The interior of the building had an industrial feel to it. The tables were metal, the stools seemed cobbled together from lead pipes and wood. Tin sheeting adorned the walls, hunks of it cut away to make room for doorways and bars. Amidst the rough décor there were only still hints as to this establishment’s true purpose. Colorful lights ran along nearly every surface, unlit but still noticeable to the keen eye. An enormous slab of wood elevated an open area three inches up from the concrete floor, giant speakers near it almost, but not quite, concealed from view. The truly experienced partier would notice a few holes drilled in the upper part of the sheeting just above the wooden slab, a perfect size for a fog machine to spray its contents on the area below. It was a contrast of joy and efficiency, of work and play. It had definitely been constructed by Hershel and Roy’s father.
Hershel took all this in, comparing it to Roy’s memory from so many years ago and discovering more similarities than differences. Roy had made the mistake of coming at night; so much of the fine detail had escaped his attention. The place had been more distracting, and what he’d seen more distressing. This time he knew what he was walking into, and he could handle it. Seeing his father, however, Hershel was less confident in that regard. He really didn’t know what his first words would be to the man who had left them.
It didn’t take long to find out. As Hershel stood by the entrance, a large man stepped out from one of the doorways to the back. He was close to seven feet tall, his arms thicker than a bodybuilder’s legs, and his legs looked closer related to steel beams than human limbs. A dark beard was trimmed close so as to still show off his impressive jaw line and handsome face. In each hand he carried a silver keg, presumably full, although one wouldn’t have known that from the ease with which he slung them around.
Hershel found his breathing was no longer functional and his ability to keep his knees steady had all but vanished. It had been over a decade since he’d seen this man through anything but Roy’s memory, yet he was unmistakable. This giant could only be Titan, the unstoppable monster who left all but the most powerful criminals trembling at the mention of his name. Hershel cleared his throat accidently as he tried to suck in air and regain some semblance of mental balance.
The giant turned his head toward the sound and froze. A riotous clanking filled the air as the kegs clattered to the ground, gathering dents and ensuring that any beer inside would be undrinkable for days. It took less than five sizable strides for him to cross the room, stopping only a few inches from Hershel’s still somewhat shaky form. His father laid an enormous hand on each of Hershel’s shoulders and stared down at the boy, his face a tempest of emotions, each fighting for the right to be showcased. A single word escaped his mouth, deep and rich as a jazz singer and dripping with just as much emotion.
Hershel reared back and struck his father in the jaw with all the strength he had. It was a futile gesture: even most Heroes couldn’t put down this powerhouse. Still, sometime later, when Roy finally regained control of the body, he would look back on this memory and, despite all the other negative emotions that would be rolling through him at the time, feel a tremendous sense of brotherly pride.
* * *
It didn’t take long for the quiet tranquility of Alice’s beach house to be shattered by a slew of arrivals. Stella, Violet, Thomas, and Camille were the first ones to show up after the prep team. With the exception of Camille, everyone was at least partially intoxicated. It seemed Stella had wanted to pre-game and Violet had jumped on the idea, cajoling Thomas into at least partial participation. By the time they’d finally gotten the three girls set up in a room, Will, Jill, Julia, and Sasha had arrived. Sasha was uncharacteristically silent, avoiding conversation and even eye contact with anyone besides Julia. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she’d been talked into coming and was clearly regretting it. For her part, Camille went out of her way to greet the speedy girl and welcome her to the event. If anything, this only seemed to make Sasha retract further into her shell.
As the day wore on, more groups showed up at the door. Shane, Rich, Adam, Britney, and Amber all carpooled together. Selena and Tiffani were the last arrivals, appearing a few minutes after two. It was bedlam at first as people jockeyed to find open rooms with their friends, eventually culminating in the last folks hunkering down in the open bunk bed room that dominated most of the third floor. It was riotous but cheerful in spirit. Those intent on partying realized the odds of them making it to the appropriate bed were slim, and those intent on sobriety assumed they’d be more capable of getting back to their assigned space. By the time four in the afternoon appeared on the kitchen’s clock a variety of activities had begun.
There was a pool tournament at one of the billiards tables, complete with a tiered bracket system that would be impossible to maintain once a true zenith of intoxication was reached. Violet had organized a Power Hour in the living room, insistent that by week’s end they all be capable of completing a Bicentennial Club. Vince had started a beach volleyball game out in the sand; currently he and Thomas were two points up on the team of Shane and Will. Some of the girls were sitting on the deck, catcalling their male classmates and enjoying margaritas made from an actual drum-style machine rather than a blender and ice. Shockingly, it was Nick and Camille who were in the kitchen, preparing nachos, bacon sandwiches, and other assorted foods designed to satisfy munchies and offer at least some relief from the ravages of alcohol.
It was hectic, it was disorganized, it was highly irresponsible. It was exactly what everyone needed.