Archive for December 9th, 2008

Spirits

Toby Reynolds liked to think of himself as a party animal. Every one of his Gamma Epsilon Chi fraternity brothers thought so, but the world had yet to discover his skills of debauchery. He planned to rid the unsuspecting public of their ignorance of him. Reynolds would show them what it meant to know . . .

The Tobe.

That was his nickname. He earned it on while balancing a keg on one of his biceps, and three bottles of tequila on his nose. This was his ticket into the fraternity. It would also be his ticket out–if only he could find the right place to make his debauch debut. Reynolds’ college days were coming to an end, and he had to find a new social livelihood. Today, he promised, would be that day.

Now, all you need to do is sober up, his mind said.

The frat boy shook his head vigorously, attempting to end the swimming sensation within. His Greek-lettered sweater reeked of Budweiser; his beige slacks were drenched. Some unknown sorority sister, whose name he couldn’t quite remember, had soaked him with a bucket of water. Everything after that was a blank. The last thing he recalled was looking at himself in a mirror, brushing back his thick red hair. He blacked out after that.

He now found himself on a street. How did he end up on this street? He didn’t recognize it. The road shimmered like polished obsidian. No cracks lined the asphalt, and no cruisers in fast cars left streaks of burnt rubber in their wake. The black surface lay untouched, virginal, free from wear or tear. The Tobe couldn’t even hear the echoes of emergency sirens passing by, not even a Doppler Effect residual. Reynolds was alone on a barren highway between the urban and the suburban. He was alone? The Tobe was never alone!

He needed another drink.

A friend of his once said, “You’re never truly drunk until you see a pink elephant. You may be buzzed, you may be hammered, and you may even be sloshed! But you are never drunk until that pink pachyderm crosses your path. So drink all you want until that happens!”

Those were words the Tobe could live by, and had lived by. He had yet to see a pink elephant. After a heavy night out he had seen many blurred objects, a spinning world, and lastly, doubles of people he knew. However, no animals of any kind ever manifested before his eyes. The Tobe was still in the zone. He wondered if he could keep up his winning tolerance a little longer.

He staggered for several blocks along the surreal street. Everything looked decadent. All buildings were made of brick, and rose out of the ground like living stone obelisks. Street lamps glowed with a fiery luminescence, which made his shadow dance in the flickering embers of light. He felt like dancing with it, but the subtle undulation of his shadow’s legs seemed difficult to duplicate. The lamps themselves were formed from intertwined metal, chain-laced together like outstretched claws at the end. The claws held the illuminating orbs that captivated Reynolds.

“Cool,” thought the Tobe. “I must be royally buzzed!”

After an hour of misplaced wandering, he arrived at a small pub. Like all the buildings in the area, it too resembled a medieval abode. The front walls were made of layered brick. Moss and vines covered the corners and sides, and the edge of the roof jutted outward like a flat snow shovel. The door looked cut from pine. A wooden sign upon it read “The Spirit’s Sanctum.” It was a strange name for a pub, but no different than “The Puck and Girdle” where he and his friends hung out.

He entered the establishment. The aroma of freshly poured ales invaded his nostrils. The smell brought tears to his closed eyes, for it was so intense. He opened them, half-expecting a typical sports bar with average-looking jocks hanging out and jerseys hanging from the walls. What met his eyes caused his heart to skip a beat. The inhabitants weren’t even human.

The barstools and chairs were crowded with an assortment of different beings. Elves occupied the far, right corner watching a re-run of Xena: Warrior Princess. A group of stout dwarves, beards braided in twists, played billiards in the back with an equally aggressive-looking pack of kobolds. At the bar itself, five gnomes, three chimeras, a centaur, and twenty faeries watched with sadistic glee as a miniature Pegasus fought a puny hydragon – on the counter. Bets were being monitored by a very gangly cyclops in a pair of khakis and a “Billabong” shirt.

“Okay,” Reynolds sighed. “So I’m a little beyond buzzed. I must be hammered. Just hammered! Not drunk!”

The Tobe approached the bar, keeping a fair distance from the fight of the small creatures. The bartender faced him. He had two heads–one the head of an eagle, the other the head of a yellow primate. However, he had the body of a well-built marble statue of a human. Both heads stared straight at him.

“What’ll it be?” Came the deep-voiced offer.

“Whatever’s the house special.” Reynolds squealed in reply.

“Ah, the Spirit of Etheron!” The bartender growled with admiration. “You are a brave one. No one has dared try that in an age! The last person was a dragonoid. He was supposed to be resilient to all forms of alcohol. Was he ever wrong! HA! I’ve never seen you’re type around here. What are you?”

“A G-gamma E-e-epsilong Chi.” He whimpered.

The bartender’s eagle eyes scrutinized him. “A Gamma Epsilon Chi? I’ve never heard of your race before. But, then again, I am new to the Nexus. I didn’t even know what an elf was until about a year ago. HA! Can you believe it?!”

The two-headed bartender patted Reynolds’ shoulder with a gruff hand. The impact sent him reeling. He barely recovered his balance. After regaining his composure, the Tobe weakly beckoned for his drink. The bartender slammed a large bottle onto the counter. The liquid within emanated a pinkish glow.

“Enjoy your Etheron Spirit, boy!” The primate face on the barkeep grinned. “Most do until the end!”

For the first time in his life, Toby Reynolds was frightened of a beverage. The smoking fluid within the bottle mocked him. He could’ve sworn he saw a skeletal face form within the liquid. He rubbed his eyes, and the image was no longer there. The drink looked calm and still, but he felt an aura about it. A feeling from within him quivered at the thought of ingesting it. Was it his liver? He didn’t want to know.

He couldn’t back down. He ordered it, and it was his fraternal duty to finish it. No one backed down from a drink. Especially not the Tobe! He grasped the bottle with both hands as tightly as he could, raised it to his lips, and let the rushing torrent cascade down his open throat. The taste of the first swig sent him into shock. Nothing could compare to the mixture of emotions and tastes he experienced at that moment. One moment he felt fear, and the equally powerful taste of vinegar. The next, he felt joy, and the matching afterglow of seasoned mint. The sheer joy rivaled orgasms in its intensity.

Suddenly all went blank. All thought, all feelings–both physical and emotional–ceased. He existed in a state of emptiness. Nirvana to the soiled brain. A small tingling sensation ebbed from within his spine. He arched his back to end it, but the tingling grew more intense. A moment later he toppled to the floor, mouth agape, eyes widened, and fists clenched. He couldn’t move. He didn’t want to move.

The strangest sight beheld him. A giant pachyderm, the color of his drink, loomed over his fallen body. The creature’s trunk swayed back and forth, causing a minor wind to blow by his frozen face. If Reynolds hadn’t known any better, he could’ve sworn the creature smiled at him. Anything was possible, considering the thing was standing on its hind legs. One such stump of a leg lifted off the ground. The elephant pivoted on its one remaining leg, then leapt into the air. The Tobe willed himself to watch where it would land, for he knew he was the instant target. What happened at that point was a blur to him, yet he thought he heard the two-headed bartender laughing in the background. All went black.

Existence faded from view. So did he.

#

Reynolds awoke the next morning with the worst hangover he ever had, although, that wasn’t his primary shock. He awoke in the Gamma Epsilon Chi house in his own bed. A banging sound came from the door. His head stung at the reverberation.

“What!” He yelled.

A burly young man with short-cropped blond hair entered. “Hey, Tobe. How are ya! We was worried sick, man. Franky and Alex found you passed out in front of the campus library. How much did you have last night, dude?”

“Too friggin’ much, Arnie.” Reynolds replied.

“Whoah! You mean to say that you–the Tobe–got hammered?” The blond frat boy said in shock.

“Not hammered, dude. Drunk. Really, really . . . drunk.” He corrected.

“You don’t mean . . . pink elephants drunk, do ya?” Arnie asked with worry.

“Pink elephants,” Reynolds repeated, stuffing his head into his pillow. “And dwarves, and elves, and fairies, and centaurs, and two-headed bartenders, and pink drinks, and . . .”

His voice trailed.

“Dude, you need to lighten up on the keg.” Arnie advised before backing out slowly.

Toby Reynolds didn’t hear him. He didn’t hear anything accept the trumpet call of Etheron’s Spirit parading through his skull.

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