The Good Brother

Here, let me light a cigarette and pour two fingers of whisky. We’re going to need it, because this little imaginary world has no winners.

The Hallucinogen Kingdom is an alternate reality of the well-known and beloved Mushroom Kingdom. Don Bowser runs every gamut in the place. Every tweaked-out Toadie, every slimy Goomba, every bookie Koopa-Troopa, every peeping Paratroopa, and every pimping Shy Guy are weaselly bastards working for the big man—earning nothing but a few coin they’ll toss away at the dancers working at The Fuzzy Peach once they get off shift.

Enter detective Mario.

I’d call him our hero, but you see, our main character ain’t no prince. He spends most of his time smoking and drinking at The Fuzzy Peach, gawking at his brother’s gal, Daisy because no matter his reputation, he’s always been jealous of his little brother Luigi. You know how it goes—same ol’ sob story of glamor and glitz getting the best of a fella.

When he’s not ogling Daisy, he’s off his gourd, high on Bowser’s product. Street name Star Dust.

It wasn’t always like this.

Mario was once a well-respected, albeit, two-bit blue-collar man. He earned his keep. Paid his dues—even union dues, can you believe it? But then it happened—Luigi snapped. Started talking nonsense. Starting warning Mario about his other self. This Waluigi. This mirror-image guy who had nothing but chaos in his heart. A fun house mirror of madness. He broke it off with Daisy—said this Waluigi threatened to kill her if he didn’t. Even said Mario had his own other self. A real mad dog son of a bitch named Wario.

Luigi wouldn’t leave it alone.

Mario blamed it on the family mansion. He never liked that place. Told Luigi he spent too much time there. Mario was certain it ruined his brother’s mind for good, forever changed his psyche.

And soon, Luigi went missing.

Consumed with the search for Luigi, Mario shut the family plumbing business down for good and started a solo detective agency. A last-ditch effort. Everyone knew why. It wasn’t for the Kingdom. It never was. It was always for Luigi, the one Mario had loved the most. Luigi was long gone, but Mario was a good brother, and he kept searching.

The rest of the Kingdom wasn’t so fortunate.

Distracted by the case, Mario wasn’t there to look after the people who entrusted their lives to him. And that’s when Bowser struck, turning the once lively Kingdom into a cesspool of delight. His network stretched as far as Mario’s—if not further, and he transformed The Mushroom Kingdom into some place without rules. Without curfews and time limits. He saw no point in denying them what Mario had kept from them. The secret of the stars. The power the stars had over the mind. Why should Mario be the only one to have access to those delicious mushrooms and Star Dust?

It was Don Bowser’s kingdom now. Many argue it always was—and change is nowhere to be seen on the horizon. No, not in the Hallucinogen Kingdom.

No while Mario withered away in a private booth at The Fuzzy Peach, ogling his dead brother’s gal. Calling her Peach in his delusions. Drooling over a birthday cake that never was. Didn’t Mario know that the cake was a lie?

Michael Bettendorf’s fiction has appeared in The Weird Reader, The Mark Literary Review, Brave Voices Magazine, Reckon Review, and elsewhere. Michael lives in Lincoln where he tries to convince the world that Nebraska is too strange to be a flyover state.  

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