Blame it on the insomnia – that damned inability of mine to sleep through the night. I’ve always been a creature of the hours after midnight. It’s the reason I ended up at The Last Yodel, staring at that damned elf hanging over its doorway.
Insomnia’s been a problem for me ever since I was a kid. While others in the family slept secure in the arms of Morpheus, I’d always awaken two or three times during the night. Finally, I’d throw in the towel and head to the kitchen, make myself a sandwich and then park my butt in front of the TV, watching infomercials until I fell asleep, usually about four a.m.
It’s just how I’m wired, you know?
The only time I ever slept like other people was during my brief marriage to Susan. There’s something about a warm body next to yours that makes you sleep better.
But Susie died… and the insomnia returned, worse than ever. Lots worse.
Once Susie was gone, I returned to my former sleep patterns, which was basically no sleep at all. During the day I was a zombie, living off cigarettes and coffee, trying not to fall asleep at my desk. Damned funny thing: no matter how tired I was during the day, as soon as I reached home and tried to grab a couple of zzzs, I was wide awake.
My shrink blames it on separation anxiety, saying I haven’t come to terms with Susie’s dying, and that’s why I am having trouble sleeping.
Like I need to pay big bucks to some fancy witch doctor with a long title I can’t pronounce just to learn that I’m missing my wife.
Seeing Susie’s empty side of the bed didn’t help with my insomnia, that’s for sure. That’s why I knew I had to get out of the house tonight, get away from that empty bed.
I’m not sure how I ended up on Brighton Rowe. It’s not really my scene. It’s a street with a number of glossy bars and yuppie restaurants, all themed and having silly names like the Glass Rocket, the Cliffhanger and – best of all – the Guilty Lawyer.
The Guilty Lawyer – that’s rich. I mean, seriously, is there any other kind?
Sounds of oompah music drifted my way, and that’s when I noticed The Last Yodel.
It’s a goofy-looking place, a faux Teutonic biergarten. Perched above the doorway is that wooden elf I mentioned, dressed in lederhosen and a Bavarian hunting cap, and holding up a beer stein in welcome.
Dumb. Just the kind of place I usually hate. So what am I doing here?
The insomnia. I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I sure as hell didn’t want to go home and stare at Susie’s side of the bed…
The place was packed with young professionals, talking about IPOs and tax havens, and all of them trying to impress one another with their own importance. Beautiful blondes dressed in skimpy skirts and low-cut peasant blouses were serving steins of beer to loud and thirsty customers.
One of those blondes was behind the bar, and she smiled at me, indicating an empty seat in front of her.
“Hello handsome – anything to interest you?” my new friend asked.
I did a quick survey of her attributes, which were considerable, and I had to admit a lot interested me… but a memory of Susie surfaced and I lost heart.
“I don’t know why I came in here. I don’t even drink,” I admitted. “I had trouble sleeping… ah, shit, this is a mistake.”
I started to get up from the bar, but the pretty fraulein put an unnaturally cool hand atop mine. “There are no mistakes,” she said softly. “You’re at the Last Yodel because something called to you. Accept it… enjoy it for what it is. So, no beer for you?”
“Never developed a taste for it.”
“I bet you’d feel differently about a Bloody Mary. Ever had one? I can go light on the alcohol, and heavy on the tomato juice and tabasco – it’s good for what ails you.” She looked at me appraisingly. “You look unwell,” she said, her voice sympathetic.
“Lady, what ails me, you ain’t got no cure for.”
I didn’t want pity, especially from some dame dressed like she should be serving schnapps to goons at a gathering of the SS faithful. “So, what’s your name? Heidi? Gretchen? Brunhilde?”
She grinned. “You’re not even close. The name is Mary – Mary Flannagan.”
“Flannagan? No shit?”
“T’is Irish, I am,” she said, her voice taking on a fake Gaelic lilt.
“You look like a Heidi,” I said, taking in the blond hair and German outfit.
“It’s a shtick… German bar, German clothes. A fake Heidi for a fake German biergarten. Remember this, my friend, nobody is ever what they seem. First rule of survival: expect the unexpected.”
I was starting to like this girl; the blond pigtails and the low-cut top didn’t hurt…
“So, you want to try a Bloody Mary?”
I nodded. “Yeah – and heavy on the tabasco.”
An hour later, I was still sitting at the bar, finishing up my third Bloody Mary. I didn’t know where pretty Mary Flannagan had gotten to. I lost track of her halfway through my second drink when she was working some guy at the other end of the bar, smiling prettily, flashing that cleavage – and making some damned fine tips, no doubt.
I signaled one of the other girls that I’d have another drink, then slid off the barstool, my bladder telling me it was time to pay a visit to the john. Once I finished washing my hands, it occurred to me I hadn’t had a smoke in over an hour.
Patting the pocket where I stored my cigarettes, I headed out into the night. There was a full moon riding high in the sky, casting a sickly yellow glow onto the streets.
A couple stumbled out of the Last Yodel, and brushed up against me, almost knocking the cigarette out of my hand. The guy leaned the girl up against the wall and began sticking his tongue down her throat. I didn’t need to see that crap, so I walked around the side the building, determined to have my smoke in peace.
I lit up and the cigarette was halfway to my lips when I heard it: a soft, slurping noise, greedy in its intensity.
Must be a feral cat, I thought, enjoying a dumpster treat. I took a drag from the cigarette, relaxing as the nicotine hit my system. I was about to take another when I heard something new… something odd.
That’s no cat, I thought. I dropped the cigarette, crushing the butt beneath my left foot.
I heard it again, the sound of groaning.
It was dark behind the Last Yodel, and the moon’s ghastly yellow was all but snuffed out by the building’s high walls.
The groaning was louder now. It gave me the creeps. I thought about running, going back inside the bar, minding my own business. I mean, who knows, maybe it was an amorous couple getting some action behind the building… maybe that’s what I was hearing. I almost had myself convinced when I heard the slurping sound again, the one I’d heard earlier… the one I thought was coming from an old tom eating out of a dumpster.
They say curiosity can kill a cat, and I guess that’s true. It sure didn’t do me any favors.
Pulling the lighter from my pocket, I flicked it open and held it up, trying to figure out where the noise was coming from.
I’d been right about a garbage dumpster. One was not more than three feet from where I was standing.
The cat? Well, you can’t be right about everything….
Instead of a feline, I saw a man lying on the ground, his hands twitching. A woman leaned over him, her slender arms holding him in place.
In shock, I dropped the lighter. By the time I retrieved it, she was looking at me. The edges of her bright blond pigtails were tinged with red and there was a smear of scarlet across the top of her pale, perfect breasts.
In less than an instant she was at my side, taking away my breath with her speed. I smelled the scent of copper on her breath. It gagged me, and I started to sink to my knees. Her hand shot out and she grabbed me by the throat, pinning me high against the wall of the Last Yodel. Watching my legs dangle, she began to smile.
Yeah, she smiled, exposing two long incisors stained ruby red. Then she asked the question –
“Want to try a bloody Mary?”
Life sure can be funny. You lose one problem, but gain another.
I guess I won’t be worrying so much about insomnia in the future…
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to a challenge to write a tale of indeterminate length based on phrases that are part of this week’s ‘Inspiration Monday’ from the blog, BeKindRewrite. The phrases used are: supersomnia; cliffhanger; the last yodel; guilty lawyer; and glass rocket. Thanks to BeKindRewrite for the inspiration prompts this week!