Last night was a trip; heâ€™s never had a hangover this bad. There are gaps, blank spaces from the night past of which memories refuse to form. There are bits and pieces, but thatâ€™s all. The phone rings. And rings. And rings. He wants to ignore it. Call back later, he tries to will his tormentor.
It doesnâ€™t work.
He lifts it and thereâ€™s no name. No caller ID. It says unknown. He figures he shouldnâ€™t. He knows he ought not to. Mama said donâ€™t talk to strangers. Maybe the caller can fill in the blanks. Shed some light on his activities nocturnal.
â€œQuite the party animal, eh Michaelâ€
He doesnâ€™t recognize the voice. And why is he calling him Michael.
â€œYou donâ€™t have to say a word. I know what its like. You may want to cut down some, drive slowâ€
The caller goes on, punctuating the last remark with a laugh.
He wants to say something, ask a few questions, but he worries that if he opens his mouth he may hurl. He keeps it shut. Waiting.
â€œPretty insane the way you two were all over each other. Like some starved animals. Were you starved Michael. Of course you were. Iâ€™ve been starved too. . . Famished.â€
The voice starts to register. Slowly.
â€œSo where did you end up? Bet you went to her place. You tend to lose the keys to your apartment when you get that way.â€
It couldnâ€™t be. It had been a while. They said he had gone away.
â€œYou still careless, huh? Still messy?â€
That he wouldnâ€™t come back.
â€œQuite the sloth, eh?â€
He sees the clothes strewn on the floor. His….and then another set.
The voice on the phone is a distant murmur as he realizes he is not in bed by himself.
He turns his head. It hurts. Then he sees a flash of skin.
â€œDid you at least consider your safety, you arse! Or was the hunger so strong?â€
He looks at the cabinet next to the bed. Thereâ€™s a pack of condoms. Sealed.
â€œI didnâ€™t think you would, thatâ€™s why I slipped you some protection. You were too far gone to offer me so much as a thank you.â€
He feels beads of sweat form. One leaves the group and glides, a solitary glide, down the side of his face.
â€œYou ungrateful bastard. Some form of acknowledgement would have sufficedâ€
It canâ€™t be. They said he was cured.
The body next to his stirs. She strokes him.
Who is she?
â€œI gotta compliment you on our taste though. They donâ€™t come finer than that, do they?â€
He notices a used condom on the floor. Prays it was his.
â€œHey Michael, are you still there? I bet you are, youâ€™re not going anywhereâ€
Michael? That name! Only one person called him that, but the people in white coats said heâ€™d gone away. That he was free.
He shuts his eyes. Willing the call to end. The voice to go away.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t expect you to believe everything you hear. You know better. I never really left.â€
â€œIâ€™ve been waiting.â€
He was there the whole damn time.
â€œShe looks pretty doesnâ€™t she. Jus’ like old times again, eh? I tag â€˜em, you shag em.â€
His mind was no longer his. It was like old times. No free will.
â€œNow get up. We have work to do. . .â€
He opens his eyes. He sees the phone on the floor. It was a dream.
He feels a wave of relief.
Then he sees them. The clothes on the floor.
Fear comes rushing back. It engulfs him.
Surely it was all a dream. It wasnâ€™t real.
Thereâ€™s a stir beside him. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flash of skin.
Then the phone rings. No Caller ID.