I used to drink. And when I drank, I drank a lot. I have woken up in Cozumel–sand stuck in places I didn’t even know I had (although a few of the more rambunctious rolls-in-the-sack have tried to find). I’ve woken up shirtless, shoeless, pants-less, decorum-less, and definitely on many occasions, completely and utterly dignity-less.
This felt like one of those times (like when I awoke in the high school’s football field, wearing only a jock–which wasn’t even mine). My head hurt, like an axe chopping through solid logs of oak. CLURR-CHUNK!
My body tingled and ached like the day after downing of a good bottle (or two) of Anjeo. I rolled to the side as I squinted fiercely, determined to keep out the morning light seeping through the edges of a black curtain.
A shadow moved through the room and yanked the curtain aside, flooding the room with sunlight.
“Rise and shine,” the Angel mused. I yanked the sheet, an itchy poly-cotton blend, up over my head but it did little to block out the rising sun. The Angel’s hand came close to face, I could see her slender fingers reaching for me through the sheet. She yanked the plaid sheet away. “I said rise and shine.”
I looked around the dingy square of living quarters, recognizing the signs of someone’s entire life stuffed into the area of a cubicle. I could tell I was definitely still in New York. You could always tell. It was something in the air that hung heavily, collecting the energy of life, but sapping it–turning everything a lovely shade of gray. That’s how New York had seemed to me, from the day I arrived.
“You live here? And you took off my clothes?” I asked as I raised myself up, noticing for the first time that I was clad only in my tight, low rise boxer-briefs. I smiled as the Angel moved in front of the window, silhouetting herself in the light.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I didn’t even peek.” Since I couldn’t actually see her face I took the liberty to imagine her smiling.
“Not that you would have been disappointed.”
“Not my type,” she said flatly.
“Gay?” I said remorsefully.
She laughed, cantering her head back. “Hardly. You wax your entire body, if anyone here is questioning their sexuality, it’s not the girl with the gun,” she said as she stepped closer to the bed and motioned a small black handgun, gripped tightly in her frail hand, toward herself. She grabbed a pile of unpressed clothes from a wooden chair and tossed them on the bed. “I burnt your other ones.”
“You burnt my Armani?”
“Had to. It was touched by the mark.”
“The Mark? Who is Mark?”
“The Mark,” she repeated, “isn’t a he. It’s a curse.”
“Please just stop talking and get dressed,” she sighed as she turned away. “We have to get moving while the sun is high.”
Quickly I pulled on the wrinkled V-neck and worn out jeans and followed her from the bedroom and into an even smaller kitchen/living room/bathroom. The jeans hung loosely, swishing across parts they weren’t meant to swish across. That was the problem with worn jeans, especially when they were broken in by someone else, they weren’t customized to my muscles and joints–these jeans were worn in all the wrong places. I paused in front of a full-length mirror to check myself out. “Really? It’s a V-shirt and jeans.”
“Hey,” I cautioned. “A miss-worn pair of jeans can make you look homeless, or at least like a bargain shopper.”
“Do you have any idea what’s happening?”
“Nope,” I said as I followed her down a narrow flight of stairs, painted a musky green. “Who are you anyway?”
“Call me Z.”
She turned back to me, flipping her hair across her back, exposed by a corset-like top which laced up her spine like a pair of shoes. She dressed all in white, accented with a rosy red lips and a scarf, fastened around her waist, covering a few small belts that had evaded their loops. “Yes. My name is Z. And you were caught in the rub.”
“First the mark, now the rub?”
“Just listen for a minute. Can you do that?” she continued as she pushed open a heavy wooden door and bounded out into the streets of the city–wherever we may have been–and I slowly closed my mouth, cocking my head to the side as I waited for Z to continue. “The rub is the in-between. It’s the aftermath when two worlds touch that were never meant to touch. It’s when our world–full of puppies, kittens, laughter, red balloons and rainbows,” she oozed sarcastically, “meets another world, usually full of things that go BUMP!”
“So, you’re saying what exactly? Something touched our world?”
“A portal between two worlds, more precisely,” Z said as we walked along aimlessly. Stopping to gaze over stands of odd meats and foodstuffs–however, I was certain that Z knew exactly where she was leading me.
And I hated being led into uncertainty, especially when vodka wasn’t involved. But I wasn’t quite sure what was keeping me from running away. What about Z made me want to stay and listen to her crazy-ass?
After a few seconds of deep reflection, I realized it was probably the ass itself making me tag along like a sixteen year-old hormone crazed adolescent.
But, it filled out her pants so nicely, how could I not?
“I thought you said we had to hurry?” I asked as I quickly stole another glance from behind.
Z picked up a golden apple and scrutinized it. “We do, but I’m looking to see if anyone else has left any notes for us.”
“On an apple?”
“How do you know my name?” I asked, but before I could feign astonishment of her psychic prowess, Z removed my wallet from beneath her scarf and handed it to me.
I snatched it from her and flipped it open. “An orally fixated pickpocket?”
Z stopped and looked at me–her eyes were even more enticing in the daylight, pools of bright blue light. Cozumel–only marred by the heavy stench of cooking oil and rotten trash all around us.
Soho! We were in Soho!
“You live around here?” I asked as Z pulled open the door to a pub and stepped inside. A pub that definitely felt out of place.
But, on the up side it looked like I was wrong, vodka was to be involved.
“No. I live in New Jersey. That was a safe house.”
Z sat down on a barstool and patted her hand on the one next to her. Aside from the bartender, a chunky man, who in earlier years no doubt served as a bouncer, but now that old age had softened his muscles and thickened his skin, had graduated to serving liquor, straight up, before noon–only two other people sat in the bar. They looked at us briefly and returned to staring into their half empty pints.
The bartender took the three steps toward us, waddling dramatically. He arched his overgrown eyebrows–scouring pads upon his pale skin. “Red Snapper,” Z ordered and the bartender nodded approvingly as his gaze slowly slid over me.
“Goose Gimlet,” I ordered.
He huffed and waddled away. “Deacon,” Z said. “You got caught in the rub, not by accident, but because of who you are.”
“If you say the words chosen or one, I’m standing up and walking out of this bar. You can also add the words; destiny, foretold, prophesied, clandestine, alien, mutant, savior, hero and wanker to that list.”
Z sighed and picked up her glass a second after it had been placed in front of her. She sipped it slowly, closing her eyes as it washed down her throat, relaxing her shoulders and mood, much like when I did Yoga. “You’re not British,” she said calmly, taking another sip. I could smell the bourbon in the air. “I don’t even think you can be a wanker, not rightfully, but don’t worry. I wouldn’t use any of those words. But, if you care, here’s the short of it: A few months ago some shit went down. Apocalyptic type shit. Nearly ended the world–nearly ended all of them. But, of course it didn’t, because we are sitting in a bar in Soho and you’re thinking about how badly you want to get into my pants and not about what your etherial spirit is reincarnating into.
But, just because the world didn’t end doesn’t mean a lot of bad things didn’t happen. The world was changed, but not in a way that many would ever notice.”
I took a sip from the martini glass in front of me, expecting my body to repel liquor, like any other hangover, but it didn’t. It tingled my limbs, all the way down to my fingers. I kept forgetting that I hadn’t been drunk last night, this pain was something entirely different.
This pain was something that only a few girls in my lifetime had ever achieved, to a lasting effect–and the girl in San Lucas (spring break oh-six) can’t really take credit for the balcony railing shattering.
“I don’t care if you believe me or not,” Z said after she slammed down her empty glass, signaling for another drink. “But, I’m one of those people you never hear about, fighting those evil things that go bump in the night.”
“Well, at least you didn’t say you were a super hero.”
“Because I am not a super hero. I’m an assassin. Trained to kill scary monsters.”
Z was definitely dramatic. Maybe more so than myself?
I wasn’t to keen on that.
But that ass . . .
Regardless, she was right about one thing; I was thinking about how to get here out of her pants.
“Deacon,” Z said, floating my name on the air, instantly drawing me closer. “You’ve been marked. You are in danger and I think that you need to meet someone. Someone that can explain things a little better than I.”
“Really? Better than you? I mean, you’re a crazy super he–, er, assassin that kills scary monsters. What’s left to explain?”
“She’s already on her way.”
“Like, fortune teller?” I said, finishing my first drink as Z pounded down her second.
“Hardly,” she smiled, curling my toes. “She is the real deal. The last Oracle, or first, depending on how you want to look at things. No matter, she is already en route.”
En route? Who says en route these days?
“I’m not sure why you are so concerned with knowing her name? She doesn’t even exist to people like you.”
“I like to know people’s names. Sue me.”
“Her name is Penelope. She’ll be here in a few minutes. If there is a way to remove the mark that has been placed upon you, so you can blend back in with the eight-million people in the city, she will know what to do.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Then, you’re probably fucked.”
Well, at least Z was being honest, or so I hoped. And if I was indeed fucked, there was always more vodka.
I pushed my empty glass toward the bartender. He took it without a word, or a smile, as he filled it again.