It was long after dark on Independence Day, a day when American citizens from all walks of life gathered together in a celebratory display of patriotism. The skies were currently littered with sparse amounts of stars, as well as the spider-like clouds that remained long after the fireworks display that had taken place earlier.
One of the more notable celebrations going on that night was occurring at a hilltop mansion just outside of San Francisco, California, though it appeared to be wrapping up by now. This party in particular was not only intended to celebrate the Fourth of July, but also to celebrate the accomplishments of a certain group of people. At the moment, the owner of the mansion, and one of the people being celebrated, was seeing the last of the guests out. He was a lanky man with mint-green eyes, a blonde mullet and a matching mustache and soul patch, and wore a baby blue polo shirt and khaki corduroys rolled up at the ends. Brown loafers and a white lab coat emblazoned with his name completed the look.
"Hope you enjoyed yourselves, good sirs," he said, shaking the hands of two young men. "Drive safely!"
"Thanks again, Professor Cedric!" one man called back.
"I told you before, just call me X. Or maybe Xavier if you're feeling a little more formal," Xavier replied courteously.
Following the brief exchange, he locked the front door behind him. Quietly whistling to himself, he casually strolled through the surprisingly mess-free house and rejoined two friends of his who remained in the living room, and also happened to be the other two guests of honor that night.
One was an average-built man with brown eyes and long, feathered, brunette hair in a low ponytail. He sported a purple sleeveless hoodie, lavender sweatpants with purple accents, black sneakers, and a black and white striped beanie worn loosely on top of his head. The other was an attractive woman with pasty, freckled skin, and violet eyes. Her wavy titian hair spilled over her shoulders and was slightly asymmetrically parted, with the hair on the left side of her head tucked behind her ear. In addition to her gray sneakers, she wore a taut two-piece outfit made of apple green velvet, consisting of calf-length joggers and a racerback top that just barely exposed her navel. Both garments had pine-green accents, with the latter having a Nike symbol on the front in the same color.
Picking up a half-empty wine bottle from the coffee-table, Xavier poured himself his ninth glass of the night as he spoke.
"So, folks! Has your old pal outdone himself here, or did I outdo myself?" he asked smugly.
"I'll never understand why people structure questions that way," the long-haired man rolled his eyes, downing a glass of scotch in one gulp. "Everyone knows the answer's the same regardless of which part we choose."
"I'd explain it, but I think I might've had one too many," the woman spoke in a light Chilean accent as she sipped a bloody mary.
"I'd like to know too, but I think the answer can wait until tomorrow morning," Xavier replied, having finished his glass. "At any rate, I'll just start cleaning up what little mess everyone else left, and- Ohhhh!"
As soon as he stood up, he clutched his head in agony and swayed a bit as he struggled to walk into the kitchen, before falling unconscious onto the ground.
"Oh no! X!" the other male freaked out as he stood up too, only to barely be able to do so. "Oog! Now I remember why I don't drink very often! Tequila, help me out here!"
Without wasting another moment, the two staggered over to their fallen friend and rolled him into the recovery position as quickly as they could with their brains quickly turning to mush. They managed to do this, but soon enough, the man collapsed onto the ground too, fortunately landing on his side.
"Uh, Jasper? You okay?" Tequila spoke in a more slurred voice than before.
She quickly knelt down to check on him, only to give herself a splitting headache and flop onto her side as well. Just like that, all three friends had sunk into an alcohol-induced coma.
A short while later, a young kid with royal-blue eyes and a bed of spiky blonde hair casually strolled past the hill where the mansion was located. He didn't look a day over eight years old as he continued his walk, quietly singing to himself.
"So no one told you death was gonna be this way...~" he sang, followed by four hand-claps. "Everything's a joke, you're- Aagghh!"
The kid abruptly cut himself off as he looked up towards the mansion. He noticed a bolt of pale blue lightning coming down from the night sky, before striking the doorstep and dissipating, revealing what looked to be three ordinary humans. His eyes widened at the odd spectacle, before he shrieked and ducked into the nearby bushes, peeking through them as he spied on the trio.
It turned out that these three humans were none other than the same group who had just drank themselves unconscious, though peculiarly, they were standing upright and alert, and showed no signs of drunkenness.
"What the hell happened?" Jasper scratched his head. "What are we doing outside?"
"And why does everything look all hand-drawn and animated?" Xavier looked down at his hands. "Wha- Hey! I only have eight fingers!"
"We must've gotten pret-ty drunk," Tequila enunciated. "I think I just might be done with alcohol for the rest of my life."
"But that would be disrespecting your namesake, wouldn't it?" Jasper smirked, earning a nudge to the ribs.
"At any rate, we seem to be locked out. Fortunately, I'm always prepared for this, as I am with everything," Xavier knelt down and pulled out a spare key from under the doormat.
"I can understand keeping a key under the mat at any other house, but at a mansion of all places?" Tequila's eyes bugged out.
Xavier ignored her and opened the front door, prompting his friends to step in after him. However, as soon as they all made their way into the foyer, they heard several voices coming from the living room, which the trio instinctively construed as a sign of trouble.
"Alright guys, let's be stealthy here. Just in case there might be burglars," Xavier whispered.
The three friends crept into the living room, where they found four people gathered on the furniture as they stared at the TV. Two of the people present were a formally-dressed couple, and had mint-green eyes and blonde hair, much like Xavier, though the man's was slicked back and the woman had hers styled into a pixie-cut. Meanwhile, there was also a middle-aged Chilean man who was completely bald. The most notable individual in the group was a mahogany-eyed woman in her forties with golden hair in low pigtails, clad in a tight white T-shirt with the words "Hair And Eyes Don't Matter" painted on it in black capitals, alongside ripped jeans and worn-out sneakers.
"Holy fuck! Tell me I'm dreaming!" Tequila let out a quiet gasp. "No doubt that's my dad right there! And Jasper... isn't that your mom sitting near him?!"
"And are those my... parents?" Xavier gasped as well.
"And look at the TV," Jasper pointed towards the screen, which was displaying footage of a salt-and-pepper-haired Mexican-American man in a suit, giving a speech. "That's President Gonzalez, but... we took him out, didn't we?"
"Now I know we're intoxicated," Xavier muttered.
"Ugh, can we please change the channel?" the golden-haired woman groaned. "That's the guy who killed me for crying out loud. The last thing I want or need tonight is PTSD."
"My apologies, Beatrice," the formally-dressed man switched channels. "But honestly guys, it's been a real pleasure getting to know you all."
"Our children used to hang out so often, so it kinda' feels like an obligation. Wouldn't you agree, Carlos?" his wife shifted her attention towards the Chilean man.
"Don't I know," Carlos chuckled, sipping a glass of his daughter's namesake.
"Kinda' sucks that we didn't get to do this until we got to the afterlife, but better late than never," Beatrice replied.
"Eureka!" Xavier unintentionally spoke up, before quickly quieting down. "...Whoops. I mean, uh, the afterlife? Well that explains it."
"So if we're dead, then do we still have to pay taxes?" Tequila inquired.
At the sound of the new voices, the rich man looked in the group's direction, but didn't see anything.
"What is it, Tom?" his wife asked.
"Oh nothing, Theresa," Tom replied. "Just thought I heard a voice. And it sounded awfully familiar too."
"Familiar? How so?" Theresa inquired.
"Well it kinda' sounded like our son's voice," Tom explained. "How peculiar."
"Yeah, we'd better get outta here. Don't wanna freak 'em out or anything," Tequila muttered.
The trio attempted to quickly and quietly sneak off, but Jasper took another glance into the living room as he did so. He still couldn't believe that he was laying eyes on his mother again after over a decade, and a part of him felt like bursting into tears. However, while staring at her, he didn't pay attention to where he was going and bumped into a small table, knocking a vase off of it. The crash was enough to alert the other parents in the house.
"Okay, now I know I'm not hearing things," Tom said as he and his friends got up.
Jasper and his friends attempted to scurry out through the cracked front door, but their relatives were quick to catch them, and soon enough, everyone in the foyer was sporting the same flabbergasted expression on their faces.
"Well... this just got awkward," Tequila rubbed the back of her head.
"Really? That's all you have to say? Not, 'Oh, hi Papá! Long time no see'?" Carlos replied. "By the way, where is the rest of your shirt, young lady?"
"Dad!" Tequila grumbled.
"Er, hey everyone. Sorry to sneak up on you all, but we weren't sure what was going on," Jasper explained. "See, we were just having an Independence Day party at this very house, but then afterwards we all got drunk and passed out and wound up outside."
"And the rest is history," Xavier chimed in.
"I see. Well regardless, it's wonderful to see you all again. Especially you, Jasper!" Beatrice went over to hug her son. "I heard about everything you did to defeat Gonzalez after I passed, and I couldn't be more proud!"
"That really means a lot coming from you," Jasper replied, tightly reciprocating the embrace.
"On the downside, now he's stuck up here with us and screwing over our afterlives," Tom grumbled.
"Listen Xavier, your father and I are so sorry we didn't listen sooner. You were right about him," Theresa added, having a group-hug with her family.
"I'm just glad I could finally make amends with you two after all these years," Xavier sighed contently. "Hope you're not mad about me selling off all your businesses and using the money to fund my own projects."
"Well so long as those projects are worthwhile, then I suppose there's no problem," Tom patted his son on the back. "Besides, if not for your genius mind, then some of the most top-notch technology in history wouldn't have made its way up here."
"Say, uh, Jasper. Can I rest in peace knowing you're taking good care of my daughter?" Carlos put a hand on his shoulder.
"No need to worry, Mr. Rodriguez," Jasper assured him.
"I'll take your word for it," Carlos nodded. "And how is your mother doing, hija?"
"Just as overbearing yet lovable as ever," Tequila rolled her eyes and chuckled.
"Okay, so now that that's all taken care of, I say we all hit the sack," Beatrice yawned, checking her watch. "Then we can all wake up sober and spend more time catching up."
"Eh, why not?" Tequila shrugged alongside her friends. "I'm sure we could all stand to get a better idea of where we are."