This is for C. M. on Facebook, who prompted Rumpelstiltskin/Charging Bull of Wall Street.
The immortals don’t forgive and they certainly don’t forget.
I didn’t take much from them: only a small ability to change a tiny handful of straw into a minute amount of gold, once a month, under certain strict conditions. If I was lucky.
And for that, they sent the Bull.
The first I knew of it was in India, by the banks of a brown-snake of a river. The Bull charged out of the churning waters, trailing plagues and curses and death. The people of the mud-brick cities fled, and so did I, into Persia.
The Bull followed me there and then across the plains, flattening mountains, gouging valleys.
That was only the beginning.
I never knew what form the Bull would take. I never knew whether it would steal up to me by night or come roaring after me by day. Sometimes it was enormous, blotting the sun. At other times it would slip on a cloak and hide in a crowd.
It charged me, horns lowered, eyes reddened, at an island festival. Men and women laughed as I leapt over its back, thinking I was one of their honored bull jumpers. It stalked me in a labyrinth under a palace on two legs, bull head heavy on a hairy man’s body.
The immortals disseminated their own warnings about theft from the gods. They told stories of foolish kings with golden-statue daughters. They turned me into a twisted dwarf with a ridiculous name, swallowed up by the earth.
Finally, I fled across the ocean, to the New World. The Bull pursued me there, across the mountains and the plains to the ranges of the west.
There I waited.
We fought our biggest battle in that place, a silent, secret struggle within mountain caves.
When it was over, the Bull was dissipated and I walked free.
I went east afterwards, where the buying and selling of hopes and dreams and the movement of numbers from column to column enthralled me more than gold ever had. I lived and breathed stocks and shares for decades, and smiled to see my old foe represented as a bronze statue on the streets I walked as a secret king.
Let it be a symbol. Let it be a good luck talisman.
In fact, I rubbed its nose bright every time I walked past it. I may have, in my most defiant moments, even grabbed it by the… horns.
Until last night.
Last night, as dusk fell, I walked past its hulking shape. As usual, I reached out for its nose.
My fingers never touched the metal.
They froze an inch away. The hair on the back of my neck rose.
The eye of the statue gleamed with the Bull’s red fury.
I felt hot breath on my neck. I heard the snort of the Bull’s hatred, the stamp of its hoof, the sizzle of its acid drool on the pavement.
I heard it straining to break loose.
And so I’m leaving.
I’ve packed a duffel, booked a ticket, moved money to secret accounts.
Tomorrow I’ll have a new name. A day later, I’ll be in a different place. After that, a new face.
The immortals never forgive and they never forget. They are implacable.
So is the Bull.
And he’s coming for me.
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