We meet in this petrified amber pub. Barely noon, I elbow past the skulking loafers — hulking sentinels stationed along the bar and squeeze into an unwelcoming space to order two pints of flat beer, Tuesday-stale. The barman is the size and shape of a door, equally personable.
I turn around and suddenly, there you are, drifting spectrally towards me on bird legs. Hair like wild straw. Eyes, twin headlights shining from a boxy sweater. An eighteen-wheeler of memory. A dissociative juggernaut, slamming into my mind and detaching it somehow. Immediately I’m back there, in the bathroom…
Your eyes stared out at me from the nest: bug eyes, reptilian. Eyes-wide-terrified.
You’d constructed the nest from towels, bathrobes, other soft fabrics and garments which you’d gathered and arranged in the corner of the white-tiled room. That was smart, cozy. But it wouldn’t save you.
“We have to go, now,” I said. “They’re coming. They’re coming.”
The spiderbees, of course, were upon us. Black, buzzing death from above. Stripy menace. All of the legs.
The doors and windows and traditional points of ingress/egress were compromised, that much was clear. We had to find another way — go where they wouldn’t expect. Couldn’t burrow (who knew what kind of subterranean nightmares?) didn’t have the equipment. Didn’t have the evolutionary prerequisites. What did we think we were — moles? ground squirrels? badgers? No.
They were trying to get in. We needed to get out. Of your parents’ house. And the quickest route from A to B was a giant fucking sledgehammer straight through the fucking wall. From there it was a just a short sprint though the garden, crouched low and sheltered beneath our Egyptian cotton armour. We’d made it out! Night was falling, that would allow us some extra cover, but it wouldn’t do to tarry. We needed to keep moving, head to the freeway, requisition vehicle, get to France. Etc.
And we got the vehicle! We got on top of the vehicle, the vehicle became temporarily on fire.
Then the wolves arrived. Out of nowhere. To save us. Electing not to remain in their wolf-forms, they morphed slowly over the course of several hours into various members of the emergency services, local news journalists, concerned motorists and, eventually, your parents.
And now we meet, in this wretched pub where God’s own piss fills the pump-lines. We sit, and sometimes we talk. We drink our beer and pick listlessly through bowls of peanuts. Talk of how we escaped, but never really came back. We became the wasted living, discontented revenants. Doomed to exist only in this brain-fogged purgatory, this pharmaceutical winter. I like making coffee and doing the Wordle and bedtime. You ride the subway in the morning rush-hour, listening to K-Pop in tinny headphones, walking upstream against the office salmon. Dodging sharp, pointy umbrellas.
And so we haunt this town together. Twin ghosts floating at the back of our favourite band’s last-ever basement show that never ends. Screaming into a valve microphone for eternity.
“I want to be back there,” you say.
“In the nest?”
I feel it too. I long for the screech of a hundred-million wings twitching in dreadful unison. The black veil raining down from Heaven.
But we have each other, I tell you. Whatever cosmic force was guiding us that day, call it God or Karma or Fate or Chaos, or just the unbreakable atomic bond of two chemistry drop-outs who got the quantities for the first batch of our homemade blotter-acid terribly, catastrophically wrong. Whatever it was, we made it out. And we made it through the year after and the one after that and the one after that. And this one! And we’ll keep coming back here, to this pungent den. Because it means something. We’ll keep doing it while the years multiply and the numbers divide until eventually we fade and vanish, like cyphers into the code.
And hey! Things are different now. We’ve changed. For the better. In ways we never could’ve imagined. I used to be allergic to peanuts. And in many ways I still am.
I can feel my throat beginning to close.
“Call an ambulance,” I manage to say.