Welcome to Oktoberfest 2020! It’s been a normal, maybe even slightly boring, year and you’ve found yourself at a lovely outdoor celebration at the height of autumn. The air is crisp, the mood is lively, and the beer is flowing. You decided to come to the festival and make a weekend of it with your old college friend Brad. The two of you haven’t stayed as close as you’d planned in the years that followed graduation, but who does? You’ve found yourselves in your early 30s with less in common than ever before, but if there’s one thing that can bring friends together, it’s beer.
Speaking of Brad, where is he? You look across the square packed with revelers enjoying themselves but he’s nowhere to be found. You just got drinks, he can’t have gotten back in line for more beer. Maybe he went to get a pretzel? There’s a weird old church just outside the town square and while you don’t take Brad for the religious type, your gut tells you that there’s more to that place than meets the eye. The cell service out here is garbage, so you’ll have to track him down yourself. You two have only had a couple beers today, he can’t be that hard to find.
You’ve lost your college drinking buddy Brad! You need to track him down so that you can use the power of Oktoberfest to rekindle your nascent friendship! Where do you look?
Brad’s always been a better drinker than you, there’s no dancing around it. He was one of those rare types that could drink large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time and still somehow keep his wits about him. In the time it’s taken you to polish off your first beer of the day, Brad has had at least three, and for that reason you think it’s a good idea to check out the pretzel line. Pretzels are just braided, salty, carbs and nothing is more appealing to the recently drunk than that.
But when you get to the line for the pretzel stand, you don’t find any sign of Brad. Worse yet, the line is much longer than you’re currently willing to wait. But then you see a sign advertising “Oktoberfest Royalty Contest! Sign Up Here” and you find yourself intrigued. You walk over to the booth advertising the contest and you’re filled in on the details. Anyone wishing to be crowned Oktoberfest royalty can compete in a series of challenges. The winner of said challenges takes the crown and a completely comped bar tab for the weekend. The concept is tempting.
Brad is still missing in action but there’s a chance to win free beer! Do you want to compete to be Oktoberfest royalty?
You walk into the old church and immediately feel that something’s not quite right. You can’t explain it, but the energy of this place feels chaotic. Your walk up to the lectern leaves you suddenly cold. The hair on your arms stands up more than it should and when you see a body splayed out on the ground, you know before you can turn his head to face you that it’s Brad. Poor Brad, you think to yourself. Poor, sweet, constantly drunk Brad. He’s limp in a way that tells you that even though you’re about to call for help, he cannot be saved. But before you can, a dark and terrible presence overwhelms you. A voice rings out in your head.
“Y O U S H O U L D N O T H A V E C O M E H E R E” and suddenly you see a dark energy emanating from Brad’s corpse. The energy coagulates into a single being, a demonic form that overwhelms you. You know that you’ve stumbled into something far greater than your current spiritual understanding but you also know that this thing likely killed your friend. You feel powerless in this moment of realization until you look to a wall hanging over the lectern. It’s an old, neglected, but still sharp sword. It could just be an old decoration but something tells you that your arrival amidst this demon’s rise can’t be a coincidence. Perhaps this is your destiny.
What do you do?
Finding Brad is obviously important, but you know Brad. You know what he values. You know that if Brad saw you were in the running for Oktoberfest Royalty, he’d drop everything to support you unconditionally. So you take part in the challenges. First you shotgun a beer with expert speed. Then you answer some trivia questions about the brewing process. Before too long, you’ve found yourself at the final royalty challenge: one on one combat. This seems silly, but Oktoberfest is an ancient, important tradition.
As your opponent enters the ring, you recognize him. It’s Brad. He wasn’t missing, he was preparing. This particular Oktoberfest’s tradition mandates that you fight to the death. One of you will rule Oktoberfest after this, but one of you has to lose. How do you react?
In order to become Oktoberfest royalty, you have to battle your friend to the death? Do you have what it takes?
The demon’s twisted body takes shape and it steps towards you. You grab the sword hung over the lectern, sure that your presence in this moment has been ordained by fate. You swing it as hard as you can and hope that what comes next is the taste of demon blood. You cut through it like it’s nothing. In fact, it feels like you literally didn’t cut through anything. You look to the demon and see it standing unharmed. You’ve done know damage at all. In fact, the demon now seems somewhat amused. It’s laugh echoes through your bones. The demon’s red eyes fix on you and you turn to ash. Bummer!
As it turns out, believing that your presence in the same room as a sword meant you were destined to wield it was incorrect! You got murdered by a demon! Happy Oktoberfest!
You see the sword and understand the violent option it represents. You could try to cut this demon in two. You could try to send it back to hell. But maybe, JUST MAYBE, it’s not here to ruin the festivities. Maybe it’s here to enjoy them. You hold out your beer in invitation and make a daring statement.
“Join me, foul beast. Let’s get loaded as hell.”
The demon’s eyes focus on you. You see it conduct a brief audit of every party you’ve ever attended. The demon’s consciousness peeks through your mind as though it were thumbing through a file cabinet. It looks over your history as a friend and partygoer and it finds you worthy. It finds you not just worthy but welcome. Suddenly your beer levitates out of your hand and pours itself into the amassing cloud of demonic energy. Whatever this thing is, it’s ready to party with you. Over the next few hours, the two of you get acquainted.
Once the demon understands what it did by killing Brad, it promptly resurrects him so that the two of you can have an additional drinking buddy. Brad is thrilled to no longer be dead. While he’s initially wary of the ageless demon that killed him, before too long all is forgiven. You’re just three old friends enjoying a drink for the ages.
Happy Oktoberfest! You befriended a demon! Can’t do that in quarantine!
As you enter the ring, you square off with Brad. The two of you have been through so much together. It’s hard to imagine that it’s all come down to this. You think back to a moment during freshman year of college where you felt particularly alone. Your budding friendship allowed you two to give each other support when you were at your lower poi-but there it is. In your moment of sentimentality, Brad struck. You look down to see his ceremonial Oktoberfest spear skewering you. You look up and make eye contact, as if to ask why and he’s kind enough to tell you. “Anything for a comped tab, friend. Anything for a comped tab.
Your college friend murdered you! Maybe drifting apart is good! Happy Oktoberfest!
You’ve known Brad since the two of you were 18 years old. You were practically children then. There were times where it felt like you were learning something new together every day. So when the time comes to fight Brad, you accept it. When the time comes to drive your spear through his heart, you know it’s what he would’ve wanted. In fact, as you seize your victory, you swear you can see him smiling. As your friend collapses and the battle is won, you accept your crown. Oktoberfest is yours to command. The world will change today. It’s just up to you to decide how.
You murdered your friend but became the Oktoberfest equivalent of god. Monday is going to be weird! Happy Oktoberfest!
Illustration by Adam Waito.