Mr. Dead lifted his head. His brow was drenched in sweat. He reached for a napkin on the table. He struggled to clasp the paper but his fingers had become stiff from his labor. He clumsily wiped his forehead as he glanced my way. The napkin fell on a pile long accumulating next to his putrid foot.
I stared at the dubious shadows cast on his face. Dead had the smell of uncertainty but today it was making me sick. He had measured and sealed his last package. I shoved a cigarette in my mouth and quickly put a flame to it.
Dead rose and walked to a dusty corner where a briefcase lay. The black leather case had two golden locks that he fumbled with before they flung open. I sat on a cold metal chair and paid close attention as he meticulously filled the briefcase. One after the other the alchemist lay his handiwork gently. I had seen my mother tediously laying my brother to sleep in similar fashion.
The last package was in and he shut the case. He signaled to me and I rose to my feet. Reaching over his head he pulled on the dangling string and turned off the light.
In the living room we opened a bottle of wine. It was a merlot cabernet blend. It didn’t matter what they blended it with, wine was always sour and never had the punch I enjoyed from a good whiskey (or a bad one for that matter). I quickly put down two glasses before my guide had even tasted his. He paced around the room. I could see him running through a checklist in his head. He stopped in front of me and squared his shoulders. His granite expression quickly produced a grin. Entranced with relief he let out a boisterous clap.
“All right!” He belched.
He sputtered a faint chuckle. His faced struggled to produce a smile. His cheeks stretched and his lips contorted. I laughed at him but he didn’t know the difference.
“Well Dead. What’s the deal? What’s next?”
His hand dipped behind a painting hanging by the door. It pulled out a folded piece of paper. I accepted it from his claw and looked it over.
“What is this? An itinerary?” It was clear but I felt I should let him unfold his grand scheme.
“That my friend is the culmination of five years of planning. As the world’s greatest scientist it is my duty to enlighten the world with my findings.”
“Your findings being the dope in your bag.”
His grin opened up and his teeth flared angrily. His nostrils opened wide enough for me to see a fire deep inside. Furiously he snapped back,
“That is not Dope! That Mister X is single serving hope. What I have created shall serve as enlightenment for those brave enough to taste the sweet nectar of sin.”
He paused briefly to start a cigarette then continued his doctrine.
“Mister X, have you been doing your homework? Do you walk this world blindfolded? No! I think you walk in defiance of the truth. This world needs an escape and I shall provide them the means. What I have designed is not any corner crack. It is pure unadulterated bliss. There is a demand that must be met and I will supply it.”
“You hope to quench man’s desires by producing yet another thirst. I fail to see any logic behind that.”
“Never mind logic X. I am not here to provide answers to these people. I will placate them and they shall reward me as they see fit. People find answers in anything. What makes your answers more correct than mine.”
“Man should be allowed to make his mistakes and learn from them. Only in that manner will they improve themselves.”
“Bullshit. Man is an emotional animal incapable of reason.”
“You’re wrong. You were once a man. Did you never have hope burn freely in your spirit?”
“Hope is an illusion. You don’t have to agree with my resolve, but you will accompany me and I will show you what your reasonable man is capable of.”
He had all the fervors of a living beast, anger, disgust and above all fear. Fear trembled from him in waves. His limbs wailed in discord and his voice shook with uncertainty; Dead cowered at the thought of being proven wrong. He stepped forward and seized the bottle from my hand. In one gulp he finished the half empty bottle of wine.
“We leave in half an hour. Do what you have to but be ready. Don’t bother me until then.”
He dropped his cigarette on the floor and stomped his heavy foot on top. I watched as he stumbled into the next room. Then there was a lot of crashing sounds. Doors slammed. Glass broke. Shouts ominously pierced the air. I pulled a whiskey flask from my jacket and got to work on it.