Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Reversal







(A writing prompt from Write on Edge )


The music in the bar was dreadful.   Manufactured factory pop that lacked any life or enthusiasm, the vocals auto-tuned into sterile blandness that suited the trite lyrics perfectly.   Somewhere in the streets outside a dog was barking furiously and frankly making better music than the juke box.  If I was still in the music business I’d have signed the dog up on the spot and made him a star by the end of the month, seriously (or Siriusly).   

At this point in the evening I couldn’t even remember how long I’d been in the bar.    I’d tipped the cabbie a couple of coins to take me somewhere I could wait and I think he owed me a refund.    Every one of the other patrons was there alone, hunched figures at bar stools or sitting solitary at tables. Their collective silence was deafening.      Each had the hangdog expression of someone drinking to forget.    I threw back the rest of the whisky and swallowed without tasting, wondering if I looked the same to them.  Probably.   Whatever it was I was trying to forget: mission accomplished.    The barman put a full glass in front of me without my asking, without asking for payment.   Nice arrangement.    It had been going on since I’d arrived and I was pleasantly numb from the guilt down.

The door opened letting in a gust of cold air, and the sound of a dog whining outside.  I glanced at the newcomer, a dark haired woman with pale skin, a short dress and an expression that made me look away quickly.   I sighed and took another drink.   The woman came up to the bar and stood next to me, so I drank some more and ignored her.

“No more songs?” she asked. 

“No more anything, I think,” It seemed like a clever response in my mind, but slightly pathetic aloud.     Unsurprisingly she didn’t look impressed.

“I’m taking you home,”

She looked too serious to be trying to pick me up, and her words sounded more like a command than an invitation.  I shook my head.   The bar was lousy, but it was the only place I had now.   Her face softened.

“You don’t know me?”

I shook my head again and finished the glass.   The barman poured another but as I reached for it she dashed it away angrily.

“You wrote a thousand thousand songs for me,” she said, “I’m taking you home.  Get on your feet.”

“I can’t,”

“I’ve come a long way, and there’s a long way back.   Get on your feet.”

The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere.  I was tired and drunk and… empty.   But there was something in her voice that would not be contradicted.  I pushed myself off the stool and lurched a bit. 

“Alright,” she said, “I’ll lead the way.  Keep me in sight and don’t say a word once we’re outside the bar.  Follow me, alright, whatever happens, whatever you see.”

She turned around and walked to the door of the bar.   The other patrons looked at me blank eyed and then returned to their solitary drinking.     As she opened the door the cold air made me catch my breath, and there was nothing outside but the darkness of a bleak alleyway and the scent of dust and dog.   I stood in the doorway, holding onto the frame with both hands trying to stay upright, stay focussed.

“I know you, don’t I?” I say quietly.

She does not turn around, not yet, but I see her nod.

“What’s your name?”   I know I should know it, but I don’t.

She starts walking away from me, into the darkness.

“Eurydice,” she says.   I leave the bar behind and follow her.