Welcome to chapter 16 of my 2012 NaNoWriMo winning novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’ve missed a day, check out the Table of Contents to catch up.
True to his word, Mike was able to smooth over his missing day with his boss. He’d been a pretty good worker for over a decade and his boss was a pretty good guy, always ready and willing to give someone a second chance. Mike knew that, and took advantage of it. He felt kinda bad about it, but he needed to keep his job in order to keep Noelle. In the end, it worked for everyone and all was well.
For days after his last trip to the void, Mike thought a lot about it. He still was no closer to an answer to “why” and “how,” well a little close on to the “how” part. He was certain by now that alcohol somehow affected his existence in a very peculiar way. Namely, that it transported him to fantastic locales and interesting settings. There was no way in hell he’d ever go to Russia, or be on an expedition, or fight off the Sponsers if it wasn’t for the void. And to get there, he knew alcohol played a part. What he still didn’t understand was why didn’t he go to the same place every time and why did he go anywhere? Those things puzzled him immensely. He spent most of his waking hours trying to figure it out.
One day at home, lost in thought concerning the void, Noelle tried talking to him. “Mike, did you find help yet?”
“Huh? Help? Oh…yeah. My boss had someone the company uses for problems and I’ve been talking to him during my lunch hour,” he lied. He was not about to seek any help for a problem he didn’t have.
“Good. I’m glad to hear that. I know you didn’t want to, but I think it’s worth it. You will get better, and we will get better.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said in reply, not even thinking about what she said. He was too busy worrying about his next trip to the void. He had a stash of the ‘shine hidden in the computer room, and when the time was right, he planned on having some to see if he could get back to the void. He honestly didn’t care where he ended up, he just knew, had a feeling, that he was needed there.
For the rest of the evening, they sat quietly, watching tv until they went to bed. The next day, Mike got his chance to go back.
It was a Saturday, and Noelle was going on a shopping trip with her friends. They were only going to be gone for the day, but that was good enough for Mike. He desperately wanted back in the void, and he’d be able to. It wasn’t an ideal situation, because if he was gone long, she’d be pissed to find him on the floor again. It was a risk he needed to take.
Noelle left and before her car could get into the street, he was already at his bottle of ‘shine. It was some of Gene’s best stuff, and he kept it around just in case. He drank it straight, not bothering with a chaser. It burned worse than he remembered, and he had to stop and take several deep breaths. It stung his throat and ignited a fire in his stomach. This was the good stuff, and the pain told him so.
It didn’t take long, at least Mike didn’t think so, before he found himself in the nothingness of the void. The cool bright white surrounded him. He still tried to look at his hands, but like every time before, he saw nothing. He put his hands to his face, just so he knew they were still there, and yet he saw nothing. He could feel the touch of his hands on his face, but that was it. He was still surrounded by the bright, illuminating nothing. He let it go. It was something he needed to just accept and move on. It was one of those mysteries that would remain as such. It didn’t matter in the end, as it was only a means to an end. Kind of like the alcohol he used to get here.
He began walking forward, a familiar action for him once he got here. He decided instead of walking straight forward, he’d try and go in another direction, just to see what would happen. He stopped, took a sharp left, and walked forward fifty steps, counting each one. Then, he took a right and walked briskly forward. He didn’t fear running into anything as nothing ever got in his way here. The only time he recalled feeling the physical presence of anything here was when the mysterious hand thumped him during his first trip here. Other than that, there was nothing so he didn’t worry about it. He felt like a blind person, but instead of seeing darkness, as he imagined them to “see,” he was surrounded by a brilliant white radiance. The only thing he ever did see was when the void opened up and directed him to his destination. It took a long, long time walking before he finally found it this time.
Off in front and to the right, he saw the small speck of green indicating his exit. It was a wonder to him how so small a speck of color could be so noticeable. It was like looking at a speck of dirt on a clean white sheet of paper, and as you peered down at it, you start to see that it wasn’t dirt, but a picture all along. The closer you got, the more distinct it would get. As he got closer to the dot, which became a circle, and then a man sized hole, he saw it get greener and greener. There were trees, and hills, and blue skies above them. It looked somewhat familiar, sort of like the kind of place where he met the brothers. Stepping out into the green, he found himself standing in knee high grass just outside of the forest in front of him.
A thought occurred to Mike. He decide to say hello out loud. “Hello” he said calmly to the trees in front of him, and it came out in the backwoods-hillbilly dialect of the brothers. He was back. He made it back to the brothers! In a way, he was excited, even though the last time it ended with him killing a Sponser and the brothers being taken or killed by them. And in a way, he was terrified. Those creatures were ruthless and menacing. But maybe that’s why he was back. He killed one of them. The brothers seemed incapable of doing so. Maybe that was his calling here. With that noble thought in his head, he looked around for a sign of anyone.
Just then, Abe came running from out of the trees, in a white shirt and dark pants, trousers his head told him.
“Damn it boy, you get yerself in here fast! Them Sponsers is gonna git you, now run!” He seemed upset and more bothered than he ever did before. Not wasting a moment Mike decided to heed the warning and ran towards him. Abe led him to a small clearing not too far past the treeline, where Elam was waiting. Both of them looked pretty bad off.
“Where are the rest of the brothers?” Mike asked. All he saw were the two of them. Elam looked down at the ground, clearly disturbed by the question. “The Sponsers, they killed all but us two. They is after us Mikey. You been hiding purty well till I spotted ya out in the field there like you was out fer a stroll. Ya gotta be careful Mikey,” Abe said as he cuffed Mike on the head. It seemed that things went bad quickly after he left them. And it made sense that they thought he was in hiding after the last encounter he remembered. He left them. He wondered if maybe he could bring them back to the safety of his life in Brownsville, far away from the Sponsers. He did it with the hatchet and the coins, why not them? He considered it for a moment. It made sense. He’d have to revisit that later if and when the time came.
“We’s gonna find the Sponsers, and kill ‘em all Mikey. What you did to one of them made them really mad. They was screeching louder than ever after that, like they could all feel the pain of the one you took out. We think we know where they at, and we aim to get the best of them Mikey. You, Elam, and me. We gonna get them bastards and teach them ta never mess with us again. They spilt blood of our kin. We is gonna bathe in theirs Mikey.” And Abe looked ready to split them all in two. Mike was ready to do so as well. He did it before, and could do it again. Remorse was not part of his dealings with the Sponsers, they deserved nothing other than destruction. The way they maimed and tore apart the brothers, and to kill all but the three of them. They needed to pay.
It was interesting to Mike how quickly he bonded with the brothers. He actually felt part of them, as though he honestly could call himself kin. Here, away from all the cares of his other life, he wanted nothing more than revenge for the atrocities of the Sponsers. He was ready.
Abe unrolled a large bundle and out rolled several tools and weapons. Mike immediately grabbed the hunting knife, knowing full well how he’d use that from his time with the Russians. He also grabbed a large axe. Back in his normal life, it would have been too heavy for him to do much with, but here, his body was larger and more muscular, and he wielded it like he’d been born with it. He had his tools, now he needed to find the Sponsers to get back at them for what they did.
“You’s gonna do well with those Mikey,” Elam said slowly and quietly. “Them damn Sponsers don’t need ta bother anyone else again. We gonna end it for them Mikey. They hurt too many good folk. They gonna find we ain’t ready to be taken, that we is gonna fight ‘em. They ain’t gonna win Mikey, not now.” Mike felt a sense of need and urgency. He felt as though he brought some sense of stability and strength to the brothers. They looked to him for help, trusting he would and could do something about this menace. No one ever did that back home. At work, they just asked him to clean this or clean that or unplug the toilet after big Dale clogged it up after lunch. He was more than that here. He was a warrior, he was a fearsome force to be reckoned with. He felt it in his bones.
The brothers packed up what little things they had into their backpacks. Mike carried one so that Abe could take a break from carrying it. He switched with Elam after some time so that he was able to give them both a break at times. As they walked along under the cover of the trees, Mike learned that the Sponsers had slaughted all the brothers, even those they took as hostage at the last encounter they had, the one where Mike was involved. The Sponsers went from town to town, all throughout the small communities among the hills looking for Abe, Elam, and Mike. They terrorized the people they found, often killing one or two as a warning to the rest to mind themselves, lest they find the wrath of the Sponsers on them. So the brothers spent their time hidden in the forest, traveling lightly and quietly. They looked for him, and thought he might have been caught after all, though in the end it turned out they were wrong, he was just really good at hiding.
“We’ve been following them instead,” Elam said, talking about the Sponsers. “We think we found their hiding place up in the hill over there,” he said pointing north of them at a large hill. “There’s a cave up there, and we heard them wail and scream up there. We been waitin’ Mikey, to attack them where they live. We been waitin’ and finding you tells us we are ready, ain’t that right Abe?”
“Yeah, it’s right Elam. We are ready Mikey. You showed up just when we needed ya most, and I do think that be a sign from Almighty himself that we are meant to do this. These are demons, and we gonna send ‘em back ta hell.”
Mike hadn’t thought of them as demons, but it seemed an appropriate term describing who they were. It didn’t matter. They were evil, and he was going to do something about it.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.