expression of shock on her face as I chewed. And it tasted kind of like an apple, but it was very sweet; I mean it tasted like a very potent honey and it was so sweet that I almost gagged.

I said as I chewed, “not the worst apple I ever tasted.”

Aphra then slapped me across the face with one of her tender hands and I dropped the apple to the dirt ground of the corn field. I looked at her and excitedly asked, “what was that for?”

Aphra picked up the apple, a bite taken out of it; and she just looked at it in her hand. She said sadly, “it is ruined, you where not supposed to eat it.”

“Aren't you supposed to eat apples,” I waited a moment, made a gagging sound then said, “actually, that apple is way to sweet. Feels like I got really powerful honey killing my taste buds.”

Then I realized that the pain in my back was gone, actually for the first time in years I could not feel that throbbing pain which had plagued me. I looked at her and said, “I don't know why, but my back feels better.”

Aphra then hid the apple into the back of her skirt, and continued to look at me with her green eyes. She then asked, “if you had to pick who was most beautiful between Atha, I and Hera; who would you chose handsome?”

I grunted. “OK, this competition is getting a little annoying. I have a lot going on right now and I don't need to be the victim of some sick competitive mind game you and Hera have for your sister Atha.”

Aphra giggled again. “I know you favor me, when we have this little competition men always pick me. And poor little, tomboy Atha always comes in last.”

I frowned. “Atha is nice, and unlike you and Hera; I can tell she is actually being genuine with me; like like you two who are a little to obvious that you feel nothing for me and are just using me to hurt Atha.”

She then put her hand on my cheek. “Would you like to see my pet?”

“What pet?”

Aphra looked up into the sky, then loudly called out, “come to me my precious!”

She held up a hand into the air and I watched as a white dove swooped down from the gray, foreboding sky and landed on her index finger. She looked at it and was grinning.

I shrugged. “So what, you have a pet dove?”

Aphra giggled for the third time as she looked at the bird perched on her finger. “I used to have three birds, I once also had a sparrow and a swan but they perished in that nasty business I lost most of my family in.”

Looked through the swaying stalks of corn which obscured my house in the distance. “Well, I have a pet to. An old senile German Shepard named Fido; and my ex wife is going to take my dog and half if everything I own if this crop fails.”

Aphra turned and spoke as she walked away, the dove flying up from her hand and into the sky. “We'll talk again handsome, till then have a nice day.”

I watched her depart and then vanish into the rhythmically dancing stalks of corn in that field. And it was increasingly sinking in to me that I had gotten caught up in some weird competition between three women who where odd and unusual; I was convinced that there was something not right about these women but then I really had no idea just how weird this situation I had gotten caught up in was.

Then rain began to fall lightly from the sky and I looked up. Then something wet and sticky just then fell from the sky and splattered my face. I grunted and used a hand to wipe the goo off, I looked at the white substance on my hand and came to the realization that it was bird feces; I surmised from the dove.

 

The next day during noon, I drove my tractor across a barren field I owned. As I sat on the metallic seat on the top of that red tractor, bouncing about a bit in my seat as the tractor drove over the bumpy ground; I looked up at the sky. It was a bright beautiful day and a majestic sun shone down from the sky as I gaze skyward.

Though since I was not looking forward at what was ahead of the tractor; I was somewhat startled when a firm, female voice barked out in front of me.

“Would you turn off that contraption peasant, we need to settle this little situation now!”

I looked ahead and saw Hera standing in the path of the tractor, she still dressed in a brown leather jacket, jeans and that valuable terraria. I frowned as I looked at her then brought the tractor to a halt and turned the engine of.

I looked at her then said lowly, “so, you also want to hurt Atha by getting another guy to say Aphra and you are more attractive then her. And why am I being stalked by three really weird women?”

Hera was frowning. “I would explain it to you, but you have the intellect of a commoner so I doubt you would understand.”

“Try me.”

Hera then explained, “I think a simpleton like you Mr. Thatcher might have gathered there is something unusual about us.”

“I might be a simple farm peasant, but yeah; I put that together.”

“I won't bother you with the whole sordid mess, but let me just say that we three are kind of relics from an age forgotten long ago. And we travel the world in hiding, since simpletons like you cannot understand anything that your rational, prosaic world cannot explain away.”

I sighed deeply then said, “got you, you three are crazy.”

Hera seemed offended by my comment. “Despite what ever you think fool, I need to know; which one of us three do you find the most beautiful?”

I looked away from her piercing eyes. “Listen lady, I got to much going on right now to worry about your families crazy, sick little competition. Now could you please go away, I have work to do and I don't have the time to deal with the hassle knowing you three is becoming.”

Hera seemed annoyed suddenly. “It is good you are the center of my families competition; because then you don't have to worry about me driving you into a fit of madness. I did that to my husband's first bastard son, and let me just say that it ended badly for that brute's family.”

I then turned on the engine of my tractor which roared to life. I then loudly said, “I can't hear you right now, the tractor is to loud.”

I watched as Hera then seemed to get very angry and she scowled at me for a moment, then walked away as I watched. I figured that maybe these three women where unusual, but I also figure that they where lunatics. That was the only answer I could come to at that moment.

I then shrugged and drove my tractor down that barren field.

 

The next morning was when the competition finally ended and I was given the truth of just how odd and special these three women where; and I would realize that the rational world I had always know sometimes could be very special, very unnatural.

I was sitting on my porch that morning, teetering back and fourth in one of the rocking chairs with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand; Fido asleep on the porch beside me. It was a bright, very magnificent day and a perfectly blue sky hung over me and the sun was rising over the horizon to the East.

I looked down at my dog and somberly said, “hang in there boy, you should have at least one year left before I have put you down.” I took a sip of my coffee then muttered, “that is if my ex does not take you from me.”

Then I watched something in the distance, in a field of corn ahead of me there was a commotion; the stalks of corn where swaying violently and I watched as a small whirlwind emerged from the field of corn and was swirling towards my porch. I watched speechless when the whirlwind stopped right in front of my porch, when it dissipated Hera was standing where that cyclone had vanished. I dropped my cup and it fell to the porch and shattered.

Hera was now wearing a elegant white dress which sparkled in the sun, though she still had on the terraria. She was looking right at me, but her eyes where blazing with a crimson light. She then, her voice sounding deep and inhuman, said loudly, “enough games peasant; who do you choose?”

I watched as a cloud of billowing white smoke then emerged from the corn field that the cyclone had come from and this undulating mass of mist approached my porch. It then stopped beside Hera and it then vanished, and afterward Aphra was standing there. Though now Aphra was now wearing a blue dress and the dress seemed to be luminescent at it gave of light, and her eyes burned like fire and flames wafted up from her eyes.

I then fell out of the rocking chair and looked at the two women as I lay on the porch.

Then Aphra also, her voice for some weird reason seemed to be coming from all around me, said firmly, “yes, choose who is most beautiful.”

Then a blinding beam of light streaked down from the sky and struck the ground to Hera's other side, I covered my eyes for a moment with my hand. When I lowered my hand, Atha was standing to Hera's side; she still in a denim shirt and jeans though now her eyes had a very intense light coming from them. But Atha said nothing.

I then got up, looked at the three women then said loudly, “OK, I want to know what is going on and who the hell you three women are!”

Hera waited a moment then spoke. “My name is really Hera, queen of the Greek gods.”

Aphra spoke next. “Aphra is short for Aphrodite, goddess of beauty.”

Atha was the last to speak, though she seemed to avoid looking at me. “My real name is Athena Mr. Thatcher, I'm the goddess of wisdom and war.”

I was puzzled and asked, “could you give me a better explanation please, you are looking at me like those names are supposed to mean something?”

Aphra looked at Hera, giggled then said with her voice that seem to come from everywhere, “has he heard of my late father Zeus, king of the Greek gods?”

I thought for a moment then nodded. “Wait, Zeus. He was the father of Hercules, you know; the guy from that cartoon from the eighties.”

Hera frowned and spoke in her deep, inhuman voice. “Hercules, the first bastard product of my late husband's infidelities. I was glad when I used my powers to send him into a madness and he killed his own family with his hands.”

Atha then looked at me, she seemed saddened. “Sorry Mr. Thatcher, I wanted to warn you. You should have not made my sister and my step mother jealous by saying you found me attractive. Once, hundreds of thousands of years ago; a simple Shepard made that mistake and he like you was the victim of their competition.”

Aphra then, her voice booming from everywhere, demanded, “OK, now choose who is the most beautiful here; right now!”

I grunted and looked at Hera. “If I'm forced to choose then it is not going to be Hera. For one she seems like a snob who looks down on everybody and just acts like she is all high and mighty and everyone else is beneath her. Also, for what you did to Hercules, well, I am definitely not going to choose you.”

Aphra looked at her and giggled. “Well mother, you lost to me once again.”

Hera seemed enraged then that cyclone appeared from the air around her and she vanished in it, then that cyclone flew up into the sky.

Aphra was smiling confidently and she said with her omnipresent voice, “well, I guess you choose me.”

I shook my head. “Aphra, I'm not choosing you.”

She then suddenly frowned. “But I'm the goddess of beauty, you have to choose me.”

“Actually,” I said, “you are attractive but you seem kind of vapid and full of yourself; and that kind of hurts you in this competition. You are actually really annoying to be around and that is why you lose this competition.”

Aphra looked at her sister. “You are choosing plain, tomboy Athena?”

“Yes, I find Atha the most beautiful.”

“Why,” Aphra asked.

“Because I'm a simple farm boy and I like women who look plain, also she is very beautiful on the inside and that is why she wins this twisted little competition.”

Aphra then screamed, and the scream was coming from everywhere. She then was enveloped by that billowing cloud of smoke which rose from the ground around her. Then that mist rolled along the ground and disappeared into the field of corn it had come from.

Atha was looking at me, and on her face was an expression of shock. “Chad, why did you choose me? We have had this competition many times in the past three hundred thousand years and I always come in last.”

I looked at her then smiled. “I meant what I said about you being beautiful on the inside, you seem like a very honest, deep and meaningful woman. Now, could you explain why I just have been subjected to this weird little competition between three goddesses?”

Atha looked at the ground as she explained.

“Long ago, there was a forgotten age; a time of men, monsters and gods and goddesses. All people from all corners of this Earth have myths, and these myths are just what is remembered of this forgotten age. But a war between the Gods and their mortal foes destroyed this age. But a few of us survived, and now wonder the either in hiding because mortals would not understand beings like us.”

She then turned away and I asked, “will I ever see you again Atha?”

“No Chad, we cannot be with mortals for we would put them at risk. So just forget what happened in the past days but remember that you did a very kind thing for a very sad woman.”

“I'm glad I could cheer up a very sad, very tough and very deep woman. And tomorrow I'll just tell myself that went crazy for one week because this is just to weird to be real.”

Then Atha reached into her denim shirt and pulled something out. She turned to face me again and I saw another one of those gold apples in her hand. I watched as she broke it open and then knelt on the ground. She picked out the seeds from the apple and buried them in the ground.

“What are you doing Atha?”

“Just a token of thanks Chad, something to remember what you did for me.”

Atha then walked towards me, then walked up onto the porch and looked down at my sleeping, senile dog on the porch. She knelt down, patted Fido on the head and my old dog woke up, started wagging his tail and licking her hand.

She said, “eat this canine.”

I watched as Fido then ate the broken apple that was in two halves. He chewed it for a few moments then fell back asleep.

Atha then stood in front of me and said lastly, “I will always remember you fondly Chad Thatcher. Goodbye.”

Then she spontaneously changed into a form of blinding light and I shielded my eyes with my hand. When I lowered my hand she was gone.

I just spent the rest of that day, looking up into the sky trying to grapple with what had just happened; and I knew already that I would miss her.

 

The next morning which was the beginning of another beautiful day over my farm, I walked out of the front screen door of my house and was standing on the porch. But when I looked down to where my old, senile dog should have been sleeping all I saw was a puppy German Shepard looking up at me; I knew it was Fido.

I said glibly, “Well boy, guess I won't have to put you down next year.”

I then looked out to my corn fields when I then muttered, “OK, I guess this is going to be a really good harvest.”

All the corn fields around my home hand stalks of corns that looked healthy and stood twenty feet tall. I just looked at my harvest, and I knew that things where going to get better for me, and only because of the kindness of Atha.

And that was the conclusion of a very strange week where I learned that there still is some magic left in the boring, explainable world I had always known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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