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Thriller

“I said, excuse me!” Robbie yelled. This time, his third attempt to apologize, he got a little louder and added an exaggerated ‘curtseying’ arm motion. He admitted to himself that it was mostly his fault the two men had bumped into each other, but that was no reason for this guy to be so rude. Robbie had been walking along, trying to remember where he was and why he was out walking. It was like he had either just woken up or a fog bank had descended upon his brain, he was having a hard time thinking straight. Anyway, he had bumped into the other man, who had also been pre-occupied while he was walking, and said “excuse me” twice already. The man had stopped in his tracks, looking around, acting rather puzzled, like he didn’t know what had happened. Robbie had tried to apologize, first with a polite, “excuse me.” Again with a curter, “excuse me” but the man had continued to stand there, looking at him, or rather through him, dumbfounded. After his third attempt to apologize, and still getting no reaction from the other man, Robbie turned and continued up the street.

“Some people,” he said to himself. “No manners whatsoever.”

Robbie looked around at the buildings and shops along the street. It was late at night, he knew that much by the lack of traffic, the majority of businesses with their window guards rolled down and locked, and the rows of parked cars lining the streets.  

Aha he thought, now I know where I am. Looking at the neon signs lighting the sidewalk along with the street lights, he recognized the familiar sign of a neighborhood pub where he’d drop in occasionally. It was a couple blocks from his apartment building and on his way home from the subway station. He wasn’t a regular by no means, but he’d stop every now and then after a particularly grueling day on the job. They had an excellent selection of drafts on tap and the glasses were frosted, making the beer taste that much better.

It was a warm summer’s evening and the pub had the door propped open to try and get some airflow through the stagnant air surrounding the booths and tables. He found an empty seat at the end of the bar, not wanting any company or distraction as he sat down to try and figure out exactly why he was out and about so late. That wasn’t a normal thing for him, he was usually in bed right after the evening news.

The bartender hadn’t looked at him at all when he walked in, so he raised his arm to try and catch his attention. 

It’s not that dark in here, why won’t he look over here? Robbie thought. The service here had never been this bad before. Not even when he’d been here at peak hours on a Friday after work when the bar was packed with people. Tonight, there were just a few, what he assumed were regulars, scattered about the place.

“Ahem” he cleared his throat, trying to not be too rude about being ignored, but the whole evening was unsettling him a bit and the last thing he wanted right now was to be ignored by this less than busy bartender. Especially after that guy on the street had done practically the same thing. He just wanted a cold beer to help clear his mind, relax a little, and help him remember what he was doing out at this time of night.

“Excuse me, could I get a beer here?” he said, a little louder, a little more forceful. He was trying to remain calm but this blatant act of being ignored was starting to make him very upset. For crying out loud, I’m the only one down here he thought.

“Hey!” he shouted, this time slamming his fist down hard upon the bar, putting the exclamation point on his attempt to get the bartenders attention, “I’d like to get a goddam beer here!” 

The bartender, along with the rest of the patrons, jumped when Robbie had slammed his fist down. Robbie didn’t want to cause a scene, but this was getting ridiculous. The bartender stood up straight from his leaned over position, now staring in his direction. Robbie waved his arms again and mouthed the words, yeah, over here, Bud, I’d like to order.

The bartender looked back at the customer he’d been talking to and asked him, “Did you hear that?” Robbie saw the man’s mouth reply as he too looked Robbie’s way, “I heard sumthin’”

It seemed like an hour but it was only a few long seconds when the bartender started slowly walking to the end of the bar where Robbie was sitting.

“That’s right, come on down, take my order please, I’m dying of thirst here.” Robbie was past frustrated now and didn’t care how snarky he sounded. His patience had long since passed the point of being cordial.

It was when the bartender got closer to him that Robbie started getting a very weird feeling. He was still talking to the bartender, even to the point of insulting him and his ancestors, yet he acted as though he couldn’t hear him. Adding to the peculiarity of the situation, he kept waving his arms, even flipping the guy off, with both hands, and still no reaction. Like he was invisible.

“What in the Hell is going on here?” Robbie screamed and for a second time slammed his fist down on the bar. The bartender definitely heard that because he jumped a good foot off the ground, nearly as high as the foot railing on the bar. Back on the floor the bartender began a hasty retreat back down to his previous customer, looking back over his shoulder the whole time. The customer and the bartender both turned white as a sheet, the pair of them looking quite unnerved.

Trying to make sense of all this he slammed his fist down hard a third time, watching the two jump yet again, like he had surprised them. How does that happen he thought? They can see me winding up to hit the bar, why are they so surprised?

The customer got off his stool and started to gather his belongings, making his way back around the bar to join the bartender, looking anxious to not be standing there alone. The bartender reached under the counter and grabbed the sawed off shotgun he had stashed under there for emergency purposes, pointing it down Robbie’s way. He didn’t aim it right at the perplexed customer, but in his general direction. That was more than enough for the bewildered patron. 

“Whoa, whoa, Whoa” Robbie cried out. “No need for that! I’m gonna ease on down off this stool and make my way out the door. No problem here. I’ll just be on my way.” He moved very slowly, easing down off the stool like he said he was going to. He started sliding his feet along the floor, moving slowly and deliberately toward the door, being very cautious not to startle the armed man. That’s so strange, he thought as he shimmied backwards out the open passage, it’s like he doesn’t even know I’m here.

Back outside in the summer evening’s heat, Robbie turned and started walking away rapidly to get away from the establishment before the police showed up. That’s all he would need.

He decided it was enough for one night and made a beeline for his home. Maybe a good night’s sleep will be the cure for what was ailing him. 

He saw the glow of flashing lights before he made the last turn on his block. Rounding the corner by his building he saw the numerous emergency vehicles parked outside. He counted five squad cars on one side of the street, on the other side he saw an ambulance.

“Oh no!” he said. “I wonder what happened.” He lived in a safe part of town. There was the occasional disturbance as life in the big city had its ups and downs, danger was only a short arms-length away.

He made his way closer, maneuvering behind people to get a better look through the small crowd that had congregated on the sidewalk. He found an open spot, staying behind the crime scene tape that was wrapped around the sign posts close to the entrance of his apartment building.

He saw what he assumed to be a detective come out of the building. The officer’s wrinkled suit and badge flopping from the breast pocket gave it away. He watched as the senior officer walked over to a uniformed officer. He eased closer to the pair as they began to talk.

“You were the first on the scene, correct, Officer?”

“Yes, sir. I received a call of a gunshot being heard in apartment 307…”

307, Robbie thought, that’s MY apartment. I didn’t report a gunshot. What’s going on?

“I entered the premises, my weapon drawn, making my way up to the third floor. I moved down the hall to the apartment and noticed the door had been vandalized, like someone had used a pry bar to open it.”

When did this happen? Robbie thought. How long was I walking around tonight?

“I pushed open the door, clearing the room as I entered. I called out identifying myself as police. I moved about the apartment. It had obviously been burglarized, stuff was thrown around everywhere.”

Great, now I’ve got a mess to clean up. Robbie thought, rolling his eyes in anticipation of a long night cleaning and discovering what items of value of his had been taken. He was positive the police would need a list of any missing items.

He was about to let the officers know he was the resident of apartment 307 when he heard the detective ask, “When did you find the deceased?”

Deceased? Deceased? Who was deceased?

“I made my way into the bedroom where I found the victim lying on the floor, face up, a single large caliber gunshot wound to the chest.”

Robbie froze. He had a hard time breathing now, standing up was a struggle for him. His head felt like someone had wound it up like a top and let it go, spinning violently about his shoulders. 

The detective flipped open his notepad, “I have it here the resident, the deceased, is one Robert, ‘Robbie’, Washington, age forty-four.”

His ears rang, the blood pounding hard through his temples causing the ambient light to pulse in his eyes.

“What are you talking about?! I’m not dead, I’m right here! Can’t you see me?!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.

“No buddy, they can’t” came a voice from behind Robbie. He spun around so fast he almost tripped himself. There, stood a man, dressed head to toe in a black, three-piece suit, his dress shoes shining brightly even by the dim luminance of the streetlights.

“Steady there, partner. You don’t want to hurt yourself. Although that may be rather difficult to do. I mean, you being dead and all.” The man spoke, but Robbie had the hardest time comprehending his words.

“It’s OK, Robbie. It takes a while for the adjustment to be made.” He continued cautiously approaching the stunned man. 

What is this quack talking about Robbie wondered, what adjustment?

“I am not a duck, therefore you will not hear me quack. I’m here to guide you. We’ve got a small journey to take” 

Robbie reached to clutch his chest, he felt like his heart was going to thump its way out of his chest cavity. That’s when he felt it. The rough charred, gunpowder residue saturated hole in his chest. 

Where did this come from? How long has it been here?

“It just appeared. Now that you know that you’re dead.”

“I’m not dead!” This is just a dream! I need to wake up now!” Robbie screamed.

“If you’re not dead, then who is that coming out of the building on a stretcher in a body bag?” the man proffered.

Robbie looked. The EMS personnel were wheeling out a gurney, the familiar black body bag strapped on top of it. He ran over to it, grabbing the zipper, pulling it with great difficulty, he was able to open it just enough to peek inside. There, in the bag, staring up at him, was his own pale and ashen face. 

Before he could fall to the ground the man in black grabbed him and steadied him on his feet.

“Happy now?” the man asked. Robbie sensed an empathetic sarcasm, if that was even a thing, in the man’s words.

“No. Not at all. I don’t want to be dead. I still had things to do, places to go, people to meet.” 

“Your plan. Not His. I’m here to keep you on His schedule.”

“You’re . . .”

“Yes.” The man replied, before Robbie could utter anything else. “I am. Death. Let’s say we take a little walk. Now that you’re on this side of the veil I can let you in on a few secrets.”

Robbie was still stunned. He had no idea how to answer. The man gently grabbed his arm and turned him back the way he had come from, starting to walk them slowly down the street.

“You’re sure I’m . . .“

“Yes. I’m sure.” 

“And there’s no going back?”

“Not unless the Crow says you can and he brings you back. But that’s under very extreme circumstances and it’s only borrowed time anyway. A long and much different story.”

“Well, tell me about it then. Seems like I’ve got the time now.” Robbie said, his voice trailing off as they walked into the darkness. Yet Robbie wasn’t afraid. He just kept putting one foot in front of the other, the two of them slowly disappearing in the glow of the pale streetlights.

October 29, 2019 17:46

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2 comments

David Morrison
02:01 Nov 07, 2019

Great story! It kinda had a Twilight Zone feel to it, I felt like I was watching it in black and white. Well written!

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Timothy Gabriel
23:04 Nov 07, 2019

Thank you!!! I appreciate the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it!!

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