He turned the door knob and pushed open the door. A wide room spread before him, its floor, overlaid in sleek, black tiles, glistened like the sea beneath a crescent moon. In the middle of this sea an immense, felt-covered island arose: a nine foot pool table. Victor smiled and stepped into the room. Looking around, he saw little else occupied floor space; the walls held some small paintings and photographs, and a pool cue rack. In the corner to his left was a narrow bar table, behind which a well-stocked supply of expensive liquor beckoned. Victor turned to it with a short gasp. He went behind the bar and admired (with a lick of his lips) the old bottles of brown liquid. The extensive selection contained no modern brand names, yet the yellowing labels bore emblems—roosters, caribou, rifles, cobras, a long-bearded man raising his fists in a 1920s boxing stance—assuring there was not an inferior drop of alcohol in the entire supply. Victor selected a short bottle with a steamboat on its label.
“Hmm. ‘McCulley’s’. This looks good.”
He took a glass and set it on the bar, twisted the cap from the bottle and poured a generous helping of whisky. Resealing the bottle, he set it back on the shelf, then turned back to the bar. His eyes fixed on the middle of the room.
“Damn it. I should have noticed that.”
A small chandelier hung low above the pool table, concentrating upon it a bright light—electric light.
“This room is still cursed. I’ll have to be careful.”
He took the glass of whisky and raised it to his lips. Before he had a chance to drink, though, he suddenly turned his head and drew the glass away from his face.
He blinked hard, squeezing a tear from each eye. He shook his head and sniffed.
“Whew! Damn, that is some high-grade liquor. The fumes alone would get you drunk.”
He brought the glass again to his lips. He sniffed.
“Oh boy, they don’t make whisky like this anymore.”
He tilted his head back and emptied the glass. He swallowed some of the liquid, and swished the remainder around inside his mouth. As he set the glass back on the bar, a disturbed look gripped his face. A tear rolled from the corner of his eye.
With a loud heave, Victor doubled over and expelled the drink from his mouth. Veins threatened to burst from his face and neck as a violent, reflexive gag gripped his throat. He fell to his hands and knees, clawing the floor with his fingers, while a sickly burning filled his head. Trembling and weak, unable to even crawl out from behind the bar, he collapsed by degrees to the floor and laid there, motionless but for the barely perceptible rise and fall of his chest against the cold tiles. His eyes, wide and watery, stared in shock.
Minutes passed and Victor remained as he had fallen. Finally, a long groan wheezed from his drooling mouth, before he sucked in a deep breath and yelled in a raspy voice, “F***ing disgusting!”
He exhaled an exhausted, gurgling breath, then forced himself up and to his feet. He groaned and wiped his mouth on his forearm.
“Oh man… that was not whisky.”
He turned to the shelves and leaned in, staring at the bottles one by one. Even under the closest scrutiny, the liquid in the bottles looked like regular alcohol. Victor picked a couple of bottles at random, opened them and smelled their contents.
“Smells like booze,” he said. “Strong stuff, but still booze.”
As he took another bottle from a shelf, he noticed small letters carved into the wall behind.
“C, A, S,” he read. “What is that?”
He removed the bottles next to the one he had taken, and then the ones next to those. Soon he discovered the complete message, etched into the timber, yet invisible so long as bottles crammed the shelf. It read: DON’T DRINK. IT’S ALL CASTOR OIL.
“Gary, you sadistic bastard.”
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