You can read Chapter 1 here
Koopa castles are all the same.
Blue bricks, goombas, and fire lashes that always seem too slow. Engineers must have been insane when they deigned these places. I left a trail of dead turtles and goombas in my wake. When I finally got the final room, I prayed to God she was there… I wanted it to be over.
Bits of turtle shell clung to my coveralls as I finally kicked the last door down. I still smelled like a goomba’s innards. I wanted to smell Peach’s perfume, hold her close.
The room was lit by a single candle over a bed. Someone was asleep on it and I could tell, even with the dim light, that it was a woman. I ran to her and saw and picked her up. She was breathing, but barely. I needed more light and threw a fireball at the torches on the opposite wall. Once they flared to life and even before a splash of wax hit the ground, I saw it wasn’t Peach.
Her golden hair was now dark black and she wore the same pink dress from the last time I saw her. The frayed edges had dirt all over them and she reeked like piranha plant mulch. She stirred and opened her eyes just enough to see me. She smiled and hugged me, holding me as tightly as her bird-like arms could muster.
The memories hit me like Birdo’s eggs. I was back at that construction site so many years ago. The barrels rolled over steel girders and I jumped over them to get as high as possible and save sweet Pauline. Donkey Kong just kept grabbing her, getting higher and higher, and I kept going after him like an idiot. I knew how it was going to end. I knew but I didn’t care. That day cost me my job with the construction company, forced me to become a plumber since no one wanted to hire the screw-up that let his pet monkey loose on the city.
Pauline left me soon after that,
Now what the hell was she doing here?
Pauline wasn’t even looking at me, I saw. Her eyes looked at something else, something far away.
I took the opportunity to wipe the koopa shells and goomba slime off my coveralls. By the time she was herself again, she sat up and held her face in her hands for a long time, barely noticing me. I lit the rest of the torches and said, “You’re looking good, Pauline.”
“You’ve always been a bad liar,” she mumbled.
Good point… I sat on the edge of the bed and said, “What are you doing here?”
She looked under the pillow and took out a green mushroom. She nibbled at it like a hamster. The chewing finally got to me and I said, “Can that wait?”
“Not really. Long night.”
Pauline was always the type of broad to go off on some side-quest and get herself into all kinds of trouble. Even before the DK incident, she and Pac-Man’s girl would go out all night. Sometimes I wouldn’t see her for a whole weekend and finally come home from the construction site and find her on the couch. She was a mess. Self-destructive. A catastrophe waiting to happen.
And I loved her.
I don’t know why. It’s the kind of thing the hero is supposed to do.
“You remind me of Peach, you know?” I finally said.
She finished the last of the 1-Up. The “ding” barely died down when he said, “She’s the new one, right? Let me guess? Damsel in distress? Oh, Mario, you always picked up ones that needed the most dust blown out of their cartridge.”
Had to hand it to her. She knew how to stick it in and twist.
“She’s not like that,” I said, turning around and pretending to check to see if any of Bowser’s lackeys tried to make a bee-line for the door.
Pauline giggled in her old high-pitch, a laugh that reminded me more of beach bimbos than a real woman. She said, “Of course, she’s like that. You never went for anyone different, Mario. You don’t have a messiah complex. You’ve got the Player 1 complex. You have to beat the odds, win the prize, and if the prize is some young thing that will throw herself all over you, even better, right?”
I could have thrown a fireball at her right then and there, but something was coming up the hallway towards the room. I snuffed the lights and put my back against the cold stone. Something short and stumpy waddled in and I grabbed it by the throat and banged it against the wall. My hand flamed and I got ready to shove it into the goomba’s face.
It wasn’t a goomba. I looked deep into those beady black eyes and I knew what it was I was about to do…
He struggled to speak over my grip on his throat as he said, “I’m sorry… but… but-”
Don’t say it, i thought. Don’t say it, you fungal bastard…
“Your princess is in another castle…”