Mario stopped to consider what had just occurred. He breathed in. Ever so slowly, he looked down towards his feet. He stopped. He looked up. He breathed in. Goddamn it, it was true. It was for real, now.
He was standing in a pile of brains and entrails.
It wasn’t the fact that the dog had come towards him—he’d seen dogs before; he had petted dogs before. It wasn’t the strange appearance of the animal: short, brown, fungus shaped, and walking in such a way that only two legs were visible. It wasn’t even the smell—Mario was from New Jersey. There was something strange about the way it moved…almost as if it had no conscience—no purpose—other than to walk eternally and aimlessly in a straight line.
The creature appeared to be unaware of Mario’s presence, but, try as he might, Mario found himself unable to circumvent it to the left or the right. Well, Mario thought, the animal’s going to see me here and move along. The creature continued to approach him, looking distantly away from him yet shuffling directly toward his proximity. Mario jumped several times, hoping to get the creature’s attention, or to at least startle it away, but the creature’s ghostly stare continued unfazed—it was still approaching.
It became quite clear to Mario that this creature was not natural. It was no dog, either, as its flesh appeared to be iridescent, with an almost gelatinous glaze. Mario began to feel disgust and hatred toward the animal—he wished that it would simply go away and no longer block his path, but the more Mario moved, the more squarely in front of him the animal appeared to be. Shit, Mario thought. Here it is now…Christ…directly in front…closing in…just feet away.
And Mario leapt into the air.
It couldn’t be said for certain if Mario accidentally under-estimated his trajectory, or if half-way through the jump, something inside him told him he had to come down hard on the creature’s head—splitting it like an A&P bag filled with Kraft Dinner—but moments later, Mario was shin-deep in the creature’s innards, steeling himself for what might come next.
Yes, there would be hundreds more of these creatures to face and disembowel, and though Mario had stopped feeling anything inside by the time he reached the water level, he always kept—in the hopes of retaining some small vestige of his sanity if he ever made it back to Jersey—locked away in the furthest, incorruptible corner of his mind…the memory of his first Goomba.
Postscript: For compelling artistic interpretation on the effects that fifteen years in Mushroom Kingdom can have on an Italian plumber’s mind, please, PLEASE click here for eight pages of absolute magic.