Thursday, April 5, 2012

3rd One Down

"I've been meaning to ask," Mitchell started, "what's with the beer can utility belt? I've known you for years and you always have three cans of Red's Brew attached to you but I've never seen you actually drink beer. Ever."

Aloysius Gunn scratched the back of his neck, pausing, thinking about the best way to explain the beer. Somewhere from the south a train sounded at a crossing.

"You know how Popeye eats all that spinach and gives him super powers?" Aloysius said. "It's like that. Only with beer. And my powers are unpredictable. And I don't remember what happens after I drink the third one. But it's usually an appropriate response of some kind."

Mitchell raised an eyebrow. "How strong is that beer?"

"Oh, it's not what you think." Aloysius stood up. "When I turned 19, I hit the bar with a few friends. What a night! At least the part I remember... until my third can of Red. That's when I blacked out. It's not strong beer, at all, but it did something to me. Friends took video and pictures of me doing... things. Unexplainable things. Things I don't remember at all, no inkling. Dancing on the ceiling, juggling an entire rack of pool balls while spinning cues with my feet while my entire skeleton glowed through my skin..."

"That's, uh," Mitchell struggled to find the right word. This somehow deserved comment.

"People loved it, thought it was some kind of marketing gimmick or something, even when the videos were uploaded to YouTube, whatnot, no one believed it. Even when I moved outside and started bouncing off buildings like a rubber ball and dancing on a succession of moving cars and trucks while the theme from that old Mission: Impossible show played out of every manhole and window within three blocks... It was weird seeing it after the fact. But still, people chalked up the story to a buncha drunk college kids playing a prank."

"So, uh," Mitchell was still struggling. "Why the three cans?"

"Just in case something happens."

Mitchell waited a beat to see if Aloysius would keep talking. Something sounded ominous, especially when Aloysius squinted and stared into the middle distance like he was doing at that moment.

The real answer came when the new barn the pair had been painting unexpectedly exploded in a shrapnel cloud of splinters.

"Something like this," Aloysius said, the first can of Red already on its way to his mouth. "Better get on the hell out of here, Mitchell. I'll take care of this."

Mitchell turned and ran. Not so much on Aloysius' advice but on the reason for the barn explosion. A huge scaly worm-like beast with tentacles and mandibles, and rows and rows of eyes had shattered the barn. And it looked like it might be gearing up to unleash fire or possibly radiation from its gargantuan maw. Mitchell ran across the yard, turned sharply at the combine and headed down the driveway to the main road.

Aloysius finished the third beer and blacked out.

The ground rolled and sent Mitchell staggering to his knees. He looked back to see a giant figure, covered in slate armour pounding the nightmare into the ground. The giant clamped its impossibly huge hands around the worm and there was a flash and shockwave that sent Mitchell rolling into the drainage ditch.

Then there was silence for a full minute before Mitchell clawed his way up the embankment. A dark cloud of smoke was being carried by the wind and what was left of the yard was covered in gore and viscera but there was no sign of the worm or the giant or Aloysius.

Mitchell walked at a steady pace back to the yard. The combine was ruined, the farm house covered in ooze on the west side, and everything else... well, it was a scene of destruction. Mitchell's mind wandered to his insurance policy.

Aloysius' smoking body was at the bottom of the crater but he was still breathing, coughing out the words again and again, "3rd one down, 3rd one down."

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