Here we have a tale of an individual offering an unorthodox justification for his vices.
I can see this story not being for everyone, given its abrasive protagonist and his (or her..?) cavalier attitude toward addiction, but I hope it isn’t taken that seriously.
Okay, right off the bat: NO, I don’t have a problem.
Yes, maybe I drink a little more than the average bear. But am I not entitled? Life’s a bitch, and sometimes I need to unwind. Besides, I know when to stop. I know my tolerance level. When I was still working, I never let it affect me. Sure, I might have snuck a beer or swig of something harder here and there, but despite what my jackass supervisor said, it never affected my work.
Working at a movie theater wasn’t exactly brain surgery.
And yes, I’ll admit I do partake in drugs sometimes. But I am not an addict. I can say no or stop anytime I want. I don’t because I have it under control. And again, I never let it interfere with my job. I wasn’t stupid enough to try sneaking blasts of coke while I was working—my boss was making up stories and exaggerating. He never liked me and was always looking for an excuse to lay me off.
What? Well, yeah, I’ve been doing coke a little more than usual, but I’m not working right now. Excuse me for indulging. I told you: it’s not an addiction. The reason I do it as often as I do—which really isn’t that often—is because I know I can stop anytime. If I thought I couldn’t control it, I would stop.
What’s so hard to understand about that?
Okay, here we go—I knew this was coming.
Yes, I was drunk and on drugs that night. And yes, I had a little something to do with the fire. But it is not what you think. I was not trying to get back at them for firing me. I’m not stupid—you really think if I wanted revenge on the theater, I would do something as crazy as burning down the place?
Of course not! Believe it or not—unlike some people maybe—I am remarkably lucid when I’m fucked up. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve driven coked out of my mind and gotten home without a scratch on the car? How is that a problem?!
No one’s bothered to ask me my side of the story. I’ll be happy to tell you why I had to start that fire. In fact, you people should be thanking me. Yeah! You should be on your knees thanking me—not just for torching the movie theater—but for even being able to handle my narcotics the way I do.
Why? Because if I couldn’t handle myself, this whole town … screw that, maybe even the whole planet would’ve been doomed! Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. If it wasn’t for me, and the fact I was tripping balls on coke, every one of you would’ve been replaced by aliens.
Yeah, I said it.
* * *
It started last week—the night after the black-out. Yeah, no one remembers that, do they? I do … because I was at the bar. It was about one or two in the morning, and Tammy was looking to close early because the place was pretty dead. This upset me because I had a decent buzz going and I just started my 50-bag.
I know it was only a Tuesday! It’s not like I had work in the morning, did I?
Anyway, I convinced her to sell me an 18-pack from the back and headed home. No accidents—as usual, thank you. So I was sitting in my apartment, watching TV, drinking my beers, and doing a few lines, when at around 3:16, the power went out. I don’t expect anyone else to know the exact time—but I do.
I woke up the next afternoon with the usual hangover. My mouth was dry, like I’d been sucking on cotton balls all night. My skull throbbed, my sinus felt like it was made of spikes, and I felt like I was baking bread in my nose.
I turned over and found on the floor beside my couch this gnarly looking crab/bug thing. It kind of looked like a spider, but it had a tail and arms with pincers like a crab. It was green, and it was on its back, and its legs were stretched in all different directions—almost like it was writhing or having spasms when it died. It stunk, too—like rotten garbage mixed with ammonia.
When I saw it, I jumped out of my seat and halfway across the room in a single bound. I poked at it, and as soon as I touched it, the thing caved in as if it rotted away from the inside and shriveled to dust and pus right on my floor. If you don’t believe me, there’s still a stain on my rug.
No, it’s not because I threw up!
Anyway, the last thing anyone wants to wake up to with a bad hangover is something like that, so I spent the next hour and a half dry heaving. As I sat beside my toilet, waiting for the next round of bile to choke up, I tried to figure out just what the hell that thing was and hoped there weren’t any more in my apartment.
Once my stomach settled, I decided to head out, though I couldn’t say what time it was because the clocks were screwed up. I didn’t have an appetite, so I went to the deli to get a coffee, and that’s where I ran into Steve Unger.
I found him standing outside the store and said, “Hey, Steve. What’s happening?”
“I am Steven Unger,” he said. “Of fine, high quality.”
“What?” I said. “The hell does that mean?”
Even putting aside his weird comment, I could tell something was wrong. You all know how Steve is. He’s usually all chatty and friendly … and frankly, I think if anyone has a drinking problem, it might be him. His face is always so red and …
Anyway, he was just staring at me with this blank look. “You okay, Steve?” I asked. “You seem a little out of it.”
“Of course,” he said. “I am of fine, high quality.”
“Yeah, you said that already.”
He tilted his head, like I’d spoken a riddle. “I think perhaps you should sleep.”
“Nah, I’m good,” I said. “I’m hung-over, but I think I’ve slept late enough already.”
“Perhaps you should go to the motion picture theater.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, thinking he was joking. “I bet they’d love to see me passed out there.”
“You should go to the theater.”
“You serious?” I asked. “The hell would I go there for? They fired me.”
“But all functioning beings, however inferior, require sleep.”
“I’m not going to the theater, Steve. What’s the matter with you?”
His eyes narrowed, and I thought he was going to hit me. “You are troublesome.”
And then he walked away.
* * *
Of course Steve doesn’t remember that! That’s what I’m trying to tell you: that wasn’t really Steve. He was being controlled. I didn’t know that at the time, but I’m getting ahead of myself …
There was supposed to be a hockey game that night, so I headed to the bar for a bite and few drinks while I watched the game. Yes, it was a bit early to start drinking, but the clocks were still screwed up and I wasn’t sure what time it was. No, it’s not that I have a problem—it’s that I was hungry and didn’t want to miss any of the game.
Frankie was bartending that night, and I was getting the same weird vibes off him that I was with Steve. He’s usually in a good mood and quick to shoot the shit, but when I walked in, he just glared at me like I wasn’t supposed to be there.
“Something wrong, Frankie?” I asked, sitting at the bar. “Bad day?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “It is of fine, high quality.”
“Uh-huh. Can I get a burger and a beer?”
He served me a beer, but said the kitchen was closed—which I thought was odd considering how early it was. But I didn’t think much of it and accepted my beer anyway. The first few sips went down like razorblades and made my belly rumble in protest. But I persevered and continued drinking until my stomach stopped bothering me and the booze went down like water—because I’m not a quitter.
I asked Frankie to put the game on, but there was something wrong with all the TVs. They couldn’t get any station except these annoying test patterns that honestly were giving me this really bad headache. I asked him if this had been going on all day, and he said, “The television has other uses.”
“You sure, man?” I said. “Because that test pattern is killing me.”
“Perhaps you should go to the motion picture theater.”
I interpreted that as an ultimatum to shut-up, so I continued drinking, sinking away into the pleasant murkiness of intoxication. With an empty stomach, my plunge went down even faster, and it wasn’t long before I had a good drunk going.
My headache wouldn’t go away though, so I adjourned to the bathroom and indulged a little nose-candy. I did a double-snort, one for each nostril, and combined with the beers—test pattern notwithstanding—I felt pretty damn good in a hurry.
As the night wore on, a few more people came to the bar. I’d seen them around on plenty of nights, but I’ve never bothered to learn their names. One was that big, lumberjack-looking bastard with the mullet and mustache. Another was a short, fat woman who looked like Danny DeVito in drag. And there was this skinny, pasty-looking punk who looked like he wanted to be in someone’s rock band, but no one would touch him.
I drank and did more blasts in the bathroom. Feeling good about myself, I hit the jukebox. Ordinarily, I play nice with the music, but in the mood I was in, I just went straight to the classics: all 80’s rock, all the time.
Apparently my fellow patrons didn’t appreciate my choice in music, because they were all looking at me like I’d farted in church. I was especially surprised Lumberjack-Mullet wasn’t going for the 80’s rock, but after a few beers and hits of coke, I was feeling invincible.
“What?” I said. “You got a problem with my music?”
Despite looking so pissed at me, Lumberjack said, “I am of fine, high quality.”
“I swear to God,” I said. “Next time someone says they’re ‘fine, high quality,’ I’m going to break their face.”
“You are troublesome,” said Lady DeVito.
“Eat a dick, all right?” I said.
Lady DeVito, Lumberjack, and Punker exchanged this look between them, and I could tell a fight was coming. I was going for my beer bottle, when Frankie of all people reached over the bar and grabbed me by the arms.
“The shit, brah?!” I yelled. “Don’t hold me back!”
“You shall sleep,” said Frankie. “All beings, however inferior, require sleep.”
“You’re not the boss of me!”
Lumberjack and DeVito grabbed my legs, and I was pinned down on the bar. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the punker kid go into the kitchen and get something in a big metal canister.
“What the hell is this?”
“You shall sleep,” said Frankie.
“And when you wake,” said Lumberjack.
“You shall be fine, high quality,” they all said at once.
* * *
I woke up on a bench around the corner from the bar. It was still night, and I found myself in this strange place between still drunk and hung-over. I sat there, trying to regain my bearings. After doing another two bumps, I remembered there was trouble in the bar, and at that moment, I assumed Frankie kicked me out.
Huh? Weren’t you listening? They were up to something. They attacked me! They were trying to do something to me, so I had to defend myself. Oh, I was not acting belligerent. I told you, I am very lucid when I’m boozed up and on drugs. I don’t care what Frankie says I was doing—I defended myself.
Anyway, since I was still pretty drunk, I didn’t remember the incident in the bar very clearly. I didn’t have time to think about it because, when I turned around, I saw another one of those crab-scorpion-cockroach things lying on the ground beside me. This time, still coked up, I just kicked the damn thing.
It crumbled apart mid-air and parts of it are still on my shoe. Yeah, I know it looks like I just stepped in shit, but I’m telling you it was one of those bug things. You see much green shit in the streets every day?
I had no idea what time it was, but I didn’t feel like going home. I found a 24-hour convenience store where I picked up a six-pack of beer, but what I really needed, I discovered, was another bag of coke.
Sitting with my beers in the park, I called my boy Serge. Don’t look at me like that—Serge can come through for me, even during the week. After a few rings, he answered.
“Serge! What’s up?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Awesome,” I said. “Look, I need some things from you? You good for tonight?”
“I am fine, high quality.”
That should’ve tipped me off, but I was drunk and I’m terrible on cell phones. Also, I thought he was referring to the coke.
“Fantashtish! Listen, you want me to go to you, or you okay delivering?”
“Well, which is it?”
He was silent for what felt like a long time. For a second, I thought I’d lost the connection or dozed off with the phone in my hand.
“Awesome balls,” I said. “Hey, I’ll even bring a few beers. This’ll be great.”
So, six-pack in hand, I started walking to Serge’s apartment on Filmore Avenue. By then it was late enough for the streets to be deserted, so my walk went smoothly. That is except for Main Street when that headache I got from the test pattern came back with a vengeance.
It was worst when I passed the movie theater. It felt like there was this drill digging into one ear, while a spike hammered into the other, and they were grinding together in the middle. It got so bad I even threw up on the sidewalk. I wouldn’t realize until later my nose started bleeding. I know you’re thinking it’s because I do too much coke, but you’re wrong.
So I get to Serge’s place, and he lets me in. Right away I could tell something was wrong. Whenever I go to his apartment, there’s usually techno playing, but tonight, it was dead quiet. It reminded me of the bar—with no hockey and everyone giving me a stink-eye when I tried playing music.
“So, uh, Serge,” I said. “You got some bags?”
“You are troublesome,” he said.
“Dude, you said I could come by.”
“You should sleep.”
“Hey, if I woke you, I’m sorry. Let me get a bag off you, and I’ll be on my merry—”
Then he grabbed me by my shirt and shoved me over his couch. The beers flew out of my hand and crashed to the floor. The tumble left me more dizzy than hurt—thanks to the coke—but I was definitely shocked by this turn of events.
“Serge!” I shouted. “What the hell, brah?!”
Next thing I knew I was being tossed around his apartment like a ragdoll. I’m not ashamed to admit he kicked the crap out of me. The guy is jacked. Serge could break me in half if he wanted. I’m not even joking when I say the only thing that kept me from getting knocked out was the coke.
That’s right—drugs saved my life!
After throwing me around a while, I ended up smashed into his bedroom. Desperate to find something to defend myself with, I reached under his bed and found a dumbbell. He came at me, looking for all the world like a damn Terminator, and I hurled the dumbbell at him.
Unfortunately, it was pretty heavy, so I didn’t get much of a throw out of it. He dodged, and the dumbbell smashed into his closet. Undeterred, I threw a second dumbbell at him—with similar results.
“You should not resist,” he said. “It will be better for you and your world.”
“I don’t even know what the hell’s going on, man!”
“Our species has survived for thousands of generations. This planet will serve us well, but we will not allow you humans to interfere.”
“Dude, are you on acid?”
He approached with his hands outstretched like he was looking to strangle me. “If you will not be subjugated, you will be destroyed.”
In a panic, I rooted through the drawer beside his bed for anything else to throw. The first wave of socks did about as well as you’d expect, but then I found a big shoe-box he kept hidden at the bottom.
Without thinking, I cracked him across the face with the box. It exploded in a cloud of white powder, and I realized I hit him with his coke stash. At first I thought I’d screwed myself. I mean, this guy was pretty much a juggernaut on his own—now I just gave him a hearty whiff of cocaine.
He stared at me, breathing in the cloud wafting around his head, and suddenly this look of horror and pain came to his face. He clutched his head and let out this God-awful screech that sounded like a dying raccoon filtered through a synthesizer.
He crumbled to the floor and rolled around with this nasty looking green pus coming out of his mouth. His eyes rolled up into his head, and purple veins bulged from his neck. I seriously thought the guy was having a seizure, and for a minute there, I was afraid I was going to have to do some awkward explaining to the cops.
But he turned over and gagged more green shit from his mouth. When he finished throwing up, Serge stopped moving. I thought he might be dead, but I saw he was breathing. Just beside him was this hideous pile of green, brown, and purple sludge. There wasn’t much left to it, and at a glance, it just seemed like he’d spit up something he’d eaten.
Then I caught a familiar smell filling the room: rotten food and ammonia. On taking a closer look, I realized—like a light had gone off in my head. It was all connected. The bug things I kept waking up to, everyone acting all weird, Serge attacking me and that shit he was saying, the black-out, the screwed up TV signal … I understood. I knew what was happening!
Don’t you get it? It was an invasion! Aliens were trying to take over our planet! The nasty bug things were taking over people’s minds in their sleep and turning them into mindless automatons. The TV signal must’ve been … something … I don’t know exactly, but it had to be a part of it.
But why was I immune, you ask? Why were the bug-aliens dying when they tried taking over my mind? Isn’t it obvious? The cocaine! The booze! Don’t you see? It’s because I drink and do drugs I was able to resist the alien invasion!
I can tell you’re impressed.
* * *
Now that I understood what I was dealing with, I knew I couldn’t allow these alien bastards to take over my town. Not my country. But I’m not stupid—assuming there were any normal humans left, I knew they wouldn’t believe me. I’ll admit this is a pretty wild story even before you take into account I was coked out of my bin.
No, there’d be no cavalry to the rescue. This was up to me. What? I don’t know why the aliens were vulnerable to cocaine. I’m not a scientist! It worked, that’s what mattered.
Anyway, now that I knew how to stop the invasion, I had to find the alien’s headquarters and destroy the … the whatever—the queen, or signal, or whatever the fuck. So I stopped to think—what would be an ideal place for an alien invasion force to hide out? What would be an inconspicuous place for them to infect more people en masse? Where could they broadcast their brainwashing signal?
That’s right: the movie theater!
It made perfect sense! People go in to watch a movie, the bug-things get inside them while they sit. They installed that new signal tower on top of it just last month. They have a huge cellar underneath, which would be perfect for the nest or ship or whatever. And it explained why they all kept telling me to go to the theater.
I gathered up as much of Serge’s coke as I could find. I snorted up at least half of it and stashed the rest in my pocket. I also washed this down by drinking the beers in his fridge. Once I was good and loaded, I headed out to save the goddamn world!
It was close to morning by the time I got to the theater. And yes, it was exactly what it looked like: I drove my car right through the front door. I’ll admit I probably should’ve tried sneaking in with stealth, but what do you want? I was hammered on booze and coke—subtlety wasn’t exactly on my mind.
The security should be thanking me for throwing coke in their faces. I freed them from the parasitic aliens controlling their minds. Oh, really? Then how come neither of them remembers going in to work that night? Concussions, my balls. And why does a movie theater need two security guards to watch it overnight?
I made my way into the cellar, and you would not believe the unholy monstrosity I found nesting down there. I don’t even know if calling it “the queen” is adequate. The entire cellar was engulfed in this translucent film. It was yellow and green with glowing purple veins. Everything was pulsing and damp, and Christ, the smell!
In the center was the big brain. It was like one of those spider-crab things on steroids. It was hanging from the ceiling, and it had huge protruding eyes staring at me like some kind of giant fly. The legs were massive and covered in veins. They settled underneath it like a coil of tendrils.
The queen-leader-thing looked at me and made this hissing sound—but I could hear its voice in my head because it spoke telepathically.
“You do not belong here,” it said.
“I ain’t letting you take over my planet.”
“You should let this happen,” it said. “It would be better for your world. And you.”
“The hell it will! You think we want to have your butt-ugly kids crawling into our brains and taking over our minds?!”
“You are troublesome.”
The legs lashed out and wrapped themselves around me. They were damp to the touch, and I’m not going to lie, it felt really gross being held by that thing. It pulled me close to its dripping mouth and stared at me with its giant yellow compound eyes.
“You represent all that is wrong with this world,” it said. “You are belligerent and foolish and you poison yourself. You are self-destructive and bring pain to all around you. You are why your planet needs us to cleanse it.”
This long, slimy tendril came out its mouth and latched onto my face. I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel it sending little hairs into my nose and down by throat. But then I heard the thing screech in pain and retreat.
“What?!” the thing shrieked. “What is this?!”
“That’s freedom powder, bitch!”
I grabbed handfuls of coke from my pockets and threw it into the thing’s face. White powder went into its eyes and mouth, and it let out a screech like the one from Serge’s apartment.
The tendrils threw me aside, and the entire room shook and rumbled from the queen’s throes. Wasting no time, I found the boiler down at the end of the cellar and got the gas leaking. I then ran back up the stairs and started a small fire in the lobby so when the gas hit … well, you know the rest.
You’re looking at me like I’m crazy. But let me ask you this, if my burning down the theater was just some coked up revenge for being laid off, why was the military and FBI investigating it? Don’t think I haven’t noticed they were rooting around what was left of the theater. They know what happened.
But I know they won’t get me out of this. I accept that. Everyone was wondering why I was so happy when the police and fire department showed up—but that was how I knew, by killing the queen and destroying the signal, I freed everyone else that was taken over.
I went to jail that morning with a smile on my face. Because I saved the world. Oh, I knew no one would believe. I knew everyone would look at me like you’re looking at me right now. But I didn’t care. It was worth it. I did what I needed to do to save the world without caring about myself.
No, I am not an addict. But even if I was, it’s a damn good thing. Yeah, drinking so much and doing cocaine is bad for my health. And maybe I will do some jail time, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure the safety of our planet. I put my own health and freedom at risk so we can be free of the alien invasion. Because that’s what heroes do.
©2017 by M. Walsh