by Sean M. Thompson
Cort sat in the Dunkin’ Donuts with Scott, who was prattling on about some new Netflix show. He wasn’t paying attention, too busy staring out the window at a homeless woman stumbling along the sidewalk. She looked to be in her sixties, though the quality of life on the street certainly prematurely aged a person.
“I’m sorry – what’s that, Scott?”
“Nevermind that. What are you staring at outside?”
“What, you going to ask her on a date?”
“Scott, don’t be an asshole.”
It was Saturday, and Cort was glad to have the day off. He hadn’t slept well last night, but he couldn’t remember why. Scott was in rare form, winking at random women in the Dunks, and throwing napkins at him to get Cort to pay attention. Cort pointed out the window at the street, and they beat feet. None too soon, as a very annoyed looking woman was shooting hot needles into both of them, probably due to the fact Scott had mimed a telephone with his hand and mouthed “call me” over at her.
“What time is it?”
“Fuck it, let’s hit the bar.”
Fitzy’s was a shithole. No getting around that. But, the place was dark, the drinks were cheap, and Cort knew Scott could blend in being an obnoxious asshat there.
“You have anything imported?” Cort asked.
It was a game he liked to played with Mike, the regular bartender at Fitzy’s. The bartender always answered the same way.
“You want that stupid shit, head somewhere else.”
“How you doing today, Mike?”
“I think I got that med resistant gonorrhea or some shit. My fuckin’ nuts been hurting, and it burns to piss. Been like this for a few weeks.”
“You’re telling me. Last time I fuck Sheryll.”
“No idea who that is, Mike.”
Mike pointed to a woman who looked to be fifty-something seated at a booth in the corner of the mostly empty bar.
“She a regular?”
“And is she single?” Scott asked, looking up from his phone.
“Did you not hear what he just said…”
“Why? What did Mike say?”
“Nevermind,” Mike said. “Just, uh, leave that one alone.” He laughed.
They drank shitty cheap beer, and eventually played darts, and despite Cort’s insistence Scott started hitting on Sheryll, and when things looked to be going a little too good for Scott, Cort made a point to tell Scott about what Mike had said earlier. The face Scott made, Cort couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
They left Fitzy’s around five, and headed to a classier joint closer to downtown. The rest of the night was a blur of crowded bars, college kids, douchey businessmen, ladies done up to impress the douchey businessmen, and a heaping helping of hipsters doing their best at playing dress up. The drinks were overpriced, the atmosphere was bougy, but it was fun watching Scott hitting on women who were no doubt hoping to bag someone with a nice chunky wallet, and Cort even joined in at one point for fun.
He got a text from Janet before they left, asking if he wanted to hang out the next day. He said maybe, depending on how bad his hangover was.
“One more, man!” Scott yelled when they left the hoity-toity drinkery about midnight.
“Dude, I’m exhausted, but godspeed.”
“Call you tomorrow?” Scott asked.
Scott mimed a phone with his hand, and Cort gave him the finger. As he walked away, Cort wondered what bar Scott would end up at. He’d figure it out the next day, in any case.
When the Uber finally dropped Scott at his apartment, he was the kind of drunk where you forget you’re going to the bathroom halfway through. The kind of drunk where you might, say, trip over the trash can in your bedroom, and whack your funny bone, and not even feel it.
Everything came in waves. He was in the kitchen, heating up Ramen noodles. He was on his desktop, watching YouTube videos. He was watching a Metallica video where they were with a symphony. He was watching a dog tell him “I love you”.
When the first flash of red hit the screen, he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. After all, he was really loaded. Another few videos, and he thought little of what he may or may not have seen.
Soon, the screen was flashing red, strobing, and there was an intense pressure behind Scott’s eyes, inside his forehead, and the headache was so intense he cried out in pain, a short bark of anger and an expression of his torment. He fell to the floor, felt his eyes leaking what he at first took to be tears. He ran his hand across his face to dry his eyes, and his fingers came back bloody.
And then a voice in his head.
“Start your work, my child.”
Around noon, Cort tried Scott’s cell. He left a message. He tried again at one, 1:30, two, and 2:30 before he finally gave up.
He’s probably just phenomenally hungover, Cort thought.
Still, he didn’t like the feeling he had. He wasn’t one to put much stock into premonitions, intuitions, anything like that. But some part of him he couldn’t push aside, some internal sensor, was ringing an alarm bell. Cort had no idea why, and he didn’t know how to stop the feeling.
He called once more at five, and left one last message for the night.
“Scott, please call me back when you get this. I’m worried, man. I know that’s stupid, but…man, just call me back when you get this. Hope you’re not too hungover, dude.”
Around seven, he went for a walk down by the docks. It wasn’t exactly the scenic part, more the commercial district, with warehouses and now empty dirt parking lots. He stared out at the ocean, and wondered who might come in on some of those ships.
Or what? he thought, and again, wondered what prompted such a thought.
To be continued
November 13th, 2016.