You hesitate as you bend to pick up the post. A colourful leaflet mixed in with all the other junk mail stands out – beckons you. When you hold it in your hands a momentary flash of a woman’s face hits the back of your retinas. What the hell? You have no recollection of her, but her cobalt blue eyes stare into yours.
Just for a moment, then she’s gone.
You read the leaflet:
Speed Date Night
Since Cheryl left you stranded at the altar, you’ve struggled to hold a meaningful conversation with any women, let alone trust one again. But you miss the intimacy.
You know you want to go, whispers across your shoulders. Maybe you will. It cuts out the approach-and-chat-up scenario – to a degree. A skill you’d lost long ago. Cheryl was supposed to be the one.
The Dark Horse
Friday Night @ 7pm
Don’t be late.
What do you have to lose? Your dignity for one. Not for the first time. You don’t care. You want to do this.
The atmosphere in the newly refurbished pub has a peculiar vibe. It startles the hairs on your arms to life. Tingling transforms your nape to a sizzle of ignited flesh – good job the lighting is feeble. You don’t want to set the place on fire.
The main bar resembles a medieval tavern. Long pew-like benches. Distressed oak tables adorned with frugal candle stubs. A faint pungent odour reminiscent of the men’s urinals pushes through the air. Nice – not.
You’ve never been to a speed date night, but you have read about them. The set up didn’t seem to follow the usual pattern. The men were seated, not the women. Nothing wrong with originality. You cross to the bar. There are tankards of ale for the men. Glasses of wine for the women.
The barman offers you one. ‘First drink’s on the house.’
Another bloke, the organiser you’re guessing, pins the number seven on your chest. ‘Sit anywhere, bud.’
Taking your beer, you join the others. Five tables await, each allowing just enough privacy for two participating couples. The women sit on plush sofas, sipping wine, playing with their hair. A few stare, tongues not quite hanging out.
Then you see her, standing alone. Relaxed. Declining to perform. Dark hair reaches her waist, skinny jeans reach strappy heels. The back lighting accentuates well-rounded curves while hiding the colour of her eyes. You imagine them blue, gazing into yours. You realise you’re thinking about this morning – the flash of azure irises. Nah. It can’t be.
A bell sounds.
‘You have five minutes to make an impression, ladies and gentlemen. Good luck,’ the organiser bloke says. The bell rings again.
The women carry numbered cards. She’s holding the number seven. Must be an omen.
Your first drive-by is number three. You take a gulp of beer. It spills over your chin. Wiping a hand across your mouth, you glimpse her unimpressed glare.
‘So, what do you do?’ she asks. Caked, black mascaraed eyelashes twitch. She rakes back dyed blonde hair with purple fingernails and squeezes her thin ruby-red lips together – the way Cheryl did when applying lipstick.
‘I’m in-between jobs at the moment.’ Best not to give too much away. She doesn’t need to know you’re a struggling musician, working in a restaurant kitchen so you can pay for food and lodgings. You barely get by. There’s nothing you can offer the women here tonight.
With Cheryl it was different. You had confidence. Dreams. Opportunity.
‘Hmm,’ Ruby Lips hums.
Three hundred seconds is a long time. You offer a smile. Her gaze strays to the man sharing your table. Salt and pepper hair. ‘Debonair,’ your mum would say. He wins.
‘Can you smell that?’ you ask her. It’s worse. Lodged in your nostrils like cat’s piss.
She looks at you as if you’re bat-shit crazy.
The bell dings. She stands, moves on to Debonair Man.
Fifteen minutes pass and you’ve hardly said a word. If the boredom doesn’t kill you the stink will. Are you the only one who can smell it? Your nose is throbbing like a cess pit.
‘So, I’ve been watching you.’ Number seven plants her shapely arse.
You stare, perhaps for too long, trying to remember the woman’s face from this morning, but the smell is playing with your focus. It wafts stronger. You hope she doesn’t think it’s you. ‘I’ve been watching you, too.’ Your confident reveal doesn’t sound so confident.
She leans across, picks up your beer. Takes a sip. Licks her lips. ‘Wanna get out of here?’
A blast of an abattoir washes over you. Crikey. Anything to escape the stench will be good. ‘Isn’t that against the rules?’
‘Do you care?’
She strokes your hand. ‘Come on, then.’
Outside, you’re laughing at the colourful language following you through the door.
‘Wankers.’ She gives back some of her own.
Your hands come together as if forged for one another. The skin of her palm is soft, silky. It teases yours. The sensation journeys to your groin. Her seductive blue eyes meet with your approval.
‘So, where to, big boy?’
Is it that noticeable? You feel the heat travel your spine, reignite your nape, flush your face and finish at the top of your head. Nirvana – except for the smell of rotting flesh.
‘Where do you want to go?’
‘My place?’ Her hand settles on the bulge in your jeans. Your cock wants to feel the smooth skin slide over it – and more besides.
‘Sounds like Heaven.’
She leads you along the empty street into an unlit alleyway. The embodiment of excrement is now the air you breathe.
‘This can’t be where you live.’ Alarm bells peal inside your head.
‘I live everywhere.’ Her voice is deeper, hoarser. Not the feminine, husky sound that teased you earlier.
You can’t see a thing. The smell is so much more than scent alone. Inhuman. Hell, not Heaven. Cloying and oppressive, filling your mouth and throat, burning your lungs. You can’t breathe. You gag. Vomit. Spit. All the time searching for oxygen that isn’t there.
Thrusting yourself outwards, you hit something solid. Something immovable. It closes in, severs all sensation, except for the searing pain that stabs your abdomen. A thick, sticky substance leaks out, coats your shirt, your hands. Your organs are on fire, engulfed by flames. They travel your spine – all-consuming.
Your skin liquefies, falls from your bones.
‘Welcome to the land of take what you want, guitar man.’
Stillness descends. Calms you. Your head and body reform. Arms and legs. You stand outside a window. Inside, Cheryl lays sleeping.
Your dreams. Your opportunities. Your purpose becomes clear.
Copyright (2020) M J Christie