Alone In The Darkness is a novel I wrote in early 2016. I will be releasing a new chapter every Monday and Friday, starting on July 18th 2016. If you enjoy the book and would like to support me please click the link and purchase my book through Amazon. You can also find my book on the mobile reading apps: Wattpad, Jukepop, and Inkitt.
The bar counter had a smooth wood finish with groves and worn creases from elbows and glasses. The finish was faded around the falling lip, pointing to the red topped swivel chairs lining the counter along one side of the narrow room. Dart boards were occupied by focused drunks. Holes and loose darts lodged in the wall proved their skill. Large flat screens flickered with athletes held a grip on the patron’s eyes.
Behind the counter Jennifer worked to maintain the drink levels. Rows of bottles hung along the wall bathed in orange accent lighting. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and the blue and green ribbon told the attendees it was football season. Her hands glided washing shot and beer glasses in the sink. Her eyes drifted up to the man staring down at the empty glass, “Honey, you want another, Jack?”
The man arched his back, sucked in his lips, and let out a hiss, “It’s early and a Friday and I spent the day putting bolt assemblies on fuselages, so I think I will.”
Jen smiled pulling a fresh glass from under the counter and swinging the bottle. She turned and the brown liquid fell out into the glass. She winked, “A little extra for your hard work today.”
The man leaned back, pulled out his wallet, and dropped down a five, “That is all yours.” His arms curled around the glass and he raised it up and sipped.
“Thank you, hon.” She pulled the five and placed it into the register pulling out two ones and placing them into the tip jar. “I’ve had a long one too.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure this place was filled with the early shifters. They are grinding on us right now. Always wanting more planes pushed out the back.”
“I hear you. This is my second job. Worked the coffee hut this morning on the south side and I finish the day here at the bar. The end of the day, you can just feel it. I think I’ve served almost a thousand drinks today. Drink after drink after drink.”
He lifted his glass to Jennifer, “Cheers to you. I thank you for my drink. You power the city in the morning and calm us in the evening.”
The door opened and a figure walked in from the cold night. His shoulders were slack and his eyes were dark and empty. Shaking off the rain from his shoulders he let his jacket open up to the warmth. Steven walked up to the edge of the bar on the short side and sat down. Jennifer turned her head and began to walk down the length of the bar away from the noise.
“Hey sweetie, you look like you need a drink.”
Steven smirked, “You don’t know the half of it.”
“Long day I know. What do you need?”
Jen smiled, “I’ve got top shelf, locals, imports, but no time. Sorry honey.”
Steven was resigned that she would not grant him his wish, “I could go for a tall Manny’s right now.”
“Alright, the 16 coming up.” She reached out grabbing the small dusty bowl. “I’ll get you a fresh bowl of pretzels too.”
“Thanks,” his voice trailed off. He leaned and pulled out his fold of bills. She returned with the amber drink and dropped down a precarious tower of salty pretzels.
“Do you have change for a hundred?” He held out the bill with two fingers. He was distracted and missed the blood stain across the 1’s and 0’s.
“Oh, I’ll check the register.” Jen walked down the bar and Steven’s eyes followed behind watching the sway of her hips. She opened the register and thumbed a short stack of bills. She returned, “I’m sorry sweetie, that would clean me out. I have an ATM in the back.”
Steven nodded and got up crossing the bar. He approached the small machine, removed his card, and followed the instructions on the screen. Steven could see the blood-stained freckles on his finger nails and jacket cuff. He’d spent the last half hour furiously rubbing the blood from his hands and face, but he must have missed some. The machine whirred to life and spit out the last of the money in his account. He walked back and placed the twenty on the counter.
“Thanks honey, sorry about that. We’re just not allowed to keep that much cash in the till.”
Jen walked back to get the change. Steven looked down at the glass, lifted it, and took a long pull. The beer left cascading rings of foam down the glass side. He stared at his right hand rubbing his thumb and studying a blood fleck in the wrinkle of his forefinger. A small faded soot mark was still visible in the webbing of his hand. His eyes drifted. He could feel a tightness in his chest and a pulling sensation from his lungs. His legs kicked slightly in the chair and he quivered. He took another drink trying to relax his nerves. He shuddered at the echoes of the shots in his mind. He could still see the smoke lifting from the man’s face and the blood pooling around his back and arms. He saw the tremor in the foot as the life passed. Steven was lost in his mind and did not see Jennifer bring his change back. He came out of his dream to see money sitting next to his drink. She had left and was talking to a drunk at the end of the bar.
“Shit always sucks, trust me, I know.” An old man three seats down from him was staring across the bar to the wall.
“Distractions, man. That is what separates what you have and what you need.”
Steven looked around and then up to the wall, “Are you talking to me?”
“You’re the only one here, right?” The man turned his gaze to Steven.
“What are you talking about? Distractions? “
“You look distracted so I’m asking what that distraction is. Lemme guess, the usual, women… your job? Or my personal favorite, money. It’s always about the money in your mind. Everything reduces to that. Right there on that bar table. Just when you think you got it you need to be bailed out by the lotto again.”
“Ok.” Steven tried to ignore the old man’s ravings. He took another sip of his drink.
“It’s always the lotto, that’s the key. Just get a ticket, and boom! Beach and sun.” The man smiled down into his drink. “You going to win me that lotto?”
“I could go for a lotto ticket. I don’t even mind winning. Tenth place would be just fine.” Steven drank.
“You’re young, man. What I would give to know then what I know now! Oh, what I would tell my dumbass self 30 years ago. I’m not talking about that whole time traveling thing. Goin’ back in time talking to myself. I talk to myself enough to know my younger self would’ve just kicked my ass. I would need something more subtle. Hell, I’d take a sticky note telling me to Watch yo ass boy, love me.”
“A sticky note? How would the younger you know that the sticky note would be from your future self?”
“It’s not about analyzing the note or knowing who it’s from. It’s where the note would be placed, time and place. I only need to see it once and maybe things will turn out differently. It’s like a lotto ticket. It’s a loser most of the time but the right time and place, it is a winner.”
“Alright man, if you think it would be that easy. Just put a sticky note on the fridge?”
“Yeah man I can see it, I would slip into the house. My dumbass drunk self wouldn’t know I came in. I would place that sticky note right here on my forehead. I would wake up, walk into the bathroom, and see my future self’s sagely wisdom cross my forehead and I would know.” He snapped his fingers catching the edge of his glass. The beer sloshed as he fumbled catching the glass before it spilled.
“So that is your wisdom, Watch your ass?”
“Time and place, my friend.” The man pointed at Steven. “It’s all about the context. You do it any other time and it means nothing. But at that moment, it is like a punch in the gut.”
The old man stood up and leaned back stretching. He pulled the beer up to his mouth and finished the last drops. He put his jacket on and started slowly limping to the front door. From the other side of the bar Jennifer called out, “Have a good walk home, Harold.” He waved blindly and left.
Steven could feel a buzz in his pocket. He reached down and pulled his phone out. Juan. Tick Tock, my friend. Steven’s hand shook pulling the beer to his lips.
He swiped into his phone and selected the open message with this brother.
You need to get out of the house. The message moved from delivered to read.
Ok. I’m leaving now. Should I tell mom?
No. Just go.
Ok. What’s going on?
I’ll tell you tomorrow.
Fine. I’m leaving.
His mind raced through the day, pawn stores, begging friends for money, dealing the last of his product, gunshots, and the blood. He could feel a sickness welling up in him. His stomach felt the knots. He was losing control.
Steven looked up and found the sign at the back of the bar. He shot up and quickly walked down to the bathroom. He dipped his head into the sink. Water splashed on his face dripping off into the cracked white porcelain. He looked to the mirror and saw his face for the first time that day. He looked old. Eyes worn and cheeks sagging. There were blood veins wandering in the whites of his eyes. His pupils were dilated. Drops of blood still on the edge of his hairline. He wetted a paper towel in the sink and began to rub, the red drops running down his face. He rubbed again. He could feel the hourglass leaving behind the last of the grains.
There was a pulse in his stomach, he turned and fell to the stall. Dirt and matter collected around the edge of the bowl. He heaved and let loose the beer. His mouth open and eyes wide. He stood slowly from the stall dusting off his pants and kicking the stall flush. The splashing of water brought him back to the moment. He could hear the bar outside the door, people cheering loudly. He placed his hands back onto the sink and bowed his head seeking guidance. His eyes released tears onto his cheek and his voice cracked, “Please get me out of this.”
Outside the bathroom door a man yelled, “You said you would take me on your trip! Just think about it Alaska, glaciers, with this body carved out of granite.”
“You wouldn’t be able to keep up and granite is not built with beer.”
“You just give me a chance Jenny, I’d show you the world,” the words slurred.
“Just put some money in the fund and I’ll pour you another drink. That’s about all you’re going to get, sweetie.”
“Alright, here’s a few more for you.”
“Look at that everyone, I’ve even melted the coldest heart. All I know is that I’m going to sleep well, eat well, and have someone else serve me drinks.”
Cheers, whistles, and claps came through the door. Steven’s head was turned to the voices and sound.
“Aw, you deserve it, sweetie,” a soft voice said.
“And that lovely voice means my evening is through. The beautiful Amy here will close you guys out. Thank you.”
Steven stood up and wiped the remaining water from his face. He gave himself a look in the mirror. He was resolved to take action, this was his message. He opened the door and walked out into the noise. He crossed the length of the room, grabbed the change off the counter and left into the night.