Sleep Diver part- 4 ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’.
Lou’s Place – NJ
I walk through the door into a darkly lit foyer. An old man sits at the counter.
“Didn’t I warn you to stay away from those Preachers!” he squawks.
“Grandpa??” Horror kicks in.
“I ain’t ya Grandpa Sonny.” His face changes.
“What is this place?”
“Members only,” he says. “You got an invite?”
I pull the card from my pocket, “just this.”
Without looking at it he says, “Ok go on in.”
A curtain pulls back… Lights flash; the music’s almost deafening. I step forward and into the Club. From behind I hear my grandfathers voice… “A lively bender is only a good mans fault Eli, don’t you ever forget that.” His laughter trails off as I make my way to the bar.
“Usual Sir?” Asks the Barman.
“And what would that be?”
“Wild Turkey of course Sir, what else!” He pulls a bottle straight from under the counter and pours me a drink.
I’m on the verge of freaking out. “Do we know each other?”
“You know everybody here Mr Cryl.” He begins to laugh. At first warm, friendly, then it starts to change. Quickly it turns to hysterics, followed by an evil cackle as tears stream down his face. I throw my head back and down the whiskey.
“Another one Sir?” He stands calm, composed, no sign of the laughing freak show.
He refills my glass. I take a 20 from my wallet. “On the house Sir,” he says.
“Why would that be?”
“Its your party Mr Cryl.”
“Really?” I reply. “And whats with the Tux and Dixie Bow? Bit over the top for for a place like this.”
Smiling as he polishes a champagne flute, “Its a special occasion.” He nods towards the podium.
I lean on the bar and turn my head; the place begins to fill up. The lights flash to the beat of the music. I glimpse faces in the crowd. They somehow seem familiar.
Briefly I spot old Mr Henderson my high school english teacher. It cant be, surely he’s dead by now! A couple of the boys from my old army battalion. A dancer on the floor reminds me of a photo grandpa kept of my mother.
I’m brought out of shear disbelief with a firm slap on the shoulder.
“Eli old buddy, how you been?”
I turn and face, cant believe what I’m seeing, “Stan?” Total shock. “What the fuck you doing in Jersey?” I have to raise my voice above the drumbeat of the music.
“You think I would miss this?”
“We agreed, once the deal was done, never to meet again.”
“Yeah yeah Eli.” He slaps my shoulder a second time, “its good to see ya man, tell me, what did ya spend the hundred grand on?”
I cant take this in. My head swims. I need another drink.
“Cumon Eli, what you spend the money on?”
I look for the bar tender. Nowhere in sight.
“Oh Yeah.” He looks puzzled, “what in?”
Just then an announcement is piped through the PA System, “Ladies and Gentlemen the management would like to thank you for joining us tonight in our special celebration.”
The room goes dark. A spotlight shines on the ceiling then begins to dance around the walls.
“Drumroll Maestro please…”
The sound effects end with the noise of corks popping. The spotlight finally lands on me. What the fuck is going on here.
“… can we all show our appreciation for tonight’s guest of honour – Mr Eli Cryl.”
The lights go on. All eyes are on me. Glasses are raised and a rendition of ‘He’s a jolly good fellow’ bursts out across the room. Something feels very wrong. I’m about to turn heels and sprint for the door when the room darkens and the spotlight stops at the podium.
The music now sleek and seductive. She steps out from the shadows and onto the stage. I’m frozen in time, glued to the spot unable to blink… Marcie.
She begins to dance. I’m captivated, almost hypnotised. It seems as if she’s floating towards me, above the crowd. My heart pounds, but there’s something else. I struggle to think what, but theres something…
“Enjoying the show my friend?”
My head spins to the left. Its the Kitchen Table Man, laughing in my face. He’s drunk.
“Where’s my money?” shouts Louise Wishbourne, stood at my right.
The crowd all turn to me.
And then I realise what that something is. I’m cold. Very cold. Deathly cold.
The room goes silent. Again a second time, from behind… “Eli.” I turn to see Dan at the exit. Stood there with his arm around Marcie, “Where’s my rent?” He laughs. ”You’ll never catch me Buddy.” Its at this point the whole crowd dashes towards me… Screaming.
The terror is overwhelming and I begin to shoot. I fire rapidly as they snarl and grab at me. They just keep coming, I’m going under. And then…
…the glitch kicks in!
The buzzing fades. The sparks leave my eyes. I’m flat out on my back looking at the sky. The sun beats down on my skin. Its hot. The air is dry. I feel cold. Very cold. Gunfire echoes from either side…
A big old Indian stands above me. Looking down as he says, “care for a drink White Man?”
To be continued…