"Drug Of Choice"
by Foster Kessler

     Brant shut the door behind him and opened his eyes as the world swam before him. Three hits of LSD ransacked his brain without mercy, causing colors to become sounds, sounds to become sensations, and the air itself to carry a weight of its own. He could feel himself smile in the tingling mass that was his skin as he let his feet (or at least he thought they were his feet) carry him across his small, littered bedroom with the breathing walls masked in posters and floors that could match the ocean wave for wave. Outside, the streets of Brooklyn were as alive as ever beneath the night sky, running rampant with car horns and sirens. Brant couldn't help but laugh. He threw the window open and looked up at the bloated eyes of the moon and shivered as a blast of cold night air washed over his bare torso.

     His eyes narrowed as he caught the sight of the man on the building adjacent his own third-floor apartment, and tried to focus on his form. From here, the man was nothing but a technicolor shadow, devoid of features and symmetry. He seemed to meld and mix with the dark around him, stretching and contracting, twisting and turning against the starlit sky. Slowly Brant blinked, trying to bring the man into focus, yet each time his eyes would shut and then drag themselves open, the man would be closer than before. Quickly, Brant reached out and grasped the sill, pulling the window shut with a thud that seemed as loud as thunder, the very vibrations of the soundwaves hitting him through every bone. He backed away a step, drew the curtains and turned--finding himself face to face with a man who seemed at best ancient. Parchment colored skin clung tight to sharp features crowned with a bald head. The suit the man wore was impeccable; a deep azure over a neatly pressed white shirt and set off with a simple black bow tie. Slowly the man smiled, eyes radiating the color of valencia oranges lighting up as pale pink lips pulled back to reveal even pinker gums. Seeing this, Brant did what any twenty-three year-old man would do in a drug-induced stupor; he screamed like a little girl.

     “Oh, quit being such a baby.” The old man spoke, or at least Brant thought he said it. In a situation such as this, it was hard to discern what was actually spoken vocally and what was just some auditory daydream bouncing off the walls of his mind. The old man took a step towards Brant, who in his surprise had managed to fall onto his backside and scamper back into the corner. Brant looked up, his eyes wide, as the old man reached out and almost lovingly patted his shoulder.

     “C’mon now son, relax. I’m not gonna hurt you.” The old man stated in a kindly voice that to Brant sounded like it was being carried through gallons of water; its volume warbled and distorted as it registered in his ears.

     “Who…who…are you?” Brant stammered, narrowing his eyes, trying to bring the morphing face of the old man into some semblance of focus. The old man rose to his full height and turned, walking away from Brant to take a seat at the end of the bed. His elbows rested on his knees, chin propped in one hand as his eyes, those eerie orange orbs, stared over at Brant.

     “Well son, that’s a funny story, and one for another time. Right now we should have ourselves a little talk. Whatcha say, son--you game?”

     “I….I…Ugh…my god. This is just too much.” Brant struggled to get the words out. His brain was reeling, caught in an onslaught of senses. This man, in his bedroom, the drugs; he couldn’t put it all together, let alone form a common thread as to just what the hell this guy was doing here to begin with. It’s one thing to see someone out your window, standing on a building. It’s an altogether different story when they magically appear behind you with eyes that are lit up like a fucking Christmas tree.

     “Now, like I was saying, we need to have ourselves a little chit-chat.” The old man spoke, and Brant could see what he thought were drops of spit flying from his lips. The man seemed agitated, or at best excited; Brant couldn’t tell the difference, especially not now.

     “Now I can understand what you're doing son, after all your mother, bless her soul, is deader than disco so to speak. What’s it been now, two, almost three years? The Big C, right? Damn shame, a damn shame.” The old man stated regretfully. “Where were you when she was in the hospital again, son? Oh, that’s right. Shacked up with that little girly….Theresa, right? Yeah, Theresa, boy, she was a spitfire. “ The man trailed off in remembrance.

     Brant couldn’t find the words to answer the old man; he just stared, slack-jawed and stupid, at the withered face and the glowing orange eyes. That was what bothered him the most, the eyes. The drugs were drugs, and with them came of course hallucinations. This, though--this was a horse of a whole new color all together. Here was Mr. Happy Glow Boy sitting on his bed, talking about his dead mother, with eyes that were looked like two big radioactive oranges. Even with a head full of drugs, Brant could discern that something was not right with this picture, very not fucking right. “How…how do you know about my mother?” was all he could muster; his tongue felt like rubber inside his mouth, dead and numb.

     “Oh don’t look so surprised. You think your mother was the pinnacle of virtue, lad? Hell, son, she was doing the dirty with everyone from the mailman to the guy that cleaned the pool.” The man retorted, his voice seemingly tinged with shock at having to answer what was, to him, a simple question.

     “But we don’t have a pool, though.” Brant said simply, weakly, his voice sounding as if it was coming from miles away.

     “Now you’re getting it, son.” The man said, smiling wide, showing those glistening pink gums once again. “Now you're getting it.”

     “Getting what? I don’t understand?” Brant stated. He had hit that point in his trip where everything was starting to become a calm, serene blur, leaving only the focus of the drug's effects to be directed towards one thing. It was that moment when it didn’t matter that a guy was sitting on his bed with glowing eyes, or that he was talking about his dead mother and his ex fiancé. All that mattered was trying to figure out exactly what the hell this guy was talking about. It had become his drug-driven obsession.

     “Brant. Try and pay attention.” The old man sighed as frustration began to creep into his voice. “You're sitting on your floor next to a pair of dirty skivvies, thinking to yourself, 'what the hell is going on here?'. Forget the fact that there’s a man sitting on your bed. That has nothing to do with the here and now. Me, I’m just the drugs talking. Hell, I’m not even here. I’m just a figment of your rather skewed imagination.” The man said simply, his voice a dull monotone tinged with the reverberations of a toxic echo.

     “I..uh…what?” was all Brant could mutter. His brain hurt, his senses hurt; hell, even his feelings were a little bit hurt. “Who the hell are you man?” was all he could think to ask, his words touched with a drug-induced agitation--not anger, just an agitation at the overload of sensory information he was trying to sort out.

     He never saw the old man move; it was as if he had gone from the edge of the bed to sitting in front of Brant Indian-style in a matter of seconds. He never saw the old man’s hand either as it resounded against his cheek like a gunshot in the small bedroom. There was no pain per se, more of a tingling, like a million spiders were crawling over the small area of skin that the hand had just graced seconds ago. Slowly, Brant’s hand came to his cheek in a mixture of shock and awe; he quickly stood up, and found the old man standing as well, staring him eye to eye. However, those glowing orange orbs now appeared sympathetic as the man reached out and put his hand on Brant’s shoulder. Brant noticed the man’s hand, in particular the abnormal length of his fingers; long and spidery, the index as long as the middle, looking more like thick white worms than any digit on the human body.

     “Brant, forgive me. I’m getting ornery in my old age, or so my grandchildren tell me. I acted rash and I apologize. You get old, you get frustrated a lot quicker.” The old man said offering an eerily empty smile. “Come here for a moment, there’s something I’d like to show you.” he said as he started towards the window. He paused for a moment and looked back over his shoulder, motioning with his hand. Brant hesitated for a moment before following the old man to the window. They stood side by side staring out at the Brooklyn skyline. The drugs were beginning to leave Brant’s system now as the world had begun to somewhat bleed itself back into reality. No longer were sounds and colors confused, nor images running like melted wax. The only effects of the drugs remaining were the simple motion trails that seemed to follow his movements, and even those were fading fast. He turned slowly to where the old man stood at his right, yet where the man with the strange fingers once stood was nothing but empty air. There was no sign that he had ever existed.

     Brant looked out towards the skyline again for but a moment before he was falling. He could see the ground rushing up towards him. He couldn’t scream, his lungs unable to find the breath; all he could do was fall, and stare at the cold, black pavement rushing up at him.

     The old man stood in the window, looking down at the broken body of the young man who had died hours ago. He had taken his own life in a drug-induced fit, and had thus, in his last fleeting seconds, welcomed the man. Absently, the old man adjusted the cuffs of his white dress shirt and turned, leaving nothing but billowing curtains reaching vainly into the night air.

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