Welcome back to the next installment of Master of the Drunken Fist. Here’s chapter 9. If you want to catch up, check out the Table of Contents and start from the beginning or find the last chapter you’ve read.
Please note this story contains an excessive amount of cussing and alcohol use.
Mike stayed sober, well, somewhat sober, for the better part of four months after his last incident with the void and the encounter with the Sponsers. He had a beer a couple times within that period, but he didn’t get drunk like he did that night. He felt good about his control over alcohol, in fact, he just felt as though it wasn’t even a problem. It was as though the Sponsers had scared him straight, for the most part. With that confidence in himself and his ability to only have a couple and not go all crazy, he was sure nothing was going to break it.
Noelle’s birthday challenged this confidence. He threw a party for her, partly to make up for how bad he had treated her, and partly because he was going to propose to her, finally. He figured it would be the perfect time to take their relationship to the next level.
They had the usual friends, and cake, and her favorite drink, margaritas. He enjoyed them immensely. They reminded him of the vacation they took to Mexico. It was such a great time. They were so laid back and free then. Now, it seemed like work consumed them. So, the occasional margarita always brought back those fond memories for him. Noelle felt the same, but she also just enjoyed the taste. She had always had a fondness for them ever since she began drinking in high school.
Mike was on his second or third drink of the evening when he decided it was time to make his move and propose. He gathered everyone on the patio in the back and stood on the steps facing them. He had a drink in one hand, which one is this? he thought, my third or fourth? He began to talk about his love for Noelle and how much she had been there for him. She was blushing and tried to hush him, hating the spotlight on her like that. Mike reached out his hand and pulled her up to the step he was standing on. Getting down on one knee, he began. “Noe, you know I love you and you know…” and then it went horribly wrong.
Stark white blinded him. For a moment, he thought maybe he was looking at headlights. He couldn’t hear the music from the party any longer. He felt a coldness surround him. The void enveloped him again.
Oh no, not again, he thought. Tears began forming in his eyes. He was positive he kicked this, gotten rid of these visions long ago. How could this be happening, and now of all times! He was moments from proposing to Noe and starting a new chapter in their lives! The empty, blinding white of the void had other ideas it seemed.
He started walking forward, familiar with the drill of the void. He wondered what became of the brothers. How long was I gone from here? he questioned. It was a strange feeling to be back here, yet it all felt familiar, like he belonged here. It was in the void that he was able to actually do something to help someone, as he recalled killing one of those evil Sponsers. He couldn’t stop them all, but he made them pay for what they did to the brothers.
It seemed like he walked forever in the void. Eventually a pinpoint of light appeared ahead. He had hope, and fear for what lay beyond. It was exhilarating. Getting closer, he found mostly blue showing through the hole which grew larger and larger. And it bobbed up and down, as though it were moving. That seemed odd. He’d never seen it do that before in his previous trips here. He also smelled…the ocean? Where was he going? He remembered forests and hills from before. This was different.
Finally, he approached the opening and the sight astounded him. He was looking out over the sea, as though he were on a ship, rolling up and down large, gentle waves. He had never been the biggest fan of boating, but the void led him here, and maybe to the brothers as well. He stepped through the hole, ready to find the answers.
He stepped out onto the deck of a large ship with huge sails. It flew a flag he didn’t recognize, though his first thought was relief that it wasn’t one of those black pirate flags. There were numerous men on board, all busy with some sort of work.
“Hey, get to work you damn scrub!” the man next to him yelled. But, it was odd. He spoke in Spanish, yet Mike understood him clearly. He never took Spanish in school, opting instead for French. Yet here he was, being spoken to in Spanish and making complete sense of it. He didn’t have a clue what to do, he’d never been sailing before.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I don’t know what to do.” As he said the words, he heard them in his normal, plain English, but they came out in fluent Spanish as though he spoke it his entire life. His eyes grew large at the thought. He had something similar happen with the brothers. What the hell happened to me? How can I be doing this?
Just then, the large man slapped him on the back. “You best get to your duties or you are gonna find yourself in the brig. Got it?” And it was all spoken to him in the clearest Spanish, of which he understood it all. Where am I? he thought as he tried to figure out what it was that the man wanted him to do. Looking at his hands, he realized he was holding a bucket and a what appeared to be a mop. The bucket was made of wood and the mop was barely recognizable as a mop, but it seemed to be the right thing as he looked up at the man who nodded back, giving a look towards the deck. Well, if there was something Mike knew, it was how to clean. He hadn’t become head custodian by sitting on his ass at work. So, he did what felt natural. He started mopping the deck. Don’t they call this swabbing the deck, or something like that? he said to himself and grinned. It was all a bit funny and a touch bizarre to him at the moment.
He heard men talking near him about “India” and riches and “the king,” whoever that was. He heard them talk about “savages” and the need to be careful when they landed. It sounded like they were almost at the end of their journey on this destination.
The rolling of the ship made it hard for him to concentrate on the mop and the conversation. Things rolled around and his bucket moved all over the place. Salty spray of water occasionally splashed over the edge of the ship. Looking out at sea, all he could see was water. Waves rolled as far as he could see in all directions. There were some gulls circling above. They seemed to be part of the ship.
Darkness descended on the ship and the call was made for dinner time. Mike followed the rest of the men downstairs into a large room with several tables. He was given some kind of food that looked like oatmeal, though it didn’t smell or taste like it. It almost made him vomit. He tried to shovel some down, though it was hard to swallow. He was given a biscuit and it was hard as a rock with small bugs crawling on it. He noticed the other men all eating theirs and when one of them noticed his grimace, he smiled at Mike. “Miguel, since when do you not like the weevils? You always take to your biscuit!” Mike frowned a bit. What have I gotten into this time? “Sorry Luis, I guess they are getting to me.” Luis? how did I… and then remembered those strange memories coming to him when he was with the brothers, how their names and things would just be there, be a part of who he was as though he always was in this life, whatever it may be.
After dinner, they were all told to get back to their bunks. They were approaching land soon and they’d need their rest. Mike walked with the others to find the way. Once there, he found the bunk that was his. He had an impression that it was the right one, just like he did with the names. He laid down, swaying with the ship on the waves, and tried to reason it all out.
The best he could come up with was that he was on some old Spanish sailing ship on the way to…America? It seemed like something from history class. He felt like he was on one of those ships that came to the America’s on an exploration. Wait, he thought, didn’t they call the Spanish conquistadors because they came over to the “New World” to conquer it? Is that what this is? I’m on one of those voyages to conquer some Native Americans? He didn’t know what to make of that. It all seemed to make sense as he fit the pieces together. And his job in this adventure was to clean the damn decks! He tried falling asleep in his bunk. He was tired. He was lost. Noe was going to leave him for sure if he ever got back from here.
Laying in his bunk, Mike wondered if he’d wake up on the ship or someplace else back in the real world. Things were beginning to blend together for him in his mind, and what was “real” and what wasn’t became harder to distinguish. He felt “real” here on the ship. His body swayed with the rolling waves. He could see things moving with the ship. He could smell the salty air and the body odor of the crew. He tasted the disgusting food he had for dinner. He heard the men talking and yelling at him. His arms were sore from his chores on the deck. Yet, he knew it must not be real. He lived in the twenty-first century, in a small town, as the head custodian of the Eagle Cap factory. He drove a small Nissan Altima. He had a girlfriend, no a fiance now he reminded himself. That was reality. But somehow, it didn’t all seem to fit. He remembered the brothers, they were real. Well, he thought they were. He remembered the anguish on their faces as the Sponsers swooped in and mauled them. He remembered the blackness of those vile creatures. That was real. He had the hatchett, in the twenty-first century version of himself, to tell him it was real. But how? How did all these various personas, these seemingly separate lives, come together in him? It made no sense, but at the same time, it made perfect sense.
He couldn’t explain it, but somehow, it all made perfect sense. It was as though all these versions of him existed, together, yet apart, and it felt right to him. He started to drift off, not caring anymore what one person might consider real and another call a fantasy. He determined that no matter what, no matter what time in history, no matter the situation, he was going to be the best damn Mike, or Mikey, or Miguel that he could be. They would all remember his name.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think! Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.