And There Was Ninja Moustache (Chapter 31)

    It is dark.

    A rumble, like that from a passing semi-trailer, jolts my spine. Distant echoes of a thunderclap trail off.  Red stars dance above. A crack pierces the air; light flashes. I squeeze my eyes shut, then open them. My lungs strain for breath.

    Things take shape. Glistening raindrops dart at me through glowing swirls of smoke; a ruthless voice barks; a great shadow grows on the wall beside me. The shadow slithers near. I raise my head, my shoulders, but then collapse. Darkness eclipses the stars. Another flash. A face before me, looking down at me. A face grave and stern. It is Nils, as I first met him, bearded and bright-eyed. But his smile is gone. I try again to get up; he pushes me back down. His huge hand is stained red. Nils looks over his shoulder, and then turns back to me. He is speaking urgently. I can’t hear anything he is saying.

    It is dark.

    A shirtless figure, hunched on the ground, his back to me, hammers furiously. I draw near; his crazed breathing hisses through his teeth. His left fist rises above his head then pounds down—up, down, up, down—like a piston. I call to him, but I make no sound. I am silent; I am invisible. There is nothing and no one else but the figure.

    I am beside him. I cannot see what he holds, I cannot see what he strikes. He is relentless.

    I stand before him, below him, looking up as though at a giant. Still he hammers. The face is familiar, but the expression is out of place. LaShawn, engulfed in rage, his eyes wide and fixed. He is insane.

    It is dark.

    “You remember it, right?” Budgie says to me.

 A burning stench drills my nostrils.

 “Not really,” I say.

 He slings a metallic blue Gibson ES-335 over his shoulder and strums a G chord. The guitar is in tune. The crowd is getting restless.

 “It’s in D,” he says. “Just D, A and G through the verse. You’ll pick it up. We’re not going for perfection.”

 “I guess so,” I say, peeking out at the stage.

 “You don’t have to go on,” he says. “But if you don’t, you’ll wish you did.”

 I exhale slowly. I clench my butt cheeks together, and then climb the stairs to blinding stage lights and boisterous applause.

    It is dark.

    I squint. I blink. Sweat stings my eyes. My shoulder hurts. Rory is in front of me, looking at me with a face distorted in confusion. A red spot appears beside his nose. His mouth opens and his eyes bulge. The red spot widens, and his left cheek sinks inward. His nose droops; his skin sags; his left eye falls from its socket. As consciousness leaves his melting face, a wisp of smoke twirls from the muzzle of a rifle. The rifle is in my hands…

    With an inelegant snort, my head jerked up and I took in my surroundings—pitch black, the middle of the night in Budgie’s upstairs guest room. I sighed and kicked the blanket off. A wipe of my palm mopped the sweat from my forehead, and I sat on the edge of the bed. The dream lingered in my head, in my senses. It wasn’t the most disturbing dream I had experienced, but it was definitely top ten. I got up to go to the toilet.

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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