Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Fresca Cuckoo
And what to your wondering eyes does appear but the beginning of another exciting Tale from Balrok's Cave! Read on and be astounded!
The tower of empty pizza boxes that reached awkwardly toward the kitchen ceiling was twenty-two high (or possibly twenty-three—the strata were confusing). Balrok, demonic owner of the network of caves in which our story takes place, was contemplating it in silence, trying to penetrate the fog that shrouded his memory of the previous night. He had made no particular progress when No Name shambled into the kitchen. The bleary-eyed zombie, one of the Cave's several and various tenants, directed a lazy wave his way and rasped, “Yo, dude, what’s up?”
Balrok tipped his head in acknowledgment. “Not a whole lot. Trying to remember if I ate all this pizza myself last night. If I did it unassisted, it's a new personal best. Things are a little... hazy, though.” Webberly, the Cave's resident fact rat (currently in disguise as the omniscient narrator of this tale—don't tell!) had screened his DVD copy of the five-hour director’s cut of Apocalypse Now in the TV room, and a hardcore pizza binge had been the least of the indulgences that had seemed absolutely imperative afterward.
No Name, who spent most of his time enveloped in one mental haze or another, was little help. “Think I passed out right around the time the pizzas got here. I wish you guys woulda given me a little help when those cartoon scorpions started coming out of the XBox, by the way. Fightin' off all those fuckers by myself wore me right the fuck out, man.”
The demon nodded. “Ah, so that’s what you were seeing. Figured it was either that or lobsters, the way you were yelling about ripping their claws off.”
No Name grunted. “You can't let those fuckers intimidate you, man. You gotta talk tough and you gotta follow through. It's about respect.”
Another nod. “OK, well, I guess in that light, all the shouting about destroying their eggs seems a tad less crazy. We’re just lucky Webberly managed to hide all the remote controls before you found that hammer.”
No Name shook his head at Balrok’s naïveté. “Dude, you have to destroy the eggs first. You're wastin' your fuckin' time, you don't destroy the eggs. Totally demoralizes the adults, knocks the wind right outta their fuckin’ sails. Or maybe that’s spiders, I forget. One of those things with the legs and the sails.” He scratched his head, pondering the mysteries of Nature.
Balrok drummed his fingers on the table, also pondering. Bad enough that he might never know whether he'd bested his pizza-devouring record, but to have eaten so many pizzas without any memory of enjoying it? He was starting the feel the grip of the pizza blues when No Name stumbled over something, almost falling.
“Hey, didn’t we get rid of this crap?” With an undead creak, he hoisted a 24-can case of soda onto the counter, thumping it down next to the Cave's brand-new microwave (still factory-fresh except for a happy face drawn on the Popcorn button). The box was an eye-punishing mish-mash of colors and clip-art fruit; in the middle of a exuberant burst of splashing fluids, a bold font proclaimed it to contain Jalapeño Watermelon Fresca MAXX++ Turbo (Now With Elevated Durian!). Smaller bursts declared that it was Optimized For Energy Maximale, not to mention Guaranteed* Non†-Corrosive‡.
Balrok put down the pizza box he’d been inspecting. “We tried. You probably shouldn’t touch that stuff. With the issues we've been having, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach.” And oh, what issues. First of all, nobody would admit to having bought it. It had just been there in the kitchen one party night, mingled with the rest of the refreshments. For the Cave, though, that was a pretty trivial mystery, hardly worth worrying about. More importantly, they couldn’t get rid of it, and not just because nobody would touch the stuff. Quickly growing tired of tripping over it where it sat smugly on the kitchen floor, Balrok had put it in the pantry, only to trip over it again a few hours later in its old spot. Somewhat peeved, he’d shoved it all the way to the back of the pantry; this time it was back on the kitchen floor within an hour. He’d tried stashing it in various places in the Cave, even down past the Dark Tunnels, and it always made its way back to the kitchen floor.
Increasingly frustrated, Balrok had asked Webberly to try disposing of the case. He had done so, only to report its reappearance in its familiar spot a few hours later. No matter where in the Cave the box was hidden or who concealed it, it would show up in the kitchen within a few hours afterward. It never happened when anyone was looking, conveniently enough. A brief attempt to provide permanent observers in the form of video cameras had ended with the box appearing at the precise moment everyone was distracted by the three cameras bursting into flame simultaneously.
Having had enough, Balrok finally hauled the case up to street level and tossed it overhand into a passing dump truck, where it landed with a satisfying clang. That night, as Balrok was deep in slumber, he was awakened by a sensation much like an inexplicable 24-can case of soda being dropped on his head from a moderate height. Turning on the light, he discovered that his first impression had been right—the case was lying on the floor next to his bed, quietly exuding menace and the promise of durian.
With a roar of demonic disgruntlement that echoed through the Cave and sent Webberly scurrying under the bed in a tangle of sheets and panic (his own bed, I hasten to clarify), Balrok leapt up and dealt the case a mighty kick, causing it serious trauma. He dove immediately back into sleep, but in the morning, the case was back in the kitchen, unmarred. Since then, they had left it alone, quickly adapting to its presence with only occasional stumble-inducing lapses. Webberly had been researching the phenomenon on Tobin's Spirit Wiki, but so far had had little luck finding reports of anything similar.
His interest in the soda rapidly fading, No Name shrugged and grabbed a large bag of Nitro-Devil Hot Ranch Blasted Doritos before slouching back out of the kitchen, leaving Balrok to resume his melancholy study of the tower of pizza boxes. The bug-eyed chili pepper on the wrapper had set Balrok to wondering whether he should have poured some Sriracha on the pizzas last night. Not only would that have kicked his (admittedly still theoretical) personal best up a few notches, but he'd have been a lot less likely to forget the whole thing in a blur of alcohol, napalm, and indulgence. Could this epic pizza binge truly be lost in the debauched mists of memory? His ruminations were interrupted by a shrill buzz from the intercom. Someone was upstairs in the elevator lobby, asking to be let down.
TO BE CONTINUED......