The Nick Of Time
(and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
Al Bruno III
Jason Magwier stirred, raised his head to inspect his surroundings and blinked. The room swam in and out of focus as he stood and he had to lean against the wall to keep steady. He was still in the empty basement of the cafe on Nooker Street, the windows were still boarded up, filthy mattresses and hooka pipes still crowded the floor. These were all familiar but there was still something wrong, everything seemed to have been twisted ever so slightly out true, like a reflection in a warped mirror. He inhaled deeply, a thick, cold odor filled his nostrils and then he remembered.
“Black Sunshine...” he whispered the name as he crossed the room. There were shards of shattered glass in the corner, all that remained of a sudden confrontation and a thrown phial; smoky remnants smoldered and clung to the tips of the broken glass. Magwier cursed his luck, he had come here to buy some of the damned stuff, not to inhale it.
He cocked his head and looked around suspiciously, “Time I was leaving I think.”
But the room had begun to confound him, the walls pressed in, the floor pitched, the ceiling drooped down low. The furniture melted away or perhaps it had never been there. He closed his eyes and tried to find his way with his other senses but they had been rendered equally useless. The hallucinations brought about by the Black Sunshine were as complete as they were malevolent and under the right circumstances they could kill their victim.
Just like the clumsy-fingered dealer had promised. The thought of being left to the mercy of his own nightmares left Jason Magwier trembling and afraid.
“I'm not afraid,” he opened his eyes and looked around the room. Everything had changed again, the patterns on the wallpaper fell and twisted on every side making his stomach twist with the illusion of free fall. He blundered around again, searching for the way out of the basement and back into the alleyway but for all he knew he was already out of the cafe, for all he knew he was about to walk out into the clutches of one of his many adversaries or, worse yet, into oncoming traffic.
“Don't be so melodramatic,” he sneered.
It was in that moment of overwhelming helplessness and fear that he first felt the presence of something-
“Stop doing that!”
-the presence of another. It was there-
“I know you can hear me!” Magwier glared.
- was there behind him-
“There is nothing behind me,” he spat. “You're just trying to scare me now.”
Jason Magwier told himself that it was all just an illusion brought upon him by the Black Sunshine but it was there, a shape he could just glimpse out of the corner of his eye. It was bent and spindly and seethed with malevolence. What would it look like when he turned? Would it be bestial or nearly human? Would it’s eyes flicker with cruel recognition or would there be no eyes at all? Reaching into his pocket Magwier pulled out his trusty mirror-
-and dropped it back into his pocket in favor of a crumpled pack of cigarettes. He lit one and exhaled smoke but he didn't turn around because for all his bravado he knew the creature was still there.
“I'm hallucinating all this, especially your narration,” Magwier stared at his cigarette, “Maybe even this. It isn't really my brand.”
But he would not turn around because he knew that to do so would invite death. He felt the presence draw closer, looming over him and Magwier knew that pretending he was a character in a story would not protect him for long.
“Pretending? We're all fictional characters,” Magwier laughed, “Everyone has stories told about them and no matter who does the telling they're embellished or patently false. After we're dead all we are is memories and what is a memory but a lie you tell yourself. There is no monster.”
The words rang hollow because he still wouldn't turn around.
“Fine I will.”
Jason Magwier turned the expression on his face-
“See? What did I tell you?” he said smugly, “No monster, no monster at all.”
The room was empty, suddenly empty, where had the monster gone? Had the presence been just that? A presence? An illusion brought on by the dread narcotic Midnight Sunshine? Magwier stubbed his cigarette out on the bottom of his shoe and looked around again. Was the room fading away or was it him?
“Feels like someone is slapping me awake,” he said. “I wonder who it is.”
“And here's something for you to ponder,” Magwier was almost gone, his smile hung in the air Chesire-like, “If there was a monster, maybe it's behind you. Maybe it was behind you all along.”
And with that Magwier was gone, and the room was gone, all that was left was the emptiness of a fading dream. His final taunt echoed in the void;
“Or worse yet maybe it’s behind whatever poor sap is reading this...”