Empty beer bottles, fifteen of them including the bottle on its side, rest on the black table. Shards of clear glass litter the center. It looks like the aftermath of a gang fight between bottles, the victim smashed to death. Probably some national light beer trying to dance with the tough local microbrews. Roseland is home to some of the toughest ale in the country.
On a sofa, a clothing pile shifts. Beside the sofa, a sweatshirt covers the lamp shading the room except for the far corner where cobwebs darken the wall. More clothes form a pile between the lamp and sofa. A trail of clothing—enough for three people—leads from the sofa across the carpet onto the tile of the kitchen area. A lacy black bra hangs from the handle of the refrigerator. Back against the stove, a woman wearing only lacy black bottoms rests in a fetal position, arm over knees and face pressed into a puddle of vomit. The apartment unit smells like alcohol, sex, and an overused toilet after weeks of neglect.
“Hey, man.” Clothing flops off the sofa, and a shirtless young man sits up. His blond hair stands up, spikes pointed in every direction. He glances around, his pupils growing large and shrinking again. He grimaces at the shaded lamp. “Some party, eh?”
This is the aftermath of a brutal orgy of overindulgence.
“What’s your name?” The shirtless man holds his hand up. “No, don’t tell me. I’ve got it.” He snaps his finger. “Roger. No wait. Steve.”
“Yes.” Steve sounds right. A hand on the table edge, he shifts around looking the kitchen over. Pizza boxes cover the stove. He looks down at the woman on the floor growing concerned about her health. “Okay. I’m Steve. Who the hell are you?”
The shirtless man makes a popping noise that sounds almost like a laugh. Flopping back, he lays on the sofa and rubs his face. “Torx.”
Standing, Steve pushes the chair under the table. Looking down, he finds black slacks and a white buttoned shirt. His clothes are spotless and free of wrinkles. Even the creases in his slacks appear sharp. His shiny leather shoe steps on a sliver of pizza crust.
Torx releases more popping sounds. “You know it was a great party when most of it is a haze.”
Steve glances over at the woman on the floor. She appears no older than nineteen. Her shifting body tells him she is alive. “I don’t remember anything.”
“Good stuff, eh?” Torx sits up and shakes his head. He laughs, popping like firecrackers.
“I feel fine.” No headache. No grogginess. He feels like a bear after a winter nap, or a newborn baby with enough energy to cry for days. There is no memory of a party or anything else. “I just don’t remember anything at all.”
Torx bats a hand at the air.
Steve looks at the beer bottle gang fight on the table. He scans the kitchen, the floor finding more beer bottles, and the coffee table covered with more pizza boxes. No drug paraphernalia. No needles, no bongs, not even a cigarette occupies the flat. Kneeling, he lifts the young woman up into a seated position.
Dark mascara drains from her closed eyes. She groans and waves her hands at the air. Her breath smells like beer and vomit. Dried pizza sauce speckles her breasts. Steve turns her arms around searching for needle marks. Patches of freckles on her upper arms disturb the serenity of her pale flesh. Her nose appears clean.
“No drugs here.” Spotting a red dot on her neck, he pulls her hair aside and turns her head the other way. The puncture wound is under her chin in the soft place beside the throat. The wound appears too large for a needle.
“Come on,” says Torx. He slaps his arm. “I’ve got a big fresh mark on my arm. Julio delivered.”
“Where’s the needle?” Steve looks around finding the room darkening. The rumbling fridge falls silent. Toilet smells fade. The air is not fresh. It is as if his nose stopped working along with his ears.
Ghostly forms appear, people moving about the apartment. Fully clothed and holding a beer bottle, the young woman dances in the kitchen. She is an apparition moving her hips in circles. The ghost takes a gulp from the bottle. Two ghosts—men—sit at the table. One watches the young woman, nodding his head and grinning in the lustful way young men do. The other ghost opens a beer bottle, the pale cap bouncing silently onto the floor. Two other ghosts are in the living area. A female dances on the coffee table, lifting her shirt up, exposing her breasts. She throws her shirt down, and the other ghost, Torx, laughs silently.
Another ghost leans against the door. He watches the others, head rolling against the door as his gaze moves from one ghost to another. He appears like a leather-clad rockstar with long dark hair and pale skin. His gaze pauses on Steve, makes eye contact, and drops to the table. Between two brown beer bottles, six capped vials stand within a wire tray. A white cloud floats in the clear liquid.
Sounds come crashing back, and a wave of pungent odors attacks.
The ghosts are gone leaving Steve holding the young woman in his arms.
A voice booms within the apartment. “What are you? A cop?”
Lifting the young woman, Steve climbs to his feet. His gaze sweeps the table. There appears to be too much broken glass for six vials.
“Look at you with your spiffy clothes.” Torx rises from the pile of clothes standing naked. “And your buzzed cop hair. Who the hell let your old ass in here anyway?” He swipes at the air. “Was it Sabrina? Get out of here and take that slut with you!”
Hand around Sabrina’s waist, Steve holds her limp body against him. Her feet slip and stumble, nearly walking, around the table. Torx shouts terrible words as he marches around the other side of the table. Shoving the chair aside, Steve pulls Sabrina towards the exit.