Editor’s note – I know what you’re thinking “Jeremy, the Kool-Aid Man character didn’t come out until 1974 you moron! You’re the worst writer ever.” Well I am the worst writer ever but you’re forgetting that this is an alternate history deal. In this world the Kool-Aid Man commercials started airing in 1972! The changes that led up to this alteration and the staggering ramifications of it will be explored in my forthcoming graphic novel Kool-Aid: 1972.
A quarter of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Malacca Straits. Half of all seaborne chemical and gas shipments pass through. So of course the area is infested with well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless pirates. When they aren’t chased off by local brutal corporate-sponsored hired goons anyway. It’s estimated by people that estimate things that over one hundred ships a year go missing around Madripoor. Hijacked and redirected to another port. This does not include the innumerable others attacked and raided on their journeys.
When I first heard people in Madripoor talking about pirates, it threw me for a loop. I never hear anyone in the CS talking about pirates. The word pirate makes me think of ships with sails and guys with swords. But I guess, thinking about it logically, there’s no reason for pirates to have gone away. If you can’t stop people from stealing your shit, they’re going to steal it. That’s a rule of some kind.
Grain of salt because it’s all rumors, but I understand that it’s sometimes part of an insurance scam. You got a shipful of hot pants headed for Africa and suddenly hot pants aren’t cool anymore. They’re just going to take up room in your warehouse in Johannesburg. So you get in touch with your fixer who knows a pirate boss. They “attack” the ship, you get the insurance, and they get some ransom money. You dump the hotpants into the sea and everyone wins. Except the insurance company.
I figured that pirates wouldn’t be afraid of the Shadow Lords and also could get me out of here. You may be thinking “Dealing with pirates, Ela? That sounds like a terrible idea.” You happen to be right but where were you yesterday asshole?
In my defense I’m a singer, not a . . . person who deals with whatever this situation is. Whatever Steve McQueen would be if he was a real badass and not just an actor. Whatever that is, I’m not that. I’m all alone here and I don’t know what’s going on. Plus, you don’t understand what kind of place Madripoor is. If you were here you’d think that buddying up to pirates was perfectly normal.
Elvis’s friend Say likes to party so we went to a couple bars, a couple clubs, a couple parties, and it just so happens that I managed to rub elbows with a couple people in the piracy world. Sidenote, about twenty percent of the men here are super into me because I’m white. And about twenty percent think I’m super gross for the same reason. It’s interesting.
I met a guy I thought was named Preman. I learned later that “preman” means gangster in Indonesian. Although it’s actually from the Dutch language and means rooster. Language is complicated. “Preman” and I hung out a few times, smoked something like weed, drank some weird booze, and got to know each other. Once we were good pals, he said a friend of a friend of a friend of his could help me out and wasn’t scared of the Shadow Lords and I should meet him at a restaurant the next morning to talk details.
It was a set-up of course. What I didn’t know then is that the Shadow Lords were basically the seaside agents of the local pirates when the first came to Madirpoor. The pirates would steal the stuff and then pass it off to the Shadow Lords as the middlemen. Not only that, but most of the pirates around here are groups that grew out of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, a resistance group from the Philippines that fought against Japanese occupation. The Huk and the Shadow Lords both hate the yazuka so they bond over that. The point is that the entire idea was more or less the worst thing I could have done.
“Preman” and a friend came in to the restaurant, we sat down, and next thing I know someone is behind me and has a rag over my mouth. Here’s the thing though, with my new metabolism nothing like that seems to affect me much. I don’t know if the Shadow Lords didn’t warn them or if they didn’t know.
I grabbed the ragman’s arm and flung him across the room like I was tossing a Frisbee (or a bag of rags, a ragbag if you will). When I swung him around, I felt his arm come out of the socket. Which was a little nauseating, but if we’re being honest it felt good too. I was angry and frustrated and it felt good to hurt someone. Does that make me awful? I don’t know.
“Preman” got the hell out of there but his buddy went for a gun. I flipped the table into him and the gun fired. You always forget how LOUD those damn things are. As he raised the gun again, trying to get disentangled from the table, I tried to yank the gun out of his hand. Instead I crushed them both. The gun and the hand. I never heard a human being make a noise like he did as he fell back against the wall cradling his hand to his chest. It was truly chilling.
I took a hold of his forehead in one hand like Jackie Moon palming a basketball. I wanted so badly to squeeze it. That’s all it would have taken. One little squeeze and a man is dead. It would have been no more effort than checking the ripeness of a peach. Just a little squeeze. I wanted it more than I wanted any cigarette or any drink. A part of my brain told me it would make everything better. It would make all the pain go away. No one would ever fuck with me again. He was a bad guy, wasn’t he? Why did he deserve to live?
I wanted it.
But I didn’t do it. Just as I let the guman go, their ace in the hole came smashing in. And I mean that literally. He crashed through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man. I have no idea why, the door was wide open. He was easily over seven feet tall and he had electric blue scales. It was like the skin of a technicolor crocodile on acid. Only you know, on a big dude. He didn’t look like a rhino but something about him made me think of a rhino. Maybe just because he was massive and leathery and mean looking.
He came charging at me like a bull (a bull rhino) and I threw another table at him. He batted it aside like he was swatting a volleyball. I managed to leap out of the way of his crashing tackle and he slammed into and through the other wall out into the street. I hope this restaurant is owned by the pirates or the Shadow Lords, because I’d hate to think some innocent people got their place wrecked just because this is where some assholes chose as their kidnap location.
As the blue alligator rhino man was getting back to his feet in the wall-hole, I grabbed him around the waist and hurled him back over my shoulders like a sack of grain. It feels weird when you can throw someone ten times your size, but I knew from working on the docks I could lift him easily. He slammed into the ground hard enough to shake the building. Which was getting pretty shaky already from being run through on both sides. I think I saw “Run through on both sides” on the marquee of a movie theater once. You know the kind I mean.
I was ready to rumble but I saw that blueman’s head was twisted at a funny angle. Not funny ha-ha but funny “oh shit I just killed a guy”. I won’t lie, I stood there staring, mouth agape for a moment. I’m not a murderer you know. But while I stood there I heard a crazy crackling, snapping, popping noise and his head jerked back to the right way and his eyes opened. I guess he can heal super-fast.
Since he wasn’t dead, I went outside and pushed the building down on him. I should have grabbed something to drink before I did that. Fighting is thirsty business.