I so wasn’t done yet. My starry head had pressure rising.
Anxiety and stimulants tasted like copper on my blue tongue.
The back halls of the Orpheum were tightening and after walking without a decision to begin, I had no memory to track. I had no idea where I was.
Wooden floors creaked underfoot. The ancient bulbs of the hall buzzed. I heard the rumbling music, felt it vibrating in the air and walls, but no direction existed. Still, I kept on wandering.
I touched my forehead, seeing on my withdrawn fingers the red stains. I had really tasted blood, I realized; a stream down my face. But I didn’t feel a thing.
Not a damn thing.
Suddenly, I had started to see double. Reality fractured in two.
“W-what’d you d-do to Wally, Man?” Skrimp stuttered, jittered.
The world was spinning. I was sitting, eyes shut, on the arm of a ratty-ass sofa in the antechamber of the pounding Orpheum main hall, trying not to vomit. There were two passed out people on the couch, one fatty at my feet.
“I didn’t do a fucking thing,” I said. “I don’t do anything.” I kicked the obese teenager snoring, grounded flat on his back.
Then I felt bad.
I got out a cigarette and started to light it as Skrimp struggled to form a sentence.
This batch had been fucked to high hell.
My lighter’s fire fractalated.
“Y-you got- you shoved Wally?” Skrimp asked.
Memory and moment blurred again.
I had to watch my feet to walk without tripping.
Two people were having sex down the way. They were against the passage’s wall, thrusting in the visage of a high barred window. A lightning flash lit them, bare, and the sound of a rattling buckle reached me.
I picked the cigarette stub from my lips and flicked it away, staggering up the stairwell to my right.
Skrimp was rolling his shoulders, scrunching his face. I could tell an ich was crawling up his back.
I took a deep drag. “I’m trying to chill, Skrimp. Why do you care?! We’re…” my mind drew a blank. “…there was a demon robot, man.”
“He g-got st-stepped on!”
“Well?!” I stood up. My blood pressure dropped, nearly taking me down, but I steadied, squaring up with Skrimp. “Why are we arguing!?”
“I c-can’t find em!” He shouted.
I stared at him. His face distorted.
“Why…” I squinted, trying to see clearly. “Why the fuck didn’t you open with that.”
He had nothing to say.
I pushed past him.
Go and find. Get lost searching.
The stairs went on and on, that was the way it seemed. But I knew, reaching the last flight on the tenth floor, that this was nothing. A stout and rickety ancient thing, pebble among mountains.
A crash of thunder rumbled through me.
The immediate end of the room was a rusted steel door. Bolts of light cut its silhouette from the outside. A thunderous downpour was only outmatched by the boom that followed.
The storm is here.
I pushed open the door and stepped out onto the roof.
The water instantly penetrated my clothes. Sopping wet. Water and hair streaming into my eyes.
“Wally!?” I cried.
There were no lights in sight. No end to the black. Black given depth only by tempest sheets.
Goddammit. I had wanted so badly to have today.
Wally wasn’t here. He was down in the frenzied crowd’s mire, it crossed my mind. Just like that fucking cat, out there wandering some alley, let through a forgotten door ajar. No one was at fault. Nothing to do about it.
And here I was.
My hands ached, I realized, clenched tight into nails biting, metal gritting.
Nobody stole that cat.
Lightning arced across the sky.
It was terrifying, absolutely massive. Hued blood red, it glowed white hot, crawling in my distorted vision in slow motion over the firmament. My eyes widened.
What am I doing?
I was getting soaked to the bone. The blinding strike gave my eyes a moment of nothingness before they adjusted again. Slowly, the city lights reappeared with the fading of my hallucination.
Walls on walls, on walls, on walls. The neon was always like a sickly daylight during the night. I could see several districts from up here, luminous, but after that the buildings were indistinguishable.
I pulled out my phone and wiped at the screen, trying to unlock it. I wanted to text Dag, ask him for advice. I didn’t even know what about. I was lost on a roof, heart palpitating, Wally was lost in the crowd. Skrimp was probably having a panic attack. He didn’t handle stress at all, high. There was nothing to do but wait for it to pass. All of it.
And it had been more than an hour already.
As my finger hovered over the digital phone keys, I could see how pissed Dag was going to be. He put up with all this bullshit, scalding noodles and needy friends, now he was standing out in the rain nearby a sewer hellhole while I was tripping on the Orpheum roof.
Inches from the edge.
I hadn’t even noticed. The tips of my shoes hung over the sheer drop. Ten stories, I knew. I could feel the flights in my legs. They wanted to give out.
Down I would go.
I didn’t have the urge to jump. I didn’t have the urge to run, either. I didn’t know what I would do, frankly. How can I not know that?
Everything a reflex.
We shouldn’t have done this. Dag should be here.
As I was staring down the drop, my phone vibrated. It was Skrimp.
>’Bug’_20:02:56 | “Found Wally’s coat and cell.”
I was slow to process. As the rain beat down, I watched the screen with heavy eyes waiting for a second text. But it wasn’t coming. There was nothing to explain.
The wind lashed at me but my footing was steady. I stepped back from the edge.
I knew what it meant.
I turned and ran.
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