Contains mature language.
This is Part Three of the story. Part Two can be found here.
Once again, the sound of the door creaking open broke the rhythmic silence in the room. Jack turned to see the being at the door. It was tall, nearing, if not over, seven feet, clad from head to toe in loose, flowing robes the color of midnight, so large and voluminous that it was impossible to tell the wearer's gender. The only area the robes did not conceal was it's face, which was shielded by a blank, porcelain mask, with two dark pits for eyes. Jack stared into those pits, trying to see the eyes beyond, but it felt as if he was staring into a black hole. The eyes seemed to suck him in, drawing him further and further away from the ground he stood on, and he finally broke his gaze, nausea playing with his stomach as a toddler would with a toy from a fast-food restaurant, bashing it back and forth with wild abandon.
Again, the voice, the strange, disembodied voice that sounded more like the rolling of thunder than anything, seemed to fill the room, as if it were being issued from the walls themselves, rather than the being at the door. “Much time has passed. Are you ready?”
Jack paused, then shook his head. “No. I'm not.”
The being spoke no more, but simply turned, walking into the darkness of the passage beyond, his robes fading from sight in the eerie blackness, before the door swung shut.
Jack leaned against the wall and sighed, before he slowly slid to the floor, as if he lacked the energy to stand anymore. He thought only one word.
The Hopeless grew older, grew stronger, and, perhaps, grew wiser. He learned to hide his pain more securely, in order to better assimilate into society and gain more unfettered access to the few pleasures he had in life. The haunting presence of the woman in his mind's eye was eventually written off as nothing more than the product of the chemicals running rampant throughout his brain, and soon she was forgotten almost completely, the memory tucked neatly away in a rarely-visited corner of his head.
The human mind is a very strange thing.
“I.D.,” Jack said, holding out his hand. The man and woman each handed him a Driver's License, and he checked them both. The man was twenty-four; the woman, twenty-two. He handed them both back the cards. “Five each,” he said, and the man handed him a ten dollar bill before heading into the club.
Jack sat down on the bar stool behind the counter and pulled his cigarette case out of his pocket, lighting one, and remarking internally how nice it was to have a job where he could smoke whenever the hell he wanted to.
“That's really bad for you!” he heard someone yell over the pounding techno music. He looked over to see a small, attractive woman wearing a hoodie, jeans, and a flat cap.
“Hell yeah, it is!” he yelled back. “I wouldn't have it any other way!” He held the case out to her. “Want one?”
She shook her head. “I've got enough problems, I don't need lung cancer added to the list!”
He chuckled, looking at her again. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
She walked closer. “What?”
“Do I know you from somewhere? You look really familiar.”
“Nope, you don't. And that line is still as bad as ever.”
He rolled his eyes. “I wasn't hitting on you, you just look familiar for some reason.”
“You weren't? Why not? I mean, I can tell you, I'm pretty awesome. You should probably hit on me.”
He chuckled. “At least you're humble, right?”
She smiled, and for some strange, arcane reason, Jack's heart leaped. “Hey, you have no idea!”
“Cassie. How's life in the security business?”
“Oh, you know. Secure. Or something.”
She laughed. “You're probably about the smoothest talker I've ever met.”
“Hey, why don't you have techno blaring in your ears every day for eight hours, see if your brain doesn't turn to mush.”
“Not a fan?”
“I mean...it's alright, but at the end of the day, I prefer rock.”
“Yes!” she said, holding out her hand for a high-five. Jack slapped it, a smile growing on his face. She nodded towards the front door. “Looks like you've got customers.”
He turned to see three men entering. He IDed them, took their money, and they walked in. “So what kind of bands do you like?” he asked, turning to the girl once more.
But she was gone.
He didn't see her again that night. He looked for her the next night, and the night after, unsure of why, but, he searched in vain. He knew he recognized her from somewhere, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out where. He didn't think she went to his high school. He was fairly certain they didn't have any friends in common, and he was positive they hadn't worked together somewhere. Finally, he shrugged it off, figuring it was all in his imagination.
A few weeks later, Zeke was at his apartment, the two of them celebrating 4/20 in traditional fashion, with a bong, an ounce of kill, and a collection of some of the best and most retarded stoner flicks known to man.
“Dude,” Zeke said, lightly hitting his shoulder. “You know what sounds fucking great right now?”
Jack turned his head, his eyes heavy-lidded. “More weed?”
“No. Yes. But, no. Fucking pancakes, man. Are you down?”
“Dude, I don't have the shit to make pancakes. I eat fucking TV dinners and Chef Boyardee.”
“So? You've got money, I've got money, let's hit Waffle House.”
“Waffle House has waffles. That's why they call it Waffle House.”
“They have pancakes, too, don't they? I mean, IHOP has waffles, why won't Waffle House have pancakes?”
“I don't know. Besides, who the hell goes to IHOP for fucking waffles?”
“Well, let's hit Denny's, then. They're close. They have pancakes.”
“I don't really want pancakes, man. I want...I don't know. I want a burger. With bacon. And cheese. And mushrooms. My God, I'm stoned.”
Zeke started giggling, which soon evolved into full-out laughing. “We both are, man. What do you say? Denny's totally has hamburgers.”
“Dude...I don't think I'm really good to drive right now.”
“I am! I'm a fucking master at driving while I'm high. I'm better than I am when I'm sober.”
“Fuck...no. That's a bad idea, man.”
“No, it's not. It's a fucking great idea. It's four-twenty, man! Live a little!”
“Shit....” He stood, sliding his feet into his shoes. “This is a terrible idea.”
“Nah!” Zeke said, springing to his feet. “We're gonna get our fucking grub on. Let's go.”
The drive actually was uneventful, and Jack found himself impressed at how well Zeke did. Of course, he also strongly considered the possibility that he only thought Zeke was driving well because he was blazed. Regardless, they made it there in one piece, without hitting or being hit by anyone, and Jack considered that a point in the 'win' column. They were led to a booth, given their menus, and told that there server would be there momentarily, before they each began devouring the menus with their eyes.
“Wow, security man. You're high as a kite, aren't you?”
“Huh?” Jack asked, looking up, and he was surprised to see the girl from the club standing before the table, dressed in the traditional black Denny's uniform. “Hey, you're—fuck. Give me a second.”
She laughed, shaking her head. “It'll come to you eventually. Maybe.”
“It started with an S....”
“No. Not even close.”
“I'll think of it any second now.”
“Dude,” Zeke said, “She's wearing a fucking name tag, for Pete's sake.”
Jack looked back at the menu. “That's cheating.” He snapped his fingers. “Cassie!” he said, looking back at her. Her name tag confirmed it, and she again laughed.
“It took you long enough.”
“Well, yeah, but...I don't know. Leave me alone, I'm high.”
“Celebrating four-twenty, are we?”
“What? Me? Never. I'm an upstanding member of the community.”
“Of course you are,” she said, a smile on her face. “You're ridiculous. What can I get you guys to drink?”
She left after taking their drink orders. “She's kind of cute,” Zeke said.
“Yeah...she really is, isn't she? Like...really cute.”
Zeke raised an eyebrow. “You got a thing for her? What, did you meet her at the club?”
“Yeah. And no, I don't have a 'thing' for her. I don't even know her.”
She came back a few minutes later with their drinks, setting them on the table before handing each of them a straw. “So, do you guys know what you want, or are you not quite done drooling over the menu?”
Zeke snapped his gaze back to the menu, an almost panicked expression on his face. “Everything looks so good...” he said, longing in his voice.
She laughed again, and Jack realized that that, for some strange, indefinable reason, he really enjoyed the sound of her laugh. “I'm jealous,” she said. “I'm not going to do shit for four-twenty. You two look like you're having the time of your life.”
“Do you know where Spring Oak apartments are?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, on Morgan, right?”
“Yeah. I'm at apartment three-twelve. Come on by, if you want. I'll smoke you out.”
Her eyebrows raised, and her smile turned wry. “Do you usually invite strange girls to your place?”
“No. Well, I mean. Not unless they're from the club. And management frowns on that, half the time.”
She shook her head. “See? Utterly ridiculous.” She glanced at Zeke. “Do you have any idea, yet?”
“Yes! This one,” he said, pointing at the menu. “Scrambled. And bacon, not sausage. And extra bacon.”
She scribbled down both of their orders and once again left, just seconds before Zeke burst out laughing. “You gave her your fucking address, homie? Really? Did that shit really just go down?”
“Dude, shut up.”
“You do realize that there's not a chance in hell she's coming, right? Like, you're aware that you just came off as a completely crazy psycho-killer?”
As high as he was, Zeke was still right. I just pretty much blew whatever shot I had with that girl. “Yeah. I guess so.”
The meal was eaten in relative silence. Jack's burger was decent, and the way Zeke tore through his eggs and pancakes, you would have thought that it was the ambrosia that Zeus sat down to every day.