An American Pubstomper in London

Paul Perjuns-Tart • October 12, 2022

Brody Johnson considered every option before making the call. There were plenty of other viable targets for his artifact removal, so nuking the Mana Crypt wasn't necessarily optimal. It was, however, very satisfying. He did feel a little bad for doing it, but the pubstomper was clearly punching well above his weight.

Before his Abrade hit the graveyard, Brody found himself out of his chair, his back on the floor. The pubstomper growled as he straddled Brody. Attempts to buck the wiry twenty-something man off of him failed. This pubstomper was far stronger than he appeared. The eyes that bored into Johnson from above glowed a faint red over a crooked smile. Like a pair of falling stars, the eyes darted down toward him, their dim reddish hue dancing off of teeth before they tore into Johnson's neck. A sharp pain. Screams everywhere. Breath becoming labored. A chilling warmth began to run down his neck. All became inky black.

The weight pinning Johnson to the ground vanished. He shot upright and dabbed his fingers to the wet spot where he'd been bitten, though only came away with sweat. He tried again, searching his neck with his fingertips for the wound, but found nothing. His surroundings began to tease his fear, proclaiming fiction. "A dream," Johnson sighed. "Just a dream." His blue mana symbol bedsheets lay crumpled over his legs. In the center lay something curious. A Force of Will, double-sleeved in perfect hards and an unfamiliar shade of of Dragon Shield blue. He examined it. Mint condition. In the corner was a small speck of rust colored paint. Was it paint? Or was it...

"Brody!" an urgent voice called. The card slipped from his fingers, landing in a crevasse in his disheveled bedroom floor, vanishing as if it too were merely a dream. Questions rattled. Where had this card come from? Had he stolen it? He rolled out of bed onto his knees, rummaging through the junkyard of booster wrappers, coke bottles, and raw-smelling clothes. It fell right here. It had to be here. It had to be real. He was okay, wasn't he? He wasn't losing his mind.

"Brody!" The voice returned as his bedroom door swung open. His older sister stood looking down at him, her nose wrinkled. Johnson quickly covered himself with a shirt laying next to him even though he wore a pair of boxers. "Your room smells like salty ass, Brody. Breakfast. Mom says I can eat your waffles if you're not down in five minutes. They're chocolate chip. Hurry up. Don't test my patience."

School was merely a blur of questions and regurgitated answers. Easy as always. Brody couldn't shake his dream. Or the card. He hadn't had time to go looking for it again before the bus came. The more he thought about his dream, the more confused he became. He had been playing Commander at Gideon Down To Joe's last night, hadn't he? How did he get home? Did he win against that... pubstomper who...

"Bro!" Jensen said, clapping Brody on the back. "How was your stupid kids' game last night?"

"It's not stupid," Brody said. "And if you'd let me show you how to play you'd understand it's not stupid. And it went ... I mean, I don't know. I'm a little confused about it."

"Sounds dumb. Anyway, these girls invited me to the field party this Friday. They said I should bring someone!" Jensen said, his face contorted into a clownish smile.

Brody sighed. "Friday is Friday Night Magic, Jensen. You know because I literally go every Friday and we have this same conversation about every Friday."

"Skip it! Come on, man. You're never going to get laid hanging around a bunch of sweaty dudes. Trust me when I say that this is going to be a lot more fun.

Hot prickles ran up the back of Brody's neck, and his heart protested its confinement percussively. "Fun? What do you know about fun?" Brody snarled. "Sure, it's just a game to you, but it's so much more than that. It's so much more than the juvenile bullshit you beg me to come do instead of laying waste to inferior-"

"Dude!" Jensen shouted. His eyes wide. Brody was shocked to see handfuls of Jensen's shirt clenched in either of his hands. Jensen floated inches above the tiled hallway floor, pressed into lockers. The hallway had gone quiet. A circle of shocked faces all gaped at the scene. Brody released Jensen from his grip and shuffled away. His heart was ready to pop. I felt like I wanted to bring Jensen's life to total to zero, Brody thought. I would have too. It felt... it felt good. Too good. What's wrong with me? What's happening? 

That Friday, Brody didn't go to Magic, nor did he attend the field party. Jensen hadn't talked to him since the incident in the hallway, anyway. It was three more weeks before Brody had chalked up his worries to an overactive imagination and teenage hormones. He never found the Force of Negation he dropped. There was no way it was real. Even still, he wasn't going crazy, and to prove it, he was going back to FNM to play some more Commander.

"Oh, good," Brody's mom answered. "I was hoping you'd snap out of whatever funk you've been in and go see your friends again. I'm sure they miss you down at the store. Let me just grab my things and I'll give you a ride."

During the car ride, his mom's words rolled over him. The gang at the store probably did miss him, seeing as he was at their power level most times. Why had he been so apprehensive about coming back out? Was a misplaced fear a normal part of brooding adolescence? It didn't matter. Nothing about growing up was normal for anyone experiencing it. In a few years, he'd look back and laugh at it all. Until then, enjoying life without responsibility was enough. The car came to a stop outside of Gideon Down to Joe's. 

"Have fun, dear," Brody's mom said as he opened the door. "Oh, don't forget your hat!"

Brody stopped and turned. Hat? In his mother's hand was a jet black fedora. "That's not mine," he said puzzled.

"You had it on when I picked you up last time. You were so cute! It looks really good on you. I think it's nice that you're trying out a new style. It shows confidence... Are you okay, sweetie? Oh, and before I forget, I found this in your clothes when I was doing laundry. I'm glad I found it before I put you things in the wash. I think this is one of the expensive ones isn't it?"

In his mom's hand was the Force of Will he'd woken up with after... after...

"Mom," Brody said, voice shaking and rolling waves of pins washing over his skin. It was all making sense. The dream. The dream wasn't a dream. It was real. He was bitten by the pubstomper a month ago. "Was it a full moon when you picked me up last time?"

"I'm not sure, honey. Why?"

Was it tonight? Had he been cursed? It was all coming together. The absurd counterspell. The fedora. His anger at hearing the word "fun". Brody tilted his head back in time to see clouds parting to reveal a bright full moon.

Knots in his stomach twisted. Hair sprouted from his neck. In his hands he found a fully tuned cEDH deck and instinctively knew it was where his Force of Will belonged, right next to the bank receipt showing a $0 balance in his college savings.

"No reason," the man Brody had become said. "I'm sorry to have bothered you m'lady."

"Ew," Brody's mom said. "Maybe the fedora wasn't a good idea after all. Have fun, dear."

As she drove off, he turned his eyes onto the place where his victims awaited. Their pitiful decks were soon to be revealed as wastes of cardboard and their pilots shamed. He would not rest until he'd beaten every upgraded pre-con in the house, paced the hallways with a smug smile and gaslighted everyone that said he was running at a power level too high for the group.

Before entering the store, he took one last look at that beautiful, full moon and howled, echoing "Git guuuuuud!" into the night sky.

Git guuuuuud! (and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!)

More nonsense at


Paul Perjuns-Tart is often told he’s small for his age despite being 41, earning him the nickname “Lil’ P.P.” on the count of his size and initials. Recently trapped under an upside down glass, he was forced to write for where he’s rewarded with tortillas and spoonfuls of peanut butter so long as he doesn’t try to escape. When he’s not running across a keyboard like that scene in the movie Big, he’s printing out mean internet comments for his scrapbook. Magic: The Gathering.