It was like a house in a film or a period play. We were in the dining room, dark with oak panels. The huge banqueting table dwarfed the twelve of us finishing off our meals. I knew a few of the group, not personally but from the media. We had an opera singer, a TV pundit, two news readers, and a politician – I couldn’t remember which party.
‘John Argent? My children absolutely love your show.’
Startled at hearing my name, I looked across the table at an imposing woman in a green evening dress.
‘Oh, thanks. That’s very kind of you to say.’
‘Where do you get your ideas from? It’s all so imaginative and colourful. My youngest, Oliver, simply won’t miss an episode.’
‘Well, the stories aren’t really new. I take them from myths and legends. We have a great artist who brings them to life for me.’
‘Oliver loves your ‘Bifröst’ stories, and his new hero is Heimdall. He wants to be just like him with his warrior’s sword and golden maned horse. Mind you, I had to draw the line at him bleaching his hair blond.’
I smiled at the thought of Oliver and children like him acting out my stories. Four years at RADA ambitious to be a famous Shakespearian actor with a few lucrative film roles led to a job presenting children’s TV where, to my amazement, I was a hit. This resulted in my own show and the rest is history, or mythology more like.
‘I’m Maggie, by the way.’ She held out her hand.
‘Pleased to meet you Maggie. Wait a minute; you’re Margaret Sanchez, aren’t you? You’re playing Brünnhilde at Sadler’s Wells.’
‘Yes, that’s right. Two of us are here tonight. That’s Dieter Schultz over there. He’s playing Wotan’
Maggie pointed to the opera singer I’d recognised earlier.
‘I should’ve known it was you, but you look different in real life.’
‘We are mere mortals without the greasepaint, the costumes, and the illusions we fashion,’ Maggie said with mock grandeur.
I laughed finding myself warming to my new companion.
‘What I’d really like to know is why we’re here. I wasn’t going to come but my agent insisted.’
‘John, you don’t turn down an exclusive invitation from the likes of Albert J Swinford.’
Albert J Swinford, the American media mogul, a fortune counted in billions, non-tax payer, influential, and eccentric. The babble of conversation died out as he entered the room.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he drawled. ‘Thank you for accepting my invitation. I hope you enjoyed the food and drink and I hope you’ll enjoy the entertainment I’ve laid on for later.’
A murmur of approval.
‘I’ve been interested, indeed passionate, about Norse mythology for some time. You may have recognised some or all of the people here today. You all have something in common which is that in some way you share my interest in things Viking.’
‘We have here with us, historians, TV presenters, opera singers, and storytellers. Good people, what you are about to witness is the coming of Ragnarök.’
I glanced at Maggie who raised her eyebrows into a sardonic expression. I tried to suppress a smile.
‘So, we’re going to see the end of the World through a series of natural disasters, a serpent rising from the sea and consuming all in its wake, and the World being submerged in water,’ I whispered.
‘Well, at least he’s living up to his reputation as a disaster capitalist’, she whispered back.
We followed Swinford out into the bright sunshine and sat down on benches close to a basketball court with a game in progress. None of the players was under seven feet tall. Nearby was a portable nuclear power station wired up to what looked like a stage prop from that Star Trek episode where they jumped through a portal and went back in time. It started humming.
A truck pulled up with battle fatigues and enough state of the art weapons to equip an army. The basketball players ran over, put them on and stood to attention.
‘As the legend of Ragnarök predicts, an army of giants will cross the rainbow bridge of Bifröst, and defeat the gods of Asgard in a great battle. Then comes the small inconvenience of the end of the World, but then its rebirth where we can live as the gods intended.’
As he spoke the humming of the Star Trek portal increased in intensity and a shimmering rainbow bridge reached to the heavens and beauty of the city of Asgard. The basketball teams ran along it firing their weapons as they went, to be met by a charge of Viking warriors flanked by Odin, Baldr, Thor, and of course Heimdall.
It was no contest. The basketball teams were massacred in minutes by the sword wielding Nordic warriors who had a bit of help from the powerful magic of their gods.
A deep majestic voice cut through stunned silence. I think it was Odin.
‘Swinford, don’t try anything like that again or I will personally see to it that your measly little life is extinguished in a most painful manner.’
Swinford was on his knees:
‘Forgive me. I didn’t mean to ……..’
A large hammer flew out of nowhere, clattered Swinford on the head and knocked him unconscious. Police sirens sounded in the distance.
‘This is going to take some explaining,’ I said to Maggie.