World 5-1: Repetition
The alarm rings with a familiar and shrill electronic tone. The red digits spell out the time, and the world around them slowly comes into focus. Then moments later the world is a blur again and Mario is hunched over the edge of his bed, expelling the memories of the previous night in a decidedly physical form.
He wipes his mouth and drags himself to the small bathroom around the corner from his room. The florescent bulb flickers on with an irritating buzzing noise. He took a small moment to thank his slum lord for the water – the only free thing in the entire city – and turned on the spicket. A small lukewarm stream bubbled out just enough to get Mario's hands slightly damp before it cut out. He'd forgotten they were working on the water main this morning. He used what little was there to clean his mouth before taking a bit of hair of the dog and polishing it off with some mouthwash.
He took down the medicine cabinet and saw with a bit of comfort the small ziplock baggie sitting in the roughly carved hole. There was only one left. He shoved the cabinet back in place and started to piece himself back together. Navy blue business jacket, white collar shirt, bright red tie that was a gift from his wife, Peach. She was still gone on her business trip, his last night's drunk text expressing his feelings glumly: "My princess is in another castle."
He looked at himself in the mirror one last time. He psyched himself up, ready to face the day, and announced his daily affirmation to the world.
"It's-a me, Mario!"
"Mario Brothers Entertainment, how can I help you?"
Daisy's cheery voice was the honey to Mario's sugar. She got them customers, and he fixed their problems. Occasionally he was helped by his little brother, Luigi. The kid was a special case – somebody he loved personally but hated working with professionally. He always had this sort of soft touch about him that made him a poor salesman. But his heart was in the right place.
Daisy ended her call and turned to Mario. "Didn't have time to shave today, Mr. Saltare?"
Mario smiled politely and gave her a nod. "Oh just a little trouble with the water. I think I could make this look work though, don't you?"
"Now, Mr. Saltare, I don't think Peach would appreciate comments like that," Daisy said as she planted a kiss on his cheeks.
"It's a little early for the usual. You should get back to work, unless you want another spanking," Mario replied with the kind of smarm that made Daisy's heart melt.
"Yes, sir," She replied, leaning into his touch for just a moment before getting back to her desk.
Mario didn't really love her. She was just a nice distraction whenever Peach was feeling cold. He supposed he loved Peach – he married her, devoted much of his life to her and the two of them had spent a lot of each others money. But it was what it was. He consoled himself with the knowledge that she was almost definitely screwing that Bowser guy she seemed to take a lot of business lunch's with.
"I'll be right back, Daisy. Cover for me," Mario said.
He shut himself in to the small employee bathroom and set to work finishing the morning's futile labor. He opened the baggie and took it out, his last pill. It wasn't exactly FDA approved but it gave him a nice shot of energy when he needed it. He kicked himself for letting his stash get this low, but his supplier, Shy Guy had been having some issues with the local police this month. He'd check on him and if there were still issues he could just find somebody else.
When he stepped out he saw his brother, clean-shaven except for the trademark Saltare mustache. He was young, lean and by the way he was counting the stack of bills in front of him, in a decidedly good mood.
"Morning, Mario," Luigi said, with a nervous sort of smile.
"Hey Luigi! Latest pay-out huh? Cash a finder's fee check or something?" Mario grinned.
"You, uh, could say that. I took out a loan from our usual source. Got a bet I'm planning on riding on this new act," Luigi said. "Convinced this young up-and-coming band to sign a contract that gives us a 20% cut instead of the usual ten."
Mario laughed. "Half my employees are genius, and the other half are evil geniuses."
"Well we keep you in business, bro." Luigi replied.
Mario knew Luigi was trying to be helpful and he decided he may as well let the kid do some work. But in truth, he had absolutely no faith in him. Sure he got them to sign to a 20% fee. But he also knew that the band he was interested in promoting had absolutely no talent and this was just a decision to placate Mario on taking out a substantial loan on something that was sure to flop. Luigi wasn't hacking it anymore, but he'd let him fail on his own terms.
"Go make some dreams come true, bro," Mario said. He tossed Luigi the keys to their escort limo, designed to impress potential clients. "And pick me up a coffee on the way back."
"Sure thing!" Luigi said, before heading down the elevator to the garage.
Daisy sat at her desk, fiddling with a small wind-up tinker toy shaped like a star – a novelty gift from a band they had helped make it to super stardom. It was a lovely gesture which meant nothing, considering they found a way to weasel out of the last six months of their contract and sign on with a new agent as soon as possible. The world was so god damned greedy. Mario was just playing his part in the orchestra of capitalism.
"I'm going into my office," Mario said. "Let me know when Luigi gets back, doll-face."
"Sure thing, sir," Daisy said with a submissive nod.
The office was little more spacious than the lobby area, with the finest furniture his client's money could buy. It didn't matter. Mario was the only one ever in here, even his client meetings he always took out somewhere. But he wanted what he wanted. He wanted the best things, because he could afford them. And that was the way things were supposed to be.
He looked at the clock, waiting for his afternoon delight. There wasn't really any task he had to do today. A nice quiet one, for a change. A simple morning, and things would be even better soon. He leaned back in his chair and waited for his payroll fucktoy to wake him up from his mid-morning nap.
Mario awoke on a patch of soft green grass, his head still leaning against the green warp pipe he'd fell asleep next to.
"Mario! Get up! " Luigi shouted as he ran over towards him. "Toad! I found him! Get over here!"
Mario looked around. Red skies and black smoke filled the Mushroom Kingdom. There were still airships overhead, shooting out waves of canon-fire and spewing embers which ignited sections of the plains.
"I don't remember what happened," Mario said honestly, taking off his bright red cap and scratching his head slightly. He felt blood. Something had hit him. Hard.
"We'll get you patched up. It doesn't look too bad. Let's just hope Toad has some bandages left. Toad! Hurry up!"
A sudden flash of memories coursed through Mario's head. Toad, a small squat mushroom person with a bright white and red stalk for a head. He wore a blue vest and puffy white pants, often obscured by his chef's apron. While there were many like him in the world, Toad was special. He was a good friend of the Mario brothers. And he was damned good at healing in a pinch, even though he was an abysmal warrior. But why was all this coming back to him now? Why was he recalling things that he'd known his entire life? It was as if something was siphoning away his memories; or perhaps pulling them out of his mind only to let go and have them bounce back into place.
"Hey, wait a minute," Mario said. "This isn't right."
"No, it's fine. Luigi's here for you. You probably got a concussion. We're going to have to take you back to the headquarters," Luigi said.
Toad waddled up to them, his medical bag looking rather light on him, and the stains of blood and sinew ruining his once pristine trappings. "He can walk, that's better than half of my jobs today."
"They're not Mario," Luigi insisted.
"No, you're right. Don't take offense, Mario, but it's been hell out there today," Toad sighed. He got to work slowly, wrapping up Mario's wounds and muttering to himself about the lack of decent supplies in the middle of a war.
"We're gonna take him back to the Professor. Is the south channel open?" Luigi asked.
"Nah, bunch of damned Para-Koopas dropped some Bob-ombs on it. We lost it for good. East channel's working but there are some scouts nearby. Better take him to the north one," Toad replied.
"That's four miles away!" Luigi barked.
"Tell me something I don't know," Toad grunted. "You'd better stick to the surface roads. The trenches are all getting burned by that lava mortar."
"Can you run, Mario?" Luigi asked, looking his brother up and down.
"I think so," Mario sighed, rubbing his head. "I just feel so disoriented right now... and hungry."
"Concussion for sure, maybe a little memory loss. You need some rest," Toad said. "Luigi, you make sure he gets back safely, alright?"
"You can count on me, Toad! You stay safe yourself," Luigi replied.
"Koopa Troopas aren't going after us medical teams. I don't think it's mercy though. I think... he wants us to know that it's futile. That no matter how many of us are out there healing the injured, he can kill us faster than we can replenish our troops," Toad quaked.
Luigi didn't know what to say, and Mario certainly had nothing new to contribute to the conversation. He dragged himself up and let Luigi guide him down the ruined streets and burned grasslands. If there was a hell on earth, it was here.
After about an hour they finally came across the north channel entrance to the tunnel system. It was a small round grate, but they were able to squeeze in by ducking their heads slightly. Luigi went behind Mario and put the camouflage back over it as he shut the grate.
A few minutes of traveling in near total darkness passed, with them approaching what could only be described as a vague point of light in the distance. When the view cleared, and the image of what awaited Mario came into full focus, he was taken by a sudden realization. He had been here before – the sewer system with the bedrolls, and the people all looking as though they'd been through a maelstrom of pain and anguish.
"Ah, so you finally woke up," Professor Toad said.
I promised you one week. I hope you enjoy this story better.