The writing prompt used for this story was:
There’s nothing worse than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name,
Or how you met,
Or why they’re dead.
This is where my pen went, I’d love to know what you think and where you might have gone if you were given the same prompt.
Agony of Excess
The dim light gradually brightened, washing consciousness over Alexander and fading the blackness of sleep into the soft, feathered pillow. He didn’t have to move to know that alcohol had brought him to his knees again, every molecule in his body told him so.
He opened one eyelid experimentally and immediately squeezed it shut again, turning his face towards the bed. The morning light was filtered and softened by the pale curtains but this did nothing to convince his swollen eyeballs to face the hazy dawn. The sudden movement of his head dislodged the volatile, wine-enriched bile in his stomach, forcing it up his parched throat. He shuddered and swallowed the nausea, his pulsating brain would not coordinate standing upright and getting to the bathroom yet.
He searched his surfacing brain for clues, for anything that would give his memory the jolt needed to claw fragmented events from the blackness of his alcohol binge. His mind replayed a badly cut cine film of last night’s gala dinner, his never empty wine glass, Lady Edinburgh to his left, her daughter to his right, their reluctance to speak to him even before the main course was served. His wife’s repulsed face as he spayed a mixture of wine and gravy across the serving dishes as he spoke. He pressed his palms to his closed eyes and willed more painful shards of memory to return but nothing more came. His reluctant mind retained the most shameful memories for later, it would sucker punch him when he least expected it.
His eyes were too tight in his head but he blinked them open anyway, the light not as glaring as he imagined. He badly needed a drink, his tongue clung to the roof of his mouth, his lips held closed with dehydrated spittle. He would have to get up, the need for water was too great. He uncurled a leg, stiff from the anaesthesia of alcohol, his foot touching a bare leg next to him. His wife rarely slept with him anymore. In the old days she would stay awake while he slept, afraid he would choke on his own vomit but that concern had waned years ago, he must have been close to death last night. She was still and he turned to face her, it had been so long since he’d watched her sleep.
The light was bright enough to see that his wife’s head of brown curls wasn’t on the pillow next to him. The short, black cut belonged to someone else, but he couldn’t see who. This wasn’t the first time he’d woken up with a stranger. Whoever it was was on their front, face down in the pillow. Completely face down, not just tipped sideways. A wave of ice slammed up Alexander’s spine and he jumped to his knees, throwing the cover off the king sized bed. This was definitely not his wife. This was a man, a very young naked man, and he wasn’t moving. Alexander extended an uneasy hand and shook his shoulder but he didn’t move. He felt cold to the touch, like a store mannequin waiting to be dressed and Alexander knew he was dead. His stomach convulsed and he threw himself to the edge of the bed, vomiting on the floor until he had nothing else to bring up. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and made a staggered journey to the bathroom, cupping his hands under the tap and drinking greedily. He glanced in the mirror and a withered alcoholic looked back at him, old and pleading.
He went back to the room, breathed deep and turned the man over. He didn’t recognise him at all, didn’t remember ever seeing him. He searched his shattered memory of guests at the dinner but this man didn’t feature, there was still time for it to come back to him. In the police cell, in the court room, in prison. He leaned against the wall and sank to the floor, holding his head in his hands but never taking his eyes from the corpse in his bed. His head hurt, it vibrated to spite him and was getting louder, bouncing around his skull, buzzing incessantly, on and on until vaguely the noise became a ringing phone. He crawled on the floor looking for the muted, relentless vibration. His pile of clothes on the chair buzzed louder as he approached, God he hoped it was someone who could help him. He stood, frozen with the phone in his hand, staring at the unfamiliar handset which blinked an unknown number. He killed the call, it must be his phone, the man in his bed. He couldn’t speak to a dead man’s relatives, not yet.
A text message flashed on the screen:
Don’t just look at it, answer it.
It rang again, vibrating in his hand. He answered the phone, shaking wildly.
“Yes?” He said, his voice gravelly and rasping.
“Good morning Your Grace. Quite a pickle you’ve got yourself into there isn’t it? A young man dead in your hotel room, your long suffering wife and children waiting at home? It’s all a bit scandalous isn’t it Sir?”
“Who is this?”
“Someone who can make it all go away, for a price.”
Alexander stiffened, realisation hitting him. Here was the sucker punch. “How much do you want?”
“Oh, I don’t want money Your Grace. I want something much more valuable than that.”
Alexander dropped the phone and sank to his knees, begging oblivion to come and drag him back to it’s blackened sanctuary.