I awoke with a start, feeling a solitary bead of sweat trickle slowly along the bridge of my nose. It seemed to hang, in midair, for a fraction of a second, before plummeting to the surface of my red silk sheets. The days that I woke in this fashion were becoming more and more frequent, to my ever growing alarm. What does a man have to do, in order to avoid sleepless nights filled with cold sweats and feelings of quiet dread? I groped blindly in the dark for the half empty pack of filterless cigarettes perched upon the nightstand, and slipped one between my lips. It sat there for what felt like minutes but was more likely a few fleeting seconds, before I worked up the nerve to hold flame to tip. Immediately, a racking coughing fit shook my frame and I had to brace myself to halt the inevitable fall to the floor. A couple more soft pulls on the burning death stick and I was ready to move.
As I hoisted myself off of my sweat damp sheets, my legs shook with anticipation. Cigarette firmly clamped between my teeth, I made the final push to stand, and stood, quietly shivering and sweating at the same time. With little thought, the cigarette dropped from my mouth, and I stubbed it out with one bare foot, slowly grinding it into the shag carpet. I need to redecorate anyway.
A silvery beam of moonlight twisted its way into my bedroom, through a ragged hole in the blinds. I walked over and quietly parted the blinds with two fingers. The moonlight illuminated my eyes, causing me to squint, exposing an alarming number of wrinkles that weren't there only 5 years ago. The promise of soft, pink glow emanating from beyond the horizon of cold steel and concrete told me that it was about 4 am. Another fit of coughs racked my body, obliterating the quiet solitude of my apartment. Two days removed from my fortieth year on this earth, so why did it feel closer to sixty? Jesus Christ I need a drink.
Spots danced inside my field of vision as I backed away from the window, the moonlight still leaving its distinct impression. My head was starting its eventual daily ritual of slow, soft throbbing. The throbbing was almost a pleasure compared to the pounding that would more than likely follow. A new day, a new hangover. I lowered myself carefully back into a sitting position on the edge of the bed, trying hard not to notice the way my knees were shaking at the effort. As I placed my unshaven face into my hands, a familiar smell crept into my nostrils. I could feel my throat growing dryer and more parched as the smell of her perfume completely invaded my senses. It had been months since she said goodbye for the last time, but still, her presence invaded every corner of my waking thoughts. I absent mindedly lit another cigarette, in a subconscious attempt to choke out the smell of her that seemed to cling onto anything and everything that she had ever come into contact with. Anybody else venturing into this room would never smell the faint odor of months removed perfume, but I had a feeling I would be smelling it for the rest of my days. Part of the penance for what I did, I suppose.
The sweet smoke curling its way down my throat did nothing to quench the sandy, gritty feeling that resided there, so I reached for the half empty glass sitting on the nightstand. The ice had long since melted, but the 30 year old scotch still held an intoxicating aroma. I fished the soggy, yellow cigarette butt out of the bottom of the glass and tossed it onto the floor. I raised the glass to my lips, and sighed in anticipation. As the warm liquid splashed across my lips, I heard the distinctive squeak of a loose floorboard, coming from the hall. The squeak ended as abruptly as it started, and was met with stark silence. The cold sweats were again starting to form at my brow and the base of my naked torso. Ever so slowly I set the half empty glass back home on the nightstand and stood, wincing at every creak and crack in my joints, imagining them as loud as hollow gunshots.
I stepped carefully around several floorboards that would have emitted their own telltale moan, had I not avoided them, and approached my bedroom closet. The door was slightly ajar, meaning I wouldn't have to cause any inconvenient sounds, as I reached up onto the top shelf. My hand closed silently on the cold, steel grip of my familiar friend, and I quickly tucked it into the elastic waistband of my pajama bottoms. Confidence quickly replaced the fuzzy, thick feeling in my forehead as I eased the bedroom door open and made my way into the hallway.
Again, avoiding key floorboards, I made my way down the hall, a slightly nauseating crunching noise getting louder and more noticeable, the closer I made it to the kitchen. As the faint glow of light from the next room invaded the darkened hallway and washed over my grizzled face, I removed my pistol from the waistband, and deftly thumbed the safety off. A bead of sweat rolled down my naked back, I lifted the weapon into a comfortable firing stance, and closed the distance to the kitchen. As I entered the room I realized that the soft glow was coming from the open refrigerator door, partially blocked by a hulking, looming figure. I stepped back in shock and lifted the gun a foot higher. My grip on the pistol slackened, as the only thought running through my head was "How did the son of a bitch find me?"..................