Welcome back to the next installment of Master of the Drunken Fist. Please note, this entire work contains excessive profanity and alcohol use. If you need to catch up, you can find check out the Table of Contents.
Mike sat there for several minutes while the finality of what he did sank in. He took the life of another man, and enjoyed it. He felt comfort with what he did. He felt justified in what he did. He felt…natural with what he did. He wondered if the man he was now, this “Mikhael” enjoyed the blood lust as much and if he was a natural killer. Mike felt as though it came too easy for him. The swiftness with which he glided the blade to it’s target and the force he used, all told him this was not the first time he killed. He tried to think of other times, other moments of killing and couldn’t come up with anything. The void was great for giving him new abilities and allowing him to do things he never would do otherwise, but it was terrible at giving him the backstory about anything.
Sergei spoke first, “Great job Mikhael! You ok? That bastard chink deserved it. We’ve got their ship now.” The others patted him on the back for a job well done. Victor looked towards the ship, “Alright boys, let’s see what we’ve got here. If nothing else, at least we have some easier transportation.”
They boarded the ship. It was small, though not too small for the four of them to travel comfortably. Inside, they found travel gear for the men. There were still two men inside, dead and bleeding. “Get them out of here we don’t want their blood ruining things in here,” Victor said to Mike and Alexsander. They grabbed the first man, Alexsander with his arms and Mike with his feet, and hauled him to the deck. There, they unceremoniously dumped him over the side. The dead body made a loud splash as it hit the river. They did the same with the second, and watched them float downriver, facedown. Mike thought it looked like some movie he’d seen where the dead were tossed overboard without a thought or concern about them. It was sad.
Back inside, they looked around for anything of value. There were a few pieces of jewelry, some rings and gems. Other than that, they saw nothing else to steal and sell. “There must some trap door or hidden compartment,” Sergei said, full of impatience. It seemed to Mike that Sergei acted really anxious about the whole thing. He was a bit more on edge than even Mike was. That worried Mike. If one of these men seemed to be concerned, than maybe he should be too.
It took a lot of searching, but finally Alexsander turned up the hidden compartment. With a grin, he opened it like a birthday gift, slowly at first, then pulling the hatch open quickly. He revealed a space under the front bunk that was full to the top with gold and silver coins. Alexsander looked at Victor and his eyes were huge. Mike swore he saw a tear run down his cheek. It seemed they made it big with this haul. Mike too was filled with excitement about the find, though it took him a moment to realize that this was the void and he’d never be able to share in these riches in his normal life. Each man grabbed some coins and let them fall through their fingers. Mike held one up and saw they had Chinese characters all over them. He was unable to read the letters, another curiosity of the void. He figured he’d be able to read foreign words just as easily as he spoke them or heard them. It appeared his “powers” had limits then. He stuffed a couple in his pants pocket, and the men all started shouting about their great fortune.
“We’re rich Victor! We finally made it!,” Sergei shouted with such joy in his voice. He was truly in heaven with this find.
“Yes we are Sergei! We don’t have to go on this damn exploration anymore! The king can kiss my ass if he thinks I’m going to keep on this trek. I don’t need his money anymore and I don’t care about finding some land in this terrible, God-forsaken part of Russia. We are done. If we can make our way back, we will take our riches and part.”
The other men all agreed, not wanting to spend any more time out on the elements than they had too. They were more than willing to take the money and run. It sounded good to Mike, he was not one to forge ahead either. He looked again at the hoard in front of him and smiled. I wonder what I could do with some of that back home, he thought. I’d never have to work again! And he started to think on all the things he’d buy, from a new house, to a new car, to anything he could possibly want. This ship was loaded.
As he stared at the hoard, he noticed something strange in the middle of the stash. He bent over to get a better look and a large, white, hole of nothingness opened up right in front of him and he fell forward into it. The fall scared him and he screamed. It was a sudden and seemingly never ending falling and spinning. Eventually, he hit the bottom, and woke up.
Sweat ran down Mike’s face. His shirt was soaked. He felt wet all over. Opening his eyes, he found himself face down on the living room floor. Raising up on his hands, he looked down at his crotch, which felt especially odd. He was wet there too. “I pissed my pants!” he said out loud. “Just how long was I out this time?” he grumbled to no one. His head throbbed. His neck was sore, in the place where the man attacked him and pulled the cord tight around him. He rubbed it and looked at his hands expecting blood, but there was none.
Mike felt dizzy, sore, and spent. The clock said twelve fifteen. He found his phone on the counter in the kitchen and he had three missed calls. The date on the phone said it was Saturday. “Fuck!” he said at the phone. “I missed work. If they fire me, Noelle is gonna kill me!”
He checked his messages and two were from Noelle, and one from work. Noelle called to tell him she made it safely and the second she sounded a bit more ticked off that he wasn’t answering. She accused him of being drunk again. Damn, she’s gonna be pissed at me again. But then again, when isn’t she? She’s always ticked about something.” He checked the last message and it was from his boss. Like he feared, he was fired. He said Mike could pick up his things when he decided to show his face again, and that he was through with him. Mike hung his head and put his face in his hands. Damn it, damn it, damn it. This sucks. I need that job. Noelle is not going to be good with this.
He didn’t know what to do. He was out for over two days, off exploring with some strangers in what he thought was Russia. And to boot, they killed other people. He killed a man, all while this life was unraveling around him. Confused and lost, he wanted to go back to the void, go back to where someone wanted him. At least there, they knew him and respected him. Here, they acted like something was wrong with him. He was fine. They were the messed up ones, not him. He was going to have to find a way to make it all work. He had to.
Walking into the kitchen, it looked like a party gone bad. There were dishes all over the place. Empty bottles of vodka, at least three of them, and an empty orange juice container littered the counters. There must have been enough vodka drank from those bottles to get at least fifteen or twenty people really drunk, yet Mike didn’t remember having anyone over. As far as he knew, he was the only person there, and no one else came over either. Of course, that was hard to know for sure because he had been out for the past two days. He decided to look around for anyone else, just in case. Shaking his head, which hurt from the massive hangover he had, he moaned while staring at the mess and the shape he was in. He’d never pissed himself, as far as he knew. It was gross. Only those nasty drunken bums did that. He saw one once when he was in the city. They had a sign saying something like “Homeless, please help,” with a small cup ready for some change. He remembered the bum smelled like alcohol and piss. It was clear as day that the bum pissed his pants too. He hated the sight of that man, and remembered thinking how the bum should quit sitting there and get himself a job or something. Ironic, he thought, I’m gonna be the one to need a job now.
That reality hit him while he went from room to room, looking to see if anyone else was there. He was jobless for the first time in his life since he first started working when he was fifteen. He’d always worked. And he never, ever got fired. He left a couple jobs, but always on good terms. This was different. Yet, he also felt that his boss was being a bit unreasonable. He only missed a couple days in the past year, it’s not like he had a problem or anything like that. There were a lot of people at the factory that missed more time than him. He felt picked on. He felt like his boss was trying to make an example, or maybe justify the fact that they needed to move the plant to Mexico because these Americans were too untrustworthy to rely on for a stable workforce. Whatever. He didn’t care. They were wrong. They’d see.
He finished looking around and saw no sign of anyone else. In fact, he didn’t see a sign that anyone else had been there with him while Noelle was gone. Satisfied with his search, Mike decided it was time to get cleaned up. He went to take a shower and as he dropped his pants to the tile floor in the bathroom, he heard something clang about. Reaching down into his pocket he found three coins, two gold and one silver. They had familiar Chinese markings on them. Mike gasped, and fell to the floor, clutching the coins. “How?” he said out loud and couldn’t manage to say anything else. He was stunned. Speech seemed impossible at the moment. He was frozen, caught staring at the three coins in his hands. They were the same ones he held and put in his pocket aboard the ship in Russia. His body started rocking back and forth, shaking uncontrollably.
“How did I get these?” he asked in wonderment. He was stunned finding them. It was similar to finding the hatchet in his car, but still startled him greatly. He sat there for minutes, unable to move, fixated on the coins. Thoughts swirled in his head, and none of it made sense. He wasn’t sure if he was awake, or if he was in the void still, or what. It made no sense that he would have something tangible from the void. Yet, it happened before and he let it pass.
It just seemed…odd to him. When he got the hatchet, he killed one of those evil Sponsers to save the brothers. With these coins, the saw his murder of an innocent man, and being complicit in the murders of three other innocent men. Somehow, that made it all the more evil to him. It took Mike several minutes of trying to wrap his mind around it when he heard a car pull in the drive. “Damn it,” he said out loud. Not wanting Noelle to find him sweaty and piss covered, he jumped up and got in the shower.
Noelle didn’t come in to say hi as she normally did. She waited for him to get out and dressed before talking to him. He knew it was bad. She must have known something about what happened. At least, his paranoid mind said so.
“Hi Noe,” he managed through the silence. She stared at him, eyes glossy from having just cried. “Why Mike? Why the fuck do you do this all the time?”
“What are you talking about Noe? I don’t know what you…”
“Shut up! You know damn well what I’m talking about. Your boss called me yesterday looking for you. You didn’t show up for work. He told me if you didn’t get there soon, you’d be fired. Did you show up?”
Mike was silent. He never had a good poker face.
“I didn’t think so. God, you are so fucked up Mike. So tell me, why couldn’t you go to work? What was so damn important that you had to miss work…again?”
He couldn’t answer. He was not one for confrontation, especially with Noe. He always had a fear that she’d leave him, and fights were the sure fire way of making that a reality, or so he thought.
“Mike, you make this so fucking hard, you know that? All you had to do was go to work, and you couldn’t do that. I bet you were drinking again, weren’t you? You have been doing so much of that lately. Every time I turn around, you’re throwing back something else. If it’s not one kind of liquor, it’s another. And the more you drink, the more you are fucking things up. You do see that, right?”
Finally, he spoke up. “Noe, I’m not drinking a lot and it’s not been causing many problems. I can fix this. My boss likes me. If I go in on Monday and smooth it over, it will be fine.”
“Mike, you have a problem. Don’t you see that? You drink…a lot! It’s getting in the way of reality, of life. You care more about that next drink than you do me or even yourself. That’s called being an alcoholic. You need help.”
“A what? Alcoholic? Really? I’ve seen those kinds of people Noe, and I’m not one of them. I have a house, I have, well had, a job, and I’m well kept. I don’t have a problem.” He wondered if she’d ever understand his need to be in the void, to experience adventure, to seek glory. He couldn’t tell her that. She’d think not only was he an alcoholic, but messed up in the head too. She’d have him in with a doctor in no time. No, she’d never understand. He had to keep his gift to himself.
“Damn it Mike, I can’t take this anymore. It hurts watching you do this to yourself. You need to realize there is a problem, and you need help. I don’t know how or what you need to do, but I know you need help. If you are serious about it, I’ll stay and do what I can for you. But if you fuck around and don’t try to fix this, I’m leaving. I won’t stay and watch you kill yourself or others. I won’t Mike.” And she started sobbing loudly.
Mike was paralyzed, unsure of what to do. He didn’t need help, he knew that much. But, he wanted Noelle to stay. She was the best thing to ever happen to him. Losing her would crush him. He was never much good with break-ups. Silently, he pondered what to do, and again, he decided he’d lie his way out of this. Noe needed consoling, and assurance, while all he needed was time to figure out how to get back to the void, where he was someone.
“Noe,” he started in a soft voice, “I’ll do whatever I need to in order to keep us together. I don’t want to lose you, ever. If that means cutting back on drinking, I’ll do it.”
“No Mike, not cutting back. Stopping. Completely.”
“Noelle, I,” and then he shut his mouth, thinking what to say next. “Noelle, I’ll get some help. I’ll look into it.” She responded by nodding as her outbreak of tears began again and she was unable to speak.
That night, restless sleep came to both of them. Noelle because she was upset and frustrated with what had been happening. Mike because he was plotting how and when he’d visit the void again.
Thanks for following the story! You’re over halfway to the end. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter in Master of the Drunken Fist.