The battle was swift and the battle was merciless. Norman ran directly at a silver-clad Barnling, a length of two-by-four his only weapon. The Barnling raised his gun, but Norman's stout plank cracked this opponent square in the wrist, and the weapon went skittering over the bitumen of Wellington Road, landing under a car. The Barnling turned to face Norman, but too late. Another blow of the two-bee sent him sprawling to the ground with a shattered shoulder.
Norman almost laughed out loud. After the dread of the last few weeks, the actual battle seemed almost easy. Then something hit him in the head. Hard. He never saw it coming -- never knew if it was an enemy strike or a mis-aimed blow from a friend. Either way, he fell to one knee, clutching his injury.
The sounds of screaming and shooting were gone. He could hear nothing but the pulse of blood in his ears. He blinked hard. Was this what concussion was like? If it was a concussion, he probably shouldn't go swimming for at least an hour… Or was that whooping cough?
To his right, Bernard from Storage Systems burst into flames. Norman blinked again. Through bleary eyes, he saw a man in a DIY Barn polo shirt waving his hands in an eldritch pattern. This was the Barn's fire sorcerer. The one who had summoned the demon. It had to be!
Norman forced himself up to his feet. Everything was moving slowly, like a holiday in Queensland. He realised that he wasn't the only one in the wild melee to see the sorcerer – Fiona had too. Fiona. The sister he never had. His partner in crime. How was it she'd never gotten over the guilt of robbing that armoured car? The Barn had it coming, had worse than that coming.
As Norman staggered towards the fire-mage, Fiona clenched both of her hands into fists. The pavement in front of the fire mage exploded as the water mains burst, sending a geyser into the air. It looked for a moment as if Fiona had him, but the mage leapt back and sent a stream of flames from his hands into the geyser. The air filled with steam, soaking Norman to the skin. He stumbled on towards his foe.
The throbbing in his head grew louder. He stumbled down onto one knee. He hated himself for this weakness, but it turned out to be what saved him. From this position, he could see a pair of legs beneath a parked car – legs creeping ever closer to Fiona. Norman watched, gathering his strength.
The fire-mage was strong, but Fiona was stronger. The water from the mains began to take form, adopting the rough shape of a human. It was forming faster than the fire-mage could boil it away. As Norman watched, the mage's flames grew so fierce his plastic name-tag melted down his shirt. Fiona sneered and turned up the water. She had this one – Norman could see that -- but all of her concentration was devoted to the battle. She had no way to defend herself.
The Barnling behind the car leapt out, a sharpened screwdriver in hand. Norman focused everything he had left -- what little he had left -- into his legs. He hopped rather than leapt through the air, crashing headlong into his the man, the top of his head landing square in the middle of his enemy's apron.
The Barnling was surprised, but not slow to react. Norman felt the man's screwdriver enter his gut, the pain like a jolt of electricity, but he wrestled the Barnling to the ground as he fell. He saw the mage-fire weaken... falter... flicker... -- then the wizard drowned, standing on a suburban footpath on a clear day.
Norman wondered how he saw this, since he was lying face down on the stricken Barnling with the screwdriver, blood flowing from his wounds.
Then he was looking down from the sky at the battle. Men and women in polo shirts and aprons struggled in the street, their blood staining the suburban gutters. A robot fought a demon, two men dueled with deadly superweapons. A Pavilion footsoldier armed with a modified tile-cutter exploded into yellow gas. A sinkhole opened in the middle of Wellington road, swallowing a DIY Barn delivery truck. Police cars were converging from all directions, but they'd never arrive in time to stop the conflict. Never.
And then Norman was whooshing through the air -- across Australia, Indonesia, India, Arabia...
"No! No, no, no!"
Ahead lay Greece. And towering above Greece was Olympus. Not the mean little mountain that mortal eyes could see, but the true Olympus that towered all the way up to the sky.
Norman's flight came to a halt on outside the home of the gods. The facade was carved of regal marble -- but the front yard consisted of nothing but some green concrete, which Norman's father, Zeus, was washing down with a hose.
"Norman," the old man said. "Well done. Dead in an epic battle! Didn’t think you had it in youse."
"Seriously?" Norman muttered. "This had better be one of them near death hallucination things. Fucked if I'm walking into the light."
"You think you've got problems, at least you're not still doing yard work after getting kicked out of your house. Seriously, you'd think this was your new 'uncle's' job, but he's got a bad back, so I…"
"You're using the wrong hose," Norman snapped. "You want less work? Get one of those high pressure thingamos. Lauren in garden equipment can help you with that, if she survives the battle."
Zeus shrugged and turned off the tap. "Good enough, for now. If I volunteer to do the backyard as well, then at least I can help myself to some zucchinis. Look, Norman, I see where you're coming from. You've got friends down there, yeah? Well you did your best for them. You saved that friend of yours, and that might just be enough to turn the tide in the battle. That's right, I was watching. Just because I'm an absent dad doesn't mean I'm completely disinterested."
"Uninterested," Norman said. "Look, spare me the bullshit and put me back. You need me to die for some fate thing, okay, whatever. My friends are dying down there. Just let me live until the end of the battle, okay?"
"Yeah, nah. Tell you what, though, I can make you into a constellation, yeah? I think that's a pretty good deal. All the best heroes get constellations. Who doesn't want that, eh?"
"Nobody wants to be a fucking constellation, you demented old pagan! Just put me back."
Zeus took a deep breath. "I am way too old for this shit. Okay, screw fate, screw philosophy. Let's talk about respect. You've never shown me any."
"How much have you shown me? You think you can get respect without showing any?"
"I. Am. ZEUS!" A lightning bolt crashed down from the blue heaven, engulfing the old man from his grey hair to his sandals. Electricity blazed from his eyes and ran up and sparked across his beard. The plastic of the hose nozzle melted, turning into an orange lump in his hand.
"Zeus. The Zeus. Respect flows to me, not from me. Do you get that? You're a barrista at a hardware store and I'm the ruler of the gods. What part of that do you not understand?"
Norman stared sullenly at his father. "Fine. Okay, then. Put me back and I'll owe you a favour. That's how it works, isn't it? We mortals give sacrifices to the gods and in return we get favours."
"For a favour."
"On me grandmother's grave."
The king of the gods stared at his son a while longer, his eyes alive with yellow sparks.
"Kid," he said, "you just got interesting."