Chapter 9

Three Sheets To The Wind.

Adjective.

Drunk. Originally referred to a situation where a sailing ship lost control of all three main sails, causing it to rock uncontrollably with the wind.

The author might or might not have spent the entirety of the last week with family, all of which may or may not have a severe drinking problem. It might not have been the best environment.

Ah, family.

Here’s the second dream that Led had while they were digging into his scrotum.


With the taste of saline in his mouth, Led Sualo awoke one day to find himself near the Wichita city limits.

The day was December 27th, 1900. This confused Led, as he didn’t previously think time travel to be possible, but he quickly came to accept it. (Like all amateur historians, Led possessed the innate ability to sense the exact time and date by smelling the air.)

After standing up and spitting to clear his mouth, Led thought about what course of action to take, deciding to try and find a way back to 2039. As passionate as he was about learning about the past, he was also relatively fond of clean drinking water and not dying from tuberculosis, so going home seemed like the better option.

Hoping to find someone who could help him, Led began walking into town. Neither the hot sun nor the dirt road bothered him, but he still had trouble walking, oddly enough. It was something with his gait, affecting his balance, his stride. It was difficult to describe, but it was almost as if a delicate balance within him had been shifted, changed.

There was great emptiness, a lack of substance. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something was missing. It was definitely important, whatever it was.

Once Led had made it within several minutes of the town proper, a dark shadow cast over the spot where he was walking. Surprised, he looked up to see where it was coming from, spotting a large round object descending from the sky.

He watched as it slowly floated down, gently settling on the ground several feet away from him. It was formed in the shape of an orb, bright and purple, only a pair of legs and a head keeping it from being a perfect globe. A person in an armless grape suit.

It was a girl with a soft frown. Unable to wipe the corners of her wet eyes, she tried blinking out her tears, sniffling.

Had it been anyone else, Led would have tried to comfort her, but he knew better. Hallie could make herself cry on command — tears and everything — and she’d used it on him far too many times for it to still have any efficacy.

He laughed to himself. It was almost insulting, that she still thought he’d fall for it. When was the last time she’d even tried? At least four years, by his guess.

“Nice try. Good to see you, though. Do you know how we ended up here?”

Hallie blinked again, more tears flowing, blubbering incomprehensibly. Weird. It wasn’t like her to double down like that; she was usually good about admitting when she’d lost, at least with him.

The suit wasn’t right either, he realized. Did Hallie normally dress up like fruit? Led was pretty sure she didn’t, after having thought about it. (Even if she had, he always pictured her more as a lime than grape. Definitely some type of Citrus.)

“…Is everything okay, Hallie?”

She cried even louder.

“And you’ve lost your mind, too! I’m sorry, Sir Sualo. I’m so, so sorry. I’m a failure.”

“…Lost my mind?”

“You don’t even remember who I am! Oh, Sweet Berry Mother, forgive me. I ruined everything.”

“Hallie, look-”

She walked up, planting herself next to him, her foam suit rubbing up against his shoulder. It took him a second to realize that she was trying to comfort him, the effort somewhat muddled by her lack of arms.

“…Sir Sualo, I don’t know who you think I am, but in truth, I’m the Grape Queen. Your grape essence has been stolen; it must be affecting your memories, somehow. I’m usually in charge of making sure that no one tries stealing male grape essence, but she was so strong, and with that hatchet of hers, I couldn’t do anything to protect you. And, and… if you don’t get it back, you’ll never…”

She started to cry again. Not wanting her to continue, he tried putting a hand on the section of foam where her shoulder might’ve been, trying to make her feel better. It didn’t help, more fruit-smelling tears dripping down her face.

Led thought about what to do. Hallie had clearly lost her mind — a side effect of the accidental time traveling, he deduced — but he doubted it’d be enough to simply try and talk her out of it, especially with the state she was in.

Maybe he’d just roll with it. His abuelita’s imagination acted up sometimes, and the family tended to play along with most of the non-harmful delusions, finding that it helped to calm her down faster. Maybe the same principle would apply with Grape Hallie.

“My… essence was stolen?”

She blinked again.

“Yeah. Your male grape essence. I’m sorry, Sir Sualo. I’m supposed to be better than this.”

“…Where is it?”

“A woman named Carrie has it. She’s in town hotel, celebrating her theft. But she’s planning on destroying it soon. And if she does… I’m sorry. So, so, so sorry.”

“Maybe we can get it back.”

“Other than preventing theft, I’m not allowing to intervene in human affairs, Sir Sualo. And… to be quite honest, even I was allowed to try, she’s much stronger than me. She wasn’t even using a fraction of her real power, and even then, I was only barely able to survive. I don’t stand a chance against that type of anti-grape power.”

“I could get it back, if it would help.”

She shook her head.

“No, Sir Sualo. I couldn’t dare risk-”

“Look. It’s my… male grape essence, isn’t it? I don’t really get what that is, but it sounds like I’m the one who’ll suffer if we don’t recover it, so I should be the one to get it back. If it’s that important, and you aren’t allowed to try, we’re not really left with any other options.”

She stayed silent.

“…Just stay here, okay? I’ll… find a way to get it back. I promise.”

Giving her one final pat on the shoulder, Led started walking into town, determined to talk to whoever had tricked Hallie into thinking she was a mystical fruit royal. After a few steps, he heard her start to follow, turning back. She had a wool bag in her mouth, which she dropped into the dirt.

“If you’re going, you’ll need a grape sack. It’ll help you contain the MGE if… when you beat her. As the Grape Queen, I’m the only one who’ll be able to reinsert it into you once you retrieve it, so keep it in the sack until we meet again.”

Led picked up the bag and reassured her one final time, heading into town. It was about halfway through the walk when he realized who Hallie was talking about, the one he’d be facing.

The Nation.

She was a broad-shouldered woman, Carrie A. Nation, tall and eagle-eyed.

He’d read about her, however many years in the past. A radical temperance advocate, she’d famously traveled around during the early twentieth century, destroying bars and other alcohol-serving establishments with a hatchet. There was, however, a difference between reading about someone and actually meeting them in person, as he was quick to discover.

He had been worried about finding the hotel Hallie mentioned after getting into town, but it ended up being fairly easy; he just followed the blood. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of bodies lined the streets, heads split open, limbs astray. It was messy, sloppy, growing in intensity the closer he got to the hotel.

The work of a blunt tool.

She was sitting at the end of the bar in the room past the lobby, dozens of dismembered heads scattered about the floor in the shape of a giant L, no matching bodies to be found. She turned to meet his eyes as he entered, a glass of water in one hand, the hatchet in the other.

“Hello, Led.”

His eyes widen slightly, surprised to hear her call him by name. She noticed.

“Don’t be surprised, Led. I have your MGE, so I know all there is to know about you. That’s all you really need, to get to know a man.”

She laughed, taking a sip.

“Give it back.”

“You’re not in any position to make demands, Led. Confidence is admirable, but what you’re doing now is more akin to stupidity. Leave. Or sit with me and have a drink, if you like. The water’s divine.”

He stared at her, saying nothing. Carrie looked at him and sighed, pulling out something from her pocket, dangling it up in front of him.

Two purple grapes, shriveled, entangled in silver wire.

“…It’s sad, the efforts you drinkers go through. If you could only let it go, you’d be happier, and so would the world. It’s disgusting, grapes. They seed, they ferment, they make drinks, they make evil. And you’re here, willing to die for them, willing to lose everything. They were.”

She gestured her arms over the room, directly his eyes to the heads.

“You did all this because of fruit?”

“I’d do anything, to rid the world of grapes. I envision a better world, Led. A world of prohibition. A world of peace.”

“…I’m not here to talk morals, but for the record, I don’t even drink.”

“Doesn’t matter. Having read into your MGE, I trust your honesty, but in the end it means little. The potential will always exist, as long as the fruit does. The fruit is always responsible, Led. It causes all evils, ends all men. Do you really wish to fight me for it?”

“…If I have to, yeah.”

She took another sip, smiling again.

“Your end, then.”

Reaching into her dress, she pulled out a musket, painted in a brilliant gold. She set it on the table, aside a second hatchet, also in gold.

“I always give two options, for those wishing to challenge me. The first, a simple duel of physical strength, hatchet to hatchet. That’s the more popular option.”

Led looked once again at the dead.

“…And the other?”

“This musket has been imbued with extreme anti-fruit magic, and can be fired only once. If you pick option two, I will give you the musket, and you will be given the chance to shoot me.”

“…Sounds preferable.”

Carrie retrieved a kitchen timer, setting it on the table. Like any normal clock, there were sixty tally marks on it.

Led thought about mentioning the fact that the kitchen timer wasn’t invented until 1926, but he decided against it.

“For one hour, you will have the gun, which may be used to kill me. I will stay perfectly still, but, as the gun is magic, it shall only fire if you are able to shoot me at a minute that surprises me. If not, you will waste your bullet, and I will come to kill you, and you shall have no hatchet to defend yourself with.”

“Surprises?”

“You must shoot sometime within the sixty minute timeframe, or you will die automatically, as per the magic of the gun. As long as you choose a minute that surprises me, the gun will go off, and I will die. And it’s not such that I am of the personality type that can’t be surprised, of course. I am as human as anyone. As long as you fire in a minute where I am not expecting it, I will be surprised, and I will lose. And obviously I can’t expect you to fire it in multiple minutes at once, or that you’ll fire it only during whatever minute it happens to be at the present moment. That would not be a true prediction of mine, so I would be surprised, going by the gun’s magical logic. It should be easy, if one stops to consider it.”

“So I only have a one in sixty chance of failing.”

She smirked.

“Choose, Led.”

“The gun.”

She tossed it to him, putting her finger on the timer.

“Ready?”

Led took a breath.

“Anytime.”

She set the timer to sixty, standing up and smiling.

“You’ve just assured your death, Led. Congratulations.”

“…How so?”

She laughed.

“It’s impossible to surprise me by shooting the gun under the conditions that I’ve set. You see, I know from the start that you could never try shooting me in the last minute, because then you would have used up all the other minutes, meaning that you would have to try and shoot me then to avoid losing by default. But since I’m aware of that, it wouldn’t work. So, as I know you can’t shoot and surprise me during the sixtieth minute, that means you also can’t shoot me during the fifty-ninth minute, because that would be the new last minute, which would also make it impossible to surprise me! And the same for the fifty-eighth minute, and the fifty-seventh, and all the way to the first! So no matter which minute you would try, it’s impossible to shoot at a time that will surprise me! The gun can never be fired. I’ve won, Led!”

Led fired the gun, a blast surging into Carrie’s torso. Clutching her chest and falling to the ground, she looked on with bewilderment as he approached her dying body, saying nothing.

“…Lord, I understand. That’s how you beat me, isn’t it? Because I had mathematically demonstrated that it was impossible to surprise me, that meant… that meant that it was possible to surprise me, since I had already concluded that it couldn’t be done. It was a matter of psychology, not logic! Woe is me, woe is me!”

Led scratched the back of his neck.

“…I just assumed the gun wasn’t actually magic. You’re a crazed axe murderer, so, um. Not the most trustworthy authority on that sort of thing.”

Her eyes wide with sober horror, Carrie died. Sighing, Led reached into her dress and retrieved the grapes she’d dangled in front of him.

They sprouted mouths.

“Sorry, Led. But it won’t be that simple. We are your MGE, but a tricky pair are we; one of us is the grape that only tells lies, while the other only tells truths. If you wish to truly succeed in your quest, you must-”

Led tossed both grapes in the sack.

After turning to the door, he wiped his brow, starting the walk back to Hallie. Before he could make it out, a brilliant light filled the room, overriding all senses.

Sure, he thought. Why not?

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