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It’s hard, being an Avenger

Image by seget from Pixabay 

Looking down from the top floor of the multi-storey car park, Tisiphone the Third had two main thoughts….

I did not dislocate his shoulder on purpose.


Henry Hooper Lowe had to die.

It was her job to mete out justice, and it was just as hard for her as it was for them. She craned over the railing and squinted down. It felt churlish to think it when Henry Hooper Lowe had just hit the pavement, like a big water balloon, but truth be told… he actually had the easier part here. He only had to face her once. Now, judging by the spill of blood on the cement, he was done. For good. Whereas, she had to face another job this afternoon… and two more tomorrow.

Tisi huffed.

“Would you quit it?” she said, trying to pat her mane of snakes back into place. But they were still riled up on adrenaline and hissed louder. A couple of them even turned back and hissed right into her face.

“Ugggh!” She shook her head fast. “Quit it, or I swear I will cut you off!”

She wasn’t even joking. She fantasised about this, multiple times a week – cutting them all off with pruning shears, and stealing a blonde curly wig to wear. She’d thought it all through. She’d sear the bloody stumps with hair straighteners. Then she could reuse the straighteners, on a cooler setting, to refashion the wig, if she ever fancied trying out another look.

“Ok, let’s go,” she sighed guiltily. The snakes didn’t ask for this life, any more than she did. Maybe they fantasised about killing her, and dragging her body off to someplace sunny, so they could bask and gorge themselves on rats. She wouldn’t blame them.

She rolled her shoulders back.

For a moment, Tisi considered taking the shortcut down, but she was still jangled with adrenaline too, so she took the stairs.

“Massssssssochisssssssssssssssst,” one of the snakes hissed into her ear. It wasn’t wrong. By the time that she got to the bottom she’d gagged multiple times on the dank, urine steeped air.

But then she was out and into the street, and running for the park – before the sirens could start, and before she could feel the full ripple effect of her work. All the panic and conjecture, and all the ghoulish rubberneckers. She hated it all.

She ran invisibly through the street, cutting as wide a berth as she could for a little dog who was barking its face off. (She never knew for sure if dogs could smell her, or smell the snakes?). And by the time that she was pounding through the big iron gates of the park, her blood and her thoughts and her snakes had settled a little.

“Ok then,” she said. She made for the first empty bench she could see and plopped herself down.

“Good job everybody, good job,” she said weakly, making loose patting motions over her head. One of the snakes coiled itself into a roll above her ear. Then one on the other side did the same. Guilt stabbed her. They’d been doing this on and off since she’d ‘borrowed’ one of her target’s phones to search for ‘Princess hairstyles’. She hadn’t realised the snakes had been paying such attention, as she checked out picture after picture of Princess Leia.

Maybe she should go and sit against a tree trunk, instead of this bench, so that her snakes could at least try and hunt? Snatch themselves a little bird or a little mouse. That would make them happy. She’d done it before.

“Uh, uh, Tisi,” she said, wagging her finger at herself. Just because she felt guilty about wanting shot of the snakes did not mean that she should cave. That she should sacrifice some innocent creatures who’d been having a perfectly fine day until her and her snakes showed up.

Plus, she was the one who’d have to listen to the snap and crunch of the little victims’ bodies, and taste the vomit rising up in her throat as she tried not to think about what was being absorbed into her, through her scalp.

None of this was pretty. None of this was the picture that she had for her life.

“I want to be a cellist,” she said, turning her face up to the weak January sun, and admitting it out loud for the first time.

“A cellissssssssssst,” hissed the snake coiled above her left ear.

“A cellisssssssssssst,” echoed the matching one on the other side.

Stereo snakes. Hissing earphones.

“Yesssssssssss,” she hissed back.

And she did want it. She wanted to drown herself in mournful beauty. She wanted to play so beautifully that doves cried. She wanted to have love songs sung about her musical talents, and stop wars, and…

No, actually that was starting to sound like a lot of work.

Really, she just wanted to be a concert cellist.

“Kill a cellissssssst,” one of the back row snakes hissed.

That was one way to get a cello.

“We will ssssssssssing,” added in another.

Could she? Could they? Start over? Make an act? Maybe she could pretend that the snakes were a magical costume? A headpiece.

“Ssssssssing sssssssweeetly,” added another.

All seven seemed to be hissing now, on different notes, and it felt like her heartstrings were vibrating. She laid her palm flat against her chest.

“You really think we could?” she said so quietly that the snakes all curved towards her face, leaning in intently.

“Yesssssssssss,” one said, swaying gracefully in front of her eyes, like a hypnotist’s watch.

Tisi nodded gently, then pulled Henry Hooper Lowe’s phone from the front pocket of her tunic. She entered the passcode that she’d seen him use, right before his death. Then she turned the location pin on and searched for ‘nearest music academy’.

While she waited for the results to load, she checked the time and did the maths. Two hours before she was supposed to strike down Vincent DeMello. And there was a music academy less than a mile away. She could even run there.

But what then? Could she lug a cello on her back, over her wings, strike out Vincent, and still run once the deed was done. Those lazy little cherubs, with teeny harps and nothing to do all day, had it so easy.

For a moment, she wobbled inside.

“Ssssssssteal it.”

“Kissssssssssss the stringsssssssssssss.”

“Rissssssssse up.”


“Ok then,” she said. She was Tisiphone the Third. She stood up and raised her fist to the sky. Her snakes reared up and fanned out, like she was the Statue of Liberty.

Avenger by day and cellist by night.




Week 30

I’m scared of snakes. I can’t stand looking at their faces, or watching how they move. It creeps me out, in a really visceral way.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband asked me, “Would you still love me if I had snakes for hair?”

Without any hesitation, I said, “Yes…We could cut them off.”

He was horrified that I would say such a thing. So I wrote this story.

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