Imagine being trapped, Your arms and legs strapped to a chair, all chances of freedom a faint possibility that diminishes every minute.
Well, that’s me.
I found this bar that offers unique flavored beers; I know now that they do more than just get you drunk. I didn’t know what they were initially; I thought the flavors were just a unique selling technique. Now it’s too late, I’ve consumed four of them, and I have to drink them all if I ever want to get out of here.
I previously thought that a high power was testing me. However, now I’m looking at the fucking madman who is having the time of his life watching me fuck up mine. No need to decipher the situation anymore.
You see this barman said that I could go back to a happy memory in my life and change anything I wanted. It sounded great at first until I realized that the changes also affected my future. It turns out that all I keep doing is fucking those memories up.
However, due to my last attempts at regaining my old life, I’ve found a way to counter the barman and his memory inducing drinks. A sure-fire way to stop him in his tracks.
You see every time I’ve gone back; he’s nudged me to change something. Well, this time I’m not going to change anything. It fact I’m not going to do anything at all. That way the memory will stay the same and hopefully it will catapult my life back to what it was.
I told him this as he produced the small shot from somewhere on his person. Funny enough he must have anticipated me, every drink has had an image etched into the glass, and this one wasn’t any different. A snail graced the slick sides of this light blue goblet. Its slow ignorable life in testament to my plight, for I, could no longer move and was in fact reduced to less than a snail, because he could move at the least.
I smiled at my tormentor and grabbed the drink with my free hand.
“I’m not mad you know,” something flashed over his face. It was so fast I couldn’t catch it. Was it shock? Suprise? I pushed further.
“And I will prove it.” The smell of the liquid was rancid, reminisce of cheese on a hot day. Putrid and sour as it slides down my throat. I stopped the convulsion of my body to purge it by clamping my mouth shut.
His Cheshire cat grin echoed in my vision as the sides of my world blurred and lost its color, like a wave of grey had washed my world with its redundancy.
My stomach growled, and I felt my body’s unstoppable need to rid itself of the toxin. I retched, purging the contents of my stomach, right there and then on to the brown floor. I became aware of someone next to me, and the pressure of a hand asserted my speculation.
“Whoa man, I didn’t realize you’ve never drunk before; Here, have some water.”
I recognize the voice from a distant past, a sound I thought to have lost long ago to the depravities of man. Kevin Bullett, My best friend at my overly catholic school, had died of HIV. He never did tell me how he had contracted it, but I had a good idea. The problem in that opinion was backed by a country of enormous power and a wealth of experience in covering things up to their own ends.
“Your such a lightweight, you going to be alright, or you need me to call someone?”
Kevin slapped me on the back as I wiped at my blurry vision. Slowly through watery lashes, his adolescent pockmarked face came into focus.
“I’m fine Kev, What the hell was that?”
I knew exactly what he had given me; It was my first taste of his father’s stolen whiskey. Kevin’s dad wasn’t much for God. He said that he had made his peace with his demons a long time ago and the only fear he had left was Kevin’s mom. She kept her son going to church. If he had his way “Kevin wouldn’t go to church any which way to Sunday.”
“My dad’s whiskey, stole it while he wasn’t looking, not like he’d miss it anyway. He’s got bottles stashed all over the house just in case mom finds one.”
Kevin twirled a box of matches around between his finger and thumb. I could still feel the barman’s vomit inducing drink boiling away in my belly, and I nearly retched again.
“Can I have another swig?”
Kevin looked skeptical but handed me the bottle. The amber liquid splashes the sides of the light blue bottle as I took a healthy draught. His saucer-sized eyes watched in amazement as I gulped the whiskey down, burning my throat and putting my stomach at ease.
He didn’t know I had years of companionship with the fire. A relationship between abuse and tolerance. My uncle Steve used to say, “It will put hairs on your chest, son.”
Kevin gawked at the bottle and took a bigger mouthful than his bravado allowed. I noticed the dilapidated paneling and wooden workbench. A collection of iron tools hung on one wall, the sort that amateur DIY-ists keep but have no clue of they use. The other side of the wooden shed held a window that faced out over some rows of vegetables growing along sticks protruding from the turned earth.
Kevin struck a match and watched as the fire consumes the stick until it burnt his fingers.
This was the parish shed, a small rickety number behind the church in what was deemed the community vegetable garden, although my home never saw any of our labor’s. If I remembered rightly, we had snuck away from the rest of the congregation while a new pastor took a sermon.
While the piles of white cloth that sat in a bucket to my left made good seats, my arse was about to be red raw from the beating I was going to get from the priest when he found us drinking Kevin’s dad’s whiskey. It didn’t matter what I sat on for a week after, it was agony.
I wondered why this memory? Why had the barman brought me back here? Because I now understood from my folly that he was in control of my memories, in control of when I regressed to.
We got caught. Yes. I took a beating. Yes. Kevin’s Dad got told, don’t think he was bothered to be honest – his mom though. Well, I didn’t see Kevin for some time, as his crazy mom thought it was me being a bad influence when In truth, Kevin was the one who taught me.
So why now?
I resolved myself to play the course of the memory and reluctantly took control of the bottle moments before the door was ripped open.
“What the devil?”
I forgot how scary the priest could be when his thick eyebrows met in the middle and his black orbs pinned you. He had already started to reach for his belt buckle under his garb. The clasp within his fumbling fingertips.
I don’t know if it was because I had already experienced this and so didn’t have fear like I did the first time. Or if because I was older and had lived my life, boy to man that I didn’t fear the priest anymore. Either way, I noticed things that I didn’t see the first time.
Like the anticipation in his eyes when he pulled out his belt like it was a whip, how his tongue licked at the corner of his mouth, or the look of sheer terror on Kevin’s face. He reached me first and pushed me up against the workbench, ramming my face against the table.
“The Lord will punish those that do not heed his warning. Alcohol is the devil’s juice and his way of tempting you to his cause.”
I could feel his breath in my ear, quick and fast.
“How dare you bring liquor into the Lords house! Defile his home, his congregation’s sanctuary.” – he whispered the last part with chilling fury – “Into my home.”
He struck me across the back, right above the belt line at the small of the spine. The cold shock of pain made sweat burst from my brow.
“I’m sorry sir but..” The priest snarled and backhanded Kevin into his seat.
“You will watch son and take Penance for your part. You too have the devil inside you, and it needs cleansing. you…”
The priest punctuated each word with a whack of his belt.
I tried not to scream as the belt lashed my back in bloody gashes. The pain was great, yes, but I didn’t cry as a boy would but instead grunted through gritted teeth. Unlike the first time when I screamed the whole time and when he released me; I ran straight to my parents and received another beating. This time was different, So was I, a man in a boys body, and pain was like an old friend.
The priest panted heavily as I turned and looked deep into his eyes before opening the door to leave. A brief moment of fear echoed in them but was soon gone. He reached for Kevin, and his attention was off me.
Outside I watched through the window, again residing not to take action unless the barman got his way and I change my future further.
I felt excited and Intrigued to know what was happening to Kevin, momentarily I wondered at that. Was I a bad person to get excited by the thought of not knowing the events that were to transpire? Was I a bad person for enjoying someone else’s pain?
Before I could label myself; the priest had torn Kevin’s top from him and laid waste to his back. Mine winched in sympathy, and I reached around, my hands came back bloody.
The more I watched, the more I realized how and why I lost my faith in later years. It wasn’t just overbearing parents that helped it along; it was this man before me.
He was the one who squeezed my shoulder nastily when speaking to my parent – his vicious grip benign his pleasant words to them. The repeated beating I got, over things like this at first, then trivial things like not praying correctly or not singing loud enough.
One time at summer camp, he had gone out of his way to beat me at every opportunity. Kevin had it worst, he always did. Something about Kevin really got the priest excited.
Suddenly my attention was back on the shed. Something was happening, Kevin had somehow overpowered the priest and hit him with one of the tools hanging on the wall. Kevin screamed at him as he struck him again and again. Only, the priest had managed to grab his hand on the last strike, and a tug of war ensues.
All of my past life came to me at that moment, and although I said to the barman that I wouldn’t get involved this time and let the past run its course, I couldn’t let Kevin take another beating.
This is how it all began for us; this moment right here was the turning point for both our delinquent behavior toward the church. This moment had started my loss of faith.
Something inside me broke, humanity, compassion, guilt – call it what you will, I flung open the door and kicked the priest to the floor, as he stumbled and fall, I grabbed Kevin and pulled him out. The father looks up at me with surprise.
“Thought I’d go crying to my parent didn’t you?”
He must have noticed something was wrong; I could see the fear in his eyes again. It made me happy, and I felt a sense of empowerment in that. Fuck him, this “so-called” agent of God eliciting punishment on young boys for his own gratification.
I pulled the content of the shelve on top of him, a mixture of gardening tool and pots. From under the bench, I grab a plastic bottle from the top of some paint pots and a fallen screwdriver.
The clear liquid inside slouched around as I opened it and poured it on the rags and over the priest.
“W…what are you doing, that paint thinner you stupid boy!” The fear had gone, and his anger returned.
Kevin whimpered behind me and pulled at my shirt.
“Come on Dan, let’s get out of here.”
Something about me frighten Kevin too. Maybe he saw through the visage that was this memory, perhaps It was the fury in my face, or better still he knew what I was about to do.
The priest had got to his feet and made a pass for me, but I was ready and stopped him bodily. The rancid smell of alcohol came not from Kevin or me, but instead from his breath.
Again shock stopped him; his look suggested his thoughts. How could a boy of twelve overpower a fully grown man? It didn’t matter to me, I pushed him back and slammed the door, then I flicked the catch and drove the screwdriver through the loop, locking it in place.
I grabbed Kevin, and he nearly shit himself there and then as I reached into his pocket. I was near enough to feel his breath on my face coming in short, frighten bursts.
When I let him go, he stumbled backward and fell over. The priest repeatedly banged on the door.
“LET ME OUT RIGHT NOW, OR I SWEAR ON THE LORD…”
He stopped shouting when the smoke rose. The fire slowly spread like the opening leaves on a rose, beautiful, elegant and devastating.
Screams filled the air as the shed tore into a blaze, Kevin’s and the priest’s scratchy voices entwined together in a jarring melody. I watched and grinned as the smoke poured through the slats. Laughed at the pounding on the door.
In a moment of inspiration or desperation, the priest smashed the window and attempted to climb through. The fire engulfed him, and he looked like the personification of Satan himself. White hands, shining from the burns scrambled at the wood slats trying to find purchase to pull himself out, his skin dripped from his hand in fiery drops. His melting face stretched in the window frame, mucus steamed from his burst eyeballs and his mouth melted in a mess of skin and tissue, like cheese on a pizza.
My vision started to blur as I knew it would, not from the inferno I had created but from the regression back to the bar.
As my eyes slowly adjusted, I noticed the bar was different again. Narrower and more confined. Like it had been squeezed together to fit just me, the barman and his two companions.
“Why does the bar change every time I come back?” I asked groggily.
The barman raised an eyebrow and turned to a colleague. The wall seemed less blue than they did before. Like they had been washed and lost their color. A second picture had been hung beside the sunflowers as well, this time a portrait of a lake surrounded by trees.
“Because of Dan, your getting closer to the truth.”
“What does that mean?” I rattled the arm and leg of the chair, testing the leather bonds that held me firmly.
He again looked at the female as she wrote something on her clipboard. A look passed between them, and she glanced at me. I could see the fear in her eyes the same as Kevin and the priest, and I wondered why.
Was she scared of me? Scared of the memories I had changed. It wasn’t my fault; her companion had tricked me into changing my past. How was I suppose to know what he intended? All I could do now was play his game and hope that I could get my life back.
“It means Dan.” – her voice was sweet with an undertone of nerves, – “Two more and then redemption.”
The barman‘s thin lips pressed together tightly, and his eyebrows met in angry lines. She looked away quickly.
“Yes, as my colleague here has so invitingly said.” – He turned back to me with the same expression – “We need you to go back two more times. It’s a formality at this point, but I’m a stickler for seeing things through.”
He lifted a glass full of red liquid and placed it before me. A lion etched on this one; it smelt faintly of Vinegar and hot sauce.
“No, not again, it’s too soon, too much. Please, Just let me go, please.”
“Its funny, did she say that, I wonder? Did you listen? No, I don’t think so. Now it’s finally time to see what you’re really made of.”