DEFEAT. 025 – Golden Years

[DEFEAT. is Rendar Frankenstein’s truest attempt at fiction.   Presented in weekly episodes, the novella tells the tale of Daryl Millar – a hero who dies at the intersection of pop culture, science-fiction, war epic, and fantasy]

“So you really don’t think that the newest one is any good?”

“Listen, I didn’t say it’s not good!”

“Well, you kinda did when–”

“Damn it, 8-Bit! You always do this! You take something I say and then you spin it so that the meaning is completely different!” Riff was exasperated, partly because his friend was busting his balls and partly because he had failed to adequately express himself.

8-Bit removed his glasses, inspecting the lenses for grime. He held them up to GameWorld’s neon sign, which shone brighter than ever against the black night sky. It’s a strange thought — the clearest messages appear when the least number of people are around to receive them. Doesn’t matter, though. Most people don’t even heed the warnings they actually pick up on. But then again, there’s always one or two that do.

The nine brilliant letters cut their way through the blackness, helping the nerd clean his spectacles. Even as they got smaller during the walk home, the characters of GameWorld’s sign would forever read like a beacon of comfort to 8-Bit.

With vision regained, the dialogue continued. “Ok, let me get this straight. You said, and I quote, ‘Why the fuck would they use synthesizers? The damn things ruin the album!’ What was I supposed to take from that?”

Riff paused for a moment, trying to figure out how to undermine his friend’s well-crafted strategy. “Well…Are you sure I said that?”

“I’m positive.”

“I don’t know. It’d been about an hour since you had to feed the BurgerTime machine a quarter, and I’m not sure your attention was completely dedicated to my musical analysis.” Riff knew his argument was nothing other than a bluff.

8-Bit turned around, looking back the sign that was now a mere neon blur. He had spent the better part of the evening at the arcade and would still be there now had the manager not politely asked him to “Get the fuck outta here kid! I know you’ll be back tomorrow! The machines ain’t going nowhere!” 8-Bit couldn’t fend off Riff’s argument; after all, he had slipped into a state of nirvana, a period ensconced in tranquility, while gaming.

Levelheaded, he offered his counterpart the benefit of the doubt, “All right, maybe I misheard you. What did you say?”

Riff scrambled. “Well, what I had said was that I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the synthesizers in Somewhere in Time. I mean, the record’s been out for almost a month and I still don’t know just how much I like it. Which is fucked up, because it’s Iron Maiden!”

“So, you don’t think it’s a worthy follow-up to Powerslave?”


“And you attribute this to the use of synth?”


“Fair enough, I suppose. But you’re going to tell me you don’t like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner simply because of some synth sounds? If that’s the case — and I know you’re the metal expert — I think you’re fucking nuts.”

“Dude! Again, you’re missing what I’m saying! All I’m saying is…you put on Powerslave and there’s no doubt that it kicks ass! None! From Aces High to Rime of the Ancient Mariner that album rocks my fucking brain out of my ears! And that’s just not the case with the newest one. There’s something about this new one…” Riff was coming to terms with his qualms, realizing exactly wherein his rub lay. “You know what, maybe it’s just because I anticipated that it would be different.”

8-Bit smiled. “Well, that’s the problem with anticipating the future — you can never completely foresee what’s going to happen next.”


Riff and 8-Bit were under attack! The assault was startling, an unexpected infringement upon what was an otherwise peaceful night. Furthermore, the duo was less than a block away from Riff’s house, somehow making the whole ordeal slightly more dramatic.

The notion that safety is within sight but far from reach is most unsettling. So when the rocker and the dweeb found themselves suddenly being pummeled into submission, each couldn’t help but think, “Damn it! If only I could make a break for it.”

Believe it or not, it was actually 8-Bit that managed to free himself from the onslaught of Brady Moore and his varsity cronies. Perhaps because of his scrawny frame, 8-Bit was able to roll out of the circle of violence and head towards freedom. Momentarily escaping the hammerfists of slightly coked-out seventeen year olds, the master-gamer wiped the blood from his nose and booked it towards his friend’s house. Unfortunately, he was already exhausted. Hyperventillating, he barely covered enough yardage for the first down before being taken down by Brady Moore himself.

It was unmerciful. 8-Bit’s glasses were broken. Riff lost a couple of teeth (the first bicuspid and second molar, to be precise). Blood was spilled, steaming hot all over the October-chilled pavement. At no point was there ever a doubt that the seven attackers, who had waited literally hours in the single dark alley between GameWorld and Riff’s house, were in total control. Humiliation had driven Brady to madness.

And this fueled his unrelenting desire to destroy.

The assault seemed to go on for hours, and it very well could have had a well-intentioned social studies teacher not intervened. Ms. Lang, the most stunning conveyor of knowledge regarding American History, stumbled upon the scene of the crime. The apple of Riff’s eye had been walking what appeared to be the oldest (and, somehow, kindest) dog on Planet Earth.

Even through the blood and thunder, Ms. Lang recognized that the objects of the bludgeoning were students of hers and she jumped into action. “Hey, get the hell off of them, you thugs! I said get away from them!” Her words fell on deaf ears and she became frustrated. At that moment the old, ever-reliable pooch made a desperate attempt to intervene. More than past his prime, the dog lunged at Brady Moore and sank in his teeth.

The hound was disposed of with a swift haymaker.

Seeing Man turn on his best friend was nothing less than horrifying. The mixed-breed struggled to move, whimpering and wishing he hadn’t left his master’s side. Lang was resolute in her desire to help, but realized that she was now alone. She was helpless. The best she could do, she begrudgingly acknowledged, was call for assistance.

Ms. Lang scooped the unconscious dog into her arms and began running to her nearby residence, crying “Oh, poor Reilly!” the entire time. She wasn’t panicking exactly, but knew that something terrible was happening and couldn’t stomach the thought of it. Inside her house, Ms. Lang gently laid the faithful mutt on the sofa and snatched the telephone. Within a minute she had spoken to the operator and was assured that police assistance was being dispatched.


When the cruiser pulled up, Brady Moore and his offensive line fled. Not a single one of them was pursued. Riff and 8-Bit lay in shallow puddles of their own fluids, silently sobbing and gasping for breath. There was the briefest of moments in which each was glad to see that the police had come to the rescue.

But then Lieutenant Buckley stepped out of the car. “What’s this? You faggots don’t know how to defend yourselves? What happen, you run into a pack of pissed-off Girl Scouts?”


Although Riff would deny it, 8-Bit would insist on it. He couldn’t recall the exact details, of course, as he had just undergone the most physically traumatic event of his life. But 8-Bit swore that he and his companion had been visited by some sort of messenger or guide.

There was a brief interval in which they had been left alone in the back of the squad car – Buckley had locked them up and then left to unfurl whiskey-piss onto some alley-rats. Riff and 8-Bit were fading in and out of consciousness, it was claimed, when a figure approached the car.

According to 8-Bit, a man in a gray trench coat popped into the passenger seat of the car. Then, as remembered by the first-rate nerd, he addressed the boys directly. “I only have a minute. Well that’s a lie, but, hrm…Nevermind. What happened to you, don’t confuse it for a trauma. There is a beauty in this, and I want you to recognize it as such…So understand. Don’t waste your time searching for those wasted years. Face up — make your stand. And realize you’re living in the golden years.”

According to Riff, this never happened. He claimed bullshit and suggested that 8-Bit’s rattled brain conjured up the whole thing, drawing inferences from the evening’s conversation.

A solid argument, but the man in the gray trench coat would certainly disagree.