Copyright 2017 Joshua Johns
Published by Joshua Johns at Shakespir
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Table of Contents
Awareness washed over Jacob long before his eyes opened to the new day. The drilling in his skull was replaced by a dull canyon of emptiness. Memory reverberated between his eyes. He was no longer sure how many days he had been here as the sheets twisted around his body revealing half of his form. The pungent musk of his sweat touched his nose. Maybe three? Possibly four days? The room was dark. A trickle of weak sunlight was damned from one small window by a torn rag of a curtain. The rooms of the Nine Ring’s tavern were small compared to most. Though it only cost him a few silver coins. Jacob’s green eyes closed and opened several more times before he found the strength to stay awake. Exhaustion came in waves that were replaced with nothingness. He searched his own well of motivation and came up lacking. His arms were granite and his legs heavy tree trunks. The sunlight faded into darkness and returned slowly. Another day gone. Another day gone and so was the craving. How many nights did he scream for rum? How much of the old craving soaked the linen as he perspired?
It was at this point he heard the breathing. At first he mistaken it for his own because of his clouded senses but this sound was softer. His eyes, cleared of sleep and run and finally adjusted to the lack of illumination. Against the far wall from him, a little more than an arm’s length away from his bed, a young woman slumbered sitting up. She wore nothing but her shift. Her own sweat made the material cling to her skin. Her chest rose and fell steadily with each breath. Her un-kept blond hair fell in front of her face and down her near bare shoulders. Her fingers touched a glass resting on the floor. It was half empty with rum.
He groaned as he sat up. Annoyance seemed to fuel any fire he needed for motivation at the moment. He ran his fingers through his long greasy dark hair as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. He was suddenly aware that his small clothes were missing. It took him awhile before he was able to find his voice.
“Wake up Lynn.”
The girl stirred awake at about the same rate he did. The tendrils of sleep seemed to be strong in this room. He looked to the glass. The ache to cloud his mind with the dark liquid never came. Though he was sure the memories where waiting to flood now that the dam was gone.
“Lynn wake up now.”
The girl’s bright green eyes opened and looked with his. For someone touched by exhaustion and intoxication he was taken aback by the look on her face. He often wondered if mother’s taught their daughters those expressions meant to kill a man. How could one look sad and angry at the same time?
“You drank too much Lynn,” he said, attempting to hide his annoyance.
“Coming from you, that is rich Gaiden” she said without giving an ounce of what she thought.
She used his title in attempt to make him angry. He ground his teeth and suppressed a growl. It was working. He has not considered himself a Gaiden in nearly two decades. The Holy members of the Gaiden Order were not men who were hooked on the bottle and brothels. He considered himself one of those men. Or at least, was.
“Besides, it was the only way to keep the bottles safe from you” she said finishing the rest from the glass.
“What are you doing here girl?”
“Careful Lord Gaiden, I am still the Lady-Heir of this city.”
“And the Lady-Heir is still a girl. What are you doing here?”
“You need to save him Jacob.” Any sign of stubbornness drained from her face and was refilled with desperation.
“Why should I?”
“He needs you.”
“He doesn’t need saving girl. Not a man like that. I need to kill him.”
Her expression cracked from pain. It lingered and she didn’t spare the energy to find her strength to hide it.
“Killing him and saving him could be the same thing. If we leave him there he might become…”
“I know what he might become Lynn.” Some where he found the gentleness to say that with ease.
“I know you do Jacob,” her voice broke, “I don’t need the drunk in you. I need the man you were before. The man who killed monsters.”
Jacob said nothing for a long while. He just stared at the empty glass in her hand. A few days ago he would have drowned himself in the drink before considering to do all this again. To fight the same kind of monsters in this place.
“Try to save him Jacob. But if you can’t…if you can’t…”
“I know. Where is my sword?”
The old radio finally started to sing white noise instead of the classic country radio that it played before. “Classic country radio.” He had to laugh. Most of those songs were new while he was in high school if not a little before. He grew up with those songs. He was too young for songs that he grew up to be considering “classic.” It had been what, ten years since gradation? 2004. Shit. It has been twelve. Still. It seemed ridiculous. He turned the dial. His callused finger tips knew the rotation well. The radio went from noise to a jumbled march of talk shows, advertisements, more static, rap, static, and finally country again. It was new country but it was country still. He turned it up. He smiled and replaced his hand on to the gear shift. With one hand on the wheel he watched as he passed Exit 27. Just the same as always. QYTZ Classic Country never seemed to make it out here.
Exit 27 wasn’t the first landmark and it would not be the last. Three hours in now. Three hours to go and those four hours in the middle wasn’t nothing near stimulating. He knew the Exit signs, the curves in the express way, he knew where the cops like to hide and where there wouldn’t be one for miles, and of course he knew where his radio stations would fail. His green eyes didn’t bother with the landscape anymore. Trees that followed the horizon for leagues quickly lost their appeal. The road that curved forever was what he had in front of him. Hours of travel ahead of him through the windshield. Reflector decorated grey ahead and fall painted forever to the side. He yawned. But he had his car.
His car. A 1967 Chevy Impala. Red. Her name was Ruby. Maybe it was a little cliché for a man to name his car but it was what it was. It was his car. He could call her whatever he liked. She was his baby. She was his baby. He placed is arm on the length of the bench seat across the top. The sun faded dashboard still had the crack along its surface form the scourging summer some years back. It ran like lightening from glass to wheel. He always joked the scar have her face some character. The bench seats were leather and God damn did they get hot in the summer. But the back seat was perfect when he brought Emmy here after she finished college. They made love back there. Twice. He brushed the blonde hair away from her blue eyes. Her lips tasted like strawberry wine. God that seemed like forever ago. The ring he bought didn’t fit. It slipped off her finger twice as she cried. He smiled at the thought. It was fun drive with Emmy. The smile slipped. She didn’t want to take that journey for as long as he did though. He asked her to marry him in the back seat and she asked to end that marriage in the front. She sat right there in the passenger seat. She wasn’t crying then and he didn’t bother to move the brunette dyed lock of hair from her face.
He refused to look to his right. Some flickers of old memory liked to linger. He was a lot older in the rearview mirror now than when the last time Emmy was in this car. It wasn’t that long but life does its damage. His green, stressed bordered eyes looked back at him in the reflection. And he could see the toddler booster seat in the back. It was empty. His smile returned. He gave her a marriage, she gave him a divorce, but they gave each other Jacob. And it was the second weekend of the month. He knew this ride well. He wouldn’t miss it for the world.
The box sat on the top step right outside my door. It was wrapped in red wrapping paper and tied with black ribbon. Red and black were my favorite colors. I somehow doubted that could be some kind of coincidence. I stared at it a moment before deciding to pick the thing up. My favorite color on my steps. I suppose it’s mine. Well, not like there was anyone else here anymore that it could possibly belong too. I sat it down on the coffee table in front of my favorite chair and debated opening it up or watching the rest of tonight’s episode of “Game of Thrones.” One of the Starks who somehow managed not to die was paused mid run on the screen. Suppose that would make tonight Sunday? I don’t know. Who cares. Well unless I have to work tomorrow and then I kind of care. I kill another cigarette while I stare at that newly arrived parcel. Newly arrived? Bloody thing could have been there all day for all I knew. All weekend possibly. I blew smoke from my nose and replaced the cigarette in my hand with a small glass of whiskey. The ice had long since melted. Nothing like watered down tobacco flavored booze. Red and black. Only a handful of people in this world knew my favorite colors. Mrs. Perry, my second grade teacher, my mother who he only guessed did because that is kind of crap mother’s remember, and of course, her.
Mrs. Perry knew my favorite colors because I “accidently” painted her desk in those hues when I was left unsupervised for longer than anyone should leave a second grader unsupervised. Later they asked me why I did such a thing. I believe I said because I spilled the paint on her desk and I wanted all the colors to match. It may or not have been because the near ancient teacher kept breathing in my face after she ate her garlic and onion sandwiches during lunch. My father thought it was funny. My mother not so much. Speaking of my mother, she knew right? That’s what mothers know. Favorite colors, favorite meals, favorite stuff animal I slept with as a kid and all that kind of crap. I doubt Mrs. Perry (God she has to be dead by now right?) or my mother would leave a package on my front door step randomly on a (maybe) Sunday night. So that leaves pretty much her. Damn it.
“Her” would be Lynn. Lynn would be my most recent failure in the world of relationships. Or triumph when it comes to being a paragon of rejection. Guess it depends on how you look at it. Kind of what I am known for around here. She was pretty. The crazy ones always seem to be. Crazy and pretty. And usually you notice the pretty long before you notice the crazy. Oh she was pretty. Long dark hair with blue eyes. I never liked blue eyes before. Brown was more my sort. Brown eyes were easy to get lost into. Hers with blue and beautiful. And hid a tendency to be nuts. Maybe it was a vagina thing? Did having breast and a vagina somehow make one crazy? Like the ability to have multiple orgasms gives them an unavoidable need to make someone want you and then leave whenever they felt like it? She knew my favorite colors? She should. We dated for almost three years. Maybe a little over three years. Like it a month more or less mattered now. She was gone and I was here. I was still in this bloody place and she was outside that door. The door with the steps in which this thing was left for him to find. Bloody her.
I went to the kitchen to refill my glass. Opening a new bottle of Jack, I never took my eyes off the package. Red and black. The last words she said to me was calling me an asshole. Me!? Maybe I was an asshole. I could be an asshole. I am an asshole. I hated that the last words I had seen coming from that pretty mouth was those words. She wielded anger well though. She left me. She left me. Was I supposed to take it well? I mean seriously? Isn’t it okay that I am a little crazy? Don’t I get to be hurt? I finished my glass and walked over to the table and picked up the package. Red and black. Screw her. I tossed it in the trash and went back to my TV to see which Stark dies tonight.
About the Author
Joshua Allen Johns, better known as J. A. Johns in the writers’ community is a thirty-one-year-old writer from Spring Hill, Florida. Raised in a blue collar home, Johns found a love for writing after having a young love affair with film and television series. After working on local high school and college papers he dedicated himself to writing long fiction wishing to be a part of the world he respected so much. Now he is working on several works based in how own fantasy world called “A Memory of Twilight” in which he wishes to be published. He is a current student at Full Sail University.
Connect with Joshua Johns
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EARLY SHORT TALES is a brief look into the worlds in which Johns tends to write in. WAKING UP is the first of three stories that has an origin in his larger work. A small piece of what will later become THE PROMISE AND THE THREAT in is A MEMORY OF TWILIGHT series, WAKING UP has the fallen hero Jacob Jacobi fighting his own alcoholic demons to become the man he once was or slip back into bitterness. THE RIDE has echoes of the writer’s life as a lost, single father considers his life while raising those children alone. And Finally THE BOX examines a man’s self-created, self-destructive loneliness as he mourns something gone. EARLY SHORT TALES is a vivid look into the styles and themes of the writer and offers a look at what is to come.