Casidhe wakes up screaming. He's engulfed in darkness and numbness. His drunken stupor slides away from him on a hot knife edge. His temples throb. His stomach sours. But the hangover goes away. It isn't real. Nothing at that moment is real.
In the black space that has swallowed him, he watches faint grey shapes drift in front of his eyes. He can't hear the sound that makes what he sees. It's not a sound for the living.
He closes his eyes and breathes. He can almost feel his skin oozing chilly sweat and gin-scented oil. Under his skin, his muscles are wracked with small tremors. He lifts his hands and trails his long, calloused fingers up his torso, trying to figure out if he's real or if he's dreaming still or if he's in someone else's dream. He pokes at his teeth and eyes and can't tell. He opens his eyes.
The room is his. He doesn't remember crawling into his own bed. He never does. It's not real. Nothing is.
There's a window on his right. He leans towards it and lifts the slats of the blind. Cold wind howls just inches away, scratching at the glass and peeling away the caulking. Snow speeds sideways under the plasticized amber light. His warm breath leaves a circle of dew on the glass. He leans away from the window again.
It's December. Casidhe hates December. There are two things he hates about it. The first is December 8th. John Lennon was murdered that day. Casidhe doesn't actually remember it, but he has felt the effects of that senseless act every day of his life. Beautiful music died that day in 1980. Then it dies again every year that Lennon's legacy gathers dust in people's memories.
The second thing he hates about December also happens on the 8th. His birthday.
He wonders if that's today. He thinks it was probably last week. He wonders if it's Christmas, but it doesn't feel dead enough for that.
Wind screams by the window. Casidhe shudders and crawls out of bed, groping along the bookshelf for his cigarettes and lighter. He finds them as he trips over a toppled stack of books. In the winter dullness of the room, the things scattered about the floor don't look like books at all. They look like things that might eat him. Not whole, but piece by piece, small nibbles he wouldn't miss until it was too late.
He puts his toes down in deliberate steps and creeps around the devourers. He finds himself in the living room, stumbling over dark lumps of furniture. The hungry books here are all in their cages. He makes it into the kitchen. It's all stainless steel and white walls and white linoleum. He stands at the sink and stares out the window at the snow flinging itself suicidally through the air. He can't see the stain of the street light from here. He lights a cigarette.
He watches the reflection of the glowing cherry. He tries to remember the taste of the fruit, but all he tastes is heat and ashes. Two blades of thin pain pulse against his back. He rolls his shoulders, hangs his head and wishes they'd just stop. He finishes his cigarette and drops it in the sink. He runs the water until the butt swirls down the disposal unit. He flips a switch. The blades roar. He flips the switch again, and the roaring dies. He turns the water off.
As he watches the snow slipstream past the window, he feels something dying. He wishes it were him. He wants an ending. He's tired of the jangled noises and the pain in his back. He can't even watch the colors of the sounds any more. The soul of music is dying, and what's left is stale corporate candy. He could change that, but he's been afraid to make the first step. He's been comfortable in his small world. If he stays little known, the only gun he could end up on the wrong side of is his own. But the fear is much deeper than that. It's the ache between his shoulders. It's a risk he can't take. It's not real.
Casidhe lights another cigarette and wanders back out to the living room. This time, he knows the terrain. He glides around the shapes like a wraith. He pauses by the telephone. He stares at it. It doesn't ring.
He lifts the receiver out of the cradle and presses it to his ear. There's no dial tone. He doesn't press star or pound. He listens. Grey shapes begin to drift across his vision. He blinks.
"Don't go," he says into the receiver.
"Goodbye," a voice on the other end says.
"What's the point?"
"Your soul. Your music."
"Fuck it. No one gets it."
"I get it."
"You don't count."
"I'm not leaving you. I'm leaving this life."
"Spread your wings. Don't hold back."
"Yes. Go. Spread them wide. In the sun."
The voice on the other end doesn't respond. How could it? It's not real.
Casidhe lets the phone tumble from his hand. He moves to the television. He snaps it on. The grey shapes now dance across the black screen. He changes the channel. White noise and static snow blare at him. He flips again. There's late night news on the entertainment channel. A well-dressed, well-groomed blonde man is delivering somber news while over his right shoulder is a small grainy picture of the guitarist and songwriter Peter Sapphire. Under Peter's slightly distorted face are two years. One is a beginning. One is an ending.
"...shot himself in his home this evening. He is survived by his wife Yvonne and his daughter Kayla. Funeral arrangements --"
Casidhe turns the television off. He sits down on the couch. His legs just won't work now. He mashes his cigarette out in an ashtray. He lights another.
He finishes his cigarette. He hears the braying tone of the telephone as the receiver whines about not being in its cradle. He goes to it and slams it down. He wanders into the den where he keeps his guitars. He picks up the old beat up Hondo and sits down on the floor. He touches the strings, but he can't play. Tears rush from his eyes. He hugs the guitar to his chest. The ache in his back intensifies. He cries harder, squeezing his eyes shut. He feels the skin along on his back begin to break open. He lifts his head to the ceiling and howls.