When I graduated with honors in Fish-Wrestling and Artful Monologues from UC Berkeley, I thought the world was mine for the pillaging. Now I’m pushing 35 and thinking about transitioning into IT. Take it from me, there’s no making it as a barbarian hero in today’s economy.

After arriving in Manhattan, I had nothing to my name but my honor, my dream, and a 47 kg wrought iron battle-ax. Yet upon landing my longboat in New York harbor, I felt ready for anything. See, I naively believed I could walk into the first company I saw, handshake at the ready, and leave with a career. Very quickly did I discover, despite living in an “enlightened” society, there’s still a stigma surrounding tattooed, 6’8”, 195 kg goliaths.

My first attempt was a humiliating dishonor: I stepped into the New York office of Jack Jones’ Bone Shack wearing my best loincloth, confident. But I was stopped almost immediately by their bigoted secretary, who gave ridiculous excuses like “you can’t just walk into the shareholders meeting,” or “your beard will scare our clients.” I stormed into the boardroom anyway with my head held high, after adding hers to my skull necklace.

“Greetings to Jack Jones,” I boasted, stepping onto the table, “I am Asbjorn, son of Hrethel the Butcher.

“News of your plight reached me on LinkedIn: the posting spoke of your lamentation, of your need for a Client Data and Management Information Co-Ordinator!”

Jack sat at the table’s head, a position he did not deserve, fattened as he was by years of leisure. I bet he couldn’t even kill a moose with his bare hands.

“The Mormon bards sing my triumphs in uniting the warring tribes of Wasatch County, Utah. So did the Orlando Sentinel, after I slew twenty water beasts in the hell-prison called SeaWorld. I’m also proficient in Microsoft Office-”

“Thanks for coming in, Adam,” Jack interrupted, “but we’re not hiring.”

“But your posting-”

“Close the door on your way out. Your beard’s scaring our clients.”

Jack’s rejection stung, but it was nothing compared to the rejections that followed. Six months of unemployment later, another head-pounding morning found me drinking my savings away at Jack Doyle’s. It almost felt like nobody needed a monster-slayer in this Aesir-damned city.

I remember being deep into my seventh flagon of Bud Light when a meaty hand clapped my back and I turned to face the friendly pectorals of the last man I expected to see.

“Professor Iron-Fist!” I cried to my old mentor. “What are you doing here?”

“No, Asbjorn,” he grunted, his smile fading, “Not professor. I’m just Mr. Iron-Fist now. You can call me Steve.”

I reeled back. “You jest!” I cried. “They can’t have laid you off! You have the grip-strength of fifty men!”

Steve frowned. “Berkeley’s shutting down the Grendel wrestling program. Too few applicants. Automation’s taking over the industry, and even my grip strength can’t compete with the hydraulic press.”

“So you’re just giving up? Sir, you taught us to follow our dreams!”

He shook his head and bit into his salted whale blubber. “No, son. The rape-and-pillage industry’s going under. Blame the millennials,” he sighed. “Be like me. Go into accounting.”

That would be the last time I saw Steve. He was slain by the beast known as opioid addiction.

Things went bad from worse. I fell into a deep depression and blew the last of my savings on bog myrtle and hookers. Unable to make rent, I moved into my longboat. Then, not a week later, roving pirate gangs stole my ride and everything I owned with it. I was facing homelessness, and knew I wouldn’t make it on the streets; the cold embrace of death was nothing compared to the freezing Manhattan nights.

So I did the sensible thing and moved into the sewers—at least there it was warm. I made a meager living telling riddles to any passing vagrant, looting their bodies when they answered wrong. I slept in filth, eating rats and the occasional lost child. Life was Hel.

But it wasn’t until one torch-bearing woman stumbled into my bone-strewn lair that I knew I’d hit rock bottom.

I remember lunging from the dark to confront her like any other wanderer, my jaw caked with blood. Even then, I sensed something familiar in her.

“Foolish girl. Answer my riddle and I might let you live,” I growled. “You have a chicken, fox, and sack of grain-”

“I shall not answer, graceless beast,” she interrupted, “for I am Astrid the Unbroken, terror of Edmonton! I will present your head to my liege, and claim my rightful promotion!”

And then I understood. I saw myself in her. And her hope, it hurt bad.

“A futile effort!” I roared, charging her on all fours. “You’ll never make it in this economy!”

We fought furiously, me biting and thrashing against her grip of steel. Useless. She had me pinned in seconds. Kneeling over me, staring into my quivering soul, she whispered: “if you give up your dreams, what’s left?”

Then she suplexed me so hard, my arm fell off. As I fled into the sewers, howling in pain, Astrid claimed my gory limb and eternal glory in middle management.

So I’m transitioning into IT.


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