I was quite drunk.
Not in the way that elicits slurred speech and wobbling steps. Just a pleasant hum that was surging through my veins, eroding the mental barrier that prevented me from making a fool of myself. It was nearly time for the liquor store to close, and I wasn’t up for being in a bar. I’d made that mistake before, and it usually ended in a blur of fists and tasting dirt when I was thrown out the front door, nose bloodied and face bruised.
Feet crunching on the snow, breath billowing out in the frigid air. I didn’t even bother zipping my coat, as I could give a flying damn about momentary discomfort. Danny’s was a small shop, with minimal signage and even better prices. If he ever closed up and went to warmer climes like he had been talking about, I’d seriously consider moving down there with him.
Pushing through the door I leaned to one side to avoid an instant lottery junkie, intently studying the garishly colored square, quarter poised to remove the gray coated spots in the puzzle. Another state sponsored scheme to separate fools from their money. Those people gave me the creeps.
Danny’s was small, but they had the best selection of rare spirits around. I was in the mood for some amber, so I shuffled down the aisle lined with dingy yellow shelves, marked with the remains of discount stickers that had been removed some time in the 1970’s. Danny labeled his sales and specials with index cards, taped on the front to prevent any price-tampering. Danny may be getting on in years, but he was no dummy.
Turning around the end of the aisle towards the whiskey section, I nearly bumped into an older gentleman who was examining a bottle closely.
“Fuck off.”, I shouldered him aside, angry at his aisle-hogging behavior.
He hefted the bottle, and looked me right in the eye.
“This stuff is too strong for my liking. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try.”, he handed me the square end, and I grabbed it firmly while glaring right back.
“Go to hell.”
“Careful, you shouldn’t be so reckless.”, he tipped his hat and strolled around to the other side, towards the exit.
What an idiot. Glancing down at my prize, I noticed the bottle had a simple brown label, thin san-serif letters arranged in a semicircle, with a plain black and white logo below. Whatever, it looked good and I was thirsty.
I stopped up front and grabbed a few bags of chips, some beef jerky and a couple of chocolate bars. Soon I was out the door, clutching my black plastic bag full of snacks and booze. I didn’t live far, and was walking in the foyer of my building within a few minutes, stomping snow from my shoes.
I had been here for a few years, and I liked the neighborhood. Still, I had been thinking about going somewhere else, as the tedium of one place had started to wear on my soul. Shoving open my apartment door, I shed my coat and shoes in one motion, depositing the bag near my favorite drinking chair.
It wasn’t long before I had a tumbler of whiskey in front of me, and an open bag of chips. Taking a sip, I let the familiar slow burn travel down my throat. My god, this was really good stuff. That old man wasn’t kidding. Reading the label, I tried to focus my eyes on the font, but it seemed to skitter like a branch in the wind, quivering at the edge of my vision and refusing to resolve. Did it say “Wishkey”? Crap, I must be drunker than I thought.
Putting down the glass, savoring the warm glow from my stomach.
“Well I’ll be damned.”
Walls peeling away, like leaves in a sudden breeze. The carpet peeled up and started bubbling, making small popping noises as the plastic fibers blackened and sagged. I stood up, spilling the rest of my drink on the floor, where it hissed and sizzled.
All I could see was fire, and large lakes of lava glowing ominously on the horizon.
“I said you should be careful.”
I spun around, to face the voice behind me.
Seeing the old man from the store, cackling to himself with razor-sharp teeth, red eyes staring into mine.