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Killing the Hydra: A ‘Flashes from the Garden’ Blog Post

Every week, I’ll post a little bit of creative fiction that hasn’t been published elsewhere. This might be a vignette, a poem, or sometimes an entire story. Hope you enjoy reading and feel free to post a comment below.

“Do you have the courage,” the man asks, “to unveil the treasures within you and lay them bare for everyone to see?”

He looks at me from behind a vase of petunias and dalias. Around this the table is laid with an ornate Chinese ceramic tea-set. Behind the man, hydra whips its three heads in fury. Fortunately, the beast is shackled at the back of the room, far away from us.

“The courage?” I ask. “You want me to fight that thing?”

“Why not? You’ve slain dragons and the end of the world and even gods in your fiction? What’s a three-headed hydra to you?”

The hydra lashes out one of its heads towards us and tears at its shackles, which diminish its impetus to charge. I take a sip of my oolong tea and then look back at the Chinese man and his Fu-Manchu. He’s sitting on a bamboo mat with his legs crossed.

“It’s my characters that slay such beasts,” I point out. “Not I. I know these characters are meant to be extensions of me and all that. But I don’t just go up to hydras and lop off their heads. For one, there’s the ethics of it. That hydra could be the only one left in the world, for all I know. And two, there’s no swords or other weapons around and I don’t know of any Greek hero who killed a hydra with a vase of flowers or a teapot…”

The Chinese man laughs. “You can use the boiling water,” he says.

“It’s a bloody hydra! You don’t kill off hydras with water. That’s just not done.”

I take a sip of my tea. How much do I miss those small cups and light flavours from when I used to live in China. The man smiles and he pours me another cup.

“So,” he says. “Have you decided? Will you kill it?”

“Haven’t I been through this already,” I say. “I don’t have the weapons I need.”

“Oh, but you do,” the man replies. “It’s in the ink of your pen. You want a sword, write one into this story. Or, if you want to be a little more sci-fi, a little more future tech then create a laser. Perhaps you want a damsel to win after the act, then she’s yours. Carrying a chalice of gold and studded with diamonds, perhaps. You can sell that at the local market and earn your fortune.”

I shake my head. “And I’ll kill off the last hydra alive.” It just doesn’t feel right. So, I create a UN Animal Rights Investigator to oversee the situation. His clothing is rather indistinct right now.

“Oh for goodness sake,” the Chinese man says, because it would have been a little out of place to have him refer to God. “You can create another hydra to replace it. Just kill the damn thing.”

I look back at him once more, at how animated he seems. I don’t know why this is so important to him. “Do it yourself,” I say. “If you have the courage.”

I dream up a samurai suit to cloth him in and I make him Japanese. I also give the animal rights investigator a UN peacekeeper costume and a machine gun.

Then, I wait to watch how this one pans out.


Cover image credit: Gustave Moreau from Wikimedia Commons