“AHHH.” A deep groan broke from the Night Stalker Club office as I passed by.
A loud thud followed, vibrating the door. This was fucking ridiculous. Call me old-fashioned, but they could do it at home before they came over.
I quickened my pace toward the entrance of the rooftop. Sex noise didn’t surprise me, but considering my friends were the ones making those noises, it was awkward. I couldn’t listen to that. I couldn’t blame them if they wanted a quick fuck with their wives though. They had the best lives, but ignoring the stabbing pain settling in my chest was hard.
At the rooftop, the sun just sat down from the horizon. My eyes were steady as I watched the red, orange, and yellow colors before the twilight beckoning the sky. Those colors reminded me of fire, passion, danger, energy, happiness, and hope.
I leaned my elbows against the concrete parapet, flicked the ash from my cigarette, and breathed in the remaining inch I lit up while watching for the sun to set.
The lights started to scintillate around me to somehow light up the darkness surrounding the city. I stubbed the butt till it stopped smoking. Exhaust and city pollution came back to life.
I knew people said cigarette smoking was dangerous to your health, but this thing was a reminder that life wasn’t fair. People thought I was a weird shit to choose a deadly companion than a woman—that I didn’t have a beating organ in my body, that I was an ice king if that even existed. What they didn’t know was, I was a good guy, that I didn’t even like this another part of me, but it grew inside me already, and I had to embrace it for some reason.
The thing was, hard life taught me to be prepared.
The only question was, would I ever want to be that person anymore? The old version of myself—when I felt I was a better version of who I was today?
I walked down and met the nightclub manager, Kyland in the locker room. I quickly cleared my mind and pretended I didn’t hear what happened earlier.
“Bro.” He patted my back.
“Hey.” I wore my black button-down shirt and rolled each sleeve above my elbows. My tattoo peeked out. It was an orange flame full of anger with black smoke swirled from my wrists up to my arms.
“How’s your trip?”
“Great. Thanks for arranging my sched.”
“Got to go to work. Bills won’t pay itself.” I wore my black apron with the club logo and walked out.
The former notorious playboy, Pyke Hughes, the club owner didn’t give a damn about the uniform. I was glad he preferred black.
The main bar had its dimly-lit dived with only yellow lights emblazoned from the low ceiling. Monday was not the busiest, but the customers entered in somewhat rush as soon as the club sign lit open.
The music visualizer from the 3D walls created colorful particles in balls shaped that synchronized to the beat of the 90’s pop song played by the DJ from the booth towering the dance floor.
The lady in a black dress ordered a dry martini, taking a seat on the dark barstool. Her makeup was simple as if she just came from long hours of work. She tapped her colorless perfectly manicured nails against the bar counter leisurely. Based on her dress, she didn’t come here to flirt and walk out with a man wrapping around her slender waist and have a wild night, but she was waiting for someone to arrive. Perhaps a friend.
I grabbed the cocktail shaker, filling it with ice, gin, and vermouth I took from the back bar. I stirred it for a few seconds. Placing down the martini glass on the counter, I strained the mix and garnished it with olives. “Here you go, ma’am.”
She gave me a polite smile, muttering thank you.
After working for more than two years as a bartender, I’d learned quite a few, and not only on mixing drinks but also the different types of people; from rich kids, playboy, bad boy, flirt ladies, cheating husband, horny guys, brokenhearted, dirty business, and sex, but I also developed a good relationship with my friends despite cynical behavior.
I placed down the order for table-four.
“I got this.” Dice, my barback took the tray with drinks to the couple at the dark red C shaped lounge chair with a half-moon-shaped silver table. With only a red light illuminated around the area, it was perfect for lovers and lonely hearts.
I did my job, and time passed by like a blur. Sometimes, I wanted it that way—it made me forget something I had in mind for the time being.
“Wanna stay for a while?” Kyland asked, opening a bottle of beer.
I shook my head.
Our boss didn’t leave yet either. Pyke settled in front of the bar counter, grabbing the beer that Kyland had just opened. “Thanks, Wright!”
“That’s mine, man.” Kyland groaned.
I chuckled inwardly. They were literally brothers-in-law now. Pyke married Camila, Kyland’s cousin.
“Wanna take it back? Go ahead.” Pyke raised the beer to offer back and laughed while Kyland was glaring back at him. “Then go grab another one.”
“Can’t take for your own, dude?” Kyland scowled.
“What’s gotten into you, Wright? Does your wife not good at giving you orgasms?” Pyke teased.
I had to blink back the thought of what had just happened earlier because if my memory served right, Pyke was quite clueless of them almost bringing down the door.
“Leave her alone, Hughes!”
They talked about sex quite often when they were both single and might have shared women before. I had no idea. They quitted the moment they were in their serious relationship. I guessed people did change because no one had seen it coming that Pyke and Kyland stopped their sexual escapades.
“How about you, Wood? When are you going to have sex? What I mean sex, the hardcore kind, kinky, and dirty. Have you lost your guymen yet?” Pyke smirked at me.
Kyland snorted. “Are you trying to liberate him?”
“Just trying to figure him out, Wright.”
They might have a few thought I didn’t like women or I was into dick, but who gave a shit?
I shrugged it off. “My sexual exploitation is just fine.”
“Really? Do you have a girlfriend? I know you’re not married, but I never saw you going out of the club with a woman either. Waiting for a perfect girl, huh?” Pyke faced me, piquing his interest.
I shook my head. “No girlfriend. No wife. But I can assure you I have a sex life.”
Kyland and Pyke burst into laughter, high-fiving each other.
“Then why do you ask for days off every last week of the month?” Of course, Pyke would ask.
“I have to travel to see my family.” I only had a long conversation with them when they invited me during a weekend or if it was not a work-related topic. I thought they respected my privacy and never asked personal questions, but I caught Pyke often intently staring at me as if he was studying what was behind my facade.
“Of course.” He nodded subtly, seemed not to buy my reason.
After bidding goodbye, I walked out of the employee exit to where I parked my Onyx black 2001 Chevy Camaro Z28. I checked my phone for a call from someone as soon as I got inside. Zero.
I pressed the music icon on the screen of the GPS. Instantly, Simple Man played over the Bose speakers. I pulled out into the driveway, tapping my fingers on the wheel to the beat of the old rock music.
Not less than an hour, I arrived at my pad. My pad was secured by an advanced security system that I installed myself. It had a camera on the peephole that no one would even notice. I inserted the key and pressed my thumb above the door handle with a small black square for fingerprint scanning. In less than three seconds, the door clicked unlocked.
I locked the door after double-checking to make sure things were in the right places. I chose the colors according to my preferences—black, gray, and white. The dark gray curtain was drawn to block the light from the outside of the floor to ceiling glass window.
Exhausted took over me. I’d been awake for more than twenty-hours now. I slumped body to my authentic crocodile skin couch and kicked my shoes off and massaged my temples.
My mind went back to my phone. No call. I hit the number on my speed dial and it was picked up right away considering the timezone there. “Any update?”
Bill Lioner, my tech geek presented our proposal to the Diabetic Research Center in New York two months ago about our proposed project, the Advanced Insulin Glucose Monitoring System or AIGMS. Unfortunately, they turned it down.
As much as I didn’t want to disappoint him, I couldn’t let his hope high. But if he believed in me and this project, I should at least believe in what we did. I knew Bill and his team worked their asses hard to get this deal. I just hoped it paid their effort.
“We’re halfway through it. We could use a brain you know—”
“I am busy.” I cut off Bill. His brain was more than enough for the project, and he knew it. “That’s why everyone is paid handsomely.”
“Right.” I could feel his disappointment even from a hundred miles away. “I’ll email you for the update after two months.”
“Make it after two weeks. I’ll arrange a video conference.”
“T-That’s impossible,” he stammered.
“I am not in a patient mode right now, Lioner. Make it possible.” My voice came out sharp. Bill even gasped from the other end of the line, and he was aware that we were almost running out of time
“Absolutely, sir.” I knew how much this project meant for him. If we could make a breakthrough, he would be the first to get the benefit since he’d been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes back in college.
“Good.” Before I could hang up, something came up my mind. “Bill, I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright, sir.
“I actually have an idea. I don’t know if it’s possible.”
“I’m listening. Nothing is impossible, Forrest.”
I couldn’t help but smile when he called my name. “Let’s say you’re right. Is it possible to put the monitor and the treatment together?”
“I know it sounds crazy—”
“Brilliant! Call me after a week.”
My brow met in confusion. “Okay?” I hung up the call. Instantly, my lids felt heavy.
“Mama! Mama!” I shouted as I ran toward our burning house.
People from our small village were already in chaos with buckets of water to cease the fire. I bit the hairy arm who tried to stop me, then ran faster as soon as I freed myself. I slammed the door with my body and ignored them yelling my name because I knew my mama was trapped inside.
“Mama!” I coughed furiously. My eyes stung, tears streaming down my flushed face. I couldn’t see anything other than the thick dark smoke coming from the kitchen.
“Mama!” I blindly walked and used my hands as my guide.
I opened my eyes slowly the moment I reached the kitchen doorjamb. It was difficult to watch the scorching of huge flame devouring Mama’s cabinet filled with her Chinaware collections. It was like watching a starving animal eating its prey with an enormous appetite.
“Mama!” I shouted, running to where my mama was crawling out under our old wooden table, where we shared many meals. Her swollen eyes were pleading, filled with horror, sadness, and pain.
“G-go, m-my s-sweet boy. S-save yourself,” Mama choked her words out, making me shake to cry.
There was blood everywhere—on her beautiful face, her favorite white blouse, and on her hands as she pushed me away from her.
“Mama! No, Mama!” I gripped her wrists, dragging her out under the table, but she was too heavy, and she was pulling her hands out of my grip.
I cried for help, but there were no words came out, instead, I continued coughing as the black smoke entered and burned my lungs, making me wheeze and breathe harder. I quickly crawled under the table, ignoring the unbearable heat against my skin that I felt I was melting under. I covered my mama with my body, closed my eyes, and took the fate that was written for me.
The flame reached the table quickly, to my shirt and licked my skin greedily. The pain was excruciating, and I was helpless to fight.