I slammed the glass down on the wooden table before me. I flicked my wrist at the waitress that was walking by, saying simply, “Another.” She nodded and quickly hurried off toward the bar, her flaxen hair flowing gracefully.
The other barflies around me stared, but I continued to look ahead, a snarl on my face and a fire in my eyes. The glowing firelight from the various lamps throughout the room lighted my face like the sunset. The flames flickered ominously in the shadows throughout the room. The dim lighting was plentiful enough to be able to see, but dark enough to not bestow any cheer.
It was perfect. I took another puff from my wooden pipe, the leaves glowing like embers, before slowly releasing the wispy smoke. The new glass came, and I slid the old one to join the others; a cluster of glasses that I had already drunken from. I took a sip and immediately warmth flowed through my being. The only sort of jubilance I would have this evening, the intoxicating, inebriating liquid providing it.
It was another of those nights. A night where the nightmares emerged and the visions screamed. Forcing more guilt upon me. Relentlessly grabbing ahold of my very soul and never letting go, consuming my being. Haunting me. Devouring the life from me.
And so I drank, drank until the sorrows just floated away. But they never did. As I took another sip from the glass, immediately my mind was thrown into the past; a vision of a previous time, an earlier life.
Then the horrific screams came. There was nothing I could do, nothing at all to rid the shrieking from my mind. I covered my ears with my hands, thrashing wildly, but the cries continued, merciless. Wrapping themselves around my mind as though they were physical objects, tentacles. The other barflies were staring again, thinking me mad. But they had no idea. No clue as to what I was going through, what I went through almost every night.
The images began. First only spurts of blood, flying off from a midpoint in every direction. Then they began to clear, focusing in my mind. I saw a man clearly, kneeling by a post, his back turned to me. Then the whips, ripping into his skin again and again; the source of the blood. The image rotated, and suddenly I saw his face. In all its clarity, explicitness. The face of my best friend. He looked up at me, his eyes burning with rage and pain. They screamed at me, and without him saying a word I knew what he was thinking: “You did this to me.”
A chain hung from his neck, bearing two dogtags; a sign of our brotherhood, of the organization we belonged to. The CIA. And I betrayed him.
I ran a finger across my back, feeling the scars. They had tortured me for weeks, but finally I broke as any man eventually did.
His eyes pierced my heart, and I knew I had failed him. Failed to uphold my honor. I had talked. It didn’t matter that The Black Fist had the most ruthless interrogators – I failed to protect him and my unit.
Finally, the vision released its grip on my mind and I was thrown back into the bar, screaming. The other patrons looked at me worriedly before returning to their merry laughter, just another night out in town. Something I could never have again, not as long as these visions plagued me. I set my glass back down on the table.