“You said I’d be fighting monsters, not kittens.” My voice is tired, I haven’t slept since this ordeal started. My bat stained a dark red, bits of kitten and blood, I’ve tried wiping them off in the grass, it’s no use.
“Are you implying an 18 foot tall cat throwing deadly kittens is normal?” There is no tone to Bert’s voice except a certain hollowness, all he says is sarcastic retorts, but all without emotion.
“You know what I mean Bert.” I’m angry, so angry, but I’m stuck, I’m stuck in this stupid place.
Everything here has a wrongness about it. The air is thick and musty, like a humid attic, but we’re outside in the open air. The ground always feels mushy, but a scoop of it falls apart in your hand like dust. We’re on a riverbank, the water is moving at different speeds, like its alive, I can’t stare at it for too long without getting motion sickness. The sky is blue, but it’s fake neon blue, and for the life of me I can’t find the sun.
I crouch down next to the river to try to rinse some of the gore off my bat. The water feels thick like syrup, and it stinks. I pull the bat out, the guts are off of it, but the water left some sort of blue greasy coating. I can’t wait to get a new bat if I ever make it back home.
“You said we would have fun.” I lament out loud, mostly to myself.
“I’m having fun.” Says Bert.
Monotone, always monotone.
The After Party – A Monster Party Story
She must think I am rich taking her to a place like this on the first date. Pressed linen tablecloths and candlelight, a guy whose only job is to get you water, salads where you have to cut the lettuce. I have a special diet, no onion rings, shrimp, or any sort of shish-kabob. Almost getting crushed to death by fast food will have that effect on you. It’s a struggle not to run out of the room whenever a Long John Silver’s commercial comes on the TV. This limits my dining options, Frederick’s doesn’t have any of those items, but it’s 40 bucks a plate.
“Mmm, fried shrimp…”
Bert tells me repeatedly that he loves onion rings, shrimp, and shish-kabob, fat fucking chance he’ll ever get any of them.
“Promises Promises.” Expressionless.
“Sorry did you say something?” Angela looks across the table at me, a puzzled look on her face.
“I’m sorry, I just kind of drifted there for a moment.”
She forces a smile.
“Are you ready to order?” The waiter has appeared and has an impatience about him, I defiantly don’t come here for the service.
“Ready if you are.” I say to Angela.
“I’ll take the prawns please…”
“No, no” I say in a nervous laugh, I pause to get my voice under control. “They don’t have shrimp here.”
The waiter clears his throat, I look up from Angela to make eye contact with him.
“It’s today’s special.” He points his pen at the card-stock note laid in the middle of the table.
‘Today’s special; Broiled Prawns, asparagus, choice of potato’. My jaw drops slightly, I’m a little light-headed, my mouth is dry. Bert is somewhere smacking his lips.
Smacking his beak I mean.
“Sorry, are you allergic?” Concern lines Angie’s face.
“No, well yes, not like deathly allergic, um, it’s sort of, a thing?” Somehow I’ve turned my explanation into a question.
“You’re doing well.”
“Let me give you a moment to decide.” The waiter leaves annoyed, a panic starts to creep into me, this date is going horribly.
“I can.. just order something else, it’s no big deal.” She’s trying to salvage the date from our awkward moment, it reminds me of Mom, always working through those weird times when I was a kid.
I slowly inhale and exhale. “You’re right, I’m sorry, there is a reason for all… all…”
A whiff of cooked shrimp has caught my nostrils, the table next to us, an elderly couple, both of them ordered the special. I scan the room, the special is popular. Seems like everyone is eating prawns, is the room getting smaller and darker?
“Are you ok?” Angela is now worried, probably thinking who is this nut job I talk to in the elevator occasionally?
I don’t know what to do next, and I shut down. It’s done, I’ve failed again, there’s nothing left here but cooked shrimp and disappointment.
I mutter a muted “Sorry…” as I grab my jacket. I hurry past the tables, I can’t even look back. It’s just after 9pm, soon I tell myself, soon I will be in bed and everything will be better.
The courtroom is packed with all sorts of beasts and creatures, there’s never total silence, always a whisper can be heard in some far corner. The Honorable Judge Javelin Man presides over the room, he looks better than the last time I saw him, even with the eye patch.
Everyone is looking at me, a third of the room feels empathy for me, and the rest is angry and wants blood. It’s a bum rap when you’ve been duped into killing the democratically elected leader of Dark World. Who knew the found grotesque appearances and fits of anger to be good qualities in a leader?
“While my client’s actions are incomprehensible, it should not be forgotten that Bertrand is the true criminal in this!” Lefty is trying to take charge of the room, Righty sits silent. Blazing a trail of destruction across an entire world doesn’t leave you with many friends. While a couple of zombies wouldn’t have been my first choice for legal aid, my options were limited.
“Yes, but they are one and the same! It is through only untested and forbidden alchemy that Bertand was able to hide like the coward he is in the body of a boy and kill our leader. But ask this, we do not know if the boy Mark even exists in that body! Based on the heedless destruction and sheer terror wrought upon our land at his hands, I surmise that it is Bertand, and Bertand alone in that vessel!” More shouting, talking, and cheering, I had no idea a fish with legs could whip the crowd up so well.
“Order, Order!” Javelin man is trying to restore order with little avail.
Righty looks at Lefty, Lefty slowly nods.
“If I may! A suggestion!” Righty’s voice booms over the noise, everyone stops talking for a second, eagerly awaiting the next statement to gossip about.
“As my esteemed colleague pointed out we cannot know if the boy Mark has control of this body, or if it is indeed the terrorist fiend Bertand. So I propose a compromise of sorts, no death penalty..” Angry yells fill the small room.
“Please let him finish!” Lefty pleads.
“Yes, as I was saying we cannot kill the boy simply because we believe him to be Bertand, but we could imprison him, keep him from Virium, keep him from all of us, even study him, and maybe attempt to separate Bertand from the boy!” Soft murmurs, it takes a few seconds for me to even process what my lawyers have proposed.
“What?!” My eyes are moist, I can’t control my outburst now that I’ve opened my mouth. “You can’t do this, I didn’t do anything wrong, I thought I was helping! He tricked me! He made me think I was helping, he makes me see things! He’s in my head! Please you can’t, I can’t stay in jail for the rest of my life!” I keep expecting Bert to chime in, but he’s silent. I hope it’s remorse, but I don’t think for a second that he has ever felt such a thing.
The prosecutor is staring at me, at least I think he is, his face is pointed in my direction. There’s something else, probably pity, but it’s hard to read the emotions of someone with a fish for a face.
“We are not monsters.” He speaks slowly, purpose in his voice. “And this creature, whether it be Bertand or the boy Mark is obviously in need of help from the State. If the court agrees with the life sentence then we shall agree as well.”
Javelin Man releases a heavy sigh. He overlooks the room, now there is only silence. My vision is blurry, I’ve stopped crying, but can’t find the drive to wipe my eyes. Disbelief and anger fill my head, disbelief is a new feeling, being in this world shattered most of my expectations on what is believable.
“Then so be it.”
Bang goes the gavel.
I look at the four Unisom in the palm of my hand.
I used to avoid sleep, to stay away from there as much as possible, it was a losing battle, thankfully things changed.
I look in the mirror, even though I spend most of my time sleeping my eyes are sunken and tired, I look like someone who is becoming frayed around the edges, people who don’t know me must think I am crazy, maybe I am.
“I don’t think you’re crazy.”
Imagine having to ignore someone…
“You can’t ignore me.”
But you have to ignore them, without even thinking about ignoring them, it has to be a reflex. He told me it was temporary, he said it would be all over after I killed The Dragon King, but here he is, still in my head.
“Those little white pills in your hand won’t free you, but you know what will.”
Virium, the green and white pill, Dark World’s ex-drug of choice, at the time legal, and easy to obtain. Bert did something to me, to himself, something that caused us to merge. I was normally in control, filled with terror and nerves. It was only through fear for my life and the constant goading from Bert that made me kill the first monster. But when I took Virium…
On Virium I was riding on my favorite roller coaster, cutting through the wind with leather wings, adrenaline at its peak, and when I spoke, monsters were vaporized. It felt like I was a god.
“Hey, I know this guy back home..”
The catch is each time I took it, the longer it lasted, and the less I felt in control, I wondered if we would reach a tipping point, one where I am Bert more, and me less. Thankfully the authorities caught me before then and now I sleep willingly.
I take the four Unisom, soon I’ll get a break.
The prison is immaculate, if Walt Disney had a jail I assume this is how it would look. Stainless steel bars, your own shower and toilet, a comfy warm bed. When your rolling countryside is a stinking cesspool of blood, slime, and something that sort of resembles water you tend to over compensate.
“How was your day man?”
That’s Shou, he has the cell next to mine, he’s here for moving Virium. Programs were implemented, retraining and whatnot to help people who made a living with Virium find new jobs. Most of them still ended up here. Everyone blames me for the ban, Shou is different. Shou understands, says it’s the fault of Bert and ‘The Man’. Says the government wanted to ban Virium all along, just needed a reason to keep it all for themselves.
Shou and I chat about my day, the doctors come and give me a red and black pill, Anti-Virium . After they leave Shou reminds me I should be careful of what they give me.
“He’s right Mark, they will use us, they will use us like they used me before all of this started.”
I slam down the pill without water, I don’t care what it does, all I know is it shuts Bert up for the whole time I am here and a few hours in the morning after I wake up. They’ve tried to give me some to take home, but I awake empty-handed every morning so this is my only break. Later they will ask me questions, trying to figure out what Bert did, how he got to my world, how he merged with me, and why I come here every time I fall asleep.
I answer their questions the same every time, I was just a kid, I have no idea, the only answer Bert will ever give is “Magic”. One would think I would hate this place, being stuck in a jail cell and interrogated everyday, but here everyone knows my whole story, I don’t have to hide or try to fit in.
Here is home, there is a nightmare that I cannot wait to wake up from.
I awake to the sounds of kids playing, out my window I can see a make shift baseball diamond in the courtyard. The neighborhood kids enjoying a game of makeshift baseball with a bat and a tennis ball. It’s just before noon, soon the moms will be yelling from the windows for them to come inside for lunch.
I loved baseball, I really did, after I came back from that place I couldn’t wait to swing a bat at an actual baseball. I called my friends, got the game together at the local park the next day, and first pitch I hit a line drive right at Sam who was pitching. Fractured his skull, put him in a coma for a month. It was no longer a game for me, my bat was a loaded gun, hitting stuff with it was firing a cannon.
The lobby intercom buzzes frantically, jarring me from my reminiscing. I rush to it and without thinking press the answer button.
“Yes?” I ask, a thought enters my brain, what if it’s Angela, what am I going to say?
“Mail call.” Something about the voice.
“Who is this?”
No answer, where have I heard that voice?
Riding the elevator down my palms are sweaty, my heart is racing. I choke up on the worn grip tape, without realizing it I’ve brought my trusty bat, worn, discolored, weathered, and as deadly as ever. I found I could never get rid of it, not after all we had been through.
The doors open to the lobby, it’s empty, there’s a familiar odor hanging in the air. I open my mail box, it’s too early for the mail, but inside is a single envelope, addressed to me. Leaning my bat between my legs I open the envelope, inside there’s a note, scribbled on it one phrase;
‘Let’s go again?’
Taped to the note, a single green-white pill, Virium.
I realize now why the voice sounded familiar, it’s not Bert’s, but it was similar, monotone and hollow.
“What did I miss?”
Bert is awake already, it’s going to be a long day.