Do you know that place between sleeping and awake? Where you can fly, or run like a train speeding down a track and then suddenly feel like your being slowed down or pulled back. That place where monsters lurk and people go mad.
I think I’m there.
I found this bar that offers unique flavored beers; I know now that they do more than get you drunk. I didn’t know what they were initially, I thought the flavors were a unique selling technique. But I’m going to rot if you can’t decipher it.
Apparently, I’ve been wrong about very many things. Things I thought were my past but are just figments of my imagination. Or indeed are my memories but ones I don’t remember? I’m so confused at this point.
Maybe these things are being put into my head by the madman standing before me.
It’s too late for me now; I know that. I’ve consumed five of his drinks and If I want redemption I’ve got to swallow two more.
When I came back from the memory of the church and cremation of the vicar, my head felt heavy as hell. But that’s not what bothered me; something had changed within me. I don’t know what, it was strange like my mind was less congested somehow.
The barman stood before me with his same clinical grin. His two foot-soldiers beside him with clipboards and pens in hand as usual.
He lifted a glass full of red liquid and placed it before me. The lion etched on the glass roaring at me in defiance. The smell of vinegar and hot sauce made me gag.
“No, not again, it’s too soon, too much. Please, Just let me go, please.” I begged but, he reached over the counter and grabbed my cheeks silencing me.
“Its funny, did she say that to you I wonder? Did you listen? No, I bet you didn’t. Two more Daniel. Two more and then we can end this.”
He forced my mouth open and poured the liquid down my throat even though I coughed and spluttered and a single tear rolled down my face. A fire ignited in my stomach and my eyes started to water. I clamped it shut as my world dissolved once again.
“Dan, Dan. Wake up.” The voice was soft and sweet. Like sunshine, apple cider and honey melons.
It took me a moment to open my sticky eyes before I could make out my surrounding.
I was laying on a floor, a row of white broken images faced me. Slowly the kitchen units came into focus. Debbie peered at me from all fours, her face was as white as snow, and I briefly wondered if mine matched hers.
Then I realized that I was on the kitchen floor at the office. The smell of fresh coffee filled the air and woke me a little. The gleam of the stainless steel refrigerator reflected back my bleak appearance.
“Debbie…what happened?” I managed to push myself up off the floor and sat with a spinning head.
“You blacked out, one moment we were talking about P&L statements and then the next you were on the floor, jibbering about not wanting to go back?”
Was it possibly a dream? Maybe the barman and his filthy drinks were just figments of my imagination.
Debbies grey eyes sized me up and down before she stood and offered her hand. I accepted the lift and stood awkwardly beside her as the percolator clicked off.
Something was bothering me, and I knew what I needed to hear for it to stop.
“Jason? Was that a dream or is he..”
“Dead? Yeah, accidental death, latex poisoning. Who knew?”
I did, but I wasn’t going to let that show.
“And Frank?” I bit my tongue thinking that it would hit home a lot harder than it did. Debbie just shrugged and answered as casually as with Jason’s death.
“Suicide. Erotic asphyxiation, that one I didn’t see coming.” Her mouth turned up at the edges slightly, which really threw me off.
“So no one caught the killer?”
“Killer? He chocked to death watching porn.”
I couldn’t believe myself, she had already said it was suicide. I quickly changed tack.
“But wasn’t you and him…you know?”
I made a hole with my fingers and poked the index one through it. It made her laugh, and I couldn’t help but smile too.
“Me and him, no way, haha.”
“But I thought you two were a thing, I saw you guys leave after Jason’s wake?”
“Na, he just needed a place to crash, money problems. His parents spilt up, and he needed a place to stay until he had enough money for a deposit. I was just helping out.”
She opened the fridge that had a college magnet on it with too many letters for it to be a real college – SGJTKYY – and pulled out a small carton of milk – a post-it note on the side read, “Debs” in block capitals.
As she made the coffee curiosity got the better of me.
“But the car?” My mind picking at the detai , did I really know anything anymore.
“His dads. He felt guilty about the break up, so loaned him the car, Steve wasn’t impressed with my decision, but I told him…”
“Steve?” I cut her off, and she turned to face me again with a wide eyed stare.
“Yeah, Steve, my husband. You’ve met him.” She put the spoon on the counter to retrieve her phone from her pocket. The iPhone screen showed her and a lean brown-haired man smiling back at me.
I racked my brain for the face, but I came up short. I knew I knew it, but couldn’t place where from. There wasn’t a Steve that worked at our firm, or even one in my social circle, apart from uncle Steve, but I doubted very much it was him. Even though I had not seen him in decades. I concluded I didn’t know this Steve.
I shook my head bewildered, then the words sunk in. Husband! She was married, and not to me.
Have you ever had your world crash around your feet? Well I have. More than twice now and it was getting unsettling. I found myself getting angry, really angry. A pit in my stomach opened up, and something inhuman slithered out.
“You ok? You’ve gone white again. You’re not going to collapse on me, are you?”
“I’m fine.” I huffed.
Typical, there’s my life falling around my feet, and all she seemed to care about was if she had to pick me up off the floor again. I rationalized that this wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. Debbie was still my wife but in my reality.
This was just another memory induced by the mad barman and his crony’s. All I had to was get back to the real world and escape the damn bar or where ever there had me. None of it was real, none of the memories, it was all hallucinations from the drink. It must be. It had to be.
She back a step away as I looked up from my balled hands.
“My father used to call me Daniel. I fucking hate being called that.”
I grabbed her at the neap of her blouse, an emblem crumbled under my fingers. I pushed her back into the kitchen surface spilling the two cups of coffee. Her eyes were so wide I could see more of the white than the grey and black of her irises.
“What are you doing? Get off me!”
Debbie grabbed at my face, but I slammed her into the cupboard overhead. She groaned at the impact and lost her hold.
This wasn’t real; I knew that now. How could it be? I wasn’t a killer really, but I could easily kill Debbie now, just to get back. I had done it before with Jason and Frank. Why not another. I didn’t matter, it wasn’t real.
I slammed her again knocking her head off the cupboard leaving a red smear, then let her crumble to the floor. The spilled coffee pooled on the workbench and dripped down the cupboard to the floor.
She seemed so angelic laying there amidst the coffee and pale floor that I smiled. My Debbie was angelic. I closed my eyes and thought about her and a time we had shared together, but nothing came.
It was like all my real memories were gone. The anger balled up again, and I reached for a draw, grabbing the first thing that came to my hand.
The curve of the corkscrew fit my hand as if made for me, another sign that this was indeed a hallucination caused by the barman. Why else would it fit so perfectly?
The coffee was cold when I knelt next to Debbies unconscious body; I delicately smoothed a stray hair from her face. It would pain me to do this to her, but again I accepted it for what it was – the only way back.
That’s why the barman had brought me here and like every other time; I had to kill to get back. I understood what he wanted and drove the sharp point between Debbie’s ribs. The blood spread across her white blouse like scarlet vines snaking from a tree root.
The dizziness set in as tears leaked down my face. My Debbie, dead by my hands. I screamed at the world for everything it had made me do. For everything, the barman has put me through. For everything, I had done.
A loud rumbling sound jarred my teeth. The walls shook around me, and thin lines spiked out in all directions like shattered glass. The floor trembled, and I fell to both knees as pieces of the walls fell away.
Heat like I nothing I have ever felt before fell me further, and my face touched the stickiness of Debbie’s blood as still more piece disintegrated.
A roar of fire spewed up on either side of me, and I felt a lunge like my world was moving. Acid smoke swept past me as the floor swept away on a lava current, the smoke clogging my nose and throat. Coughing causes my head to spin, so I clung to the ground gasping for breath.
Suddenly, it stopped and I forced myself to look up.
There before me was the barman dressed in a white doctors coat, three pens in his breast pocket from blue, red and black. To his left stood a person made of fire, long arms dripped molten droplets to the cracked floor. On the other, stood a female with huge feathery wings. She looked oppositely sad to the demons angry.
As I knelt before them, the piece of floor I was on melted and a chair rose up to claim me. I couldn’t move, once again bound by the leather restraints of the padded chair.
The barman grinned at me as the raging fire quelled and then disappeared until the room came back from the bowels of hell.