(Ben Zvan [CC / Flickr])
Ryan was just beginning to appreciate his second beer when Jared said, “I got something to show you,” pulled a gun from under his jacket and held it under the table. “Look at it. Just look at it.”
“Jesus!” Ryan shifted his stool closer to the table to screen it from the rest of the bar. “All right. I’m impressed. Now will you top waving it around?”
He took a sip of his beer to cover his movement. Or rather, he meant to. He’d drained the glass before he put it down.
“I’m not waving it around, I’m just showing it to you,” said Jared. “She’s a thing of beauty, she is.”
“It’s a she now?” Ryan could just about make out the words ‘M9-Beretta’ etched on the black metal of the barrel. He hoped Jared wouldn’t ask him to hold it.
“Yeah, I should give her a name. She’s my wife now, innit? Till death us do part.”
“Right. Yeah.” Ryan wished Jared hadn’t mentioned death. “Is your wife loaded?”
“Yeah, course she is. No point in having a wife who don’t bang, is there?”
“Well take your finger away from the trigger, will you? You’re making me nervous.”
“You worry too much.” Jared slipped his forefinger inside the trigger guard and grinned at Ryan. “Relax, man. I ain’t gonna shoot no one unless they mess with me.”
“You never used to talk so street.” Jared had an inspiration. “Look, let’s get out of here. I’m hungry and there’s a MacDonald’s round the corner.”
“Yeah, all right.”
Ryan could always count on the idea of food to drive anything else out of Jared’s mind.
Jared slipped the gun back into the holster at his hip and stood up, one hand holding his leather jacket to make sure it hid the weapon from view. He was still grinning.
As he followed Jared out of the pub, Ryan noticed Jared’s back was straighter than he’d ever seen it before. It was as though Jared had gained six inches in height.
Ryan was still pondering the optical illusion when a pair of hands seized the front of his shirt and slammed him into the wall.
“Gimme your cash! Now!”
The voice thundered out of a face that was in Ryan’s. The face was mostly mouth, gaping wide as it flung demands from between teeth that could bite Ryan in half. Eyes, teeth, nose were compressed into a frame around that mouth of the giant that shook him so the back of Ryan’s head cracked into brickwork.
Ryan was vaguely aware that Jared was being flung around as easily as he was by this gang of giants that numbered five, ten, twenty, he couldn’t count.
There was a knife in front of his face. Or a sword. The blade was enormous, capable of gutting Ryan with a flick of the giant’s wrist, leaving him bleeding and mewling out his last agonising moments.
The teeth were surrounded by lips and hair. Patches of hair. The hair of a boy who had tried to grow a beard a couple of years too soon.
A boy giant. With a sword.
The mouth filled the world as Ryan’s hand scrabbled in his pocket and handed over the three tenners and a few coins he had in there. Best not to leave the coins. The giant wouldn’t like it if he thought Ryan was trying to hold something back.
“Take it,” said Ryan. “Please take it.”
Or maybe he didn’t say it. Maybe all he did was make word-shapes with his mouth. He didn’t know.
Fingers brushed Ryan’s as they snatched the notes. Surprisingly soft fingers. A giant’s fingers should be calloused to the texture of sandpaper.
The giant slammed Ryan against the wall one last time and let go.
Two figures were ran away from him as if pursued by some demon. Not twenty. Not ten. Not five.
One of them folded a flick-knife blade with a thumb that was longer than the blade.
It occurred to Ryan that he’d been looking down while being swallowed by that mouth, so it didn’t belong to a giant.
Jared looked as dazed as Ryan felt.
“Did they get the gun?” asked Ryan.
“The what?” Jared looked as if Ryan was speaking to him in Polish. Then comprehension dawned.
“Yeah, The gun!” Jared pulled out the gun. His hand was shaking so much that it pointed all over the street. “Oi! You two! Come back here!”
Ryan couldn’t see either of them by now. “They’re gone.”
He put a hand on Jared’s wrist, pointing the gun at the ground. “They’re not gonna come running back so you can shoot them. Why didn’t you pull that out when they were mugging us?”
Jared’s eyes met Ryan’s. Jared’s brow was furrowed as if his own words made no sense to him. “I didn’t think of it.”