Fear and Loathing in South Figaro Chapter 11
Editor's Note: At this point in the chronology, it would appear that Mr. Goldfist has broken down completely. All efforts to find his original manuscript and transcribe it into a readable text were for naught and Mr. Goldfist refused to even acknowledge its existence. There was simply no way to get a hold of him.
Thus, in the interest of journalistic purity, we bring to you, the readers, the only true segment of Mr. Goldfist's lost journal that we were able to translate. They seem to involve him and his assistant finally abandoning the Returner story and venturing to find the Marandian Dream somewhere beyond the grim confines of the 'Symposium on Alchemy and Dangerous Spells'.
Unfortunately, given his state of mind at this point, the anecdote appears as nothing more than a convoluted narrative of an immensely nonsensical nature. True translation, it seems, can only be borne with the imagination of our fellow readers.
Your guess is as good as ours.
[- -Horatio Alger; Office of Journalism, Maranda]
* * *
"I think we found it."
"This is it! The Marandian Dream! If only Ziegfried could see us now!"
"Yeah, yeah! Don't get ahead of yourself!"
I suppose one could forgive the lout for being too cautious. There was too much urgency in his voice for him to sound bombastic. The reasons, of course, more than spoke for themselves: somehow, without our knowing of it, we had fallen into the earth, surrounded by things that were fiery, incorporeal, and accompanied with the unrelenting fetor of arsenic, sulfites, and smoke. Of course, my assistant was quick to share little, if any, insight or commentary for the predicament. The words of some moogle kingpin drew him away from the horror of it all, a moogle who just happened to be sitting at the head of a very large and crude table of volcanic glass.
Maybe we were just ghosts, and this was Nifleheim . . .
"Hey Goldfist! In or out?!"
"How'd you know my name?" I snarled.
"Don't let these caverns fool you," he said, "word gets around."
"Is that so?"
"Come on. We need a fourth."
How a snide moogle and a jittery imp were able to carry on a game of Hearts in this place I had no idea. Every so often, gouts of magma would flare up from below, threatening to reduce us all to crispy critters. Somehow, neither of them would let such panorama dampen their spirits. So, I sat in concert with my assistant, paying particular attention to the imp across the way. It carried chips on both shoulders and a tick that made me nervous. It was going to snap at any minute. I just knew it!
"So," the moogle said, and resumed his card shuffling, "what is it that you said you folks were looking for, again?"
"Not looking for," I said, "Found! The Marandian Dream! Hell, we never even had to look for it! It was right under our noses the whole time!"
"I stand corrected." Kiwan was an interesting character, if ever I saw one. He had a talk and a motion that went a few notches over condescension. There was a cigar bobbing about in his mouth the whole time, which put him far from all those 'Kupo! Kupo!' stereotypes that were synonymous with Narshe. "So, tell us. What exactly is the Marandian Dream?"
"Anarchy," my assistant muttered, giving me a sidelong glance as he moved to gather his hand. Nothing became quite as serious to him as poker. "That's one word for it, anyway."
"Well, anarchy is a bit of an understatement." I glared down at my hand. Nothing but a seven-high. Kiwan, you whore! "But my associate understands this concept, despite his occupational handicap. Do you?"
He shook his head. I shrugged and moved my chair (rock) in closer. The large slab of obsidian was far too big and there weren't enough chairs/rocks for us all. Of course, imps and moogles carried the advantage of being perpetually small creatures. Two of each could sit upon one chair easy, which did a lot for the lack of space on our precipice.
When it appeared evident that neither of them was going to respond, I added, "Well, we answered your questions, Kiwi, so the least you can do is answer one of ours. What's with the imp? He looks to be in dire straits!"
"First of all, it's Kiwan, not Kiwi!" I promptly apologized. "And secondly, try not to worry too much about Thompson. He'll be fine so long as he doesn't get his hands on any Reagen."
My heart put on its spiked shoes and went for another lap.
"You mean drugs?" I asked.
A nod. "He's quite depressed."
"He's trying to quit."
[Indecipherable text . . .]
It was as if no matter where we went, some crude fate always conspires to land us right in the middle of yet another drug-related nightmare. It was all bad enough that I was forced to contend with liquid magma and volcanic toxins, but this imp could very easily be harboring some sort of vendetta against me and my assistant. It looked as though it didn't quite have its head screwed on straight. When it finally spoke, I jumped for cover, half-expecting it to scuttle across the table and rip out my pineal gland.
"Kappa," it said.
"Is that supposed to be the imp equivalent of 'kupo'?" My assistant looked confused.
"Kappa," I replied. "Maybe he's in a fraternity or something."
His being in a fraternity would have at least explained the gritty fascination with drugs. But Kiwan shook his head.
"You boys are way off. Let's put it this way . . ." He paused briefly to check up on the ante. "Kappa is, to the imps, what that Mog fellow was to the moogles. They're head honchos. Kingpins. Ya read me?"
"I read you," said my assistant, surrendering his cards.
"Wish I could say the same."
"What I mean is, what does Kappa have to do with anything?"
"Ah," Kiwan replied. "Well, Kappa is Thompson's role model. Taught him that there was more to life than all those magic tokes, and the like. Probably just misses his mentor."
Again, my assistant nodded. I felt for him; things had definitely failed to achieve our interest by this time. Things would have probably been a little more interesting to see how an imp's body chemistry reacted to ether, or even a few Green Cherries! He'd probably be up on this volcanic-glass table in no time to pull off a few hallucinogenic-fueled parlor tricks.
Suddenly, my assistant leaned over and spoke to me. His eyes looked nervous. "Where's the hashpipe?"
I fumbled for an answer. "The kitbag's gone, too!"
We both looked across the way just in time to find the Thompson imp signing all of our death warrants. He was powing down on OUR Reagen!
"NO!" we cried, but we were two seconds too late.
By that time, the imp had gone loco - and all hell broke loose . . .
* * *
"Albrook and Tzen just joined the pool!" The gambler nudged me at ringside. He insisted on being present; profiteering, he said, was largely a measure of how much interaction existed between a bookie and his client. He seemed quite adamant about it. "The odds are running thirty to one against you. Ten to one says that you'll get KO'ed before the fifth and four to one before the round even starts, but think of the payoff if you manage to beat those odds!"
"Thirty to one?!" I felt like killing him. "You rat bastard! I'll pound you for this!!"
"Fine," said Setzer, pocketing his notebook, "if you can't trust your friends, then you're on your own!"
"No, wait . . ."
But he had already disappeared in a tide of spectators.
"Relax, soldier," said Cyan, popping a mouthguard between my jaws. "I've seen the way this imp moves. If it's Reagen he's on, then he'll concentrate on your midsection."
"A moogle's height," I replied.
"Exactly. It's probably part of an imp's hallucination. Anyways, just keep your guard up and keep your elbow low when you throw with your right!"
I could hear the crowd grow restless. Confidence was high, but I couldn't shake this bad feeling I was having . . .
"What if it's not Reagen he's been having?! What if it's something like ether?!"
"Hmmm . . ." And suddenly, Strago was climbing up into the corner with me. "A depressant," he noted, "yet, if he wields any type of magical ability, you may find yourself face up on the mat before you even know what hit you!"
"What do you suggest?!"
"Stay on the defensive! Throw as many hooks as you can, and then get out before he throws an elemental at you!"
Cyan seemed to agree.
"What if it's Megaelixir he's on?!"
Cyan sighed. "Then, you've already won! No one can keep their balance on a hit of Megaelixir, let alone throw a punch! Now, get in there!"
Inside the ring, Celes was prancing about in an emerald two-piece, proudly holding a 'Round 2' over her head while Sabin, clad in black and white stripes, readied himself to officiate. A misdirected right cross on the part of my opponent had laid the original referee out cold.
That poor treasure hunter . . .
"Okay! Now, let's see those gloves!" Thompson and I butted our fists. "Alright! Begin!"
And before anyone knew what to expect, our SECOND official had been rendered unconscious, the fault of a very literal kitchen sink. It had come courtesy of the meanest bull I had ever locked horns with. The crowd hissed at the poor sportsmanship.
"Claud!" I barked, gritting my teeth, "It'll take more than a few knocked-out referees to keep this journalist away!"
Quite abruptly, I began to pick up on the redolence of ether on the imp's breath, but before I could react the imp vanished and was replaced with the frightful visage of a muscled gargantuan almost five times my size! The imp had summoned a Titan!
"It'll take something like you," I murmured.
With each swing of its massive limbs, the world did another lap around me. CRING! CRACK! WHOMF! I could see Strago and Cyan calling out to me from the corner, but most of what they were throwing at me was lost in the wind of the Titan's onslaught. The next thing I knew, I was falling backwards toward the mat . . .
* * *
. . . and crashing through a stain glass skylight.
"Got any Jacks?"
Looming above me and from all around were these twisted parodies of the living. Burning cobalt eyes, suctioncup tentacles, spiked manes, and beastly, magenta-hued hulks were all that could be determined of their appearance. It was enough, however, to know that they were not good company. None of them were smiling, yet the flesh of each face was wrapped so tightly around their skull that they appeared to be grinning perpetually, almost sadistically.
But what was this? There were playing cards being held in those tentacles . . .
With a voice like a leaky tire valve, one of them said, "Do you mind?! We're trying to play a game, here!"
* * *
"This is a most disturbing realm you've fallen into, Mr. Goldfist."
"No kidding! I don't even box!"
I eventually got lost and found myself before an individual who called himself the Caretaker, though his more than eccentric attire, not to mention testimonies from the Returners, led me to believe that this was, in fact, the master of the simulacrum himself - Gogo.
"Of course, you've always suspected that you'd wind up here sooner or later, didn't you?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You really don't know, do you?"
Before chancing a reply, one garbed in all black raiments grabbed me.
"Then, allow us to reiterate," he muttered into my ear.
* * *
[Prior to transcribing the first part of this next passage, there were at least three indented pages which, quite simply, read only as 'A hard shot . . .' over and over again. Most likely, it is an aberration of free association writing, one which Mr. Goldfist simply forgot to exclude from his manuscript . . .]
"A hard shot to the head and neck collapses the carotid artery and cuts the flow of the blood to the brain! The hook!" The ninja swung a fist at the air, then bent his head back for good measure. "The head and neck twist laterally, traumatizing the cerebral tissue!"
The one called Shadow made a note of rubbing salt into a wound of defeat by miming a series of his own blocks and punches while Gogo, taking up space in the background, mimicked each of his techniques with uncanny precision.
"And who can forget the uppercut?! The head snaps back, rupturing tissue in the cerebellum and upper spinal cord!! YES!!!" He ceased his air curtailing and began to approach me. "And the result of all this poetry in motion? Neurologic dysfunction! Chronic traumatic encephalopathy! Loss of balance! And coordination! Lost of memory . . ."
He gritted his teeth.
"Painfully," I replied. "I know what you're trying to do. My bout with the imp. It's a symbol for yet another bout, one which I've been losing for a very long time. Is that just about right?"
"Try not to flatter yourself," said a third voice from the shadows. It was young and feminine, much like Relm's used to be. "Your instincts as a journalist have betrayed you. Men, such as yourselves, are bound by the oath of finding the truth, no matter the risks involved. Only now, Mr. Goldfist, it seems that you're in over your head."
"You'd be wise to listen to her," Shadow urged me, "the girl speaks the truth."
"What girl? I don't see anyone! Anywhere!"
And then, sure enough, Relm emerged from out of the shadows. It had been the third time in the course of my odyssey in which she chose to make an appearance.
"What's the matter?" she asked, when I failed to respond. "Memory loss again?"
"I can't remember . . ."
Man, this was crazy. I hope I didn't brain my damage . . .
* * *
[Preceding the next of our cryptic passages were a series of sloppily drawn pictures that, only vaguely, resemble the fabeled Hidon beast of Ebot Rock. All attempts to associate these images with Mr. Goldfist's tale have come up short, although it could help to mention that one of his former assignments entailed a thorough interview with Gungho von Thamasia . . .]
I recall somehow leaving the dark void of the simulacrum. The taunts and accusations of faces better left unremembered were giving me headaches, which were the last things a dope fiend like myself needed. I ran until my muscles creaked and my lungs roared. Where it was I couldn't say: I was hot and I was cold; I was high and I was low; it was dark and it was light; I was everywhere and nowhere. All were one and the same.
The road less traveled didn't have yellow bricks, and it was none the easier to find a handle on things when it ended. Things were exploding. Things were imploding. People were shouting while others whispered. All seemed to be directed at me. Terrible confusion. Some knew me by name, others knew me as simply 'Hey you'. It was the kind of thing that happens to druggies when they take too many LSD donuts and convince themselves that they were something they weren't, like astrologers, clowns, or trees.
A kaleidoscope of virtual insanity - and it never stopped spinning.
Kiwan? My Goddess! I was back! A distant hiss of geothermal pressure reminded me where I was: back underground. But was it legit? Could that voice be trusted? And if it could, would it tell me exactly where 'back' was this time around?
"What the fuck's going on?! What happened to the imp?!"
"You son of a bitch!" he went on to say. "That bastard kitbag of yours has opened a Pandora's Box! It's Thompson! He's . . ."
"Goddess, he went crazy! It started with just hassling that big-bellied friend of yours, but before long, he let out this shriek and Zen reacted by throwing an ether flask at him! He went absolutely bonkers!! Jumped off his stone like a goddamn jack-in-the-box he did, then he took a bite out of the guy's arm!"
"Shit!" I said. "Where is he now?"
"What? Fuck him! The imp! Which way did he go? I'll give you seven hundred gold pieces up front for him! Take it or leave it!"
"What? You must be kidding!"
"I shit you not, goddamn it! I WANT that imp! It's a magnificent specimen!"
And it was. There had been enough narcotics in that kitbag of ours to kill a mastodon. Knowing that he had probably taken all of it and lived could say a lot for an imp's physiology. Such knowledge could probably mean millions if the right hands ever found it. A get-rich-quick scheme, admittedly, but one I intended to capitalize on.
"It'll tear your head off!" he warned.
"I'll grow a new one!" I fired back.
But breaking my reverie was the sound of a throat gurgling, and then snarling. Bones could suddenly be heard breaking just around the bend and a distasteful spitting sound told me that the victim had not fallen from a precipice but into the gullet of a . . . well, a something. A BIG something! No way it could have been Thompson. Not even Megaelixir has that kind of an effect!
"Where of that bastard imp?!" the creature roared, suddenly throwing its massive head over the promontory to confront us.
"You, too?" I asked. "My, that Thompson's a popular one, isn't he?"
You know it's going to be a bad day when you find yourself staring down the ugly muzzle of a winged eidolon that was twelve times the size of God. But what made such an encounter all the more ominous was the fact that he was addressing you in the manner of a mercenary for hire, inquiring quite sternly as to whether or not you've seen an imp pass by recently. It probably wanted to swallow him whole.
"That depends on what your business is with him," I told him. "A meal, perhaps?"
"A meal? Faugh!" The esper's mane bristled. "Why should the mighty Bahamut make a meal out of the most distasteful of all your races. That addict would make a much better toothpick!"
"Indeed!" I said to him, trying to throw off his frantic search. "So, why half-kill yourself over such an unworthy tidbit?"
A horrible grating sound followed, which I assumed was the creature laughing. "My intention towards that nettlesome imp is not one of nourishment! I seek only to silence him. It has, after all, awaken me from an age-old slumber."
For the first time since I had found myself down here, things appeared to make sense. This thing, this serpent, had a name synonymous with esper mythology. Bahamut, it had said. Their kind, on the other hand, had been expunged from the world when Terra and the Returners defeated Kefka. There could be no esper resting deep in the earth, no matter how much it wanted to believe it was.
The only solution?
It was a hallucination. All of it. Its lucidity was directly proportional to the puissance of some divine narcotic. But how long had these illusions been playing with my head? Had it been a matter of hours? Days, even?
By the heart of Joven, we were breaking down!
* * *
"I'll take care of him!" said a voice, and I looked as a pearl-white apparition with violet hair came down from above and started provoking the serpent even further. "Find your friends and leave while you still can!"
"You're not real!" I heard myself say, being reminded of the esper girl.
"Gee, thanks a lot!" she replied in blasting the creature with a searing ball of blue energy. "Hallucinations are the least of your worries, right now! I suggest you seize this opportunity before the dragon seizes you!"
"But the imp-"
"Watch out!" And suddenly, King Edgar himself was on the scene, wielding one of his patented autocrossbows and the fiery will to use it. "Don't move!" he warned, "or I shall shoot those wings of yours full of holes!"
"Yeah!" wheezed Relm as she appeared from out of another dark cavern with a paintbrush in her hand. "And I'll paint your portrait!"
"Yeah!" I joined in, pulling out a writing stylus. "And I'll do your biography!"
Silence. Even the serpent seemed to pause long enough to give me a queer look.
I shrugged. "You'd be surprised what a few white lies will do to a dragon's reputation."
The monarch rolled his eyes. "Mr. Goldfist, if you don't mind . . ."
"Huh? Oh yeah! Well, good luck!"
I turned tail and ran for the nearest cave, hoping for the best. I suppose Kiwan was right after all. The imp was a lost cause, and things were about to get volatile in that twisted grotto of ours. There was no sense in arguing with friends, especially when they just happened to be figments of your imagination!
* * *
[A large number of glaring omissions surfaced as we went about deciphering Mr. Goldfist's lost journal, omissions which are probably more than evident for the reader as well. They have become impossible to translate, due to a viscous liquid stuck to several pages that caused the passages to completely degrade. There are, however, many eye witness reports saying that a poorly dressed priest and a chocobo rancher set fire to a grotto home for no apparent reason. Several Returners were swiftly dispatched to 'deal with the problem'. The grotto was the property of a moogle named Kiwan and an imp by the name of Thompson. - -Horatio Alger]
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