My neck was stiff from lying too long on the couch. I could not recall when I last had the urge to move a muscle. My face was numb from hugging the sofa fabric and my back was screaming from bowing like a bridge into the cushions. Somehow, it felt as though I had just said goodbye to visitors, and was then wallowing in the sudden absence of interaction and embrace. This did not help motivate me to rouse myself from this self-induced anguish. In my line of sight, a show I had watched through a dozen times played on. The comedy had lost its fervor to me this day, and the drab daylight seemed to turn everything grey. The ache of my skeleton only perpetuated my exhaustion, and I realized if I did not move from this position, the cycle would continue indefinitely.
In one swift motion, I swung my feet to the floor and my head to the air. It was not as painless as I thought it would be, and I let the sting of grogginess settle from my eyes and my throat. Every sensation seemed to culminate in my lower back. With my head in my hands, I was desperate for any semblance of a good feeling. Would I ever feel happy again? How do you claw your way out of a pit of despair? Who would afford me the time and energy that I would certainly drain from them? I could not name one person at that moment, and that only served to compound my melancholy mood. I felt embarrassed at my lack of a social circle. I wore my solitude on my face and clothes like an alcoholic wore his addiction on his. There was nothing I could do about it except drink in more isolation. It is the taste of water when you were expecting a cold beer. And with that thought, my eyebrows formed to arches and I was brought back to faint flashes of laughter and smiles wrought with the scent of lager. I showered for the first time that day and dressed for a night at the bar.
If the walk had been eventful, I would not have known it as my hood was up and my headphones were blaring 90's alternative. Though I was lonely, interaction is not quite welcome on some of the streets nearby here. I only wanted a pint to stir something in me, not a night of trouble. The further I walked down the street, the feeling of regret began to dwell low in my abdomen and grew into my chest. For a brief moment, I asked myself if I should have stayed miserable on my couch in my lonely apartment. By this point it was fully night time and turning back would only invite intrigue by porch patrollers. Finally, at the steps of the pub, I brushed away all feelings of doubt, pulled the door ajar, and plunged myself into brighter yet equally ominous darkness.
Finding my place at a stool near the end of the bar, I gazed at the empty seats and the few customers that did share the need to sip. The room was lit only by various neon signs hung on walls and over windows. It was a space consisting mostly of tables on a hardwood floor, and a bar to the right that extended out of the wall and around to the other end of the same wall like a big "C." The guests were aged and solemn, which was a vast contrast to myself. None of them were watching the television, which showed an episode of Wheel of Fortune that must have been from decades ago. I did not recognize the host at all. While that distracted me for a moment, I reverted my gaze back to the other guests and noticed that they weren't really looking up or engaging with each other. They were not looking anywhere. They were just sort of staring at their own immediate sections of bar or table in front of them.
It was then that I noticed there was no bartender in sight. Annoyed, I began peering around the bar to see if he or she had left to clean or grab more alcohol. I would have understood if that were the case. No one wants a dirty unstocked bar. Very soon, I was looking at all of the posters and pictures hung on the walls, as well as the neon signs that gave the place such an inky radiance. The signs were witty and made me feel welcome. Some were actually funny, and others made me cringe from their luridness. I continued examining the wall nearest to me until it had my attention for what seemed like 5 minutes. I looked across the way to find more material on which to fixate. I stopped at what I thought was a picture or perhaps a painting? It was absolutely atrocious. From what I could make out, it was a woman with wispy, wiry black hair. Her skin was wrinkled, calcified-looking, and appeared to be hard to the touch. Her eyes were emanating anger and sunken deep. In the center were inlaid shiny, obsidian-black spheres. In the few seconds that it took for me to realize what I was looking at, my blood ran cold. I felt ill instantly. Her mouth went agape then quickly closed. At that moment I realized the other partons were actively avoiding her and looking down in fear. Their expressions said it all. Now the only pain that my body was experiencing was from the sheer amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins. She seemed to anticipate my move. I went to lift my leg off of the stool to run for the door.
"Don't!" I heard from the man further down on the C-shaped bar. "...move," he finished. "Slowly, sit forward," he said from his downturned head.
"Don't look at her!" he warned. I was petrified. Shaking, I turned forward and looked only at the stained wood grain of the bar. The silence blanketed everything. The urge to look up was too strong, and I could see that the wicked woman was no longer there. I was able to surmise that what she was looking through was a small window. "You didn't hear her shrieks outside?" the man asked. "I was wearing headphones..." I muttered.
"We think she can't get inside, but we aren't sure." he managed to get out before I heard the shriek for the first time for my self. Everyone froze with fear. An entire 20 seconds must have gone by before he proclaimed, "The bartender just said she was sorry before she turned off the lights, ran down into the cellar, and locked it. Up until now, no one thought that th-"
"We thought it was bullshit!" interrupted a lady from a table behind the man at the bar. Next to her sat what I assumed to be her husband, whom I could only see after peering around the man I had been talking to. He looked to be in shock, as his wide-eyed, straight-faced gaze would lead me to believe. "The reports of a naked woman running around screaming at people were stupid" she continued, "but then Mr. Maxwell from two blocks over was assaulted by a naked angry lady.."
"Assaulted?!" quipped the man at the bar, "He was attacked and is in critical condition! And now here we are waiting for that psycho to get us! If it wasn't bad enough the bartender left us up here, there is no way we can stay here all night. I can hear looking for a way in!"
I asked pointedly, "Why don't we turn on the lights? She seems to stay in the dark, right?"
"They are behind the door, where that chickenshit little bartender locked us out," said the lady at the table. "We've been sitting here in the dark trying to figure out what to do. The police told us that they won't look out here."
That whole time, the demented woman peeked through windows in the back and scratched at panels near the ground. "She seems to stay in the shadows," I reaffirmed out loud. No one said anything. We sat there in contemplation of the situation that we found ourselves in. Was this lady from town? Does she have a condition? I tried long and hard to rationalize what was happening. It was not long before we realized that we had not heard anything from the woman outside. I thought about reaching over the bar for a glass.
"RRRREEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA UUUGGGGGHHHH," seemed to emanate faintly from the below the floorboards. Wide-eyed, we all looked at each other for a brief moment before erupting from our seats to make our way outside. "RRRRREEEEAAAAAAHHHH," came louder and more defined from the cellar. We needed no more assurance that we are not in the place we wanted to be. The couple behind the man at the bar toppled their table and tripped over it on their way past me. I heard a scream from behind the door and this made my blood run cold, not because it came from an evil hag, but from a young woman whose voice could pierce a steel plate.
The man at the bar stood up as the couple was stumbling past, but his wide eyes stayed the same. His hand almost reached the sleeve of my flannel before he leaned into the bar and fell over. I grabbed for him and went to help him up before the locked door to the cellar banged out in the frame with such force the dust from the grain of the wood puffed into clouds. I fell back onto my ass in pure shock. The bottles on the shelves of the adjacent wall rattled and fell shattering. The man struggled to gather his breath, let alone his strength. BANG! went the door again. I could not help this man in the midst of the screaming and the banging, try as I might. BANG! It was splitting down the center, with fragments sprouting out. I gave one last look into the man's eyes before I got back up onto my feet and ran toward the door.
My last look into the bar was the door, practically in two, with bottles sideways and neon signs crashing down in consolidation. The old man's look of betrayal. What could I have done?
I ran the entire 6 blocks home. People said, "Yo! What the fuck!" as I tore ass down the center of the streets and through vacant lots. I smacked every wall running up the stairs to my apartment. I fumbled with my keys as if the demented woman was right behind me, ready to maul me just like the others. Once behind my locked door, I sat against it on the floor and cried.
When I finally had the will to get out of bed, I was anxious to check my phone or look at the television. After all, it had been three days. A short search on the internet proved fruitful. There was a small spot on the news that talked about the disturbance in a bar. They chalked it up to big city statistics. It was not long before I had come across an article alluding to a burglary in a bar near me which led to a double homicide. All it said was one bartender and a patron of the bar were violently stabbed and succumbed to their injuries. I do not think I will go to that side of town anymore.