The rain hadn’t let up for days now. It just threw itself relentlessly onto the streets and made it so you couldn’t read the neon signs; Gray had to get right up to close to a bar to see which one he was going in to. All the streets had that slick look. He couldn’t figure out if it was piss-ugly or beautiful. It didn’t matter. Rain or no, he’d be spending most of his time on a bar stool anyways.
He arrived at Unit 21, remembering the days when bars had proper names, not just some utilitarian and trendy sounding handle. He tripped over the step on the way in and had to catch himself on the back of a chair. He’d gotten started at home. The place was somewhere between empty and not empty. It was dark and quiet, some bittersweet blues music trickling from a speaker somewhere just within earshot. Gray’s kind of place.
Nestor Sanger and his pack of baying, sycophantic hyenas were drinking at one of the tables. He saw Nestor take a smarmy glance at him and say something to the men and they all cracked up laughing stealing looks at him over their shoulders. He knew the things they said about him (That’s old Gray. Used to be a gang man. Killed men for money. You wouldn’t mess with old Gray. Look at him now: a drunk. As useless as a deck chair on a rainy day). At nights when Gray fell into his bed, he dreamed of humiliating Nestor Sanger to teach him a lesson for daring to laugh at him.
A pair of young and studious looking men were playing some game on a chequered board at the bar. An old man was scanning his phone continuously at a fruit machine while it threw a kaleidoscope of lights onto his face. What kind of idiot wastes his money on gambling, thought Gray as he sat down.
“Gimme a shot, Niv.”
“What do you want?” said Niv, who was polishing a brass beer tray.
“Got a new blend. It’s good shit.”
Niv set the shot in front of Gray and he grabbed it up and spun round on his stool. He drank his shot and a pleasant warmth emanated through his chest.
A gruff shout broke the quiet followed by the sound of a glass smashing. A big and severe-looking man had risen from his table, his pocked face twisted into a scornful contortion. In his hand was a fistful of his companion’s blonde hair. He yanked her off her chair and onto the floor. Her knees and hands landed on the broken glass and she screamed, blood ebbing out into the liquor and glass.
Nestor Sanger got up. “Hey!” he said.
The big man turned his head towards Nestor as he stood over the woman. “Sit the fuck down,” he said to Nestor with an unnerving surety and pointed at Nestor’s chair. Nestor sat the fuck down. The man looked back down to the woman and smashed a booted leg viciously into her guts and she fell onto her side, making that horse, heaving sound of someone winded. After that, she sobbed.
Gray had seen enough. He had been clutching his shot glass angrily, and he slammed it down onto the bar and made his way over – his head had cleared right up and every atom in his body wanted violence.
He passed Nestor’s table, and Nestor whispered “Gra-“
Gray raised a hand to silence him, and turned to the man.
The man didn’t even look at Gray. “Pff, sit down old man,” he said contemptuously.
“It’s a pity to see a man acting like such a fucking coward,” Gray said.
The man snapped his head round, and Gray could see in his eyes that he’d been at something; they were bloodshot to hell and back. The man bent down and whipped up an ugly shard of glass and stomped toward Gray. Gray planted his feet on the ground, the tricks of his old life shuddering back into his muscles like they’d never left. The man lunged at him, swiping with the shard, Gray took a deft step sideways and grabbed the man’s arm and brought him crashing face-first onto the floor.
There were times for temperance, but this wasn’t one of them. Gray bent the man’s arm backward across his back as his squashed face made muffled sounds of protest. Gray pushed some more and the man began to squeal, until – yes, the loud crack of a bone breaking. The man’s arm gave way flaccidly. Gray stood up as the man squealed and writhed on the floor.
He went to the woman and proffered a hand. She took it and he helped her up. She huddled close to him as they made their way to the door. He noted the stunned faces of Nestor and his impotent cronies. They wouldn’t be laughing at Gray again any time soon.
It had stopped raining.
He took the girl back to his little apartment. She was beautiful, he realised. He made her a good, strong drink and she got in the bath. Gray tidied the place up as best he could, and when she got out she came straight to him. And that night she did things to him that beautiful women hadn’t done to him for years, and it was bliss. After some hours, his eyes closed and he fell into a deep, restful sleep.
His eyes opened. He was in the bar. Nestor Sanger was laughing at his table, the two young men were playing their game. The gambler was still swiping his phone across the machine.
“See. Told you it was good shit,” said Niv.
“Just pour me another,” said Gray, and he held out his glass.
Jason lives in the leafy county of Suffolk in the UK where he teaches English and Creative Writing at a college. He spends vast portions of his time playing table-top role-play games and reading as much science-fiction and fantasy as he can wrap his beady eyes around. This has led to a vitamin D insufficiency and a penchant for writing otherworldly stories. You can find him on his brand new writing page: Jason Last