So this is what the end of the world looks like. A shabby edifice with the grim reaper in broken neon holding a pint glass aloft. His brooding presence throws random puddles of dingy red light on to the deserted car park. The exterior looks like the abode of the damned but I care little. After what I’ve just been through I need a drink.
I was enjoying a nice drive in the country listening to my favourite tunes when some silly bitch in a mud-splattered Dodge Journey speeds round a blind bend and takes me by complete surprise.
I snapped the steering wheel to the left, slamming my foot on the break but I couldn’t avoid clipping the beast of a car, sending me skidding and crashing into a tree, the bonnet of my 106 crumpling like paper. Some ignoramus had run me off the road somewhere between nowhere and going nowhere. If we ever cross swords I’ll kill her.
With my car wrapped around the tree like a koala it was a miracle I was still able to walk. A miracle my sanctuary smelt of cheap ale and scampi fries. I stumble towards the entrance, a searing pain cutting through my arm as if it’s just been fed into a paper shredder. It’s badly bruised, blackening by the minute. I really need that drink.
Inside, a lack of custom is hardly surprising with Coldplay on the jukebox. A girl barely out of her teens sits alone, her table littered with empty bottles and an overcrowded ashtray. I watch her from afar. She has an unnerving innocence about her, her body slim, almost waif-like, with a bosom defying logic; the embodiment of every mans dreams. Just what I was looking for.
There’s no need to rush things. The only competition comes from the barman and he looks just as forlorn as she does. This sorry excuse for a pub lives up to its name alright, so I make my way to the bar and order a pint. To say it tastes good is an understatement. The second tastes even better.
It’s not until halfway through my third pint of Dutch courage when Dawn drifts over to me. I wasn’t playing hard to get. I haven’t spoken to a woman in ages.
I’m a mess of a man, unkempt, the ring on my finger Frodo-like, turning me invisible for the last ten years. I probably stink of cheap booze seeing as the same shirt has graced my back three days running. It isn’t a record. There is only so much blame I can pin on my ex.
Besides, I was finally a free man, tonight was supposed to be a celebration. The previous five hours had been just that. What better way to kill the fatted calf than to do it with this fine woman shadowing me like a re-homed greyhound. Her seductive scent was stimulating parts I’d forgotten existed. Play it cool, I told myself.
“It’s quiet tonight.” She says, gazing down at me through large trusting eyes. Her hand snaps forward, pulling a chair out from underneath the table, joining me.
“Yeah, it’s pretty dead, alright.” I reply. She smiles, brushing her arm against mine. My heart starts pounding. “Can I get you another?” she asks. I figure that this is too easy. I’m old enough to be her father and she’s drunk. I can’t believe my luck. “Thank you.” I reply.
Her voice is touched by a sadness I really don’t want to get into. Whilst I pity the bloke that ditched this fine woman I can’t help but thank him at the same time. He must have had his reasons but I was looking for confirmation I wasn’t over the hill, so I plaster a smile on my face and hope for the best.
We drink, smoke and talk. Well, I smoked, drank and listened. I wanted to go somewhere more private but she kept talking. She told me about her plans for the future – something about a teaching degree. I can’t quite remember because I wasn’t really listening.
All she kept banging on about was how everything was ruined and nothing would ever be the same again. Maybe she didn’t want to feel wanted at all. Maybe I had been out of the game too long and couldn’t read the signs.
“You’re gorgeous.” I remark, foolishly. All that Richard Curtis claptrap Barbara forced me to watch had taken its toll. Dawn glares at me.
“Just kidding,” I say, trying to claw back some self-respect. "What are you running from?" I ask. Nothing. I shift awkwardly on my stool, rubbing my sweaty hands along my thighs, when a bottle of beer flies at my head. It’s too big, too quick and too fast, my reflexes too comatose to stop the missile exploding on my face.
Dawn buries her head deep into the table in front of me. I can’t believe it. In all my years of marriage not even Barbara had lobbed a bottle of beer at my head. Now was definitely a good time to leave. I stagger from my stool, glancing across at the barman with a hint of embarrassment.
I feel a tap on my back. I spin around, feeling a viscous pain at my throat. That was no love bite. Snarling at me, Dawn now resembled Boris Karloff in drag; a hate-filled, flesh-flying, disembowelled cannibalistic dead thing. She hesitates, a vacant and unsuspecting face awakened from death by the return of something I really didn’t want to know about. I came here for a drink and a bite to eat not the other way around.
A bell signifies last orders. I turn to see the mutated barman ring that bell like his lack of life depended on it. His arm falls off. I spin back to the girl. She’s on the table, teeth readily sharpened, blood dripping from her imperfect teeth. My blood. I have to get out of there but there’s no way out. The door refuses to budge, the windows refuse to smash. I’m trapped.
Dawn has decided to eat me out instead.
I awake in the best shape of my life. Then I peer out the window and see my ransacked 106 wrapped around the tree, a body being shunted into an ambulance. My body. My eyes stretch further, tyre tracks leading into a ditch where another vehicle is. I failed to dodge the Dodge Journey and now its journey was over. Another body escorted from the wreckage. A woman, the driver… Dawn.
“They found a bottle of whisky by his feet.” said the paramedic.
Some celebration. The barman greets me with a wry smile. Perched on a stool is a mournful Dawn, a nasty head wound hiding her fragile beauty.
If we ever cross swords I’ll kill her.