In pursuit of excitement, not all nights out on the town are going hit that fever pitch you’re looking for. In fact, some end just like they begin, depending on your company. Some people just live on a loop until the circle finally cracks for them.
“Bottom’s up!” hollered Colton Myers as he signaled for the rest of them to down their shots.
The six of them threw their heads back with whiplash gusto, emptying the grain-alcohol contents with a communal macho flair. But Colton kept leaning, nearing ninety degrees, as if he had to prove he got every last possible fume. His antic caused a jutting from their huddle.
“Dude, what are you doing?” said Tony, who would be turning twenty-five at midnight. “You’re like, doing The Limbo!”
“How loooooow can I go?” said Colton, doubling-down into his lean. It would’ve been impressive if it were in a yoga class, but it was a dive-bar and Colton always had to take everything farther than it should go. It was fucking embarrassing.
“Shit, catch him! He’s going to fall!”
The five of them lunged toward him like catching a toddler just learning to walk. But Colton faked them out, throwing his left leg back to catch himself, just like he always did.
“Ha! Got you!” he said. Colton pointing at them, scanning his finger slowly like a sniper. “Who wants another shot? I’m buying!”
Instead of waiting for an answer, he sway-walked over to the bar like wheat in the breeze. He ordered six more, this time tequila. Colton assumed they had followed behind him until the bartender handed the shots over. His solitude dawning, he signaled to their table with a what the fuck hand gesture.
“Man, we’re all just now taking the first sips of our fresh beers!” yelled Tony, shaking his head.
He leaned over to Eli, the newest guy in their circle. “Watch, he’s going to take all those shots himself because we won’t come over there.”
Like clockwork, Colton flipped them a double-bird, then downed all six shots, adding the pageantry of his ninety-degree lean for the last one.
“See, you guys get twomiddle fingers ’cause those were all doubles! Fuck you, I’m out!”
Colton didn’t give a shit they were only on their fifth round of drinks. They still had two long hours until midnight. But despite Tony’s teetering cusp of twenty-five, he and his friends were already acting like Senior Citizens.
“This is fucking embarrassing!”
He exited the Night Owl, maintaining the symmetric balance of both middle fingers over his shoulders as he passed through the threshold.
His shoulder clipped the door guy. “Oh, and fuck you too!” Colton slurred, convinced that the bouncer pushed him. “Look, I’m eighty-sixing myself ’cause you don’t even know how to do your job in time!” The guy giggled at Colton’s incriminating reverse psychology. After watching him try fitting his keys in his car for ten minutes, the bouncer’s giggles graduated to full-belly laughs, prompting others to gawk. Finally, Colton felt the relief of its satisfying insertion, yet was confused why there was a crowd cheering for him outside the bar.
They are cheering because you are Colton and this is your night.
With that, he shoved the key into the ignition.
First fucking try.
He turned the key. He revved the engine. All eyes still on him, their applause rose to juice him up, like his real friends should have been doing.
He hit the gas.
The crowd went wild.
He swerved momentarily, then corrected like a pro, surging his diluted adrenaline. He barreled down that dark country road, a straight shot to the Get Down Lounge.
The black of night swallowed him as the lights behind him faded. The moon now far behind his acceleration, no horizon separated the road from the night sky. The only thing to pop out of the formless obscurity was the rhythm of broken lines in the road to his left – blip, blip, blip they went, to the syncopated-synth beat of “I Ran (So Far Away)” playing on the local oldies station.
But even the pulsing flash of the lines in the road eventually dissolved, replaced by the once towering telephone wires on either side of his wheels.
Colton belonged to the night sky. He had planned on turning up the night, but it turned out the night was turning him up, his frequency of existence morphing into a new vibration. His intoxicated state finally hit him. His mental gears stuck in the euphoria stage, paralyzing him from reacting to this apparent divine escalation.
The lights of the town and cities below him blurred, then reformed, graduating into stars surrounding his windows. He had never seen anything so beautiful. Now in auto-pilot, Colton became awe-struck as he surrendered to space—the emptiness, yet the vast completion of existence.
Soon, a distant line of light came into view. His new horizon rushed in like sustained Midwest lightning, flipping the switch of darkness for an unnerving duration.
“Aurora Borealis comes in view…” sang the song. Though sometimes a listener will get lyrics wrong, other times the lyrics will get the listener wrong; as an eternal day of endless flame took up the view of his windshield. He looked to his left, then his right, making sure it also appeared in his rearview mirror. A peripheral inferno enveloped him like a boiling ocean. He and his car had made contact with this boundary of limitless, licking flame, though there was no collision up here—only a heat-tempered fusing, followed by the elemental burn back into ash. He joined the echoing screams of those sent there before him to eventually return to stardust.
The collision happened back at the Night Owl—first with flesh, then another moving vehicle.
Tony and the other four lay lifeless in the street, tire-trampled by Colton’s own vehicle, now penetrating the side of an unassuming family’s mini-van. While his soul received privileged knowledge of Hell’s entrance in the sky, he’d be unable to prove it with his two stiff middle fingers pointing down, as he laid limp over his driver’s side window.
Gabriel Hart lives in Morongo Valley in California’s High Desert. His debut twin novel of surrealist-noir Virgins In Reverse / The Intrusion (Traveling Shoes Press) was released in 2019, with a foreword by Avant-rockabilly provocateur Tav Falco. His upcoming desert-themed speculative fiction novel Lies of Heaven will be published by Space Cowboy in late 2020. Other works have appeared in Cholla Needles, Luna Arcana, Black Hare Press (Australia), Crime Poetry Weekly, EconoClash Review, and Shotgun Honey. He is a regular contributor to Space Cowboy’s Simultaneous Times podcast, as well as L.A. Record, a Los Angeles underground music publication. Hart also taught the writing workshop for Mil-Tree, a non-profit reach out program for Vets and Active Duty Military to heal the wounds of war.