Sheets of rain coated the windshield faster than the wipers could brush it away. Cameron’s eyes squinted to see the road in front of him. The tires of his Bronco slosh to a halt under a neon sign. The door chimed as he entered, pulling his cap down further over his eyes to hide his shame. He grabbed hold of the half-gallon bottle that would ease his suffering. After three years of the same routine, he knew what it would cost, down to the penny, for his medicine. He did not even wait for his receipt before his work boot pushed open the door to exit. The sky cried over him and he would soon be numb.
“Honey, I’m home,” Cameron’s voice echoed his dark piece of humor through an empty house.
The brown sack rested on the kitchen table as he kicked off his boots and slid off a dripping wet jacket. His hands grabbed hold of the thirty-two-ounce cup that had kept him company these last three weeks and shuffled over to the refrigerator. The thought of having an automatic ice dispenser crossed his mind again as he opened the freezer and reached for the cheap plastic tray filled with cubes. A spray of frost and a few cubes missed their target but Cameron just shoved it under the fridge with his toe. There was little need to be tidy when you were alone. The amber liquid shuffled the ice as he filled the glass. Cameron had not even taken a seat in his favorite chair before the first gulp burned its way down his throat. His whole body tingled then relaxed in his recliner soon after.
The silence was drowned out by the television and by the end of his second glass, his pain was gone. He was just dead enough to make the phone call he had been avoiding. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat as he put his cell phone to his ear and listened to it ring. There was no answer and at this he pushed back a tear and got up to make another cup. The rain gave way to darkness as he brought the phone up again. His thumb hovered over a name before pressing the button to dial again. He sighed as a voice came through. It was familiar but not loving like he had wished it to be.
“Hey,” his wife said with a hint of annoyance.
Cameron muted the tv, “Hey, just wanted to check on you and little man.”
“We’re fine, we’ve been fine,” she said sharply.
“Oh…ok, good. Just kind of wondering when you might be coming home, it has been a month now and…,” he was stopped short of his sentence.
“I’m not coming home Cameron,” her words were cold and jabbed like a knife.
His lips quivered, “Wh-what? You mean not soon?”
“No, Cameron…,” a sigh interrupted her thought, “I can’t do this anymore. I am just going to stay here with my sister. I need some time away from you.”
The phone slipped from his hand, crashing to the floor beside his chair. It was what he had feared every time she left. A couple of days became a week and then a week became a month. It felt wrong but he felt guilty denying her the right to visit her family but when it became every other month he began to feel as though it might never end. He tried asking her not to go and it did not work. He eventually stopped fighting a losing battle and now it was over. The cup came up to his mouth again, he took a long hard drink. The first of many that night. His despair was too great for the bottle but that did not stop Cameron from trying to quiet the storm inside of him. Soon his eyes drooped. His world faded to black and his anguish faded with it.
Cameron was jolted awake by the crash of thunder. Lightning flashes cast shadows through his living room as he searched for his bottle. Once in hand, he noticed through his blurred vision that the bottle was not empty. A moment of confusion darted between his ears but in his drunken state, he was not one to argue with still having liquor. His eyes scanned the floor for his cup but when it was not readily available he gave a slight shrug and simply turned the bottle up for a swig. His feet shuffled haphazardly across the room and his hand brushed aside the curtains. The world was dark outside. So dark that he could not even see the mailbox at the end of his driveway. With a few hobbled steps to the left, he unlatched the door. The wind forced the door from his hand, shoving it back against the wall beside him. A few curses fell from his lips as he tried to catch hold of it only to be pulled to the floor. It took a few moments before he looked up.
“What the…,” Cameron said in awe of the scene before him.
Rain fell like a wall and seemed to be coated in fog. The clouds overhead where only a few shades off of black and even when lightning cracked across them it did little to light the neighborhood around him. Puddles had already begun to gather in the flowerbeds to each side of his front porch and his mailbox fought valiantly against the wind to stay upright. Cameron pulled himself up to the door frame and leaned outward and attempted to see in any direction. It was almost as if his home had been surrounded by the darkness that this storm had brought with it. He quickly shut the door and returned to his chair. The news murmured in the background and once he had the remote in hand he turned the volume up. The well-dressed man urged residents to remain inside until the storm had passed.
Cameron groaned at the thought and decided to see if there was anything to watch still on this late at night. Each press of the button, however, only revealed static. He finally settled back on the news and turned the volume back down. His day had been bad enough without listening to the rest of the world’s problems. He would simply settle for his drink. The bottle rose to his lips and when it began to flow across his tongue thunder rolled again. The vibration seemed to shake through his entire house and caused him to jump, spilling his drink across his shirt. Again, he cursed the rain and sat down the bottle before heading to his bedroom to change clothes. He stood at the door preparing himself to enter.
An audible click and the small space was bathed in warm incandesce. Mounds of unwashed garments piled on the bed and picture frames clung to their last thread on the wall. He shifted one of them back into place and stared at an image of his wife and son. A tear streaked down his cheek as he grabbed another shirt from the pile and swapped it with his soiled one. It smelled clean enough anyway. He drew closed the door behind him in an effort to shut away from the memories within. He turned to head back down the hall toward the living room and noticed that the front door hung open again and rainwater sloshed up across his porch. He rushed to push it closed but paused to take note of how high the water had become. Within less than thirty minutes it had rose at least a foot.
“Damnit,” he muttered upon noticing the mailbox on its side, “Just my luck, something else to go wrong today.”
The door slammed shut as he continued to mutter under his breath about how nothing seemed to go right. The idea of his entire life is one huge failure weighed heavily on his mind and it made him want to drink. He brought the bottle to his mouth again but something stopped him. A quiet noise at the end of the hall. The clink of plastic blocks being snapped together being interrupted by soft giggles and squeals. Cameron eased his way down the dark hall, his eyes locked on the last door on the right. Light crept under the edge of the door and the closer he came the easier it was to hear.
“Tyler?!?” he said as he pushed open the door to his son’s room.
Toys and blocks littered the floor but his son was not inside. His feet pushed aside the trinkets as he made his way to the tiny bed. His body eased itself down on the mattress as he pulled up the colorful blanket adorned with fire trucks. He pressed it to his nose and breathed in a memory. In his mind, he was hugging his four-year-old one more time. Tears formed again, soaking his cheeks but somewhere in the distance there was a voice. His eyes opened sharply. He knew that voice. He rang out again and within moments he stood in the hallway. His focus was on little Tyler, who was now standing on the front porch. His front door was wide open and his little boy stood ankle-deep in water.
“Daddy help,” Tyler said with fear in his voice.
Cameron’s feet moved faster than his mind could process the event. Within moments he was across the carpet and onto the tile leading to the door. He could almost reach out and touch Tyler but suddenly he felt himself slip. His drunken form came crashing down and sliding across the tile into the door. It shoved closed under his weight and Tyler cried out for his father on the other side. Cameron jerked back up to his knees and slung the door open. Dark water rolled against the steps of his porch and a colorful blanket with fire trucks floated on top of it. There was no sign of Tyler. Cameron waded in the water, calling out for his son. It rose inch-by-inch the further he ventured from his home all while being pelted with sheets of precipitation. Tyler was not there but it had seemed so real.
The door shut behind him and he rested his back against it. His clothes dripped water along with the tile and gathered under his feet. His hands rubbed at his head, which had started to throb. His buzz was wearing off and the pain would follow close behind. He grabbed for the bottle and chugged large amounts as quickly as possible. He could not afford to be sober tonight. His nightmares were finding him while awake and that just would not do. Once his thirst had been satiated, he pulled himself from the door and made his way to the linen closet. He pulled out a towel to dry his face. It smelled like her which made him take another drink. His wet clothes flopped in the laundry basket and he found another set.
Cameron reached for his phone again. He desperately wanted to call her. He wanted nothing more than to beg her to come back. His eyes stared at the picture he had saved under her contact information. It was of her and Tyler, both smiling. His thumb almost pressed the button to call when his phone began to ring. It was her. Somewhere inside a hope that she had reconsidered began to warm him. He eagerly pressed the phone to his ear and greeted her. His response was static at first, then a voice bled through.
“*Static*…not coming *static*…can’t *static*…come home,” she repeated over and over.
“By why?!?” Cameron cried into the phone.
The static continued but behind it came laughter. Quiet at first but it increased in volume and intensity. She was mocking him. Mocking his pain. He brushed away his tears and anger boiled over inside him. He began recalling every moment of misery but nothing stopped the laughter. He tried to hang up the phone but the sound would not stop. Finally, he cursed her name and threw the phone against the wall. It shattered in dozens of pieces and scattered across the floor. The house was quiet again but he needed another drink. He brought the bottle up and took a gulp. The screen of his phone still flickered a cracked image of a life torn. Her eyes cut into him. Her smile seemed less loving and only served to torment him.
“You bitch!” he yelled as he stomped the picture dead.
The defeated man crumpled to the floor, his body jerking from his muffled sobs. The only reprieve was when he took another drink. Cameron was smart enough to know that his solution was only temporary but the booze had not failed him yet, unlike so many others. The moment of self-pity was interrupted by a tapping at the door. It was soft and erratic but there none-the-less. His eyes turned to follow the sound. It would be suicide to traverse this weather but there was definitely a knock at his door. His feet managed to find the floor after a bit of wobbling. The back of his forearm brushed the salty specks from his cheek as he cleared the lump in his throat. Once his hand was on the knob he felt the gentle jostling of the door again. Light, almost child-like. A thought erupted like the thunder outside and he jerked the door open. He was wrong. Instead, there was a small wooden rowboat.
“How the hell…,” he muttered while scratching his head.
Then he noticed that it rested atop a thin sheet of water that had rolled over his porch. The rain was still coming and showed no sign of slowing. His tiny home had been surrounded by dark water. His drunken mind first compared it to a lake but lakes were not usually this murky. Mud and debris, to include bits of mail from his defeated mail receptacle floated around the tiny dingy. Fallen limbs clung to the railing of the porch as if trying to save themselves from the onslaught. Tiny water bugs danced between raindrops along his porch. Frogs leaped from the bushes in search of dryer ground but there was none. The more his eyes searched the more the truth seemed to settle in.
“More like a swamp,” he joked to himself before shoving the tiny boat away and closing the door.
The weatherman was on screen again. A banner at the bottom identified a flash flood warning for their area. Cameron laughed, thinking the news was a bit late. He turned the volume up again to listen to the updated report. It seemed that local authorities were urging residents who lived in low lying areas to evacuate to higher ground. It had never been this bad here before. He contemplated leaving himself but instead, he took another drink. He was sure his house would be fine but drinking and good reasoning rarely go hand-in-hand. The water kept rising and Cameron kept drinking.
The tapping at the door began again. He was sure the boat had found its way back onto the porch and decided to ignore it. The gentle tapping and the storm outside created a beat. Music would be nice without television but one glance at his phone and he knew that was out of the question. He wondered if the old stereo he had in the closet still worked and within moments the door in the hall was open. Boxes and bags were set to one side, cursing ensued and a stubbed toe occurred somewhere between moving a footlocker and tearing up an old photo of his wife. Somewhere between pain and anger was the radio. The mess was left for later and the stereo sat on the coffee table. The tiny red light identified power once plugged in and with a press of a button a local country station filtered through. It seemed appropriate for his mood, so he took a seat in his recliner and had another drink.
Close to the bottom of the bottle, a sad song played through the speakers. Cameron did not hold back his tears but he did finish his medicine. Once it was over, the bottle was tossed at a family portrait on the wall. It cracked and fell, sending shards of glass across the floor. A commercial interrupted his party, however. It started off normal but soon revealed itself to be an advertisement for some sort of self-help seminar. Cameron shook his head, thinking that it must take someone truly pathetic to need something like that. It always seemed like a rip-off to him. Someone telling people what they want to hear in an effort to snag their hard-earned money. However, the voice soon grabbed his attention.
“Are you unhappy with your life?” they asked.
Cameron laughed, “Well yeah…”
“Does it seem like you fail everything you try?” it seemed to follow his reply.
“Damn right, every single time,” he popped back.
“Why not just put an end to it?” the voice said, turning deeper before turning to static.
Cameron’s brow furrowed, “What?”
He stared at the radio for a moment, then shifted the dial side-to-side in an attempt to find the commercial again. His curiosity became frustrated when he could not locate the station. Then a sudden bang made him jump, his hand shoving the radio from the table. Cameron stared at the door as a second crash made him look back. The radio sat broken on his living room floor and the knock came at his front door again. It was louder than the last one and heavy. There was no way it was just a little rowboat bumping against it. He called out to see who was there but received no answer. His feet shoved back the shards of the radio as he made his way to the door. The peephole was so clouded with debris and rainwater you could not see through it. The knock came again, shaking the door in the frame.
“I said who’s there?!?!?” Cameron yelled.
When there was not a response he pulled the door open. Water splashed across his feet and the boat rocked side-to-side on the porch but there was no one outside. He slurred an idle threat into the emptiness around his home and began to push the door closed again. He had almost missed it but the movement in the distance caught his eye. There was a man atop a horse, wading through the water. The figure was a good distance away and Cameron’s vision was not as clear as it could be but it definitely appeared to be heading toward him. He called out into the storm again but the man did not say a word. The horse just rode forward, pushing through the murky water. Lightning flashed, revealing the man to be covered from head to toe in dark clothing and the closer the figure came, the more detail Cameron could see. The face was stark white against the black material and the man’s chest appeared to be covered with some sort of body armor.
“Hey! Are you police?” Cameron yelled out his first thought.
There was no response, so the questions continued from Cameron, “Is it getting worse? Do I need to evacuate?”
The figure simply rode forward. The water receding from the horse’s body, down the legs. Soon Cameron could see the figure’s face more clearly. It was cracked and brittle. The eyes were hollow and dark. The skin was non-existent and what he thought was white skin had been bone. A skeleton sat atop a dark horse, cloaked in black and was headed straight to the house. Without thinking, Cameron slammed the door shut and retreated to his chair. He looked down to his phone, knowing he had no way to call for help. Even if he could, who would he call? What would he tell them? He would sound insane.
“Oh honey, I’m home…,” a voice called from the hall.
The shaken man’s eyes shot open as he leaned to the entryway. The voice was distinctly his wife but he knew that could not be true. His mind was playing awful tricks on him tonight and the alcohol was not helping this time. A yellow curtain of light stretched from his bedroom door and across the hall. A figure obscured the light and cast a shadow on the wall. A foot dripping with liquid stepped forth as the light went out. He could still hear the wet smacking of bare feet on the tile as they approached. The shape and size seemed right for his wife but Cameron knew she was miles away. He shuffled backward until his body rested against the front door again. His hand reached back, turning at the knob frantically. It opened slightly and he prepared to step aside to open when the volume on the television rose to a deafening level. Cameron’s eyes shot to the left to look at it and quickly covered his ears.
“If you are still in the path of the storm, get out now! It’s not safe,” the man on the screen pleaded.
“Honey, I’m home,” the figure before him said again in a voice mimicking his wife.
Cameron’s eyes shifted back to the hall but the form was gone. He sighed slightly in relief and released his death grip on the doorknob. The wind forced the door open behind him and water rolled over the doorframe. It curled across the tile like vines and spread across the living room in seconds. He began to curse his bad luck once again and lifted his feet one-by-one out of the muck. In his moment of distraction, he felt a forceful shove to his chest, his body tilting backward as a distorted version of his wife’s face lunged toward his face. The skin was wrinkled and gray as if it had been resting at the bottom of a large body of water for weeks. Cracks jutted across the folds and grime collected at the corners of her eyes and mouth.
“Cameron,” she yelled into his face as his body fell backward into the waiting water.
His body was swallowed by the dark liquid, his head bouncing back against the steps of his porch. He gave a scream of pain but it only served to fill his lungs with fluid. He drunkenly panicked to pull himself to the surface. His hands tossed about and legs kicked in an effort to right himself. Once his head was free he began coughing and gagging. A mixture of muck, vomit, and fluid spattered around him. He gasped for air and stared at the front door of his home. The woman was gone now and he was left standing in the rain. The rain that smelled much like the water he had just emerged from. Water that did not smell like water at all. Water that smelled and even tasted very similar to his whiskey. He had almost drowned in liquor. He could barely even process the possibility of such a thing. His mind worked tirelessly to make sense of anything he had witnessed tonight but again his thoughts were interrupted by warm breath coursing across the back of his neck.
Cameron turned slowly, his feet sloshing in the booze. A dark horse stood nose-to-nose with him and he needed not to look up to know who rode atop it. A splash erupted and ripples rolled against his body as the figure dismounted his steed. The long dark garb floated atop the fluid and soon the boney face of his pursuer was standing over him. The eyes seemed to peer into his very soul as Cameron struggled to move his body. Every muscle in him was locked in place despite how much his mind willed it to move. There was no escape. He simply closed his eyes and waited for what would come next. The dark horseman reached down with a skeletal hand. The palm resting on Cameron’s shoulder. It gripped tight him tight and lifted him up to the face of death.
“Sir, can you hear me,” a voice rang out.
Cameron opened his eyes. The horseman was gone. In his place was a young police officer, shining a light directly into Cameron’s eyes. It was still raining and Cameron could tell he was laying on his back. The lake of liquor was gone and it felt like he was laying on asphalt. The officer spoke again and Cameron’s eyes fluttered. He tried to move but the man above him told him to be still until the paramedics arrived. Cameron turned his head in the direction of his house. He was lying in the street just beyond his mailbox. The mailbox that still stood upright just before him. His front door was wide open and his bottle of whiskey sat at the base of it. The sky was a mixture of red and blue hues. Someone had noticed him in the road and called the police. An ambulance arrived soon after.
“Sir, did you intend on consuming this much alcohol? You are suffering from alcohol poisoning,” the EMT asked.
Cameron shook his head, “No…why would you ask me that?”
“It’s just something we needed to know. We want to make sure you weren’t trying to hurt yourself,” the EMT responded as they loaded Cameron into the ambulance on a stretcher.
A week later Cameron found himself walking down another dark hallway. He glanced down a small sliver of paper to make sure he was at the right place. He pushed open a door to his right that led into a long office with a table that stretched the length of it. People sat in chairs around the table and several of them greeted him. He took a seat at the end and listened as each one spoke to each other as friends. Before the meeting began they asked if anyone who had not attended before wished to introduce themselves. They all seemed to be regulars. It was no surprise that this invitation was for Cameron. He shuffled his feet for a moment before clearing his throat.
“Hi, I’m Cameron and I’m an alcoholic…,” he said, feeling the shame in that statement.
“Hi, Cameron…welcome to AA, we are glad to have you,” the group responded.
Written by L0CKED334