by Ronald Schulte
I’d always wanted to make my own beer. I’d hinted to friends and relatives that a Mr. Beer system would make a great gift, but no one ever caught on. Many Christmases and birthdays passed with no luck. Eventually I took matters into my own hands. I did a little investigation online and stumbled upon a listing for a home beer brewing kit on eBay; not a Mr. Beer, but close enough.
The listing said the unit was “lightly used,” but the starting price was ridiculously cheap — 99 cents — so I wasn’t too worried. I put in a bid for $5.00, which ended up being the only bid, and won the kit at a fraction of the cost of a Mr. Beer. I spent a grand total of $12.98 with shipping and handling.
When the box finally arrived on my doorstep a week later, I was excited. I could almost taste the beer as I grabbed the package and rushed down to the basement, where I’d already cleared a space for the unit. I ripped open the package to review the contents and was shocked at the sight that awaited me. Everything in the box was covered with dust and grime; the phrase “lightly used” popped into my head and I had to chuckle. I had been scammed.
The package contained a beer-making kit, all right, but it was not the one shown in the eBay listing. For one thing, the beer keg — the largest part which holds the beer as it ferments — was depicted as a clear oval-shaped item in the eBay listing, but the one in the box was spherical and made of dark green glass. Also, there were a dozen beer bottles included in the package; these should have been brown plastic, but like the keg were also dark green glass. The caps on the bottles were covered with rust; I doubted I could even open them without breaking the bottles.
The keg and bottles were etched with some kind of symbol. Two symmetrical curved shapes, facing each other, formed a near-circle. I looked a little more closely and thought that these arced shapes might be hands, cupped as if holding something. Within the circle was a flame, like you might see flickering atop a taper candle. Perhaps it was a company logo; I wasn’t sure.
The eBay listing had also included packets of ingredients for making several different varieties of lagers and ales. My kit, however, contained rusty metal canisters instead of packets. There were only two canisters in the box: one was marked “light,” and the other was marked “dark.” The kit was supposed to contain an instruction booklet describing what to do with these ingredients, but the only documentation included within my package was a single strip of yellowing paper, upon which the following hand-written notes were barely legible:
Dissolve 2 tbsp beer mix per 12 oz water, add solution to keg and leave in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks. Fill bottles when beer has fermented, adding 1 tsp of sugar to aid carbonation. Allow bottles to stand at least 2-3 weeks. Allow an extra week for the dark mixture.
Note: I recommend sticking with the light mixture. I didn’t much enjoy the dark.
I probably should have boxed it all back up, returned it, and reported the guy. However, curiosity won out over common sense; I decided to give the system a try. For my first batch, I selected the light mixture. I mixed the ingredients into water as described in the instructions, then left the mixture to ferment for two full weeks.
After that, I bottled the beer. I did manage to get the caps off the bottles and, after some cleaning and scrubbing, they didn’t look so bad. The keg contained just enough liquid to fill all twelve bottles. I added the sugar for carbonation, recapped the bottles and left them alone in the basement, this time for three weeks.
Finally, after five weeks, the light beer was ready for action. I came home after work on a Friday, grabbed a bottle, opened it, and took a healthy gulp. I was blown away; it was fantastic! I finished the bottle quickly and thought about grabbing another.
I guess that thought was what triggered the effect; as I watched, the refrigerator door clicked open, and a fresh beer floated across the kitchen into my hand. I stared stupidly at the bottle, then at the fridge. The fridge door was still open; however, the second I thought about shutting it, the door swung shut. No way. I focused and was able to make it open and close a few more times. This was incredible! My mind raced with possibilities.
I tried my newly acquired talent on a few other objects, pushing the limits as much as possible. I managed to acquire the remote control from the living room with little effort; I flicked the light switches; I slid a chair across the kitchen; I even managed to levitate the kitchen table a few inches. However, my newfound mental powers lasted only a few minutes; before long, I was unable to move a grocery store receipt that was only a few inches away.
I sat there, mystified. Why hadn’t I experienced these abilities before? And why had I lost the abilities just as quickly as I had discovered them? It took me a moment to make the obvious connection: It was the beer. I drank another one to confirm my suspicion.
The effect was the same with the second beer as with the first: I experienced a fleeting knack for telekinesis that lasted a few minutes. When beer number 2 wore off, I drank another. Then another. In fact, I finished the whole batch that first night; it had been five weeks in the making, but only a few hours in the consumption. I performed parlor trick after parlor trick, always to be disappointed when the ability faded.
As I sat around with a headache the following afternoon, I thought about what it all meant. The phenomenon was great fun, but hardly useful. The abilities lasted only a few minutes each time; given that I could only brew twelve beers every five weeks, best case was I’d be able to mentally summon my iPhone from its charger for maybe an hour a month.
Still, I had to wonder why anyone would want to sell the kit once they had used it and experienced this most unexpected result. The eBay seller had priced it very low, seemingly anxious to get rid of it. They’d even falsified the listing in order to coax a bid. What had motivated the previous owner to sell so frantically?
I made several more batches of light beer before the mixture ran out. I never told anyone about the side effects and never shared the beer with anyone. I lied whenever my girlfriend Jen asked how the beer was coming along; I told her the batches had all been duds thus far.
I experimented with the abilities, surprising myself a few times. A favorite moment involved levitating my recliner a few feet into the air while sitting in it. But for the most part I didn’t manage anything more impressive than the cheesy telekinetic tricks from the first night.
* * *
When the light mixture was gone, I disregarded the hand-written warning from the previous owner — I didn’t much enjoy the dark — and proceeded with a dark batch. As it turned out, there was only enough dark mix for a single batch. I was disappointed; after this batch I’d be out of mix altogether. Who knew if any more of this stuff existed, or where to find it? I decided to worry about that later and to focus my energy on making this batch count. The process was no different for the dark beer than for the light, aside from the extra week of aging required.
After drinking my first bottle of the dark beer, I knew something wasn’t right; nothing extraordinary was happening. I concentrated on a pencil on the kitchen counter, but it wouldn’t budge. I wondered if this was what had driven the seller’s disdain of the dark mixture; after the light batches, this was certainly a big letdown.
I set the empty bottle down on the table and debated whether to wait a few minutes or to drink another beer right away. I belched absent-mindedly... and a large fireball erupted from my mouth, setting the curtains ablaze. I scrambled for a fire extinguisher and managed to put out the fire before anything else was damaged.
I sat back down and stared at the charred curtains. Now that was different. I turned my attention back to the pencil, but I still couldn’t get it to move. I forced myself to burp a few more times, but produced no more flames. This was frustrating; I was picking up something from the dark beer, but I couldn’t control it.
I grabbed another beer and chugged it. Still no controllable powers, but another burp soon threatened, and I just barely made it to the bathroom before it came out. I managed to direct the ensuing fireball into the toilet, vaporizing several inches of water.
When I was certain there’d be no further belches, I walked back into the living room and attempted to levitate the remote control from atop of the television; still no luck. This made me very angry. As I projected my disgust towards the remote, the television exploded. I covered my face as shrapnel flew in every direction. Once silence was restored, I opened my eyes and surveyed the damage. Aside from a few shards of glass and metal scattered around the room, the television was no more.
I couldn’t believe what I’d done.
* * *
Further experimentation was needed, but I knew I couldn’t do it indoors. On a Saturday evening, I put four of the dark beers into a small cooler and headed for a deserted quarry just outside of town. I carried the cooler to a sheltered spot behind a boulder, then placed a few “targets” — just some junk I had scrounged from my attic: an old microwave oven, a cracked fish aquarium, a cardboard box filled with foam peanuts — at random positions around the quarry.
I returned to the cooler, sat down, and drank a beer. Once it was gone, I stood up and concentrated on the box. Nothing happened. I drank a second beer, then a third. Other than the occasional fire-belch, I was having no luck.
I was unscrewing the cap for the fourth beer when the migraine suddenly hit. There was no gradual buildup; one second everything was fine, the next second everything was pain. I pressed my palms against my temples, hoping to keep my brain from exploding. The pain was intense. I have no idea how long it lasted, but it probably wasn’t more than a few seconds.
Then, as quickly as it had started, the pain was gone, and the world went dark. I started to see images flash before my eyes. It reminded me of watching a movie in a darkened theatre. The images became more coherent and more connected.
A woman is lying face down on the floor. She is naked. There is broken glass all over the hardwood floor. Some shards of glass glint from within the woman’s hair. There is a pool of blood near her head. The camera begins to pan to the right...
And abruptly I snapped out of it. The real world had returned, and I was on my back near the cooler. I also felt strangely, inexplicably angry. I jumped to my feet and glared at the cardboard box. Boom! The box exploded, sending Styrofoam peanuts fluttering to the ground. I then hit the microwave and the aquarium in quick succession: both exploded violently. Apparently my reflexes weren’t too impaired, because I managed to duck behind a boulder just before a sword-like shard of glass bulleted right through the point in space where my neck had been just milliseconds earlier.
I was out of targets, but not out of beer. Something strange was happening to me; I was losing control. I was starting to crave the anger, crave the destruction; I needed more. I chugged the fourth beer wildly, spilling much of it on my face and shirt; I was having trouble holding the bottle.
I trotted out from behind the boulder and, a few seconds later, a huge explosion rocked the quarry. The blast sent me flying back into the boulder, knocking the wind out of my lungs. When I regained my bearings, I focused my eyes on the large fireball at the entrance to the quarry. It took me a few more seconds before I realized that the fireball was what was left of my truck.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Ronald Schulte