Darkness.

“Oh God Bill! Wake up man!”

It was a familiar voice. He tried to recognize who it was but his head was swimming. It was difficult to remember anything. He was cold lying there on what seemed to him a dirt road and he could feel the small rocks piercing his back. One, two, three, he counted and then he opened his eyes to a blinding light.

It took a while for his eyes to adjust but he soon recognized it to be a lamp post with a swarm of moths flying around it. Bill attempted to get up and felt a searing pain from behind his head. He clawed on the dirt and for a while he thought he was going to pass out again but he didn’t. He remained awake. He stood up and looked around and found himself in an empty lot. Seeing tire impressions on the dirt he assumed that the empty lot functioned as a parking lot in the morning. But at night it was but a desolate place. There were a couple of obviously broken cars at the far side of the lot partly covered in ivy or so it seemed; he was never good at recognizing plants. But there was not a single functional car around.

He wondered what he was doing in that place and why he was lying there. He was chilling and he didn’t have his coat on. He looked around for it hoping he just dropped it somewhere but there was no coat in sight. “Where the hell am I?” He was baffled by everything that was happening and he thought of calling Jake, his best friend. He searched for his phone but it was not in any of his pockets. He felt helpless. But he tried to calm himself down and think of what he should do next.

Bill heard slow music from a distance. He followed it thinking that maybe there was someone out there who could help him or lend him a phone at the least. He found a diner. It seemed as desolate as the parking lot but he had to take chances. After all there was music playing and the lights were on; somebody could be around to help him. He peered through the glass window but he could not see who was in the counter from there. He walked to the entrance, knocked twice, and entered. A lady at the counter looked in his direction. She was wearing a dirty apron and her hair was disheveled presumably from being removed from a tight bun.

“Uhm… good evening ma’am,” Bill greeted. The lady didn’t seem to hear anything. Her eyes were fixed at Bill. “C-can I use your phone ma’am?” Bill asked. “I just have to make an important call.” He almost offered paying for his request but he remembered he didn’t have his wallet with him. “Ma’am excuse me?” he asked again as the lady’s eyes left him and she went on with whatever she was doing behind the counter. “This lady’s nuts,” he said under his breath. For a moment, he argued with himself whether to approach the lady in the counter and try again or not. But he noticed his soiled arms and clothes and he decided to use the washroom first. He did not ask for the lady’s permission this time. He went straight to where the washroom sign was pointing to and did his business.

Bill inspected himself in the mirror. He looked okay under the dim lights of the washroom. He has always looked cool but he wasn’t wearing anything cool looking that time. He was just in a soiled white undershirt and a pair of denims. Rare are the moments when he looked uncool. Girls would usually find him physically attractive. He washed his face, neck, and arms and used a lot of paper towels to dry himself. He fixed his hair afterwards.

“Who’s there?” somebody asked from the closed door of the washroom. Bill was startled a bit before he realized it could be the lady at the counter earlier. “It’s me!” he answered. He accidentally knocked a vase at the edge of the lavatory and it broke on the floor. “Oh shit!” he said as he watched the broken pieces scatter on the floor. He heard the lady walked away seemingly in a hurry. “This bitch is weird,” he said while he attempted to gather the large pieces of the broken vase and put it in the bin. He washed his hands once again and left the washroom.

He was about to go directly to the counter to ask the lady once more if he could use the phone when he noticed a customer sitting on one of the couches beside the display window. The man had his back turned towards Bill and the lady was serving him a cup of coffee and a plate of delicious looking cookies. Bill checked the time on the wall clock. “A customer at almost three in the morning? This lady’s customers must be equally nuts” he said.

Bill observed the only customer of the diner. He was wearing a grey coat. Even from a distance, he could tell it was of a fine material. He was wearing a gold watch with leather straps around his left wrist. His hair appeared newly trimmed and Bill could tell that the man was well groomed without him turning around.

“You’re playing music way older than my parents. You still using a phonograph or something?” the man asked quite derisively. The lady did not answer him. She simply smiled.

Bill found the man’s deep voice a bit funny. He sounded just the same when he was suffering from a cold about a couple of days ago. He remembered singing songs in that voice which made his nephew laugh hysterically.

“But I like what you’re playing. Is this playlist yours?” the man inquired to the lady.

“It’s the manager’s,” the lady replied.

“And where’s your manager?” the man asked. “Oh I sound like I’m about to create a scene now. You know what I mean?” he said followed by a short laugh. “Pardon me for that.”

“That’s okay sir,” the lady replied. “If you need anything else, I’m just at the counter.” With that the lady carried the tray and walked past Bill to the counter where she had been going through the record of the day’s sales.

Bill looked at the lady bewildered and he wondered if she was purposely ignoring him but he could not read it on her face. For a few seconds he stood there at the center aisle of the diner looking at the lady and thinking of how strange things have been going since he woke up in the parking lot. He felt stupid after a while. He then slowly shook his head and grinned at his silliness. “That’s crazy Bill,” he muttered. He dismissed the thought he was having and instead thought about asking the man if he could use his mobile phone.

A click and a new song began to play. Bill stopped and listened. He knew that song’s intro very well. His copy came from the only lady who dumped him. She was a pianist. He then looked up and fixed his eyes on the nearest speaker on top of a display cabinet at a corner.

“Hello? Yeah I’m here at the diner you suggested last Saturday,” the man on the couch started speaking with someone over the phone. That stole Bill’s attention and he looked at the man’s direction. “Open 24 hours like what you said. Strangely cozy for a diner in this area. What? No, I didn’t get to catch the show at the fairgrounds. I came here just around twenty minutes ago. Have you taken your dinner? You can join me here.” There was quite a long pause. “Okay. I could drive you home. So you’re near here now? Okay. Meet me at the parking lot then.” He put down the phone and took his last bite on a cookie.

The man got up and cleaned his coat of cookie crumbs. “Your Good Thing by Mable John huh? That song, I like that,” he said aloud so that the lady at the counter would hear him. He was pulling something out of his pocket. “I wonder where your manager got a copy of that,” he added.

“I have no idea sir,” the lady answered without turning her head. Bill then turned to look at her. “He’s pretty much into anything fancy,” she added. “He came here one day with a copy of that song. Played it for like a thousand times until the customers got real annoyed.”

“I see. I got mine from some bitch of a girlfriend” the man said rather harshly. Bill was took aback by what he said. “I’ll be leaving now missy. I liked the coffee and the cookies.”

Bill turned to look at the man’s face and what he saw shocked him. A pair of denims. White undershirt partly concealed in a grey coat. An iPhone on the right hand and car keys on the left. A gold watch on the left wrist. Brown eyes with rather bushy eyebrows. Short hair. The man looked exactly like him.

He stood there frozen as the man walked past him to the exit. He could not believe what he just saw. Slowly, he turned towards the counter. “Did you just see that?” he asked the lady. But the lady did not even bother looking his way. “Are you some kind of idiot?” he screamed out of frustration. The lady looked at him with frightened eyes.

Bill found everything very unsettling. He could not understand what was happening. He then wanted to be as far from that place as possible. From one slow step after another he gained speed. He wanted to run from that place that has turned from an ordinary diner to what seemed like a nightmare. He burst out of the exit running. He almost stumbled at the uneven surface in front of the door but he went on. He knew that was what he must do. If he could not wake up from the nightmare, maybe he could run some place where he could remain sane. Perhaps there was a part of his brain that could give him that.

“Oh shit! Stop!” somebody screamed in a familiar voice. Bill stopped. His heart was pounding. He just wanted to leave but something about the scream made him want to turn and look in its direction. “Fuck you all!” he heard. A loud thud and there was silence.

What he saw when he finally turned around made everything clear to him. He watched as a bunch of men robbed him of his belongings and took his car. One of them carried a baseball bat that hit his head. The dirt became soaked with blood gushing from his broken skull. Bill went numb as he watched his body lay on the dirt. His car almost crushed his arms as the robbers backed the car before speeding away.

One after another, the lamp posts died. The searing pain at the back of Bill’s head came back and it was more intense. He felt something soft when he reached for it. The thought that it was his brain made him terribly sick. Everything turned black.

It was a quarter past three in the morning. Darkness. Jake came running.

“Oh God Bill! Wake up man!”

It was a familiar voice. He tried to recognize who it was but his head was swimming. It was difficult to remember anything. He was cold lying there on what seemed to him a dirt road and he could feel the small rocks piercing his back. One, two, three, he counted and then he opened his eyes to a blinding light.

———

The short story above was submitted to another LitWit challenge hosted by Ms. Jessica Zafra a.k.a. my idol in writing and being sarcastic and perhaps the scariest woman in the universe. I was once again crushed by her comments but hey, I’m learning from the best! Wait, let me cry some more. Okay, have a good time everyone! -aB

Featured image by Toolow from Deviantart.

Video uploaded by Dspikey from Youtube.

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