My head began to swim. There were a few others in the bar besides the randoms sitting at the bar itself. A couple was near the stage at a high top nursing drinks and chatting. A young dude on his cell phone absentmindedly sipped his margarita. All in the shadow of the orange fire that burned in front of them. I felt my blood begin to thin and quicken. My heart palpitated. I leaned against the wall and looked up. I didn’t want to be conspicuous. I think I was starting to sweat. Then she came up to me. The cocktail waitress. Yes. I had been expecting her. She looked troubled, but smiled nonetheless. I smiled back at her. I ordered a whiskey coke. She walked away with a bow and a smile. I leaned against the wall again, and looked at the ceiling. It was a high ceiling bar. It seemed to get lost in the dim shadows. I felt a rush come over me, it rose like a chill that convulsed quickly through my body. I shook. I felt the drug coursing through me. A second surge of lust and exuberance. I rubbed my thigh with the palm of my hand. I inhaled deeply. The music came to my ears. Deep pulsing bass beats. Sweeping synthesizers accented by sparkling bells and trumpeting lyrics. A beautiful piece, by a pop mistress I didn’t know. I sighed, letting the wave come over me. My heart continued to thrum in my chest. The waitress returned with my whiskey coke. It was a double. I pulled my card out.
“On the house, Jack. Bosses orders.” Is all she said. I bowed, thankful. Then she turned and looked me in the eyes curtly.
“But I got ta’ say, you don’t look too good.” She looked closer at me, “I can’t really tell, but are you bleeding?”
“What?” What the heck was she going on about? The music wasn’t loud, but I was having a hard time grasping what she was saying.
“Nevermind. Enjoy your drink.” She walked away without so much as a smile. My mind swelled again and I turned away from her and the bar and looked to the stage and that bright neon sign. The color was bold, an orange with a reddish hue. It almost looked gold in some spots.
What was that waitress going on about though? I wondered. I sipped my drink. It was strong. I sucked a quarter down in one gust of my straw. I let the alcohol wash over my body. It seemed to temper the high. I sipped on as the music played. I felt my heart beginning to flutter as opposed to thrum. I supposed I was calming down. My skin didn’t feel hot and tingly and I was able to take full deep breaths. I’d finish my drink, maybe have a second, leave a healthy tip and be on my way. As my body began to regulate again, I felt a slight warm mark on my cheek. I touched it with my hand. It was moist. I must have been sweating. The poor waitress probably thought I looked a mess. As I pulled my hand away from my face I noticed my fingers appeared sullied and dark. Was it not sweat on my cheek? The color of the liquid on my fingers was almost black in the light; a nebulous, purple bedazzled with black glitter in the blood orange neon light. I put my drink down, and nearly stood up. I seized, remembering to be inconspicuous. I felt the drug’s influence returning. I was starting to panic inside about my face and whether or not it was blood on my hand. I wanted to go. But, I felt paralyzed by the drug, afraid to move, afraid I’d do something obvious and awkward and everyone would know. I stalled for a second, miles stretching between heartbeats.
I had to know. I stood up firmly and walked passed the bar and its denizens, the tenders and the flies, and avoided the nagging sensation that I was being watched. The bathrooms were at the back, down a hallway that led to an exit. Everything was black: the hallway walls, ceiling, floors. Dim red orange fixtures kept with the bars theme. In the bathroom, I approached the sink. The mirrors above them were dim lit with a hazy, dull yellow. I saw the crimson streaks on my cheek. It startled me. Thin lines stretched across my cheek. I could see where my fingers had made a mess. What scratched me? I wondered. It caused me to bleed and I didn’t even realize. I turned my head in the mirror, and was shocked to see thin lines on my other cheek, too. There were three that stretched from the corner of my mouth to the base of my earlobe. Thin streaks like ink slid from each cut. My heart started to race, but I did everything I could to coax myself to remain calm. I turned the water on, grabbed some paper towels and proceeded to clean my wounds. I was stunned. As I gazed in the mirror at my cuts, I noticed my flesh would lift, like deep, thin slivers. How deep were these gashes? I looked in the mirror again, the water running. My body felt weird, like a low humming electric charge was coursing through it. I was grateful the place wasn’t busy or there’d probably be some guy asking me questions and making small talk. I continued to wipe away the stains. As I gazed at the reflection, my attention was caught. I looked twice suddenly caught off guard. Was it a trick of the drug I’d used, or was I losing my mind? The iris of my eyes had become angular, half diamonds. Almost like cat eyes. I peered harshly at them as my heart rate rose. I gazed in my eyes’ reflection. I looked for their color. They used to be typical brown, only hazel in the light. Now they seemed to be blue, or purple. I looked deeply in them and suddenly saw muffled bursts of light and reticence. They began to glow and sparkle.
I freaked out. I pulled myself from the mirror, turning fully away from the scene. I breathed heavily. I grabbed at my ears, placing my hands on my cheeks, my fingers caressing the lobes. I could feel the thin sheaths of flesh underneath on my palms. They were warm. I ran my fingers up my ears, stressed by the drug. Confused by what it was making me feel and see. My ears, for example, now felt long, the cartilage much harder and stiff. I gasped as I felt the rigid point they came to, the flesh so callous it felt like soft bone. I started to hyperventilate, as I turned to the mirror again. I looked so pathetic holding my ears as my cheeks began to streak the deep crimson streams I worked so hard to clean. Suddenly, my head swooned. I felt dizzy, dazed. My vision and hearing became amplified, my eyes bubbled and my hearing piqued. I needed to get out of there. The vibes of the Catalan were usually much better. I hoped this was all a trip, and that hallucination was a part of the drug I’d never experienced, or perhaps the consequence of extended use. I knew where I could get answers.
I cleansed my cheeks again of the blood that seeped from the cuts, gathered a handful of paper towels, and left the men’s room, heading back to the exit. The door was a through way, and exited to an alley. The main difference between this neighborhood and Faery Hill, was there was far more green and trees, even just on the outskirts of Faery Hill proper. There was a green square in Faery Hill where they had festivals and concerts, but that was about it. Faery Hill was concrete, downtown, and constrained. I walked the alley feeling woozy. Not from blood loss was my initial hope. I touched my cheeks and inspected my fingers. There were no blood stains. I took that as a good sign. I walked forward. I had decided to visit my proprietors and under the guise of re-upping, get some answers to what was happening. The wooziness hit me again and caused me to stumble a little. This trip felt much different from others. The rush I usually felt inside my head seemed to cast its influence over my extremities. It felt difficult to walk, but at the same time, it may have all been in my head. Damn, the drug. I made it out of the alley and on to the sidewalk of a main street. I turned the corner and was in front of The Catalan again. It had gotten much darker out and the street signs and business had begun to light up. The buildings were cast in shadow and formed a crooked skyline of monolithic silhouettes. Office buildings, apartment homes, their lights speckled the dark. I walked forward hoping I looked alright, staring at the city before me, heading back to Faery Hill.
“Faery Hill” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. Short fiction, part four of five.