Nate shuffled to the third classic rock radio station in his presets: “Cherry Pie” came on; Nate spun the volume knob three times around—cars two lanes over shook like a grand mal seizure. A host of dollar menu cheese and onion burgers were riding shotgun. He took big alligator bites, consuming his way through the pile with the dedication of a professional competitive eater. His belly acted as a cup holder, holding an extra large Diet Coke because he was “cutting back calories” until he could fit in the suit he wore to Senior prom back in the early 80s again. He was absent-mindedly speeding through the freeway, sloppily switching lanes, singing in falsetto three pitches too high. A stain the size of one of his nipples rested on the Green Bay Packer shorts he was wearing. It smelled like the yellow stuff that always leaked out of cheap trash bags.
He found fully frozen shrimp in the freezer and warmed them up for two minutes. A squirt of ketchup served as dipping sauce. Laptop out, he figured he might as well see what what was going on with Zelda Informer, the site he’d been running for the past couple years. Under his guidance the site was doing surprisingly well: a good ten thousand hits per day, a solid pagerank, right next to the big gaming sites on GoogleNews. At this rate, the site would be making a profit any day now.
As for the moment, he was dead broke—extra medium condoms were the only thing in his wallet. A pile of unpaid, unopened bills sat on the table, staring him right in the face.
Staring back, he recollected on his morning. Next to him was a girl, lying face down in a unusually large pile of her own vomit. She was wearing a toga, while Nate’s draped from a blade on the ceiling fan, spinning around and around. A cat he’d never seen before stared at it, licking her lips. He nudged the girl. Wasn’t moving. “I don’t know who you are, but wake up and get some hash potaters going.” Still nothing. He burped as loud as he could, flooding her ear with his rancid morning breath, a deadly medley of gas station liquor and at least three flavors of Doritos. A grenade came through the window and rolled to Nate’s feet. He jumped behind the couch, sheltering himself from the blast. When he got up and looked out the window, an unidentified man wearing all black jumped into an off-green Suburu van and sped away.
A lonely-looking manchild sat on his bed, rubbing vanilla lavender lotion gently on his body, skin dry from the harsh July weather. He sang Coldplay in that voice you use when singing along to something while totally alone in your bedroom, but he wasn’t even singing words, just kind of moaning blurred syllables together with his eyes closed and lips pouted. “Listen, Jason, you piece of shit, I know it was you. I’ll be at your house in fifteen minutes. You’re a deadman.” Exactly fifteen minutes later, Nate pulled up in a Domino’s delivery car holding a rusty hunting shotgun. Two ammo clips were strapped over his chest, forming an X. It was an intimidating sight.
The showdown was less than climactic. Jason slapped him, open-handed, hurting himself way more than he hurt Nate. Nate pulled a glock from his ankle, pistol-whipped Jason and dumped his body in the closet. He would eventually come out a few years later.
An unknown assailant’s rolling pin shot to the head put Nate to sleep for the next couple hours. He woke up later, vomiting, driving 120 mph towards the end of the pier overlooking the town lake. Puke stained his windshield; he swerved right, jumped a curb and spun the Pizza Hut van he was driving three times in the air, landed back on two wheels, drove like that for half a block and wound up in a Del Taco drive-thru. Stomach rumbling, he ordered six items off the dollar menu, paying the cashier in dimes, nickles and pennies. Pure fear sat in his stomach when he checked the back of the van and saw fellow Zelda Informer staff member Ben Lamoreux, better known as Erimgard, in the backseat, tied-up with thick, dusty rope, blindfolded and gagged with a Sammy Sosa-signed baseball in his mouth.
“What the shit are you doing here, Benny Boy?”
Nate grabbed a fistful of French fries and shoved them right past his teeth into the back of his throat. It kicked his brain into thinking mode.
Pulling over to a Wal-Mart parking lot, Nate launched phase one of his improvised interrogation process. He didn’t even ask a question before he started beating Ben with whatever object he could grab from a toolbox. Ripping the baseball from his mouth, Nate asked him, calmly, if he had anything to say now. “it was Lex!” Ben was already snitching on his buddies. “He wanted to kill you and take over ZI! Why do you think he’s been posting so much lately?” Nate shook his head in disbelief, not buying a word of it. There was a shitload of nuts and bolts and washers sitting in the toolbox. Doing his best Nolan Ryan impression, Nate wound up, stalled, and threw fastballs in triple digit speeds aiming right at Ben’s head. Blood leaked everywhere, instantaneously. Inaudible screams bounced off the windows. Pleading for his life, he put the blame on any name he could think of: he worked through half the forum regulars in no less than a handful of minutes.
Nate wasn’t listening. Deep down inside, he’d been wanting to do this for years, the urge growing every single time Ben wrote another one of his bland, generic, uninspired articles. Every single one of them was the same shit: generalized opinions strung together with poor, awkward phrasing; “its” vs “it’s” errors littered through multiple paragraphs. Secretly, the whole staff hated Ben. One time he didn’t show up for a meeting and people just started asking each other. “Hey, do you guys even like Ben?” Sooner than later, they agreed the only reason they kept him around was because his mother always kept snacks in the pantry.
Ben was knocking on heaven’s door when a text shot through Nate’s phone, saving whatever was left of his pathetic life.
“It wasn’t him.”
“Shit, my bad, dude. You’re off the hook. Here’s bus fare,” he shrugged, throwing a couple dimes and a Chuck E. Cheese token at Ben’s feet.
First stop: somewhere with Wi-Fi—he had to call in a favor. Starbucks was the first place he saw. A case of doughnut holes later, he flicked open his laptop and booted up an IRC channel on a private server hosted somewhere in the mountains of Chile. Thick, white powder dusted every key he touched; the keyboard was caked within sentences.
“You know that one thing I told you never to do?” The channel’s only member responded immediately. “Done.”
A rocket ship shot out of the earth somewhere in Alaska. Nate’s eye were locked right on it, tracing its every move. Jumping in his truck, he loaded his gun and spoke.
“I need a beer.”
TO BE CONTINUED