A man died today, a man whose name I never knew. We were given codenames, you see, and they became our identities. I was Eilonwy, named after the princess in my favorite book at the time, The Book of Three from The Chronicles of Prydain. And he was called Gurgi. I was a little girl when we met and the things I first remembered about him were that he always opened doors for me and he always carried a gun.
I never touched a door when Gurgi was around. He opened them when I approached and also as I exited. He spent a great deal of his time with me standing by doors or shooing me away from windows. I was too young to understand at the time that he was saving the life of a hot-tempered, stubborn and resolute little girl who happened to have royal blood coursing through her veins.
A fit man, ramrod straight back, dressed in a neatly pressed grey suit that he wore like a uniform, Gurgi was always polite even when I tested his patience demanding to play with his guns. He had so many of them. Mostly revolvers, with the occasional pump shotgun or automatic rifle. His belts were decorated with bullets and small pouches, compartments that held first aid kits, anti-venom and antidotes for most known poisons.
Gurgi would talk with me after the room had been secured and measures put into place so that my safety was insured. He told me of his many professions before finding employment with my father. A physician on his homeworld, he was unable to secure a medical license on Earth and forced to find work as an electrician, a skill taught to him by his father. A skill that introduced him to my father.
After being properly vetted, Gurgi was hired to rewire our home and during that time, the house came under attack and I was separated from my family. Men came to me, to hurt me, to abduct me, to possibly even kill me. Thankfully I never had the opportunity to discover which, as Gurgi happened upon the men who happened upon me and dispatched them. He took a gun off one of my attackers and shot them all until they no longer moved. A skill taught to him by his mother. A skill that impressed my mother.
On the rare occasion, he spoke about the life he left behind. His wife, whose name I sadly couldn’t remember, was famous in their colony for the roast she prepared for the Feast of Xoncha, a planetwide day of life appreciation. She roasted bamen but never relied on shop-bought, insisting instead on raising her own from pups that were well fed, cared for and loved just shy of becoming pets. Gurgi’s role in the process included rendering the bamen incapacitated, exsanguination, scalding and dehairing, evisceration and dividing the carcass in half longitudinally. The last one weighed five hundred and sixty kilos and was simply too large for his wife to handle alone.
I asked him if his wife served the bamen with its head.
“Of course!” Gurgi replied. “The tongue, cheeks, and ears were served as the appetizer with dipping sauces made from blood and innards.” I crinkled my nose and he burst into raucous laughter. It was the only time he both laughed and saddened when he reminisced about his life before me. It would be years before I understood that only love and nostalgia had the power to make you feel both happiness and sorrow at the same time.
He took breaks between the tellings to smoke. Out of necessity, not habit. In order to exist in our atmosphere, his lungs required an intake of a combination of elements that could only be found in the smoky by-product of a chemical reaction. He always made sure another man stood guard as he left the area to light his pipe, even though I told him I was quite capable of taking care of myself.
One recent evening when Gurgi stepped out into the garden to prolong his life, a number of people disguised as guards cut power to the house, slipped through father’s security systems and attempted to kidnap me. Gurgi hadn’t finished tamping down the compound in his pipe before he whirled to the sound of my muffled cries.
Glass exploded as two shots ripped through the sliding patio door and tore jagged wounds into two of the faux guards, one in the neck, the other in the eye. Gurgi crashed through the door in a shower of broken glass and before he could react, a baton from his blindside whipped down hard on his forearm and his gun went spinning across the floor.
He flung his arm back brutally as he spun, a wild swing — and a lucky one. His elbow smashed the nose of the attacker behind him who dropped like a stone. A heel to the Adam’s apple made sure the intruder stayed down.
Gurgi turned and locked eyes with the woman who held me by the throat and used me as a shield. He assessed but didn’t move. His stance was wide, his hands flexed.
My captor wrapped my hair around her hand, balled it into a fist, yanked my head back, and placed the muzzle of her pistol on my exposed neck. Gurgi dove, tackling us both to the ground. A shot went off before the gun skittered out of the woman’s grip.
The woman was agile, nimble. She spun away from Gurgi, and they both scrambled to their feet and faced each other, circling. The woman drew a knife from her belt and with cat-like reflexes leapt forward. The blade caught the light as it arced down and sliced into Gurgi’s arm.
I scurried to a corner of the room and grabbed a gun and aimed it in the direction of the two circling shapes in the dark, unable to get a clear shot and not wanting to shoot Gurgi by mistake.
“Run!” Gurgi yelled through a tight throat. He hadn’t smoked his compound so every breath he took now was slowly killing him. “Go!”
I hesitated, my heart pounding painfully, worried that I’d make the wrong choice. Too afraid to pull the trigger, and resisting the urge to turn and run.
The moment Gurgi shot me a sideward glance, the woman feinted to the side, then spun around, using her canted balance to put weight behind her thrust as she lunged. Gurgi grabbed her knife hand but the momentum of her pivot crashed her into him. They slammed into the wall with teeth-rattling violence, furiously grappling. The woman drove a knee into Gurgi’s midsection. He exhaled a grunt and nearly fainted.
She struck him with her free hand, a backhanded fist to the temple and followed with another knee to his stomach. Gurgi’s legs crumpled beneath him. The woman pounced on top of Gurgi, straddling him. He blocked her fatal knife thrust, but the blade bore down directly over Gurgi’s throat.
The pair were locked in a death embrace, but the woman had the advantage. She pressed her body on the blade and Gurgi struggled beneath her. Slowly, inexorably, the blade inched down until the tip pierced his skin and drew blood.
With the last of his strength, Gurgi bucked and threw the woman off balance. I panicked and slid the gun to him. The woman recovered quickly and brought the knife down on him again. A shot rang out. The back of the woman’s head exploded outward. She blinked once in disbelief, tugged weakly on Gurgi, then dropped to the floor.
I ran to Gurgi, who shivered and convulsed, as he fought every instinct to draw a breath. I fumbled through the compartment on his belt where he kept his pipe. It was empty. The garden! I raced outside and scoured the grass until I found where he had dropped the pipe. When I returned with it, it was too late. He was dead.
He will be sorely missed—both by his family and by his many friends, like me, whom he helped and inspired. But as he rests from his life’s long labor, this great bodyguard and friend should know that he made this princess proud. The world was most definitely a better place because of a man I only knew as Gurgi.
Text and Audio ©2011 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
About Eulogy For Gurgi: This started as a very vague idea ten years ago, after reading a novel in which the heroine was forced to undergo a transformation after the loss of her protector. I wondered what would make someone of royal blood want to become a bodyguard? It was such an unusual status/occupation that the idea stayed with me for years.
The idea simmered in my unconscious mind as I read piles of crime novels. It toyed with me as I watched the myriad twists on the crime procedural genre play out on television. It teased me mercilessly until I decided I wanted to take one of the twenty story snippets I had laying around and finish it. The princess bodyguard idea emerged from the pile and demanded a fairy tale happy ending suitable for a princess.
I wrote fast and ended up with a first draft with a gaping plot problem. It took me a month to figure out how to fix it. I was sitting in a meeting at work when the solution suddenly popped into my head. I scribbled the idea in the margin of my meeting notes and re-wrote the first chapter that night.
It will be a novel someday.
This is the teaser I wrote to get my juices flowing.