Odin, Consider Me for Valhalla by Michael Hammerle
If someone could make it all the way through and not complain, not speak a word about their cancer, could they go to Valhalla? When I found out I had it, it was like a block of ice slipping down my back. I’d always wanted to die in battle, had glorified the good death.
Now, I want to earn my place in Valhalla by way of lymph nodal Blood-Eagle.
No matter where I go when my time’s up: one more normal Christmas if I keep quiet. My instinct is go ‘til I drop; don’t give up one word; because I want that last Christmas and I want to go to Valhalla: a great hall for the best of the dead built out of gold and copper shields. Inside there are many doors that lead to many halls. My own hall will be filled with my worthy ancestors and I can see the people I loved. We will eat roast boar from a fire pit in the center of the room. My father will be there, with his father, and his. We can drink ourselves drunk filling cow horn steins from barrels full of hickory-colored ale that never empty; dogs at our feet; cooked potatoes, cooked carrots, baked bread, and cheese. Apple and orange trees planted in the floors, growing in the light of the gold and copper shield walls.
I want every deserving Viking to have a hall of his own; to not be swallowed by the wolf, Managarm. Be cozy because the land is ice and the days moon light. I want to fight the wolves and wait in my hall, patiently, for my wife and my daughter. Be the first to greet them after the Valkyrie and show them this place; hear their stories; be told of descendants—have my wife and my daughter mend my shield, and hear them shout for me again, yay!
I will tell the stories I’ve told since my daughter was in her mother’s womb: how in Valhalla boats are built and sailed by moonlight—because Sol, the sun, has been swallowed by the second wolf, Skoll. Everyone will be worried about the cold too. But in Valhalla the trees warm themselves from the inside. The boats, even in the black ice water, are warm to the touch, like an axe handle left in the sun, only this wood is warm forever and never loses its heat. In Valhalla, if you die of starvation or are struck down, you wake in your hall and your body has been made whole again. Back to the warmth where you can be full and drunk. Even the boat you left behind is in the fjord ready to carry you to the fight.
Things are simple here. There is one mission: ride through the black waves by moonlight and cut down the wolves, freeing the sun from Skoll’s gullet, and restoring light over the land.
It is clear to me that in Valhalla you have forever to slay the wolves. You have forever to be a hero, to eradicate the black, and save your world. The mistakes you make are correctible and no death is permanent.
I wake up and I’m happy for each new morning but every minute is a fight to live normal. Night comes fast, and I help my wife settle my daughter down for sleep. I read to my daughter The Prose Edda while my wife strokes my daughter’s bangs and we get her to sleep. Her name is Aurora. I kiss my daughter’s forehead and tell her I love her and I tell her good night. It kills me to know I’m thinking of how I’ll say good bye and hoping she’s old enough to remember me— pleading with myself that a great Christmas ensures she won’t forget me.
I want to go to Valhalla because there they war each “day” against the dark and die every night and go home to their families where they are loved and healed—that’s the battling I’m used to.
At the end, after the good byes, only the ravens can comfort me.
Michael Hammerle is pursuing his MFA at the University of Arkansas at Monticello where he teaches and is an editor for Gravel Magazine. He holds a BA in English, cum laude, from the University of Florida. His fiction has been published in The Best Small Fictions 2017 selected by Amy Hempel. His prose and poetry has been published in, or forthcoming from, New World Writing, the Matador Review, Door Is A Jar, After the Pause, Chicago Literati, and many more magazines. He lives and writes in Gainesville, FL.