Table of Contents
Chapter 1– You are here!
2. From One Drunk to Another
Nick had detoxed before and each time it got a little worse. The shakes were more violent, the sweats wetter, the fevers higher, and the hallucinations more salacious. On the third day of rehab, he awoke to the same blistering hangover he’d been enduring for the duration of his stay. His limbs were angry at him for simply attempting to stand and his brain felt like it had been replaced with poorly made Jell-O. At any moment, a bad twitch would send what remained of his mind spilling out his ears onto the ground. The only solace was group, which meant he was going to see Cass.
Nick had never been one for schoolboy crushes, or really any kind of romantic notion. Occasionally he tried dating, and each time ended worse than the last. According to Sean, that was part of his trauma, whatever that meant. Nick didn’t put much stock in such a notion, but what he did put stock in were Cass’s stories. She talked about death and dismemberment of foul beasts beyond imagine like they were a day at the supermarket. Every aspect of it was brilliant, and it was the single bright spot in Nick’s dark days.
That morning, the sun shone through the slats of his single window with an offensive brilliance. Cursing whatever brain cells had ever driven him to drink, Nick washed his face and headed out to the main room where chairs were already sat in a circle. As with every morning, he grabbed a cup of shitty coffee, drowned it in flavored cream and snagged one of the ‘fresh’ donuts that Sean brought in. Nick suspected they were day-olds, but there was no point in complaining. Ordinarily he would have considered the sugary concoction in his cup a mortal sin, but with coffee that bad, he was doing it a kindness.
“Good to see you still among the land of the living,” said Sean, walking in and grabbing his own cup.
You have no idea how true that is. There were plenty of people among The Land of the Dead waiting for Nick’s return. He wondered how Manchester was fairing in his demonic trials. “Barely,” answered Nick, trying desperately not to engage. A monosyllabic conversation with Sean often turned into more. Something about his easy nature and genuine determination to help broke through even the hardest resolves. Nick detested it.
Sean sat one chair away, gently sipping his coffee.
Nick silently cursed him. That left one possible seat for Cass, and she wasn’t an early riser. Likely, Nick would end up next to another filthy, sweat-stained alcoholic like himself.
“I’m not taking someone’s seat, am I?” Sean raised an eyebrow and smiled like he was actually enjoying the swill in his cup.
He knows. “Saving me from another in a long line of wholly unique unpleasant smells. Be my guest.” Nick couldn’t be sure, but he felt like he had sold it.
Sean regarded him skeptically from behind spectacled eyes. Long lines had formed at the edges, likely from spending so much time pensively staring at people who would rather have been torn in half than share a feeling. “Well, good. I wanted to talk to you before the others get in.”
Nick tensed. Whatever came next, it was going to be bad.
“It’s clear to me that you’re going through your own personal hell, and I want you to know, I’ve been there.”
Nick scoffed involuntarily.
Sean chuckled. “I had a feeling that would be your reaction.”
“No one has been where I’ve been.” And if Sean had, Nick was in more trouble than he previously could have imagined.
“I know, I heard the story about The Land of the Dead. Even without booze, it’s compelling.”
“You should see it at The Haven.”
Sean sucked air through his teeth. “The Haven. Now, that’s been a while.” His eyes went far off for a moment in longing. “But I’m not talking about the Land of the Dead. I’m talking right where you’re sitting, in that chair, sweating out every ounce of God knows what, dying by a minute and begging for something horrible to come and end it quickly. Hell, maybe even slowly.”
A violent chill wracked Nick head to foot and he tried to hide the grimace in his face. He took a sip of shitty coffee and let the warm liquid slide down the back of his throat. The taste was different, but the sensation was the same. Heat spread out in a wave, warming his insides and easing the chill slightly.
“It’s not easy. I know what you’ve done. You’re a legend.”
Nick’s ego took the wheel. “I don’t know about a legend.”
Sean laughed again, soft, easy, playful, but not mean spirited. “Had a feeling that word might rouse something in you. Look, none of this feels good at first. It’s demanding work, but if you want to live, it’s the only path. I’m not saying you have to like it, I’m not saying you have to find salvation, just keep taking one breath after the other and trust in the process.”
There it was. Nick almost found himself agreeing with the man. Sneaky bastard. “Does that mean sharing more in these sessions and active listening?” Despite the intended venom, his tone came out deferential.
“It wouldn’t hurt, but I can tell you what it doesn’t mean.”
“What doesn’t it mean?”
“Swapping stories about murder, betrayal, treachery, and debauchery with your new friend.”
Walls of iron went up around Nick’s mind. “We’re all friends here, Doc. Isn’t that what you said?”
A hint of frustration twitched at the edge of Sean’s face. “Yes, but I think you know that’s not what I meant.”
At that moment, a large woman came bursting through the doors, stark naked, swinging a hand-made lasso made out of bedsheets. “You can’t make me! Back off now, ya hear?”
Nick sat back and smirked. “Duty calls.”
Sean looked toward the barreling mass of nudity and back to Nick for a second. “Think on it.” He turned and put his hands out like someone calming a horse. “Alright, Nadine, we’ve been through this. No one is forcing you to be here. You checked yourself in, remember?”
Nick took a sip of his coffee. Fuck you, Sean.
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