Welcome back! I do hope you’re enjoying this month long release of my very rough NaNoWriMo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’re behind, check out the Table of Contents to catch up.
Mike and Noelle went several weeks with their relationship going really, really well. So good in fact that Mike was preparing himself for the other shoe to drop. He just knew it would be a matter of time before it all unraveled. At some point he figured Noelle was going to get on his case for drinking and bug him about his “therapy.” His “therapy” consisted of lying to her about seeing some counselor at the cost of his company during his lunch hours. He even told a few of his closest work friends he was doing so just in case she decided to check on him. And then he’d go take lunch alone at some park nearby, having a beer with his food, just to take the edge off. He never drank more than that at lunch because he was afraid of going to the void in the middle of the work day. He reasoned that a small amount of alcohol was not enough to tip him into the void, and so far he was right.
It wasn’t long into this charade that Mike started to get the urge to visit the void again. Abe’s last words to him when he left really struck home with him. He was unsure of what to make of the fact that Abe acted like he knew about Mike, knew that he was a stranger there, knew that he was a fraud, and not a hero. But at the same time, Abe also seemed to know that they needed Mike to clear the Sponsers from their existence. They were incapable of taking them out themselves, and needed Mike to do it for them. It was all some sort of bizarre, twisted tale and Mike was unsure how to unravel it.
Since going to the void, he went under the assumption that the people he met there had no idea he had a different, “real” life outside of their existence. The way they acted towards him told him they saw him as part of their world and had been all along. They talked to him like that. He guessed they didn’t know anything else. Then, there was Abe telling him he knew about Mike, knew about his real life, knew about his so-called problems. That was unexpected to say the least. Mike was never one to speak well on the spot, and he was dumbfounded when Abe talked. He couldn’t reply intelligibly. He still didn’t know what it all meant. Are all these “worlds” just some sort of make believe creation in my head? He thought about that, thought maybe he was making all of it up.
If so, then what of the hatchet and coins? He couldn’t reconcile those things in the least. Those things scared him. He wondered how he was able to bring them from the void-world to his real-world. Nothing else seemed to carry over, except maybe some of the physical pain. He remembered his neck hurting after the fight with the Chinese man while with the Russians. He remembered getting thumped that very first time in the void and having a bruise on his head. Noe didn’t see it, but he did as clear as day. It was confusing. His mind hurt trying to wrap itself around it. It was at times like these, when he just sat back and pondered all he’d been through, that he really needed a drink. Not necessarily to get back to the void, but to relax and be better able to accept what was going on.
And all of these places, what did those mean? He was very confused about the various locations he encountered. He’d never been in the back-woods areas around his town, or anywhere for that matter. He never had a desire to do so. He remembered riding the school bus with some kids from the more rural part outside of town and they all smelled like cigarettes and Old Spice. That was about as far into the “back-woods” that he got, and the brothers were not like them. They were more like those hillbillies you see on some reality tv show.
Then there was the ship. He wasn’t exactly sure where he was there. He was never one to go out on a boat. He tended to get motion sickness and a ship rocking back and forth with the waves was not his idea of a good time. The crew were nice enough though, even the captain, Cortez. It was strange to be on that Spanish ship. And being caught in the violent storm was an experience he’d never soon forget. He somewhat recognized the tribesmen, the “Aztecs” Cortez called them. Their war paint and dress looked familiar, as though he’d seen it before in a book or something. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he knew they were bad news and should be avoided. He associated their likeness with sacrifice, and something told him he’d have found out soon enough if he hadn’t gotten out of there like he did.
The strangest place to him, besides with those screaming Sponsers, was in what he figured was Russia. Never, ever in his wildest dreams could he see himself in Russia. He never had a desire to go there. Nothing there called to him, to come visit, to explore. He didn’t feel any connection to Russia. He did with other places, Like Ireland or England, but not Russia. It was like some cruel joke. “Hey, why not send Mike to the last place he’d ever go. Let’s send him to Russia!” the joke went, “And then we’ll have him beat up and kill some Chinese guys.” The joke wasn’t funny to Mike. He didn’t even like Chinese food, let alone being in the situation he was in. The Russians were exactly what he expected, hardy and self-confident. They saw their opportunity and seized it, regardless of the consequences. He admired them for it, but feared them all the same. If asked to go on a vacation anywhere in the world, he would never ever have chosen Russia. It just didn’t register to him as a safe, sane place to visit. He felt nothing towards the land or the people, and to find himself there was quite unusual.
He wondered why he couldn’t always go to the same place when he went to the void. That would have made things so much easier. He could plan, he could prepare, he could stop being shocked to hear his own voice in so many different languages. He’d very much prefer to always visit the same place. He could learn the lay of the land, get the whole picture of the place, stuff like that. Instead, he kept getting dropped into one situation or another with no warning at all.
That wasn’t to say that Mike hated the randomness altogether. He did enjoy going to various places. He enjoyed having some sort of adventure in his life. Rather than be a plain, boring janitor, he was able to do something that mattered. He could eliminate the “bad guys” in the guise of the Sponsers. He could endure a horrific sea storm, and he could be a Russian explorer/pirate. He couldn’t do any of that in his “real” life and these adventures seemed to give him purpose. They gave him a sense of belonging. Abe told him himself, they needed Mike, even though they knew he was from someplace different. He felt like a hero there and that was much more preferable than his boring life. He just would rather have some control of where he was going and what he was about to do.
All things considered, he decided he’d keep on trying to get to the void. He craved the adventure. He needed the excitement in his life. He knew he ran the risk of pissing off Noelle, but she’d get over it in time. She always did.
Thanks so much for reading! Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.