Welcome to the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’ve missed any chapters, please check out the Table of Contents to catch up.
Several weeks of being outside the void and Mike started having withdrawals and needed to find a way back, at all costs. He knew there could be some serious consequences to his leaving again, however he carefully thought on those and reasoned that the risk was well worth it. He was not going to stay a boring person. He was going to have adventure, no matter where and no matter the cost. The need to be there consumed him. Every waking moment, he thought more and more about it. He decided he needed it as much as the people there needed him.
One afternoon, on a Saturday, Mike found himself home alone. Noelle had to work an overnight, which was a bit unusual. She had been at her job long enough to earn seniority and not have to work the overnight shift on the week-ends, but for whatever reason, she was. Mike feigned being upset, trying to show a good face, but underneath, he was elated. Here was his chance to try and reach the void again. She went to work around seven, and the earliest she’d be back was five in the morning, but usually later. It was the perfect set-up for having a few drinks and getting back to the void. If he was still passed out from it in the morning, she’d be no wiser. Briefly, he thought maybe the void was encroaching on reality again, causing her to work while coaxing him back. He didn’t need coaxing, he just needed the right opportunity, and here it was.
Immediately after Noelle left, Mike went straight to drinking. He picked up some tequila on the way home from work the day before and hid it in his car. He hadn’t had some in a while and it sounded good to him. He was still in “therapy” and people like him weren’t allowed to be drinking anymore, so he had to stash it somewhere she wouldn’t find it. He had gotten used to the fact that he was now sneaking behind Noelle’s back, but it had to be done. She didn’t understand, no one would. It was something he had to do. He mixed the tequila with some lemon-lime soda, the only thing he had that he thought would mix well, which it did. The drinks went down smoothly. He made them extra strong because he wanted to be in the void that much quicker, and the faster he was drunk, the faster it happened, every time. In no time, as he was kicking back watching some college football game drinking the tequila, he found himself slipping into the void.
Soon familiar brilliant white light surrounded and engulfed him. All around him, there was nothing but whiteness and it was bright. He knew the drill and started walking forward, looking for the familiar speck of color that told him where the entrance to the land beyond the void awaited. It didn’t seem like it took as long as previous attempts before he spotted the circle of color far off in the distance.
Dark shades of green within the circle gave him hope. He wanted to see Abe again, to talk to him some more about what he said just before he left the last time. He still hadn’t reasoned out what it all meant. He started to think that his worlds were melding together in some way and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. The color of green meant he’d be going to the forest again, and he was certain Abe would be there. Walking closer to the circle, watching it emerge from the emptiness of the void, Mike saw the green of the forest grow deeper in color, mixed with blue skies and brown on the forest floor. He reached the edge, took a quick look around, and stepped through. He turned back to see if the white of the void would be there, but it was gone. It was like he stepped through an invisible hole into this world.
Looking around, Mike noticed the green hue of the trees, but it was not the same as it was with Abe. The trees looked…different to him. It reminded him of his trip to Florida with his family. The green was from palm trees and evergreens, not the maples and oaks he recalled when with the brothers. Wait, he thought, am I in…am I with…Cortez, yeah that’s his name. Where is Cortez? I think that’s where I’m at. As if in reply to his question, Cortez came strolling out from behind some trees, walking directly towards him.
“They got us good in here, don’t they Miguel?” He asked Mike. He was confused by the question, remembering the last time he was here being tied up by some tribal looking men speaking in a tongue he couldn’t identify, but still understood just the same as all the rest.
“Huh, what do you mean sir?” Mike replied. He added the sir because he recalled Cortez being the captain and thought it best to err on the side of being polite.
“Miguel, these natives, these Aztec’s, they got us good, no? They are ready to sacrifice us to their heathen god. I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet. I thought they had you in another camp, I hadn’t seen you in days. You alright?”
So that explained to Cortez why he hadn’t been here in a while. To Mike, it sounded as plausible as any other excuse. “Yeah, captain, I was in another camp and decided to escape. I’m here to rescue you.”
Mike knew from Abe, that he could do things here that none of the people here could do. That gave him a sense of false confidence. He felt as though he’d be invincible here. He didn’t ever have a plan when he visited, but he decided it was time to “fake it till you make” as one of his old coach’s used to say all the time. What Cortez didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him he figured, so he went along with the ruse.
“Good man Miguel. We need to get out quickly before they return. Apparently the sacrifice is to be tonight. Which way did you come in from, maybe we can go that way back out.”
Mike froze for a moment. Since he didn’t actually come here from another camp, he didn’t know which way to go. He saw a path off to his left and that voice in his head that often told him the names of the people here in this existence told him that was the way to go. “There captain,” he pointed. For both their sake, he hoped the voice was correct and not just some wishful thinking on his part.
The two of them started slowly down the path, keeping watch for any of the tribesmen. Finding a group of them would not be in their best interest. They got down the path away from the camp where Cortez was held before they saw their first few tribesmen. Ducking behind some bushes, they waited for them to pass. Mike heard them talking and even though it was a strange dialect he didn’t recognize, he had immediate understanding of what they said. It was no more than talk about some crops, nothing exciting.
“Looks like we are clear captain, let’s get moving before they realize we are gone,” Mike said quietly to Cortez. They picked up their pace and started along the path once again.
Birds and monkeys made a racket above them. Mike tensed, thinking the sounds of the animals would give their position away. Just then, a large red bird with colorful tail feathers swooped down and buzzed them, startling him and Cortez. It felt like an omen, but the voice told him to go this way, so he continued on. Cortez looked concerned about Mike’s direction, but said nothing.
The path eventually ended and ahead of them lay a field of tall grass. Mike could hear the ocean, which must have been beyond the grass because he didn’t see it. They hesitated. “Are you sure we go that way?” Cortez asked. “If we go out there, we have no cover and they will see us easily. Do you have someone waiting for us in a ship?”
Mike tensed, knowing he didn’t have anything prepared for them. At least, he didn’t think he did. The voice in his head said Spanish are there, waiting in the Maria del Mer. “Sir, I have a ship waiting, the Maria del Mer. Her captain awaits our arrival.”
Cortez smiled. Mike thought it looked more like a smirk, as though he had an evil thought. “So, they send that boy to rescue me, eh? I imagine he’ll enjoy knowing he helped the great Cortez escape death at the hands of the natives. Maybe then he’ll get his chance to finish me himself. Good job Miguel, I’m sure this cost you quite a bit. Well done boy!” he said and patted Mike on the back. Mike wasn’t sure what the hell it all meant, just that whatever plan was in place, apparently it was the right one. Cortez, assured of the safe passage out, began sprinting straight through the grass, ready to get on with it. Mike followed, running as fast as he could.
They reached a small crest, and once at the top, they could see the beach and a ship in the water just off-shore. There was a small boat, dingy the voice said, at rest on the sand. Cortez seemed relieved. He saw escape at last. They began descending down the other side of the crest, more like a small hill on this side, to approach the boat to board the ship.
Before they got half way down, they were spotted by the two crewmen stationed with the dingy. They waved at Mike and Cortez, who both waved back, letting them know they saw them. The two men waved frantically in return, and then started shouting. “Turn around, behind you!” they were shouting. Mike looked behind him and there was the group of natives they saw on the path, running towards them, spears in hand.
With war paint on their faces and small animal skins covering up their midsection, the natives looked ferocious. Feathers were knitted into their hair, and he saw some jewelry on their arms. Their spears were made of wood with a large, long spear head made of stone. Those too had feathers tied to them. They were charging down the hill, shouting and raising their spears. Mike counted three of them. They were too far from the small boat to get on and sail to safety, so they were going to have to fight or run away, hoping to escape capture or death.
Cortez seemed to think the same thing, and turned around ready to stand his ground. Mike had a thought run across his mind. If I let Cortez die here, history will be all screwed up. I have to make sure he lives through this. What would happen if he doesn’t? Will I cease to exist? He knew Cortez was famous in history, knew he had some role in the discovery and colonization of the so-called New World, but not a clear understanding of what. He just knew the name from his basic history class back in high school, and nothing more. He never got into the whole history thing, it always seemed boring to him. But here he was, ready to defend it, if only because of the possible outcome of him not having an existence in the real world, a theory he remembered seeing in countless movies.
He and Cortez stood there, looking like two fools ready to meet their maker, unarmed against three wild looking natives. The tribesmen charged in at full speed, spears pointed at them. They tried to surround the two men, one on each side and one in the middle. The one in the middle was easily dodged, while the other two struck home, both slapping their spear head against the two men square in the ribs. Cortez bent over in obvious pain while Mike flinched a bit, but stood his ground. The pain was not as intense as it should have been. “We needed you,” he heard Abe tell him in his head. He felt a surge of strength wash over him like nothing he’d ever felt before. He was ready, and he would win.
Quickly, Mike reacted to the blow. He slammed his fist down hard on the man’s forearm, making him drop the spear out of pain. He tried to recover and collect the spear, but Mike was too fast for him. He punched the tribesman hard in the face, staggering him. He charged at Mike, and they both fell to the ground wrestling. Mike tried kicking and punching at the man above him, while the tribesman kneed Mike in the stomach, winding him. While trying to catch his breath, the man grabbed Mike’s head and started to bash it on the ground, sending wave after wave of pain with each blow. Mike’s vision started to blur, but he finally caught his breath and recovered. He blocked the man above him, struggling to free himself from his hold. He could hear Cortez and the other two men struggling, but didn’t have the opportunity to look and see what was going on. He could only hope that Cortez was holding his own for now.
Mike saw his chance as the tribesman reached back for a knife hanging from his waist. He thrust his hands upwards, catching the tribesman on the chin hard, jerking his head forward. He let his grip loosen and Mike pushed himself upwards quickly. Before the man could regain his balance, Mike landed punch after punch into his face, bloodying his nose. Soon enough, his eyes were black and blue and the right one started swelling badly. Mike continued his pounding, feeling a strength he never knew he had. He was lost to himself, knowing nothing but the beating and the sweet sensation of dominating another person. Eventually, he felt the man go slack. Mike had beat him severely. So much so that he wasn’t sure if he was alive still or not. He didn’t care at that moment, there were still two other men.
Mike turned from his opponent to see the other two men bruising Cortez badly. One held him down while the other smacked and punched and kicked Cortez with abandon. Mike filled with rage at the sight. He grabbed the dropped spear and swung at the head of the one beating Cortez. A loud crunch sounded as the spear connected, shattering his skull on impact, blood flying from his mouth and nose. He fell to the ground, writhing in pain. Mike knew he was done and took his turn with the last man.
The third man released Cortez when Mike swung the spear, and he hurled a small bone knife at Mike, catching him in his thigh. Mike screamed in pain, but burst through it with the adrenaline pumping inside. He brought the spear down towards the man who lept away just in time. Mike stumbled forward with the missing blow, staggering and losing his balance. The tribesman pounded him on his back, trying to knock him over. It almost worked, but Mike used the spear like a crutch and caught himself just before losing his balance and stood himself up. With reflexes he didn’t know he had, he whirled the spear around and tripped the man by knocking his legs from under him. In one swift, deadly motion, he pulled the spear up and rammed it home in the man’s chest, pinning him to the ground. His eyes rolled upwards as he choked up blood and spit. He clutched the spear, trying to remove it but Mike struck down so hard, that it wouldn’t budge from the ground. It didn’t take long for the man to lose his strength and eventually gave up the fight and died.
Mike’s vision started to waver in and out from the blow he received in the fight. He looked around to find Cortez and found him lying down on the ground, beaten and bloodied, but still breathing. He knelt down to check on him, Cortez’s breathing slight but steady.
“Damn savages!” Cortez said in between breaths. “They nearly got us Miguel, but you were here to save us. I knew you would be. We all did Miguel.” And then he closed his eyes, passing out from the exertion. Mike lifted him up and carried him like a groom with his bride on their wedding night, and started off towards the small boat waiting for them. By then, the two men that were on the beach had made it to him. One of them took Cortez from Mike while the other had Mike put his arm around him so he could steady him.
“You alright Miguel? We tried to get to warn you, we tried to get here in time. I’ve never seen a man do what you did Miguel. You took blows that would crush a normal man, yet you didn’t even seem fazed by it. You looked like you were another man, like you were possessed.”
“I’m fine,” Mike said, and he meant it. He felt full of strength. He felt proud. He felt like a warrior and one that performed his task admirably.
The four of them finally made it to the dingy where they laid Cortez in carefully. When they did so, he awoke and looking at Mike said in a low, weak voice, “I knew you were coming back Miguel. You had to finish the job, which we couldn’t do. These men couldn’t find me or keep me safe, but I knew you would. You have to return soon though Miguel. You have problems to take care of. They are much larger than me, you understand? You take care of her Miguel, she’s the best thing to ever happen to you. She loves you Miguel. You mean everything to her, don’t you see?”
“What are you talking about sir? Who is she? What are you saying” Mike replied puzzled. He wasn’t following Cortez at all, and the two men rowing the boat acted like they hadn’t heard a thing.
“Miguel, you know what I say. You must take care of things before they get worse. You keep coming here, you will lose yourself here. You die here, and she has no one anymore. You die for good if you die here Miguel. Do you understand that, you die for good. No more life, no more anything. Fix things Miguel,” and then his eyes rolled back in his head as he passed out from the beating.
Fix things? With her? Does he know too? Mike thought. Cortez, like Abe, seemed to know about his other life, his real one. He seemed to be warning him too. “If you die here Miguel, you die for good” Cortez told him. He pondered the meaning of those words when suddenly he found himself falling, spiraling towards the unseen ground below him. He grew dizzy as the spinning got faster and he fell farther and farther down. Finally, he hit the bottom, waking to find himself in his home, on the couch.
Thanks for reading! I’d appreciate any and all comments on the story. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.