Welcome back to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo winning novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you need to catch up, check out the Table of Contents.
“No, no, no. Dammit.” Mike said laying on the floor. Things were about to get exciting in Russia, and he fell out of the void. There was no way telling when that would happen and he had no control over it, as far as he could tell. He was so close to being part of something greater than himself.
Slowly he got up, the hangover really working on him this time. His head throbbed. He was dizzy. The floor was soaked in piss. How long was I out? Damn! he thought, staring at his own urine on the floor. It was still a little bit sunny outside, so it wasn’t night, but how long he actually was gone he didn’t know. Right now, he needed something for the pain in his head and…on his shoulders? He rubbed them and felt ridges, as though he were clawed by something. He ignored the nausea building up inside him and ran to the nearest mirror.
Looking at himself, he couldn’t believe what he saw. Clearly visible marks were on his shoulders, as though clawed by an animal. A bear? he thought. Confusion washed over him as the thought of the bear he faced in Russia came to him. “But how can this happen? That was in the void, not here in real life! What the fuck is going on?” He honestly had no idea and was scared by it. There were too many instances of something happening in the void making an appearance here in the real world and it made him uncomfortable.
He sank down to the floor, holding his shoulders, rocking back and forth. “What’s real? What isn’t? What the hell is going on? I just wanted to be someone, to be something more than what I am here. How can this be happening? That wasn’t real, was it? Surely it’s not. There has to be a good reason for this. Did I do this to myself? Did the bear hurt me in a more real sense than I knew? Oh my God, I am going crazy!”
Mike sat there, for a couple hours, unable to move, unable to give credence to his thoughts. They were too outlandish to fathom, and he just stayed on the floor babbling incoherently.
Slowly, the effects of the hangover wore off. He began to claim control over his mind again. The fog of dizziness and nausea started to lift, revealing a much more coherent Mike. Finally he moved from his spot on the floor and cleaned himself and the kitchen floor. After getting some food in him, he felt like a brand new man.
With Noelle gone, he didn’t have a good baseline of time anymore. Looking at his watch, it said it was Monday at seven thirty six. “Holy shit! I’ve been out for two days! Damn, I hope I still have my job.” Just as he said that, he noticed there were two messages on his phone, both from work. Reluctantly, Mike listened. The first was his boss, asking where he was. The second was his boss again, much more irate. If Mike didn’t show up within the next half hour, he was fired, no more leniency. “Well shit, I blew that, didn’t I?” Mike said.
Frustrated with himself, he sat down on the couch, running his fingers through his hair, trying to calm himself. “What do I do now? I’ve lost Noe, I’ve lost my job. What the hell do I do now?” He didn’t have an answer for himself. He was so wrapped up in being in the void, he forgot to care about the things of this world that needed his attention. He felt anger. He felt guilt. He hated himself for what he became. He couldn’t believe what he did to himself. Yet, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed to finish something back in the void.
The void. The land beyond the void. All of it weighed on him. He was so caught up in being there. He felt more alive there than at any other time in the real world. How could he leave all of that? He had a gift, a spectacular gift of travel and understanding and heroism. There was no way he could give that up, no matter what happened here in the real world.
He sat there, thinking deeply about the void and what it meant. He hadn’t yet really tried to figure it out, just accepting it for what it was and not questioning it too much. But now, the urge to think, to discover overwhelmed him. It wasn’t like he was going anywhere anyway. He had no girl and no job to turn to anymore.
The first thing that bothered him about the void was how he got there anyway. He knew it was from the alcohol, he had no doubt about that. What he was unsure of for the longest time was how did he get to the various places. He had been to each place a couple of times, and there had to be a method to it. He thought about what he drank.
Before he found himself with the brothers and those vile Sponsers, he had some of Gene’s moonshine. It was the roughest stuff he ever drank in his life and after a few they went down smoothly. But he was positive it was moonshine before the brothers. The second time he met the brothers, it was after drinking the ‘shine again. He got pretty lit up off the stuff and the next thing he knew, Abe was bringing him out of the clearing into the treeline. Regardless, it was moonshine he had before the brothers.
And then there was Cortez. He was drinking margaritas at the party with Noelle before finding himself on the deck of the ship with Cortez and his crew. He distinctly remembered margaritas because those were Noe’s favorite, and there was plenty to go around. The second time he met Cortez, what had he been drinking? He didn’t remember at first. Then it came to him. He mixed some tequila with soda. He had tequila. That was the alcohol that took him to Cortez.
Finally, there was the Russians. Mike recalled clearly that it was vodka both times before going to visit them. He still had the empty bottles from the last visit in the trash can to confirm his theory.
So, he figured, the type of alcohol dictated where he was going. He smiled to himself as he thought of the drinks he had and the places he visited. “How fucking stereotypical! ‘Shine for the hillbillies, tequila for the Spaniard going to Mexico, and vodka for the Ruskies. Oh my God, this is unbelievable!” He laughed a lot more, mostly about himself for not catching on to it sooner. It was so obvious once he reasoned it out. “How did I miss this? It was all right in front of me!” With that part of the puzzle seemingly solved, he figured he could now control where he went just by the type of drink he concocted.
The next part still stumped him. How did he end up in the situations he found himself in once he got to the void? At first, he thought maybe there were multiple exits from the stark whiteness of the void, and if he walked around enough, he’d find those other places. He remembered trying that once, and it still led him to the same place as before. So they places he visited weren’t random, but were selected by some unknown process. Why he went to those places, he wasn’t entirely sure. He did think that in each case, his presence was necessary for a positive outcome to occur. More than once, he was told that he had some power or ability that the people there didn’t have. Once he exercised this ability, he became the hero. That feeling was the strong pull Mike felt to the void and the worlds beyond. It gave him such a rush of adrenaline and confidence that he couldn’t resist going there.
He couldn’t help shake the feeling that somehow, those scenarios he found himself in were meant for a reason. It was like he had to be with the brothers. That was his destiny. That was the name for it, it was his destiny to be in those situations, and no others. He was meant for the brothers and Cortez, and the Russians. He thought about that last group some more.
He just returned from the Russians, and he didn’t feel like he closed out that adventure just yet. When he left, he was on his way to taking care of business, and then he was suddenly gone. With the brothers and Cortez, he felt like there was some closure there, as though he was done with what he was called to do in those situations. But with the Russians, he didn’t have that same sense of closure. There still felt like work to be done.
However, that brought another line of thought to him. He started thinking about how it was that he left the void and why. Those events felt random at best. There was no rhyme or reason to them as far as Mike could tell. At least he knew that drinking a certain kind of alcohol brought him to certain places. But leaving those places never felt like it followed a certain plan. One moment, he was knee deep in the adventure, and the next he found himself spiraling down until he awoke in the real world. Unlike entering, there didn’t appear to be a trigger as to when he left. If he could figure that out, maybe he could use his time there a bit more wisely. If he knew he was going to leave after a certain event or amount of time, then he could better control how things happened in there. And, he could control how it affected the real world, getting him out of any future trouble.
He still was no closer to figuring that part of the equation out when he decided to give his theories a try. He decided there was still work to be done with the Russians. Going to the liquor cabinet, he found an unopened bottle of vodka. “Ohhh, there you are,” he said affectionately. He hadn’t been out of the void for longer than six or seven hours, but he didn’t care. There was nothing holding him back in the real world now. Better to take chances living out adventures in the void instead of dying a slow boring death here in the real world he thought as he knocked back the bottle and started drinking it straight. The comforting burn returned, almost worse than the moonshine, but he didn’t let that stop him. He was on a mission. Burn or not, he would endure it to do what needed to be done. Before long, he found the white nothingness of the void once again. He was home.
Thanks so much for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.