Phew! This one took a while, but then it is longest chapter yet..
Kopaka crossed the room slowly with his eyes fixed on the figure in the chair. The whole scene reminded me much of how he’d approached Gali, but this time he didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop or wait to be noticed.
“Brother?” he greeted in a low, subdued tone. He got no response at first, but just as he was about to move around the chair, Pohatu raised his fist.
“Damned bunch of morons!” he yelled, referring to the scene on the telescreen, in which two of the characters were watching and commenting on a Kolhii game. “Ain’t any of you hic ever held a kolhii stick before!?”
Kopaka halted for a moment at Pohatu’s sudden outburst, but quickly reasserted himself. “Brother,” he said more forcefully as he stepped forward again, entering Pohatu’s view.
“Whoa! What... Who are you!?” the Toa of Stone exclaimed. Kopaka’s eyes widened as they fell upon him.
“I am Kopaka, your brother…” The Toa of Ice’s voice faltered. He looked Pohatu up and down.
“Brother!? Ha!...” Pohatu took a drink from the bottle in his other hand. “I have no brothers…” he said, chuckling as though that was somehow amusing. I noticed that, when he wasn’t shouting, his words were slurred. That bottle likely wasn’t his first for the night. Then, all of a sudden, his drunken abandon turned back to anger. “Get out of my house!” he yelled.
Kopaka stood, shocked, neither responding nor retreating; for the first time since I’d met him, he appeared to have no idea on how to proceed. Curious, I made my way across the room, almost tripping over an empty bottle lying in the darkness on the floor. Pohatu turned and locked eyes on me.
“Th…there’s more of you!? Whaddaya want!? I won’t buy anything, I’ll tell ya right now! Scram! Get lost!” Exaggerated, uncoordinated hand gestures accompanied his drunken tirade. He took another drink. Now standing next to Kopaka, I, too, was astonished to see the state Pohatu was in. He looked dirty, haggard, and was wearing little to no armor whatsoever. His eyes were hazy, his movements clumsy. After gulping down several mouthfuls, he was dismayed to find his bottle empty. “Aw… ■■■■!” he cursed at it as though that might convince it to fill itself again. The bottle offered no response, so he turned his attention back to us. “I told you to bastards to get lost!” he shouted as he raised the bottle over his head, then hurled it at me. His aim wasn’t much good, and rather than striking me the bottle went careening into the wall, where it shattered. “Ugh…” Pohatu looked off to where he thought he’d sent the bottle. I took a step back and looked to Kopaka to do something, anything. However, he stood as if rooted, utterly perplexed by Pohatu’s behavior. This was nothing like the Toa either of us remembered.
Pohatu half-heartedly threw up his hands, sank back into his chair, and resumed watching the broadcast as though we weren’t there. Recovering at last, Kopaka stepped forward and tried again: “Do you remember me, brother?” he asked earnestly.
“Whoa!” Pohatu reacted as though we’d completely vanished and reappeared again. “Who’s there!?” he looked back and forth between me and Kopaka. “Wait…. d-didn’t I tell you two to beat it!?”
“We’re not here to sell you anything,” I attempted to pacify him.
“Go to Karzahni,” Pohatu scoffed at me, then looked back to Kopaka. For a moment, he seemed to try and focus in on the Toa of Ice, then his expression mellowed somewhat. “You,” he gestured, “d-don’t I know you from somewhere?”
“I believe that you do,” Kopaka said.
“I knew…” Pohatu’s sentence was cut short by a loud belch. “I-I knew a guy who looked just like you,” he smirked. “A T-Toa,” he continued. “A - hic- a ■■■■■ he was, too… would’a made a Makuta look nice!” he laughed, but the laughter quickly descended into a harsh coughing fit. Kopaka retreated somewhat as Pohatu hacked up some kind of mucoid substance, which he re-swallowed afterwards. The Toa of Stone leant back, staring up at the ceiling in drunken satisfaction. “…that bastard left years ago…” He remained silent for a few seconds, then gestured at Kopaka: “Y-you should go find him… he’d love your company.”
“Who?” Kopaka asked. His voice had taken on a distinctly cooler tone.
“Ah…” Pohatu contorted his face as though in deep thought. “Meh… I don’t remember the name.”
“Was it Kopaka?” the Toa of Ice asked.
“Kopaka! Yes, Kopaka!” Pohatu blurted out. “That was him! Hehehe….”
“I know Kopaka.”
“You do, huh?” Pohatu leant forward and locked eyes with Kopaka, though he appeared to have a hard time focusing. He looked him up and down. “Nah!” he eventually concluded. “The guy’s stone dead, I’m sure.” He laughed again, but his jovial mood quickly seemed to drop. “You… you wanna know the worst part?” he slurred.
“Do tell,” Kopaka said coldly.
“I - hic - I never told him… never told him how much of an ■■■ he was!” Pohatu laughed out loud. Kopaka assumed a scornful gaze, clearly not amused by his brother’s delirium. Pohatu took no notice as he turned and rummaged around the ground behind the chair, producing a fresh bottle of what looked like a rather stiff drink. After some uncoordinated picking at the cork, he managed to open it and take a few swigs. Indignant, Kopaka turned and walked back across the room and out the door, kicking a bottle aside along the way. I turned to follow, but Pohatu gestured at me. “You… hic… You look nice... I swear, if we were meatos…” Pohatu’s voice trailed off us he looked me up and down, making me feel profoundly uncomfortable. I quickly followed Kopaka as Pohatu took to his bottle again.
“Why am I here?” Kopaka curtly asked Hewkii, who’d been waiting outside.
“I figured you should see what you left behind,” the latter replied. “All of it.”
“That is not Pohatu!” Kopaka pointed inside.
“Maybe not,” Hewkii admitted, “but it is what’s left of him.”
Toa of Stone sighed. “I stop by here every few days… to take care of him, you know? Half the time, he doesn’t remember who I am, yet he always asks for you. Any idea why?”
“He does not recognize me now,” Kopaka informed him. “How does he ask for me?”
“He does whenever he’s not… not this far gone,” Hewkii said. “I figure he thinks you can help him somehow, when he’s actually thinking. I’ve asked him why he needs to see you, but he won’t tell me. So… maybe you know something I don’t.” Kopaka waited for a moment, then turned and walked back inside past me. He staunchly marched up and positioned himself between Pohatu and the telescreen.
“Hey, I wanna see that!” the Toa of Stone protested, but Kopaka wouldn’t move.
“I am Kopaka,” he said curtly. “Your brother. You asked for me. Why?”
“Kopaka?... who’s Kopaka?” Pohatu gave him a blank stare.
“You know who I am,” Kopaka continued. “You just told those two people, remember?”
“I don’t know any two people…” Pohatu smiled. “No one comes here!” He laughed himself into a coughing fit again. Kopaka waited until he was done.
“You believed they were here to sell you things,” he continued. “You told one of them they looked like Kopaka. Like me.”
“No, no I didn’t!” Pohatu said with a manic grin on his face.
“Yes, you did!” Kopaka’s patience was wearing thin.
“Whatever… I don’t remember…” Pohatu sank back into his chair, but the sound of an explosion from the telescreen immediately jolted him upright again. “Move, move! I want to see this!” He waved his hand, gesturing for Kopaka to step aside. He didn’t, and by the sound of things the explosion had ended. “Aw c’mon…” Pohatu lifted up his bottle again. Suddenly, with surprising speed, Kopaka reached forward and backhanded the bottle so hard that it flew out of the Toa’s hand and shattered against the opposite wall.
“You have had enough of that!” he chided the stunned Pohatu. Kopaka was now practically leaning over his brother.
“Wha… whaddaya do that for?” the latter said hazily. “You… you know you’re gonna have to hic get me another one for that, right?” He pointed at Kopaka while the latter loomed over him, growing more agitated by the second.
“Look at me, brother,” he insisted. “Look!” he pointed at his own mask. “You remember, you must remember something, anything!” This wasn’t Kopaka’s usual coolheaded argument; it sounded more like a desperate, if angry plea. “YOU wanted me here, brother!” he continued to the stunned Pohatu. “Tell me what you want me for! What do you need me to do!?”
“I don’t know!” Pohatu insisted, then chuckled again as though the whole situation had him very amused. “Stop… stop asking, okay? Really, I’m hic fine…” After a tense few seconds, Kopaka backed off.
“No, brother…” he said, his voice wavering. “You are not fine.”
“No, really… I’m fine…just go…” Pohatu murmured as a drunken stupor started to overtake him.
“No.” Kopaka said as he finally stepped aside. However, instead of walking out like I expected him to, he positioned himself next to the chair, then leant down again. Standing halfway across the room, I couldn’t see what he was doing, but then he stood up... carrying Pohatu in his arms.
“HEY!” the unwelcomed move jolted Pohatu awake, if that was the right word. “Put me down, ■■■■ you!” he insisted as he struggled, but his uncoordinated arm flailing posed little problem for Kopaka, and for some reason his legs weren’t moving at all. Without saying another word, Kopaka made his way over to the side of the room, where an open doorway led to a small bedroom. “You can’t do this!” Pohatu protested. “I want to see my show! And get hic get me another ■■■■ drink!”
Kopaka laid the struggling Pohatu down on the bed. “Rest, brother,” he said quietly.
“I ain’t listening to anything you tell me!” the furious Toa proclaimed, sitting up by supporting himself on one arm while shaking a fist with the other. Kopaka stood up, backed off and lowered his head. When he looked up again, he’d switched out his Akaku for yet another mask.
“Sleep, brother,” he said in a surprisingly tender, melancholy voice. I could tell the mask was activated.
“You don’t listen, do ya!?” Pohatu continued. “I told you get me a drink!”
“Sleep.” Kopaka repeated. There was no authority in his voice; in fact, it was wavering, but somehow the command got through to Pohatu, who, without another word, lowered himself down from half-seated to lying on the bed. Seconds later, he was fast asleep. Kopaka stood, looking down at his brother, not saying anything. Standing in the bedroom entrance, I was struck by how different he seemed all of the sudden… he didn’t look angry or frustrated as he had with Hewkii, Jaller, and Hahli, nor disappointed as he had with Gali; with Pohatu, he looked gravely concerned, a feeling I hadn’t thought possible from him until fifteen minutes before. Thinking back to their goodbye at that last meeting, I could only conclude that there was something to his relationship with Pohatu that didn’t exist between him and any of the other Toa. Perhaps Jaller was right; Pohatu was Kopaka’s only friend, the only one who could elicit such concern from the otherwise detached Toa of Ice.
An old, rickety chair stood in the corner of the bedroom. Kopaka sat down on it, and still watching his brother closely. I waited a few minutes, curious as to what exactly he planned to do now. Eventually, I got bored and decided to ask him directly.
“So, are you going to watch over him all night?”
“But… I thought you couldn’t wait to leave,” I reminded him.
“His mind may be clearer come morning,” Kopaka said quietly. “Perhaps then he will remember something.”
“If you are looking for something to do,” he suggested, “go see if he has any large bowls or pots.”
“We might need them.”
“Okay…” I figured that, whatever the purpose of the pots was, I’d probably see it sooner or later. I stepped back into the living room and turned right, where a small kitchen was attached. It was cleaner than I’d remembered Tahu’s to be, but only because Pohatu appeared to own very few dishes of any kind. Searching through the few cupboards, I soon found a reasonably sized, if dirty cooking pot, which I took back to Kopaka.
“This is all he has,” I informed him.
“It should do.” Kopaka set the pot down beside him.
“Anything else you’ll need?” I wondered.
“The telescreen,” Kopaka answered. “Turn it off.” The telescreen was still broadcasting the noise of whatever program it was on all through the house. I headed back into the living room and turned on a standing lamp in the corner to not plunge the room into darkness when I turned off the telescreen. After turning off the broadcast, I looked around the room. It was a mess… that bottle I’d tripped over coming in was far from the only one scattered around the floor, not to mention the fact that, in two areas by opposite walls, the carpet was covered in broken glass. Everything, including the reclining chair that besides the table and telescreen made up the only furniture, was covered in stains of one kind or another, and it all reeked of alcohol. In one corner, I noticed a rusty-looking wheelchair. The telescreen was surrounded by a ton of shelves bolted into the wall. They were all empty and covered in dust, except one, on which a faded trophy stood. It was kolhii trophy, a pillar topped by a kolhii stick and ball, and it was gold. I picked it up to polish off some of the dust. Its plaque read:
Toa Pohatu Nuva Champion 100th Great Kolhii Tournament, Spherus Magna, 500 A.R.
“Nice, isn’t it?” I turned to find Hewkii standing in the front doorway.
“Oh… yes, it is.” I quickly put the trophy back on its shelf.
“Those shelves used to be filled with ‘m.” Hewkii gestured as he walked in.
“What happened to them?” I asked.
“Pohatu sold them for more drinks. The trophies never did mean much to him.”
“I noticed the noise stopped,” Hewkii continued. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” I assured him. “Kopaka put Pohatu in bed, and he’s watching over him now.”
“He is, eh?” Hewkii looked into the bedroom for a moment, then turned back to me. “So, he does care,” he said with more than a hint of surprise.
“Yes, amazingly, he does” I said quietly, not wanting Kopaka to hear.
“That, or he’s curious too,” Hewkii said as he made his way back to the front door.
“Curious about what?” I followed him.
“Curious about why Pohatu’s asking for him,” Hewkii replied.
“Could be.” We stepped outside. “I think there’s more to it, though,” I admitted.
“I hope you’re right about that.” We stopped in the front yard, where Hewkii picked up the crate with bottles. “But if he’s staying around tonight, I’m heading home.”
“Okay… just, one last thing.”
“Hm?” Hewkii waited.
“What happened with Gali?” I asked. “She just vanished from where I was.”
Hewkii’s expression grew somber. “Macku and I just got home, and we saw her come down,” he said. “She was in a hurry, she was crying… she basically fled back to her basement room; exactly what happens every time Tahu comes by and bullies her.”
“Not your fault. Tahu, Kopaka, they don’t understand what changed about her,” Hewkii explained. “They think what she needs is tough love, a jolt to break her out of that cycle she’s stuck in. If Gali was still the same Toa she was back then, that might have worked, for all I know…” he sighed.
“She’s changed.” I agreed.
“Look,” Hewkii continued, “Hahli, Macku, Jaller, myself… we’ve all watched it happen time and time again, and every time Gali ends up worse. Jaller thinks that we should kick her out, force her to get back on her feet; Hahli and Macku want to take care of her, ‘cause she saved them back in the day... I hate to say it, but I think Gali’s given up, and Tahu and Kopaka have only made it worse. Jaller’s solution would do the same thing, whereas Hahli and Macku are just helping her down. They don’t mean to, but they are. They’re half the reason she got so big.”
“And you?” I asked.
“Me? I’ve got my own broken Toa to worry about.” Hewkii nodded towards the house.
“What happened to him?” I asked. “I mean, he used to be kolhii champion. How’d he end up like this?”
Hewkii sighed and waited for a moment, recalling past events. “He pushed too hard,” he said, “he pushed his body past breaking point. We’re all getting older, you know, but he just kept pushing his game… I don’t think he could imagine it ever ending, that his body would give out on him eventually. But he had to keep pulling those stunts, those spectacular moves on the field, and one game, his spine just said “no.””
“His legs, the wheelchair… is that why?”
“Yep. Gali helped him, much as she could, but there’s only so much you can fix,” Hewkii was choking up a bit, remembering a difficult time. “He’s still in constant pain, which is why he started drinking. He got angry, he got bitter… cursed out Gali a few times, after which she didn’t dare visit him anymore. From then on, it was just a freefall down to… well, where he is now.” Hewkii looked frustrated, but not with me. His expression contorted as though he was fighting back tears. “He was my hero once… still is, sometimes, when I forget what he’s like now.”
“I’m sure it was hard,” I empathized. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up something so painful.”
“No, it’s... it’s okay.” Hewkii collected himself. “They were all heroes, but I’m afraid there’s not much we can do for them now, besides making sure that they will be remembered for who they were, not what they’ve become.”
“I’m sure you’ll manage that,” I assured him, somewhat shaken myself. His assessment of the situation was somber, but I feared it was accurate. We stood quietly for a few seconds.
“Look, if you want, you’re still welcome to stay with us,” Hewkii offered. “Better than spending the night out here.”
“Thanks, but I’ll stay,” I declined. “I think Kopaka won’t stay around for much longer, and I’ve still got questions for him.”
“Don’t we all?” Hewkii shrugged. “Well, in that case, ‘till we meet again.” He nodded, smiled, then turned to head back to the station.
“Good night!” I called after him, watching until he turned back into the side alley from which we’d entered the street before turning and heading back inside myself.
author's note: definitely one of the most challenging chapters so far, from my point of view. I really enjoyed it, but it took me a few attempts to write Pohatu in exactly the way I imagined him, along with Kopaka's responses. I'm very satisfied with the result, though.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!