Published March 17, 2017
Originally released as Audio Flash Fiction on Immortal Works's podcast. _Edit: It's been a few years since this went up. I'll put the full text below.*
Conan, if he was a modern father. Or perhaps the story of a father who reads too much Conan.
Shrill cries pierced the cool night air. Epic Dad awoke.
Upstairs, one of the offspring increased the volume of its megasonic, teeth-rattling distress signal.
Epic Dad peeled his sleep-glued eyelids apart and assessed the status of his female companion.
Her eyes remained closed and she made no discernible motion. An uninformed observer might conclude that she slept. That observer would be wrong.
Epic Dad's finely-honed senses told him that her apparent state of slumber was nothing but a ruse.
His loving wife's breathing was too shallow to signify sleep, and her lips were pressed together too tightly for unconsciousness.
The corner of her mouth curled upward, a tiny but unmistakeable affirmation of his whispered accusation.
There was no purpose in pressing the issue and attempting to debate who's turn is was. That type of discussion often ended in a round of Rock-Paper-Scissors, a contest which she never lost.
For this time of night, there would be no discussion. For despite the fact that his loving wife was undeniably awake, her balancing faculties could not possibly be fully operational for at least ten minutes. If she attempted to navigate the house before then, she'd merely collide with every door, trip over any available clutter, and stub her feminine toe. In short she would inevitably injure herself and awaken every occupant in the entire household. Quite possibly the neighbors as well.
He fully grasped and accepted the situation, and his role in it. Whenever there was trouble among the progeny at oh-three-hundred hours, there was only one parent capable of handling the crisis: himself, Epic Dad.
“No time to waste.” He thought as he flung back the covers and rolled to the thickly carpeted floor.
Somewhere upstairs, the gasping sobs intensified and shook the walls.
He crept down the hall like a panther. Well practiced at maneuvering the abode in total darkness, Epic Dad moved in utter silence. He didn't need the skill at that moment, however. He could be dropping firecrackers along his path and nobody would hear them over the wailing.
Dozens of family photographs tastefully decorated the walls. Epic Dad paid them no heed in his haste.
He turned the corner and gazed up the stairs into the darkness of the second floor. There he would find the source of the noise.
His steely thews propelled him up the stairs at incredible velocity. He flew by the sleeping quarters shared by the older boys.
The twins had long since grown accustomed their younger sibling's nighttime bawling, and so long as he did not delay, they would peacefully slumber though it. Strangely, they retained an uncanny ability to detect his presence by even the slightest of sounds. Once the clamorous problem at hand was dealt with, he would be forced to retreat in total silence.
With that in mind, he slipped into the room of the screamer and surveyed the situation.
The bellowing infant stood, grasping the bars of her wooden sleeping prison-box. She wore a well-fitting one-piece garment that encompassed her feet and featured a large plastic zipper which ran the length of her body down to her ankle. Her practically toothless mouth agape, she projected a sonic attack that would have melted the brain of a lesser man.
Wasting no time, he flew across the room and swept his tiniest progeny up in his arms.
Epic Dad held the cacophonous child upright and close to his chest, where she might feel the beating of his mighty heart. He used a powerful hand to pat her back with a tenderness uncommon to men of his vigor.
He alternated between making carefully-practiced shushing noises and whispering reassuring affirmations. In these whispers he asserted his belief in both the desirability and the capability of her return to rejuvenating slumber. There was no commanding, no impatience, no pleading. Simply positive coaxing.
After only a few minutes, the caterwauling abruptly ceased. An expectant silence hung in the air for several seconds. Finally, his tiniest progeny cut free with a massive belch. An earth-shaking belch, even. One that surpassed and even eclipsed the grandest of burps that had ever passed through Epic Dad's lips.
Neighboring binge-watching night-owls ran from their couches to the nearest doorways, fearing the gas-eruption noise signaled a catastrophic earthquake.
Such was the magnitude of the belch.
With the pressure relief of her deafening discharge, the infant instantly collapsed into unconsciousness.
Carefully and quietly Epic Dad tip-toed back across the room. He almost dared not to breathe has he extended his muscular arms and gently placed his sleeping daughter on the pad of her wooden prison-box.
His tiniest progeny instantly grunted then flopped from her back to her stomach, but she stayed asleep.
Epic Dad stood tall in the moonlit room like a powerful titan in flannel pajamas.
Who else could be called upon to slay an invading arachnid? Who else was there to transport gathered waste materials to the curb on Wednesday mornings? Who else was observant and wise enough to replace the roll of toilet tissue when the previous installment was depleted?
Epic Dad, that's who.
Making no more noise than a leaf falling onto a marshmallow, he stole out of the room and down the contemporary stairs, carefully skipping the two that creaked. The rugged father retraced his steps into his own sleeping chamber.
In his absence, his loving wife had returned to sleep, rolling over and taking her half-to-two-thirds of the bed out of the middle. She snored peacefully.
Epic Dad lifted his corner of the bedding up and climbed onto his sliver of firm mattress. He smiled to himself as he slipped away into dreamland.
Three minutes later, shrill cries from upstairs pierced the cool night air, and the cycle began again.