What has gone before: Andrew Weazle, the owner of a failing coffee shop on the University of Alberta campus trades what he believes to be the final Friday night deposit in return for 'magic coffee beans' from a homeless man. After dumping the coffee made by the magic beans into a potted bonsai tree, a massive ash tree mysteriously grows overnight inside the shop. Following a series of dark adventures culminating in the near destruction of the shop, a group of leprechauns arrive, with the enigmatic request to travel the Tree to rescue the Easter Bunny...
Originally published at MagikBeans.com on April 5, 2007
Andrew stood up abruptly, his heart hammering. Visions from his dreams came flooding back in with harsh clarity. He would have to get the box open, he would have to get whatever was inside out, the leprechauns had tricked him, he would have to...
"I just knew you were after me lucky charms," Finn's voice said from the direction of the fire.
Andrew turned to his left to face the group of leprechauns, who were all fully awake, standing with guns drawn, cocked and aimed at him. Finn had a look of mock sadness and sympathy on his face.
"You've definitely made a ballache of this, Andy," Finn said. "And just when were were gettin' ta be pals."
"What's in the box?" Andrew asked.
"This isn't a James Bond movie," Finn said. "We won't be carryin' on with a lengthy palaver to give you time to escape. We're just goin' ta slot ya and be done wit' it."
Between the gunshot going off and what happened next, Andrew had an exceedingly brief moment when instead of his life flashing before his eyes, he coolly contemplated his options.
The first was to stand exactly where he was and let Finn's bullet strike him wherever Finn was aiming. Andrew guessed somewhere lethal, like the head or the heart. Finn was extremely pragmatic, and as he hadn't bothered to waste any time giving the command to open fire, he wasn't likely to shoot Andrew in the kneecap to get things started. Unless he was a lousy shot.
The second was to try and get out of the path of Finn's bullet, which would only buy him seconds before the rest of the group opened fire. If he dropped down to the ground, it would place him directly behind the box, which would serve as brief cover from the assault. However, whatever was in the box would definitely take a bullet, unless it was so important that the leprechauns wouldn't fire. A bit of a gamble to be sure. Nevertheless, it would only prolong the inevitable, and his guess was that Coll, being far less pragmatic than Finn, would try shooting him in the groin just for laughs.
The third was to go out in a blaze of glory. Jumping forward (and hoping Finn's bullet didn't hit him) would allow him to tackle Finn before he met his death, which would fulfill a life-long adage Andrew had played sports by, which was "it isn't whether you win or lose but how cool you looked while you were doing it that matters."
The fourth was to rely upon his mutant healing abilities to compensate for the damage the bullets would cause, which would be greatly reduced by his virtually indestructable skeleton, while he popped his claws and tore into the surly group of midgets, slicing, dicing, perhaps even making them into Julianne fries. But then he remembered that he had neither a mutant healing factor nor an indestructible skeleton, nor metal claws (nor the bad haircut to go with any of them).
By now he'd wasted his time imagining what he could do and instead was only left with the first option.
What he didn't know about his situation came together very rapidly, in, oh say the time it takes for a bullet to leave the barrel of a gun and fly across a 15 foot space.
He hadn't known that even as he'd had stood up and turned to face the leprechauns, he'd repositioned his feet; and when he'd realized they were all holding guns trained on him, he'd taken an inadvertent step to his right, away from the leprechauns and closer to the edge of the clearing. He hadn't known that this had placed his right foot in the middle of a twisted loop of tree root.
He had hoped, but couldn't have known that Finn wasn't so much a bad shot as a fan of Dirty Harry, which meant that his handgun of choice was a .44 Magnum revolver. The recoil from this gun is considerable when you're as tall as Clint Eastwood, but when you're the size of a digitally altered Elijah Wood, it means your aim doesn't count for shit once the gun is fired. The front end of the barrell always went up as the gun went off, which meant that instead of taking Andrew's head clean off, the bullet grazed the top of his head and burnt his hair.
The obvious difference of course, being that having your head blown off doesn't hurt like hell.
The pain shot through Andrew's body and sent him lurching backwards, tripping over the twisted tree root and crashing through a bush filled with thorns and brambles, which consequently made him twist, with the end result being that when he finally stopped moving, he was no longer in the clearing, but covered all around by thick foliage.
"Are ye dead?" Finn called.
"I think ye just nicked him," Coll said.
Andrew tried moving to edge further away from the clearing. A branch snapped beneath his weight.
And the leprechauns opened fire.
Chips of bark, sprays of dirt, chunks of moss flew into the air and fell on top of Andrew, but none of the bullets struck home. The whine of the projectiles and the noise of the gunfire was maddeningly frightening, but when Andrew rolled to one side, he realized why he was still alive. In his epileptic dance into the undergrowth, he had fallen sideways behind one of the dark trees that lined the path. A .44 Magnum round might be able to punch through an engine block, but not the trunk of a tree centuries old.
He scrambled onto his haunches and placed his back to the tree, waiting for the leprechauns to cease fire.
When they finally did, the silence was nearly as deafening as the gunfire had been.
"You dead now?" Finn called.
Andrew could see from his vantage point that while they'd been unable to hit him, they'd done a fine job of mowing down the brush surrounding his hiding spot. If he were to break from his position and run, he'd be a perfectly visible target.
"Someone go and check," Finn said.
"I'm not going into the woods," James replied.
"You won't be going into the woods," Finn said. "Just to the edge. Have a look see."
"I'm not going near the edge either," James replied. The others murmured similar sentiments.
"What a bunch of ass bandits," Coll growled. "You're all certified fairies, in every sense of the word."
Andrew could hear the deliberate footfalls as Coll approached the edge of the wood. He could only hope the darkness would hide him.
Coll turned on a flashlight.
I now officially hate Mountain Equipment Co-op, Andrew thought.
"Where are ye, ye little runt?" Coll said, and stepped up to the edge of the wood. Andrew could see the leprechaun out of the corner of his eye, but didn't dare move.
The beam played over the shattered bushes and trees, casting weird shadows. Andrew held his breath as the flashlight beam moved in an arc, closer and closer...