Lars Breaxface and the Tree of Bones

A Werewolf in Space Holiday Spooktacular

by Brandon Getz

20181213_224423 (1)
Photo by Brandon Getz. Used with permission.

 

Lars tossed another empty bottle at the oozing, twinkling tree in the corner of the cargo hold.

Solstices didn’t mean much in the emptiness of space, and the wolfman had long ago stopped counting days and months by the Terran calendar, but Sheila, his stalwart starcruiser, still rang a gong for all the major holidays of his junked and haggard planet. The night before, as Lars snoozed half-blitzed in his bunk dreaming of the white wonderland of a certain vampire princess’s lumps and nethers, Sheila had blared a black-metal “Jingle Bells,” her signal that Hot Cosmic Christmas had reared its merry head. Out of habit, or maybe because he finally had someone to celebrate with besides a full keg and an indifferent starship, he’d steered course for the nearest planet, trudged into a shimmering swamp with his new shipmate, the cyborg amphibian called Fish, and yanked a serviceable tree from the muck to decorate with holiday cheer. Fish had daisy-chained a string of wires from the cigarette lighter in the pilot house, and an old hologram projector threw a haze of twinkle lights on the alien tree. Atop its roughly conical shape, a five-pronged sex toy slouched, blinking red and green from some internal LED.

The wolfman was lounging in human form, as he usually did, no threats in his own ship requiring a wolf-out. He grabbed another bottle from the mini-fridge – last one in the stash. After that, he’d have to tap one of the kegs crated up in the middle of the hold. He popped the cap, watched it stick silver side up in the tree’s ooze, and took a long pull from the bottle. Nothing like the spiked egg snot he used to chug back in the flood town of his barefoot youth, but he didn’t mind. Festive or no, the beer was better. If he’d had a cinnamon stick, he would’ve dropped it in, just to add some holiday spice.

A flush erupted from the head, and Fish stumbled out, his scales a shade greener than their usual hue.

“Beer?” Lars offered, holding out his bottle.

The amphibian pressed his cybernetic hand to his lips and looked ready to retch again. It’d been a long time since Lars had seen somebody so space-sick. Fish slumped against a wall near the slime-covered tree, limbs splayed in defeat.

“What is this for, anyway?” he said, nodding his finned head toward the tree. “Do you eat it?”

Lars shrugged. “You got me. It’s just part of the shtick – haul a tree into your home, fancy it up with lights and tinsel, throw some presents under it at some time or another.”

“And this is what the Jeezus did on their birthday? I mean, I know it’s traditional to dress a tree in drag and engage in ceremonial inebriation, but –”

“Basically, yadda yadda the deity congealed from the cosmic ether to wish the Universe a happy new year and give us all a fine excuse to get drunk, yell at our families, and give other people the old shit we don’t want anymore, wrapped up with a bow on top, and if nobody gets punched in the teeth, it’s a happy holiday. Merriest time of the year.” Lars took another swallow off the beer. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad to have a little nog. So long as it came with a lot of whiskey. “Anyway, that’s the quick version. Visit a chapel if you want it unabridged.”

“Back on my home world,” Fish started, “we have something like that, a big holiday, the Feast of Frogsgulch, to celebrate the moment the Frog Mother laid the infinite egg strands that became the stars and worlds of the Universe.” A nostalgic sheen fell over the amphibian’s eyes. “We all gather in the temple and pass around the ceremonial jelly, which we spread on our cloaca as the priestesses recite the liturgy of the Mother. Then we hum the ancient hymns into each other’s holy regions, breathing in the fumes of our brothers and sisters.”

The fish-man closed his eyes, licking his lips slowly.

Lars realized he was staring. “So, you mean to tell me your big holiday is you grease up and sing into each other’s sex holes?”

“There is also a feast.”

“No kidding.”

The beer was empty. Sheila was still playing death-metal versions of Hot Cosmic Christmas classics. On the sound system, somebody was growling through “O Tannenbaum.” Time to tap the keg. Lars felt something wet hit his beard and worried, for a moment, that Fish had gotten space-sick in the hold. Or that he was uncapping a jar of Frogsgulch jelly.

“Fish, the fuck is –” he started, wiping his face with his forearm. He stopped short, looking at the slime on his skin. “Fish. You just toss a slimeball at me?”

“A what?” came the amphibian’s reply, but the tree was already reaching.

“Fish, look out!”

Still twinkling with holographic starlight, pentadactylic dildo wagging on its top, the sludged-up tree was rearing for attack. Lower branches lifted, revealing a maw of bony tentacles, each one twitching toward Fish. Slime dripped along the bones. Fish seemed frozen, a space-sick cyborg frogsicle, the tech tucked into his cyber-parts doing him no good if he didn’t use it. The boughs of muck slithered closer to the fish-man, and Lars felt his knuckles begin to bend and break, reforming into claws, his whole skeleton cracking as wolf flowed through him.

Fishman,” he snarled, “Roast his chestnuts.

As the tree’s grotesque tentacle teeth touched Fish’s throat, the robophibian shook loose of his trance and thrust his cybernetic hand forward, the fingers disappearing to reveal the glowing ellipse of a laser chainsaw. Zip, and the slimy tips of the tentacles clattered across the floor. The long teeth sucked back into tree’s mouth, and the creature screeched. Fish crawled backward, trying to stand. The tree shook itself like a wet dog, and ooze sprayed everywhere in the hold – kegs, crates of canned meat, Lars’ grizzled fur. The five-pronged dildo whirled through the air, blinking its festive red and green, and landed square in the werewolf’s eye.

Lars howled.

A bony tentacle-branch wrapped itself around his ripped pant leg, and he was dragged to the floor. He thrashed, wolf-talons scraping against the bone. The tree was hunched in the corner of the ceiling, looking more like a skeletal anemone than a swamp tree, now that the slime had been splattered all over his cruiser. It dangled the werewolf in the air, prodding him with its myriad ossified limbs. A few twisted around his wrists, but he broke free with his wolf-strength. He kicked at the thick bone rope around his leg. No luck. He couldn’t get leverage hanging up there like Rudolph’s ball sack. How was this for a jolly holiday – no stockings, no nog, and the tree was about to gobble him down like a Christmas ham. He sure as shit wasn’t drunk enough for this.

And then he was tumbling down, hitting the ooze-spattered floor with a hard thud. Fish was standing over him. The amphibian flashed his laser chainsaw and grinned.

“Owe me one, Breaxface.” Then it was Fish who was dragged, a tentacle around each of his robotic legs. As he was hauled across the hold, his chainsaw hand whipped wildly, slicing open crates of gravy, bags of cargo netting, and a single keg of beer.

The beer!” Lars roared.

The werewolf crouched. His ankle ached and his eye still stung from the dildo’s insidious poke, but there were more important things to worry about. Precious lager splashed across the floor, frothing up with the tree’s discarded slime. Lars launched himself toward the writhing bone creature. The tree tossed Fish across the hold and spread its maw. Tentacles twitched and reached, a twinkling circle of finger-teeth. Its conical top bobbled like a dunce hat of death. The tree screeched, and Lars howled, a full-on moon-drunk werewolf howl.

He crashed into the first of the tentacles and kept on crashing. The teeth scraped like brambles, and he felt blood in his fur. He clawed, chewed, and wrenched, pulling bony bits out from the inside. The tree convulsed, and tentacles grabbed for his ankles. The werewolf dodged and kept yanking. Finally, he found what he was looking for – a thick column of gray, grinding vertebrae. The trunk. He grabbed the spine with both claws and sunk his teeth into it, chewing through bone while the tree flailed and shuddered. When at last he tasted fluid among the shards in his mouth, he felt the tree fall limp and slide down the wall, what was left of its appendages rattling against the floor.

A doom metal “Deck the Halls” rang through the cargo hold. The smell of spilled beer and bone dust hung in the air, a far cry from cinnamon and evergreen. Lars shook the slime and blood from his fur. His wounds were already healing. As his body broke back into human form, he searched the hold for Fish. The amphibian crawled out from under a toppled stack of ammo boxes, all of them empty or nearly enough. His nose was bloodied, and his cyborg arm looked a little dinged up.

“Got your fucking halls decked,” Lars said. “You good?”

Fish cracked his neck and checked some beeping thing on his robo-arm. “Good.”

Sheila banked, and the remains of the tree rattled again. It was a sad-looking thing, cracked in half at the trunk and splayed like strings of old bone. The hologram had finally kicked off, and the twinkle lights were gone.

“Looks like we picked the wrong tree,” said the wolfman.

“Animal response,” Fish said. “It must’ve woken up here, reacted out of fear.”

“Yeah,” Lars said. “But it wasted my beer.”

As Fish made his way to the head, he stopped and looked back. “You know, that tree-thing reminds me a little of –”

“Save it,” Lars said. “Ain’t nothing like him.”

Fish nodded, then disappeared into the interior of the ship.

From the slimed and trash-strewn floor, Lars found the five-pronged dildo, still blinking red-green. He walked over to the dead thing, stepping carefully through its limbs. With the slime off the skeleton’s top, the sex toy slide onto the point easily. He plugged the hologram projector back in, and the twinkle lights made the osseous corpse look almost merry. A fresh keg tapped and a mug of ale poured, Lars sat back in his spot near the locker of lunar batteries, watching the lights and listening to Sheila‘s playlist of holiday metal tunes.

When Fish limped back in, he was carrying a package. A small bundle wrapped in toilet paper. Thankfully, it looked to be unused.

“You said this celebration featured gifts,” Fish said, offering the wad of paper.

“Ah, Fishman, you didn’t have –” Lars started, unrolling the bundle.

Fish grinned.

“These are my socks,” Lars continued. “That I already had. From my bunk.”

The pair was mismatched, and especially stiff. If his shipmate were going to rifle through his drawers for a fistful of treasure, he might’ve at least grabbed a set of stockings Lars hadn’t stuffed. The wolfman offered an affirmative nod. “Thanks, Fish.”

There was something in one of the lockers that he’d figured he might pass to Fish on account of the holiday. What do you give a half-cybernetic amphibious humanoid who’s lost his home and livelihood twice, both times being more or less your fault? Lars dug deep in a canvas pack till he felt glass.

“Close your eyes,” he said. “I didn’t wrap this shit.”

He set the gift in Fish’s hands, the cyborg’s metal fingers clinking against the glass dome. Fish opened his eyes and gasped.

It was a small glass ball on a base carved to look like an ice floe. Inside, a fat white beast sat in the middle of a snowy plain, sucking on a bottle of black liquid.

“Just some kitsch from home I picked up at a spinner near Earth a while back,” Lars mumbled. “I don’t know, thought you might get a kick out of it.”

Fish gave the ball a small shake. A confetti of snow whirled and fell around the globe’s drunk beast. In his wide, fishy eyes, the scene reflected in duplicate – two ghost globes, two beasts, double the falling confetti.

“I’ve never seen snow.”

“It’s cold,” Lars said. “And light, like ash. But clean.”

The snow settled, and Fish shook it again.

“Thanks, Breaxface.”

“Don’t stress it.” Lars stood up, found his way to the keg, and poured a second mug, then topped off his own. “Here,” he said, “a cup of Hot Cosmic Christmas cheer. It ain’t a holiday if you’re sober.”

Fish took the mug in his free hand and sipped at the froth. In his other, the globe shook again, and again.

Lars sat back and watched the snow fall. He raised his glass to the tree of bones, and to his cyborg shipmate, and the long-gone vampire princess, her stalwart tremuloid bodyguard, the minotaur monk, and all the other friends who had come and gone in the ever-churning infiniteness of space and time. ‘Twas the reason for the season, he figured. To slow down, to halt the grind. To remember. He drank long and slow from his mug, and decided this one, dark and heavy, had in it just a hint of festive spice. Not half bad, he thought, gulping it down. Happy fucking New Year.

 

Lars Breaxface Werewolf in Space is coming Fall 2019 from Spaceboy Books LLC. Experience the preceding and continuing adventures of Lars, Fish and Sheila as they tear ass through the universe!

 

Brandon Getz lives in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has appeared in F(r)iction, Versal, The Delmarva Review, and elsewhere. Read more at www.brandongetz.com

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