What is the Forty-March Punch? That’s the question that’s gone through my mind for almost a year now. Everyone’s heard of it, but no one really knows what it is. Some say it’s a secret martial arts technique that can cripple a person and make them lose pleasant memories. Others say it’s an experimental mixed drink laced with all kinds of hallucinogens that screws you up so bad, it makes people’s heads explode. A lot of people have heard of it in passing, referred to as an object, a place, an organization, even a person. This is the mystery that’s driven me so far. So far…
But after months of cold leads and dead ends I managed to catch a lucky break. It turned out one of my friends in the crime beat of the local paper had gotten a tip from an anonymous source’s aunt’s roommate, you get my drift. The tip pointed to a local bar near the International Airport where hotels, motels, auto shops, fast food joints, clubs and other establishments grew like fungus on the rotted bark that was air travel.
The bar was dirty, smelly, falling apart. It felt like home and I didn’t like it. I asked for Jim, said a friend told me I could find him here. The barkeep frowned and told me to wait. A minute of waiting later, a round figure plopped down next to me.
“Heard you were looking for something,” he said, cheeks red and jolly.
“You Jim?” I asked.
“I’m your ticket to the answers you seek. Follow me.”
He led me to the back, past the storage room and broom closet next to the restroom. He pushed through what looked like a manager’s office and kept going to the end of the room. He removed a panel off the wall behind the coat rack and punched a combination into the key pad. The wall creaked, shifted, inched backwards and slid away and right then I knew I was way out of my element. I didn’t sign up for secret doors that led to secret staircases lit by secret torchlight down into secret darkness. But the mantra behind a majority of my bad decisions turned its volume way up in my mind. That mantra being; you’ve come this far, might as well keep going. That was how I ended up at the bottom of the staircase, against my better judgment.
“Just so we’re clear, I’m looking for the Forty-March Punch and not a creepy sex dungeon,” I said. The unspoken how do you know that’s not what it is? rung in the silence behind my ears.
“You’re lucky we live in a day and age were profaning the sacred is met with a shrug rather than a stoning,” said Jim, though he never told me if that was his name. This whole thing was seeming like more of a bad idea the longer it went on. “Keep up.”
He led me through a narrow tunnel that he could barely squeeze his girth through. Several times I thought he was going to get stuck and I would have to awkwardly shove him to get him through, but he managed surprisingly well. The tunnel opened up to a massive chamber which I wasn’t sure was physically possible down below these streets. Where were the sewer mains? The optic fiber cable networks? We hadn’t gone down that far. The chamber was lined with stones with runes etched on them in a language that hadn’t been spoken naturally in an eon.
Inside the circle of stones, another circle of people, standing around a pool of liquid. Next to each person in the circle were terrified looking people wearing looks not too different from my own.
“Welcome back, Brother Jimothy Timopher Jones,” said one of the people in the circle.
“Oh shit,” I said under my breath, though I swore it echoed in that place.
“This one wishes to learn the secret of the Punch,” said Jim. Er, Jimothy.
“Step forward,” said the people in the circle in unison.
“Oh shit,” I said louder this time.
“I can’t! I’m out!” one of the terrified onlookers yelled. She ran toward the exit, a different one than we had come through, and was zapped by arcane forces emanating from the circle of stones.
“Your charge was… unworthy, Brother Jamden Gris Pennywicker,” said the one of the people in the circle. Someone, I assume Brother Jamden, shrieked and tore his clothes and hair off, then his skin, then just everything until there was nothing left but sputtering gibbets of meat and clothing.
“Oh shit,” I was practically screaming at this point.
“Come, Brother Jimothy. Enter the circle.”
Jim went forward and so did I, into the circle of stones, which sparked as we crossed the threshold.
“We may now begin. Charges. When the chant starts, you will disrobe and enter the pool. Then the secrets of the Forty-March Punch will be revealed.”
“What if we we’re allergic to magic water?” I asked.
The people in the circle started chanting, the rest of us looked at each other for one dumbfounded moment before we started taking our clothes off like we were having an orgy race. I was proud and a little ashamed of the fact that I was one of the first to get stark naked. Others had opted to keep their bras and underwear on but I wasn’t risking anything, just following commands to the letter. The chant grew louder and I waited to see who would jump in first. No one budged. Then the mantra kicked in.
“Oh well,” I said to a life not well lived.
I took the plunge into the mirror like stillness of the pool. It was icy cool, then warm. I felt great. Better than I’ve ever felt. I opened my mouth and drank it in, breathing, gasping like I’d never had air before. This was it. This was the point of it all. Forget Paradise. Forget everything. Now I am a complete person, thanks to new Forty-March Punch, from Aple-Aid! A drink so smooth it goes down like syrup! Healthy and nutritious, it’s like I’m Punching the fat away! This isn’t a soft drink. It’s a lifestyle drink. A miracle in a can. Eight hours of energy, zero calories, one thousand grams of sugar. One thousand grams of fun! Forty-March Punch! Don’t let life get you down. Punch it!
Get it at your local soft drink dispensary or wherever Evil World Ending Elixirs are sold.