This story's theme is So Long Jerry by Ween.
“Are you cold?”
His voice rang out against the wind, resonating through Mark’s empty backyard. Like a choir boy, his voice was clear and sharp, chiming in like a cherub.
“Yeah, I guess.”
He unbuttoned his jacket pocket and fished his right hand into the compartment. He shuffled about in this cove, seemingly grabbing something.
“Want something to warm you up?”
He reeled his hand out, bringing a bottle of tequila with it. He pushed it toward Mark, inviting the boy to take a sip. Mark seemed momentarily hesitant - after a pause, he replied.
Mark reached down and grabbed the small bottle, swooping it up to his mouth. He tipped it back and took a swig, the golden liquid spilling into his mouth. He grimaced, his face puckered up, and, with a disgruntled sigh, returned the bottle from whence it came.
“What, you don’t like it?” His breath was visible in the cold air and it collected as condensation against the side of the tequila bottle.
Mark’s friend chuckled, more than a note of condescension in his voice.
“You need something to chase it with?”
“I can handle it.”
His friend took the bottle in his palm and drank from it like it was nectar in a plastic chalice. Within moments, half the bottle’s filling disappeared before Mark’s very eyes. The boy released it from his lips with a sigh of relief and spun the cap back on, placing it back down.
“You’d like it if you had it more. Myself,” he let out a small cough, “I find it kinda soothing.”
Twenty years later, Mr. Satan was beginning to find the taste soothing.
He did not partake too regularly. His consumption decreased after the death of his wife, when he alone had to care for Videl, and had only increased recently. There was something haunting him, bothering him, something he had to chase away. He was the Martial Arts Champion of the World. No bad dream fucker was going to boss him around.
Mr. Satan remembered the Cell Games too well for his own good. He hoped that he could grow old faster so that his memories would fade more quickly, until maybe he wouldn’t remember anything other than his triumph over that monster.
Mr. Satan hoped that would happen. He knew that it never would.
He had trained. He had trained so, so much. He had enrolled in more dojos, in more martial arts schools, than anyone he had ever heard of, mythic or real. He was supposed to be the savior of them all, the panacea for the world’s ailments. And yet, he had failed.
Who did they think they were? Those golden-haired warriors, those fools. With their cunning magic tricks, their light shows. They made a mockery of the real practitioners with their make-up and their tomfoolery, they were nothing more than clowns.
Mr. Satan knew this wasn’t the truth. He didn’t care. He had an image to maintain - one of machismo, one of bravado. Without that, his income would dwindle, his image would wither away, and he’d be replaced by the stronger ones.
And so ended the martial artist’s moment of clarity. His thoughts were overcome with a sea of alcohol, his mind’s eye fogged up, the barley functioning as steaming air against his mind’s glasses. He stood up, hardly coordinated, and plodded out of his kitchen.
His house was huge, the castle that obscured the mountain of lies buried beneath it. He wondered if such a large house was even worth the investment. All the more to get lost in, he thought. He didn’t need a second maze in his life - the first was already omnipresent enough.
He knew that it was a problem when he opened each successive door, unable to find his destination. He hardly recognized any of the empty rooms. He wondered why he even had them to begin with - Videl was away and he couldn’t remember the last time anyone had come over.
Mr. Satan couldn’t believe it was so difficult. Why hadn’t the tequila illuminated his path, acted as his lantern as he traversed the innermost recesses of this maze? Far as he knew, it had guided him through the other maze. He couldn’t fathom why this new one was so hard to orienteer.
Before long, he stumbled across the room he had been seeking. It was a spacious cavern, not to mention dark. He flicked a lightswitch, waiting for the lights to immediately come on. Nothing happened. He glanced up at the lightbulb and watched it gradually enlighten, at first dim, until it had transitioned to peak brightness. It was a beautiful, vibrant yellow glow, shining down on the room like a spotlight.
In the center of the room there hung a single red punching bag. It was ovallic and huge, the grandest punching bag in all the land. Mr. Satan had purchased it celebratorily as a reward for becoming the World Champion. He walked over to it, inspecting it’s fine surface.
He traced his fingers along the fabric, admiring the seams. It was an elegant piece of craftsmanship.
Something caught his eye. It was white and stood out on the ruby red surface of the punching bag. Mr. Satan examined it more closely, closing in on it. There it was - a tear in the exterior, a piece of cotton that had escaped.
Mr. Satan glanced around. Who had attacked his prize? He circled around the punching bag, scanning for intruders. This was a punching bag that no man could puncture, that no person could feasibly tear. Who had done this?
And then, Mr. Satan, in a moment of drunken fury, unleashed a flurry of punches on the punching bag. He slammed it, vigorously at first, and then with progressively more and more diffidence. It was none too long before Mr. Satan had given up completely. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tear the punching bag.
Mr. Satan collapsed. Perhaps a tear rolled out of his eye - nobody ever did know for certain what happened. But, in a moment of defeat that was no less than pitiful, Mr. Satan finally succumbed to sleep. His mind could take no more abuse.
He woke up, twelve hours later, not refreshed but physically tortured. He regained his footing, attempting to actually walk. He found his balance again, rather slowly, now feeling slightly more confident on his feet.
As he walked out of his training room, he flicked the light back off. He wondered how many more nights that light bulb had left in it - he pondered if he would need a replacement soon and how he would get one. He calmed himself, though, moving back down the corridor that was his hallway. He closed doors as he walked back to his kitchen.
Going to his cupboard, he brought out a canister of coffee grinds and took three spoonfuls out. He dumped them into his coffee machine before setting the machine to ‘on’. He felt, at long last, like he could rest. He sat back down, simultaneously disposing of last night’s empty bottle.
He watched as the coffee slowly leaked out of the machine and into the pot. He noted the name of the brand on the machine - “Olibu’s Coffee”. He considered likening himself to such a heroic hero, and ultimately decided that such a comparison was not nearly enough. He wondered who could be compared to him - probably not anyone. He was above that.
One would be keen to question who was more sober - a sober Mr. Satan or a drunk one. Whether alcohol freed him of his delusions or only entrapped him in more, Mr. Satan did not know. All he knew, in sooth, was that he needed the soothing.
Mr. Satan took the pot of coffee and poured himself a high cup. Mr. Satan only knew one thing - three spoonfuls of coffee made for a damn good cup.
- This story takes place at some point after the Cell Games Saga.
- This story is exactly 1,333 words.
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