Broken corkscrews pile up in the well-decorated, glass jar besides me. They overspill and jump out the jar, rolling onto the stained carpet. Red stains. Red stains everywhere.
The lit cigarette burns me as it kisses my fingers. I let it go. It can join the corkscrews on the carpet.
Shakily, I try to push myself out of the sofa which sucks me in. As I find my way to my feet, the world spins. A humming in my ears starts chanting a death song and my vision taunts me with a fake reality. My head lolls forward and I’m propelled through different dimensions. I fall through these different worlds and then become stuck, all my muscles frozen stiff before I move again, and I begin falling faster.
Parched lips, dry mouth and heavy breathing; I know this feeling all too well. I’m having a maniac episode.
I look to the empty bottles of wine which are scattered around the room. My fingers find the one closest to me, aching for more wine. To stop the pain. To stop time. I tip the bottle up, mouth wide open like a baby bird desperate for a worm. I can smell the bitter goodness taunting my nose. But no liquid hits my tongue.
Rage fills me. The bottle launches across the room, and into the wall. It shatters, the sound lingering around the room longer than it should. Time has been paused and there’s a continuous break of the glass. I can even see it repetitively hitting the wall, exploding to the floor before hitting the wall again. Time is on a replay.
Desperate to escape this loop, I try to get myself to my feet. Only this time I stumble so tremendously that I fall face first into the wooden table in front of me. The corkscrews fly out everywhere. But I’m back in the present day and time is on it’s best behaviour.
“Fuck.” I sigh as I try to scoop up all the loose memories of bottles of wine. A dark-stained corkscrew rolls across the living room floor. My eyes follow hungrily. Perhaps I could suck the wine out of it?
It rolls towards a foot splayed out on the ground, banging against it then stopping. Through a hazy vision, I tease forward in a crawling position to get a better look. My drunken world appears to stop spinning for a moment as I shuffle closer. It’s a tedious and long task but I finally get close enough to inspect the random foot in my apartment.
A female body, half naked lays on the floor. Her clothes have been ripped from her chest and that nasty orange tan stares up at me. She is curvaceous with her large breasts straining out of the ripped, white t-shirt. Her lashes curl and twist like spider legs on her pale cheeks. They’ll be fake, everything about this woman is fake.
My eyes trail up to the mass of blonde hair which sticks to her head with sweat. The blonde tendrils bathe in red stains on the top of her scalp. Bile rises in my stomach, and I choke on a ruined breath. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to remember what happened.
Time flutters by, not in minutes, but in heart beats and strangled breaths. I focus on trying to remember the past. I’m launched back into it, time hurdling backwards.
The doorbell rings.
A blonde beauty saunters in through the front door, dressed in her seductive police officer uniform. A forced smile and promising eyes take me in. I’m stiff as I watch her quietly. Who is she and why is she here?
“Are you Mr Colby?” Her raspy voice whispers. Her eyes rake me up and down and she seems impressed. Dumbfounded, I nod. I didn’t call for a whore, my evening plans were to pass out on the sofa with a couple bottles of wine.
Uninvited, she saunters around my living room, her eyes fluttering at the state of it. A look of panic crosses her face as she looks at the shithole, I live in. Cracks climb the walls like snakes around a tree, the stench of rotting takeaway food and alcohol harasses her senses and the small amount of furniture I have decays and falls apart. She twists to look at me and offers a small, forced smile.
My voice is hoarse but I’m feeling stable, “Why are you here?”
“It’s a special surprise.” She answers quickly, “Don’t worry about payment. Your friend has already paid me upfront. All you need to do is let me please you.”
“N-no.” The word leaves my lips. I stumble backwards and trip on a bottle of wine but quickly correct myself. She still seems to stride towards me as if it’s all an act.
“It’s okay, Mr Colby. I’ll take real good care of you.” Her Birmingham accent rings around my head. Again, time goes into a loop and her words repeat louder and louder. I throw my hands over my ears and shake my head. Panic races through me; I had to be alone right now. It wasn’t safe for her to be around one of my episodes.
“You need to leave!”
“Not until-” She starts but I back away quickly. Then, time catches up with itself and stills. I pant, feeling silly for my outburst. Perhaps I have some control over time today? The calmness inside me gives me the opportunity to inspect the bottle of wine she holds in her fingers. It’s not my favourite type- it’s cheap and bitter. But it will do for now.
“Can I have?” My voice is smaller than I want it to be, but desperation does that to a man. It makes you weak, an easy target. The smile returns to her lips as if she’s found the secret formula to fulfilling her job. My jaw clenches as she passes it to me.
Satisfied that I have more alcohol, I stalk back towards the small kitchen and grab the bottle opener. I can feel her lingering like a bad smell, clinging to me like a shadow. She doesn’t quite know what to do. I’d imagine she’s never met a man so distant from sex.
“Can I have a glass too?” She requests. Like a wild animal standing over its caught prey, my teeth bare at her. She will not get a single drop of my bottle of wine. It’s my secret recipe for stopping time.
“You can leave now.” I hiss before turning my attention back to the kitchen. My shaky fingers grab a dirty glass from the sink of piling plates and dishes. They must be at least a week old. I sniff. No, two weeks old. I bring the dirty glass to my nose and give it its own sniff test. It’s clean enough.
From behind me, the whore watches as I pour my wine into a glass. She doesn’t leave. The clear liquid ripples at the top of the glass like a puddle on a rainy day. Hungrily, I gulp it down before giving myself a refill.
“There must be a mistake in you coming to this house. Keep the money, just leave.” I say calmly, taking another sip of my wine. Even with the alcohol in my system, my reality starts trembling.
She watches quietly behind me, unaware that I’m slowly slipping from time again. My vision blurs and I fall forward, clutching the side of the kitchen worktop. A horrified gasp leaves my lips.
As usual, time is taunting me. It speeds up, racing into the future. A flicker of blonde curls on my living room floor teases my memory. It then disappears as time circles back into the past. She is walking through my door again. I shake my head and take a deep breath, longing to return to the present.
“It’s not working properly!” A growl passes my lips. I think back to what the therapist said every time time does this: feel your heartbeat and measure time in beats if the minutes are slippery. One hand clutches my full glass of wine and the other jumps to my neck, searching for a pulse. Nothing comes immediately and the rage builds up inside of me.
“Sir, are you okay?” The small woman quizzes. Furiously, I glare up at her. She’s too slow to dodge my pounce. I twist her around and throw my hand to her neck, desperately searching for a pulse. She is here to service me. She can help me regain time.
“Let go! Sir, let go of me pl-” She screams in panic.
“Stop resisting!” I hiss. She bucks and my glass of wine slips from my hands. It smashes on the floor, the delicious white liquid exploding and creating a flood. A red mist dances across my vision and everything becomes cold. The little, orange woman backs away from me, but she won’t get away so easily. I race towards the door, locking it. She screams and tries to back away from me as I stalk towards her.
“You’re crazy!” She cries. I squeeze my eyes shut, time seems to speed up faster and faster. Icy shivers lick my body and I can’t control how fast I tremble in fear and rage. I fall into the future. The orange lady is squirming on my living room floor. I’m on top of her, hands wrapped around her neck. A small voice in my head screams at me to stop, that she must think I’m trying to strangle her. To kill her. Oh no, I’m just searching for a heartbeat. I’ll let her go when time stops fucking with me.
“Please stop resisting. I just need-” I cry out, now back in the past. She stands in front of me, trembling and I’m protecting the door so she can’t escape.
“You’re mad! You’re crazy! Let me go!” She cries out.
I snigger. The whore thinks I’m crazy. That makes two of us.
Then, I’m calm again, the rage seeping away from me; time seems to have stopped jumping around. I scowl, taking a step back from her. Is that it? Have I beaten time?
“Please let me go.” She whimpers, the tears rolling down her cheeks. Those thick black eyelashes clump together, and dark mascara stains the upper lid. I nod numbly, quickly racing for my keys to unlock the door. The poor thing must be frightened.
“I’m sorry-” I start to say but then I catch sight of her. An awful glare plays on her face as she stands there, clutching an empty bottle of wine threateningly. She’s changed. Her tears have evaporated. I frown: is this the past, present or future? It’s hard to tell.
She sprints towards me, holding her weapon. I panic and dodge her, throwing her backwards. Time stutters and suddenly I’m on top of her, hands around her neck like I had just envisioned. Like a madman, I’m desperately searching for a pulse again. I must figure out where I am. She squirms and bucks against me, making the task increasingly difficult.
“Just stay still!” I hiss, grabbing her by her head. Then, I grab the bottle from besides me and slam it into her head. She stills instantly. I take a deep sigh of relief. My fingers can now finally feel her heartbeat in her neck. But there is no pace.
Suddenly, I’m lurched back onto the sofa, cigarette burning my fingers.
Time has started all over again.