Light refracted through the cracked glass and cast a rainbow across the tan carpet. The prism of light attempted to mask the darker stains upon the floor. Even with the dull murmur from the television, it was easy to tell that the house was still. There were no children running from their bedrooms and through the hall. There was no wife tending to chores in the kitchen or laundry. I sat quietly amidst this quiet chaos and the events of the past forty-eight hours played through my head. It reset and then flowed much like an old VHS tape. My life became blurred lines for a moment before it started again. With every retelling, my chest rose and fell quicker. I was numbed by the shock but awoken by the truth.
A sick and twisted knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I would only blink when my eyes burned. My vision blurred but I was not focused on anything but the small dot of liquid that hung from my hair. It rested just in front of my nose, mocking me with its hue as it mixed with my perspiration. It lost the battle with gravity and came crashing down upon a puddle that stained the carpet. Other bits traveled along the creases of my mouth and suddenly I could taste the salty-sweet with a hint of metallic after-taste. The sensation does not help the unease that rested in my belly. Events looped back once again then keyed up for another play. This had to be a dream, a vicious and cruel nightmare.
The alarm sounded at five o'clock in the morning. Through my restless eyes, I was able to reach the snooze button. The ten minutes it gave me would not help but it was sometimes better to live in a lie. The same lie that plastered my face when I walked into work. The story I told when asked how I am doing. All of this serves no one and I began to wonder why I did it. My mind drifted away from my duties at every chance I could get. Any distraction pulled me away from the pain that consumed me. The full-time job, the loving wife, the big house and two kids were not the answers to my happiness. I fooled myself for so long. This thought drove me. It led me to a place of regret.
A comfortable stool greeted me as music blares from speakers above. The smooth glazed bar in front of me was an easy place to rest my weary arms as I requested a drink that I was sure could cure me. The whiskey trickled between glistening cubes of ice. The sound was like heaven and in moments I could smell the bitter-sweet. The amber liquid disappeared into me, stinging and burning its way through my sorrow. It took several to numb me. It took several more to bring me back to life. The world was beautiful again. I could laugh, I could sing, and the music was too loud for me to hear my phone buzzing in my pocket. My wife was worried about me and she had every reason to be. I was thousands of miles away, deep inside my regret and I made sure everyone knew it.
Being such a selfish man, I had not noticed the figure that had taken a seat beside me. His eyes were dark and blended well with the matted locks that hung over his face. He sat nursing from a bottle his own brand of poison and listened to me. My words were coarse and bitter. There was no friend of mine and my family had been but a stumbling block in my path to happiness. I complained of a nagging wife and spoiled children. I cursed an impotent boss and a dead-end job. Everything in the world was wrong but me. The rest of it just needed to allow me to be great. That was the way my story was told.
A burst of deep mocking laughter erupted from beside me. It paused my story and caught me off guard. The man beside me jiggled under his tattered clothing. His hand smacked at the wood in front of us and the motion sent spatters of his drink across it and me. This whole display ruined my mood and I could not have that. This was my pity party after all and I would not be upstaged by some bum and his beer. I grasped for a few napkins, wiping at the specks that had landed upon my face and clothes. The scowl on my face had not deterred the newcomer from his infectious laughter. He seemed to truly be enjoying himself and that simply would not do.
"What's so funny?" I barked.
The room became eerily quiet as the man's joking came to an abrupt halt. His eyes fell upon me, wild and uncertain. It was as if his eyes were focusing on something inside me and I could feel it like a winter chill crept up my spine. I felt small and alone, like a child lost in the woods. My vision as dulled from the liquor but I was sure that the lights dimmed around us. What snapped me from my awe was the realization that the music had stopped and in its place was the constant rumble of static. Something about the sound drew my gaze away from the figure on the stool to my right. It was haunting how out of place the noise was. I thought of the channels we did not pick up as a child on that old console television. The scrambled white and black lines whipping back and forth. It was surreal.
"You are, pal," my neighbor said finally breaking the silence.
The room came alive again. People moved around us, the lights danced about the bar, and the music played as if nothing had stopped it for a moment. I looked back to the man, who now leaned toward me to leave his wrinkled features mere inches from my own face. My nose wrinkled at a smell that wafted from his body. It was a mixture of sweat, his booze, and something else. My drunken mind focused on the odor too closely and soon my stomach churned. My eyes widened to the size of saucers as I fled to the bathroom. My shoulders pummeled passerby as I dove inside and toward the nearest stall. The door rattled as I stumbled through it and heaved. My medicine had overstayed its welcome and now floated alongside my last meal in the now murky waters of a commode that had not been white in decades.
My misery disappeared down the drain and I made my way to the sink. My hands gathered cold water to splash my face but that only added to the chill I still felt. The music outside muted again and the crack of metal sliding against metal echoed in the bathroom. The sound was clear but I had to put my hands on the exit to prove what I already knew. Someone had locked me in. I yelled and jerked at the handle, begging to be set free until another sound drew my attention. The creak of the stall behind me and boots upon tile was unmistakable. The sense of cold grew stronger as I grew weaker. My body trembled at the unknown as I slowly turned to face my fate. The ragged man washed his hands in the sink, a smirk playing on his lips before turning to me to flash his deteriorated teeth my direction.
The bulb that hung from above flickered a bit as the man grabbed a handful of paper towels from the dispenser. The laughter came again and in that tiny space, it might as well have been thunder. I found myself digging in my pocket for my wallet. I stammered incoherent nonsense while trying to think of a way to appease my would-be attacker. I unfolded the meager twenty-six dollars that still remained within and held it outward. The light faded out and sprung back to life quickly to reveal the man was now standing directly in front of me. One of his hands grasped at my trembling wrist and shoved it away as he continued to cackle in my face. I could feel droplets of saliva spatter my cheeks and all I could do was quiver. I dropped the money on the ground and begged for my life. I had so much I had yet to do.
"Please, not like this…," I squirmed against the door.
The man stopped laughing and his face grew serious, "What would you do if all those things that you claim are in your way just…disappeared?"
I was sure I had misheard him, "…w-what?"
"You said your boss, your wife, your children…hell, the whole world was standing in your way," he grinned again, showing just how few teeth remained within his maw, "What if they were gone?"
"Uh…, I don't know I-uh…," my eyes shifted side-to-side unsure of how to answer.
"Oh come on now," he let go of me and walked back over to the sink to admire himself in the mirror, "It's time to be painfully honest with yourself Jim."
My eyes widened again as my voice echoed within the room, "How the hell do you know my name?"
With that, the lights went out and all that remained was laughter. The sound still hung between my ears as I opened my eyes to find myself staring into the bathroom mirror. I was alone again, staring at my reflection. Water still dripped from my face where I had doused myself. The light dangled above me, just as bright as it had been when I first entered. My feet shuffled to the door and noticed it was no longer locked. I could hear the sound of people enjoying themselves outside and the music pounding against the wall. I pulled the door open and the volume increased. I sighed in relief, assuming it had been a figment of my drunken mind. I rubbed at my eyes and took another step outward. That was when I noticed the crinkled bills laying on the floor. I bent slowly, picking up the currency and counting it out.
"Twenty-six…," I whispered before jerking open the door and bounding out into the bar.
As my feet come to rest on the sidewalk clouds begin to roll overhead. Distant flashes of lightning separated the night between rumbles of thunder. I could feel it in my bones as it approached and droplets of cold began to litter my coat. The wind howled like a siren, warning me of a danger I had not seen yet. I felt wrong and that feeling caused me to pause. I watched the dark clouds encroach me. Then a streak of white splintered and fractured across the sky. It turned into a web of light unlike I had ever seen and in that awe-inspiring display I felt small again. Out of instinct I fell to my knees and began shielding myself from an attack I could not withstand. I was sure I was dead. Then my eyes opened.
The smell was the first thing I noticed. It was thick in the air, something sour and sickeningly sweet like rotting fruit. I had never imagined that. Then I felt the warm wetness around me. I was laying in it. Hard streaks of the color stained the lavender sheets my wife had just purchased three weeks prior. It was a macabre rendition of a snow angel made in the folds of my bedding. It dotted the ceiling above me like a make-shift starry night turned wrong. My mind could not fully grasp it then. Something in me had been switched off. I rose and rubbed at my eyes wanting to wake up again but that only served to prove that the blood was real. It smeared across my face and the smell became stronger. I gagged on the rising tide from my throat. That which was absent finally caught my attention. The house was completely silent.
I crept through the house like a child trying to catch Santa. My eyes shifted in each direction as I moved. I was searching for evidence I hoped to never find. I stumbled over toys that were scattered in the hall, letting loose a muffle slew of curses. My mind created scenarios for what had happened. None ended well but they all returned to the same question. A question I refused to answer. I needed to find them. I needed this to be an elaborate prank. The living room was bathed in light and as I turned the corner I saw the large oak door standing open. The glass-paned storm door behind reminded me of a spider web and a rock sat just beyond it. I knelt to retrieve it, bringing back a stone almost the size of my palm. I was not surprised to find that it was stained as well but this was deliberate. Crudely drawn letters spelling out the words, "You're Welcome," appeared as I turned the object in my hand.
My knees gave out below me and I regained my balance by sitting on the coffee table. The stone dropped to the floor below me with a sickening smack. Specks of the red spread more across the carpet and the stone rolled away. An audible crack echoed between my ears. At first, I thought that was what losing your mind sounded like. Then I noticed the television was still attempting to work despite being as shattered as the glass. Pictures streaked by the devastation and sound crackled from the speakers. It was a haunting representation of the display I found myself a participant. I wanted to cry but the tears did not form. Sweat and blood mixed and fell like rain into a puddle below me as my mind grasped for sanity. I sat this way for a long time. When I broke, I began to laugh. Quietly at first, but it rose in octave until it traveled through the whole house. It was cold and callous. It was evil and it came from me.
A year later while sitting in a bar and nursing my beer I noticed a report about the incident. Authorities were still looking for me but my appearance has changed greatly. The suit has been replaced with a more rugged jacket and I have let my beard grow wild. My hair is a bit matted. I do not get to wash up as much on the run. I finish my drink and decide to step to the bathroom. After relieving myself I place myself by the sink to wash up. I splash my face with water and through my drunken haze, I see a familiar face. I laugh again and point to the mirror and exclaim, "You are, pal!" I answered a question I had once asked and the thought was hilarious to me. I exited restroom with a smile on still on my face and came to rest on a barstool by a man who seemed to be very displeased with his life. I listened and smiled at his misfortune until I could not hold it in any longer. I laughed hard and heavy, far more than required.
I'd take down the bottle of Creepy Sauce from the spice cabinet and pour generously. You need to have a clear build-up. The gentleman at the bar in an expensive business suit that smells slightly of brimstone seems rather mandatory at one of these, along with a clearly defined bargain.
I was a bit confused by what was going on. I couldn't exactly tell if it was a body/life switch, some kind of time travel continuity loop, or what. The jump from Jim walking out of the bar to the bedroom was the most jarring bit just because the bargain, as said above, wasn't entirely clear. It's well written, but I feel like there are pieces missing.