Here I am, a lowly peasant in my menial job. I never wanted to make a name for myself, I just wanted to pay the bills and live a modest, average life.
I’m a bouncer at the Bar Pale Black, a space for the common people who just wanted to have a few drinks after their docile jobs.
I don’t have a big physique or a muscular frame unlike those other bouncers whom I work with. But I’m not a pushover. I remember during my childhood days, I have knocked out a guy bigger than me after he kicked our pet dog Shaggy.
You see, Herlan, the owner of Bar Pale Black, is my high school friend and he gave me this job because he pitied my way of living; I’m a slacker I might say.
Herlan has also been fond of me because my hunch on students who are pretending to be of legal age had always been accurate. This escapes the establishment from fines from patrol officers who goes bar to bar, to bust places allowing non-legal drinkers. I think this is also the reason why he didn’t put me as a waiter or a busboy, or a cook – though my inability to prepare myself a proper meal might be the reason for the latter.
However, this hidden talent of mine is not just a knack or instinct. When I was in grade school, I began to develop this quirk that makes me see the age of a person I look at. This happened sometime at the age of 11 when I was waken up by my mother to join the breakfast and I started seeing a floating number 30 above her head. I don’t have any idea what was it at first; I thought I was just dreaming so I slapped my face. My mother just shook her head like I was stupid or something. But on my disbelief, it is the reality.
At the dining table, I saw my brother Jack got a 13 above his head while 33 floated on my father’s. I told them what I was seeing, but father just scolded me about this ‘senseless’ thing I am saying. That’s why I didn’t talk about it anymore. I don’t want them to think that I’m more deficient than what they’ve thought of me. I am not the bright child you know. My grades are barely in Cs and I have been to summer remedial classes plenty of times. Even now, they haven’t contacted me after they learned that I have left college. My family have forsaken me as the money used for my tuition were gone to waste.
Back to the present time, I’m standing here in front of the bar contemplating what would I do tomorrow on my day off. I’m planning to watch that “Idiocracy” movie I downloaded online or I might reconcile with my family because I already miss them; I might be a brainless idiot but I’m a loving son after all. I also long for my brother who has been good to me ever since. In addition, he always gives me money whenever I see him around.
Time flies away in my job. As a couple walks into the bar, I ask for their identification cards. I make sure that every “head age” as I call it, matches the age written on their ID. Then a jolly cute girl arrives. I know she’s on legal age but I still asked for some identification. The girl blushes as she gives me her card, and I let her in afterwards. That’s the only perks in my job – making young girls gush, and get their names for some social media hunting later. I’m a 28-year-old lad who hasn’t been in a serious relationship; I won’t be choosy if I find my significant other in this kind of place.
After some hours, two kids try to enter the bar but I halted them. I call them ‘kids’ as I already knew they’re not supposed to be drinking. I ask for some identification and don’t you know, they presented fake IDs.
“Hey, our friends are already inside and we’re already missing the fun,” said Oscar. I don’t know if that is his real name, but that’s what it says on his ID.
“These IDs are fakes. Leave this place, I’ll be taking this IDs now for evidence,” I said.
“That’s our cards! You can’t take that!” said Bob, the other boy.
“Okay, we should let the cops settle this. Wait a moment and I will call them,” I said with an intimidating voice.
After that, they go huffing away while still hurling obscenities towards me.
“Dumb kids,” I thought to myself.
They don’t know that alcohol is not as exciting as they’ve thought. Years will go by and the booze will just be a scapegoat from their lousy lives and not the ‘fun part’ that they’re thinking.
Fast-forward the time, it’s 2 AM and the night is not getting younger. I have gotten some numbers from babes I flirted with, but nothing too noteworthy. I might still call them later in the morning if I’m still not sleepy. I’ve been a night owl since taking this job after all.
As the time ticks, a middle-aged looking man rolls in front of the entrance. I did not mind him at first but as he walks passed me, I glanced above his head that made me ceased his access.
“Siir... Sir, can I... See your... ID?” I asked the man in a nervous stuttering tone. “Why? Can’t you see I’m old and with grey hair already?” the man belched out. “This is madness!” he continued.?“Siiir... It’s just policy,” I rambled.
“Fine. Here it is.”
As I’m shivering with his cold stare, I held his ID. I looked at it, and then glanced above his head. I don’t know if my quirk is a little woozy but I haven’t missed a good read ever since. The age written on his card is 54, but his head age reads 1248!
“What the hell man,” I thought to myself.
I don’t know what to react but I let him in. He’s in legal age nevertheless. But I did not remove my sight over him during his stay at the Pale Black.
That four-digit number just float above his head as he drinks on a bar stool. I don’t know what to think. The fellas surrounding him got accurate head age, but his just isn’t right. This doesn’t make sense, but to be fair, having my quirk doesn’t make sense either.
The sun shines through the windows signifying that it’s already eight in the morning and it’s time to close the establishment. I see the man fixing himself and getting ready to leave. I bid my farewell to Herlan as I’m going to investigate this anomaly.
As I hurriedly ran towards the exit, the man is never to be found. But after a couple of blocks, I saw him sitting at the Newdale Park. I’m thinking why he didn’t go back to his place? Isn’t he sleepy with all those booze he chugged?
Anyway, he had gotten a looked at me as I was leaving. I hastily ran because I don’t want to be called a stalker or a weirdo.
I thought to just let him be and I should just accept that we both have quirks after all. I’m able to tell age and he’s an immortal. Wow. What a shitty power I possessed, that’s not fair.
As I was walking, I go to a diner to have some meal before I go to my apartment to sleep. I got used to this unconventional lifestyle anyways.
I am still engrossed about that four-digit man. I’m thinking what his life must have been all these times. But yeah, I have my own life to be bothered to so I should worry about my own problems.
I’m pretty tired so I hail a cab. Gone towards my apartment and just sat on my bed. I picked up my phone to talk to mom.
“Mom, could we have get together this afternoon with dad and Jack for old time sake?” I asked.
“Why all of the sudden?” mom angrily inquires.
“I just miss my family mom. You’re the only one I have,” I begged.
“It took you 28 years to appreciate us huh. Let me talk to your father first,” she says after hanging up.
The movie can wait; I need to patch things up with my love ones. They are ageing unlike that four-digit man. It’s better to apologize now when I still can.
I closed my curtains, laid down my bed, and closed my eyes. This is the moment I enjoyed, sleeping; this clears my mind from all the negativities.
After a few hours, I was woken up by a lick on my toes. I did not mind it because it must be my dog. But I was shocked as the fact came rushing through my head...
I don’t have a dog, shaggy is long gone!
But what the hell, I continued my rest blaming the event to a dream.
Time passes; it’s time to get up. Now is the moment to face my family who I am longing for all these years.
I disembark my heavenly bed to fix myself up for the meet-up.
As I put my foot down, I got this tingling feeling that something is amiss, but I still decided to move ahead to the bathroom.
As I’m beginning to walk, my foot got stuck. I look down and a hand is grasping on my ankle. I fell down in bewilderment and my eyes widen to see a person under my bed.
I crawled and crawled to force my way out.
My mind is asking, “What the hell is happening now for f**k’s sake?”
I got out from the person’s hold and just curled right at my floor trying to form logic in my head to explain this eerie situation.
The person clambered out. I looked at his face that is grinning ear-to-ear.
Well don’t you know, it’s the four-digit man from Pale Black!?
His face is different before but still has that 1248 digit floating on his head. He emits this suffocating aura that I can’t define. He is beaming this maniacal face that beholds a hyena-like expression.
“What the f**k is happening now?” I asked myself again.
“I don’t know what to do. What should I do with this kind of situation?”
He creeps and crawls towards me.
I’m speechless, I can’t voice out a single word.
He caught my feet again and I don’t have the willpower to kick him with my shaken and stunned body.
I managed to utter a single word. “Wha—whyy?”
And then a jolt goes through my head and I got knocked out cold. I don’t know if he punched me, or what. I hope it’s just a punch.
Minutes have passed, I ticked off my unconsciousness.
I am now breathing heavily and my whole-body aches but it’s not shaking anymore.
I can’t move. My heart is beating faster.
Is this what it’s like?
I managed to open my tired eyes. Hazy vision is all what I can see but the man before was in front of my door.
Or is this just my paranoia?
I can’t hold open my eyes any longer but I should.
I breathe heavily as I realize that I’m not hallucinating because the silhouette of the man still emanates a four-digit age.
This is insane but the peculiarity of the situation is being overpowered by my craving for survival.
My life’s regrets came flashing in my mind; all the things that I wanted, being an average person is not worth it, I realized.
As I held my last breath, I looked at the man one last time.? At the time before he leaves my apartment, ?I noticed his head numbers...?...are now different. ?I cried with a single tear as my eyes began to shut.