Preview Sleep Tight, now!
A haze of morning light trickled in through the thin slat of green floral-print curtains. The stench of body odor and bleach filled my nostrils. I reflexively scrunched my nose.
I sat up slowly, as the pounding in my head overwhelmed my whole body. My eyelids fluttered as they adjusted to the sunrise-glow that illuminated the room. I rested one hand on the stiff, red carpet and leaned up.
Except… the carpet wasn’t red.
I wasn’t in any room that I recognized. There was a full-size bed covered in green, floral quilts next to me. The print on the comforter coordinated with the curtains over the two windows in the front of the room. There was a linoleum desk with a wicker chair pulled up next to it beside the bed. A black, landline telephone rested on it.
I reclined on the hard ground. Beneath me was an old carpet, flattened by years without a proper vacuum. It was an off-white in most places, but around me, it was a bloody, deep red...
I examined my body for the source of the blood. I ran my hands over my barrel chest and round stomach. Nothing hurt. I stood slowly and looked up and down at my stocky legs. No sight of blood.
As I stood I noticed a mirror on the far side of the room next to a door that I assumed led to a bathroom. I carefully walked over to it to take a glimpse at my face.
I peered at myself closely in the reflective glass. My brown eyes were bloodshot and had deep circles beneath them that stood out like sore thumbs against my otherwise pale skin—not unusual. I had a small bruise on my right temple, but no blood—not usual, unless I’d gotten drunk enough to pass out while walking. I’d done it before...
I reached for my eyes to wipe away the morning discharge from their corners. A sting of pain shot up my right arm as it moved.
“Ah,” I gasped. I grabbed it with my left hand and held the spot that ached. I removed my hand from the sore and noticed dark, inky blood pool onto my gray shirtsleeve.
But, all the blood couldn’t have been from me, I knew. The carpet was completely saturated with gore. I only had a slight slash in my arm, that seemed to just now produce blood.
I turned around and took another glance at the space. The gray, metal front door of the room was locked. The bed was still neatly made.
I turned toward the smaller, wooden door next to me and decided to take a peek. I slowly crept over to it. I prayed with each step that I wouldn’t find the source of the blood behind it.
I reached the door and grabbed onto the cold, silver knob. I turned it cautiously and pressed my significant body weight into it. It creaked open just wide enough for me to slip my face inside and peek around.
The stink overwhelmed me instantly, and raw vomit snuck up my throat. I dared to open my eyes and take in the crime scene.
A man’s body lay face down, slashed in the bathtub. His back was covered in knife gashes. His arms were sprawled to the side, and red blood dripped off of his fingertips onto the white tile below him. Blood pooled around his down-turned face.
I fell to my knees and hugged them tightly to my chest. I stuck my head between my legs, but it was no use. The dizziness overwhelmed me.
A massive nauseous wave came over me, and I sat up quickly. The upright motion upset the bile that welled up in my throat even more. I got to my feet and ran to the toilet next to the tub. I violently retched beside the dead body.
I couldn’t think straight enough to do anything but lay there afterward. I wiped my face on the back of my hand and yellow gunk strung across my skin.
I closed my eyes and tried to regain my strength. I needed to sober-up enough to decide what to do.
But not too sober...
I rolled my head to the side to observe the man again.
His back was covered in splotches of gore. His shirt had knife slashes all over.
I stood up from where I laid on the floor, and the truth snuck into my oblivious brain.
I was in some kind of motel room I didn’t remember coming to. I was only accompanied by a dead guy—clearly the victim of multiple stab wounds.
Worst of all...I had no recollection of how I got there, or what had happened at all the night before.
I had been drunk the night before. I always was. But I couldn’t remember anything past getting to my usual bar.
What have I done…
Without another thought I grabbed off a blue towel from a rack next to the tub in the bathroom. I wiped down every surface that I laid hands on—the door, toilet, and sink—hoping I had removed any traces of fingerprints. I had no way of knowing where my hands had been when I was drunk before I passed out.
I exited the bathroom and did the same all over the bedroom. I ran the old towel over any eligible surface.
I stopped and flung the towel, and my morals, to the back wall. I patted down the sides of my work-stained, blood-starched jeans to check for my wallet and keys. My hands ran over the appropriate lumps in my pockets.
I quickly exited the room and found myself in a motel parking lot. The building was a U-shape of rooms with parking spaces in the middle.
I scanned the parking lot for my gray, 1985, Ford F-150. It wasn’t hard to find, as there were only a handful of vehicles in the lot.
I wiped a bead of sweat from my face as the Kentucky heat blasted me. I jogged over to my truck at the corner of the parking lot.
I grabbed my keys out of my pocket. Jamming them into the keyhole, I yanked on the door handle. The door groaned open, and I hopped inside. I stuck the key into the ignition, pushed the gear into reverse, and backed out of my spot.
I wheeled out of the parking lot, and prayed for the first time in five years.
“God, please help get me out of this one…”
I stumbled up the steps of my home at nine o’clock in the morning. I unlocked the creaky front door to my house. Since I couldn’t even afford my rent, I wasn’t going to bother to fix the door.
I traded my keys and wallet for the bottle of Jack on the laminate side table in the entrance. I laughed a little to myself at the sorry excuse of a life I lived.
I didn’t even bother pouring myself a glass anymore. I unscrewed the black cap and tipped the bottle back into my mouth. The booze burned down my throat, but it numbed the pain of confusion I felt inside.
A beep, beep came from the kitchen—the answering machine. I had a new message.
I moseyed my way through the trashed living room. Empty bottles rolled all over the scraped up hardwood floors. Used paper plates and napkins littered the coffee table and old leather recliner.
I reached the dark kitchen and was instantly taken aback by the smell. I must have left some food out.
I wondered whether that bloody body had started to smell.
Pushing past the stink, I headed around the old, white refrigerator to the landline that rested on the green, laminate countertop.
Beep! The answering machine chimed again.
I reached over and hit the round “play” button on the machine.
“You have one new message…” It reported.
“Roy!” My boss’s southern accent yelled at me. “Where are ya’? Ah swear, man, if ya’ don’t show up today again then yer fired again! Ya’ better be here soon!”
I chuckled and slammed my index finger into the “delete” button. I tipped back the bottle in my other fist and guzzled another couple swigs.
I slowly made my way back to the living room. I kicked off my brown, leather boots. They made a thud, thud as they fell to the busted floor. Flecks of dried blood fell to the hardwood beneath them.
I tiptoed back to my bedroom and stripped off my gory work clothes. My white t-shirt was covered in red stains. My jeans were completely trashed.
I threw the clothes on the ground and floundered clumsily to the closet. I strung aside the gray curtain in the doorframe and reached into the small, dark space. I pulled out a fresh, or at least fresher, hoodie and sweatpants.
I stuck my head and arms into the hoodie and stepped into the pants, one leg at a time. I lost my footing and tripped into my metal bed frame—falling to my knees. I shook it off and shuddered. Standing back to my feet, I took another drink.
The buzz got to my head, and exhaustion set in. I looked back over my shoulder at the bloody clothes on my floor.
I’ll get to them soon, I thought. For now, I need to rest.
I headed back into the living room. I flopped onto my recliner and reached over the side of it. Grabbing onto the handle, I pulled it back to make the footrest pop up. I leaned back comfortably and took another swig.
So, I lost another job—so what? I had been fired about a million times from a million different positions—construction, plumbing, welding, and even a small spell with warehouse stocking. There was always another job just as much as there was another drink.
I was fully aware that I was not invincible...but the drinks clouded that truth. If I was drunk, I could live with any truth. Without the alcohol, I didn’t think I could live at all.
I woke up, God knows how much later. Light still beamed in through the broken blinds on the window in my living room.
My living room…
I sat up abruptly—a little too abruptly, as the motion made my head spin—and gazed around, bewildered at the crime scene before me. Red streaks of blood were smeared all over the space. Swipes of it covered my front door from when I entered. Tracks of it covered the floor from my shoes.
I slowly pushed my heavy self up from the recliner and crossed the room. My feet banged on the hardwood as I went. I reached for the front door and swiped my index finger across the blood. It was dry.
I turned and followed the bloody footprints to the kitchen. The red smears continued all over the green countertops.
I headed to the sink and bent over carefully—grunting as I propped open the cupboard underneath it and grabbed a box of disinfecting wipes. My hands didn’t quite grasp like they needed to. The box tumbled to the ground and made a loud thud. My head throbbed from the sound, indicating a need for another drink.
I picked up the wipes and stood up. I carefully cleaned the stains from the counters, smearing the blood in circles. The wipes were no use but were all I had.
I took a bottle from the nearest shelf, and popped off the golden cap on the Hennessy brandy. I knocked back a few swigs. That would help the headache.
Once I finished in the kitchen, or at least sufficiently smudged blood around, I stumbled with my drink and wipes into the living room.
I wiped up the mess on the front door. The red streaks lightened to a pinkish-tint and spread further around the door.
I turned and sauntered over to throw the blood soaked wipes in the trash can over by the recliner when—
I rammed my foot into one of my boots—must have kicked them off at some point—and sent both the bloodied wipes and the brandy bottle flying through the air. The bottle clinked to the floor, and the wipes splashed more red onto the hardwood.
I rolled my eyes.
I have to mop anyway.
I was more concerned about the brandy, which seemed unharmed. There wasn’t much left in the bottle so none of it had spilled. I reached down and scooped the bottle back up. I took a big swig and let the burning sensation glide down my throat. Then I leaned back down and picked up the scattered wipes.
I headed to the kitchen and tossed the wipes in the white trash bag kept in the corner. I headed to the back kitchen closet where I kept my mop.
It had been a long time since I’d bothered to use a mop—didn’t have much need for a clean home, as it was just me who lived here, and if I was home, I was drunk. I never expected I would need to clean up this much blood…
I pulled out the old wooden mop, and walked it over to the sink. I ran some warm water over it and couldn’t for the life of me remember how to properly mop up hardwood. I was sure there was probably a better method to the madness, but this would do for now.
I sloppily dropped the mop onto the floor and swiped it back and forth across the blood smears. At first, all it did was slosh the color around, but eventually it faded a little.
I repeated the process back in the living room, then went back to the bathtub where I could put the mop in the tub to dry.
I entered my room and jumped impulsively at the nasty sight of the blood-soaked clothes I’d dropped on the floor. I cringed and dropped the mop where I stood. I wavered over to the pile and scooped it up, held it out in front of me, and walked it carefully to the living room.
I entered the living room and was careful not to trip over the boots this time. I reached the back corner of the room and slowly dropped to my knees, setting the clothes beside me. I grabbed onto the floorboard that jutted out further upward than the others and pulled it off.
The floorboards were all kinds of messed up, but this one in particular could come all the way off. Beneath it was a hidey-hole that I used to keep things nobody should see. No one would know I had anything down there.
I was about to grab the clothes and throw them into the floor when I saw it.
The photo album.
I had forgotten all about that.
Well...forgotten was a strong notion. It was more like I had been too drunk over the past five years to think about it, which was the goal.
I reached down into the floor and wrapped my hand around the soft, black photo album. I raised it up to my range of sight and studied the dusty book.
The cover was worn on the bottom corners where it had rested. The picture on the front of me and my wife, well late wife, had wrinkled slightly in its casing.
I sat the album on the floor in front of me and looked it over—hesitant to open it. After another long drink of brandy, I felt brave.
I threw open the cover of the book and stared deeply down at the discolored scrapbook paper covered in pictures from our wedding day. Her white dress sparkled even in photographs. She beamed at the camera, and the sinking feeling of grief washed over me.
That smile—the smile I missed so much, the smile that was taken away from me far too soon, the smile that sent me to alcohol—it haunted me.
I flipped quickly through a couple more pages—our first dates, our engagement, the rehearsal dinner, but that was it. There were no photos beyond the wedding because she didn’t even make it through our whole first year of marriage, and I was too drunk after that to put any more pictures of my dead wife into an album.
I slammed the book shut and shoved it back into the hole. I threw the dirty, bloody clothes on top of it and crammed the broken floorboard back in place.
A small, angry sob tried to escape from between my lips, but I shoved it down with more brandy.
I can’t keep doing this…
I attempted to stand and walk back over to the couch where I could pass out peacefully, but the liquor had already taken over and I toppled back to the floor.
This has to stop…
I laid on the floor on my back where I had fallen and stared at the ceiling. Pain shot up my injured arm, and this morning’s events crept back into my cloudy mind.
I might’ve killed someone…
The truth hurt like a thousand jabs to my already completely broken heart. I had no friends left, no family left—that I spoke to anyway—no job, and now, I might have committed murder.
I can’t keep doing this…
I didn’t know much of anything for sure but knew the drinking had to stop.
I took a deep breath and pushed myself up. I stood steadily for a second, proud of my own efforts.
Then I chucked the bottle of Hennessey at the wall and watched the glass and liquid explode against it, washing off smeared blood as it dripped to the floor.
I was just angry enough to not be able to stay put. A good walk to clear the haze in my mind would be helpful. It was late, and I would be walking alone, but no one would bother a man my size at this hour. I had nothing to worry about.
I slipped on my cargo jacket and boots and sauntered out into the nighttime air. The day had been hot and muggy, but the night was chilly and crisp.
I wandered aimlessly through my neighborhood street. No one else was in sight. Not even a car passed me by. I was grateful.
Grass and trees lined the road, with the occasional small house. Each house was mostly like my own, except better kept. I couldn’t say much about my place, but I had to admit I was definitely one of the reasons this area was stereotyped as a bad place to be.
A bright shining light beamed in my face, and I shielded my eyes from the gleam. The light got wider and surrounded me as a small SUV pulled up beside me, real slowly. I lowered my hands from my eyes and looked to the driver.
It was a woman, maybe about my age, with a scraggly red hair. She wore a ball cap backward on her head and rested one hand on the steering wheel and the other braced against the car door. She leaned out the window toward me.
“You all right?” she asked. “You look a little lost.”
I shook my head.
“Not lost,” I muttered.
The young woman nodded. She turned her gaze away from me and toward the road. She sighed.
“Okay then,” she said. “I was just going to offer you a ride if you needed one. You’re walking with a little sway, there.”
She mimicked me by moving side to side in his seat. Now, I was angry.
“You’re one to talk!” I barked back, completely unable to control what came out of my mouth. “You’re the one out driving in the middle of the night. How do I know I could even trust you to get me back home? What’re you even doing out here?”
“Calm down,” she said. “You make a fine point. I’m out visiting a friend. I haven’t heard from him in a few days and just want to check in. I saw you when I turned down this street and simply wanted to make sure you were okay. You look a little…”
She winced and stopped herself before she said too much.
“I’m drunk, okay?” I slurred. “Yes, I’ve been drinking. But I just live up the road a few houses, and I’ll head back there now if it would make you more comfortable.”
“Look, buddy,” she said. “I’m not telling you what to do. I just—”
“I’m going, I’m going,” I said. I turned and waved her off. I stumbled back toward my house, and the SUV drove off slowly. I could tell the woman wanted to be sure I made it back okay, as she wouldn’t turn the corner until I walked onto my porch.
Not only did walking not help, but now I was more embarrassed and ashamed. Sobriety was a goal, or maybe just a dream, but it wasn’t for tonight. I needed to wash this down the only way I knew how.
(End of Preview)