Broken neon identified it as the End of the World. The grim reaper held a pint glass aloft, throwing random puddles of dingy blue light on to the car park below. I needed a drink. Some bitch had run me off the road somewhere between nowhere and going nowhere. The next time I see her she’s dead.
A bitter wind in my face was almost too much to bear. With my car wrapped around the tree like a koala it was a miracle I was still able to walk. A miracle my sanctuary smelt of cheap ale and scampi fries.
Inside it was hardly Gin Lane. Mother Hubbard would have loved it here, a lack of custom hardly surprising with One Republic playing on the jukebox. A girl barely out of her teens sat alone, her table littered with empty bottles and an overcrowded ashtray. I stopped and stared. She had an unnerving innocence about her, just what I was looking for.
There was no need to rush into things. The only competition came from the barman and he looked just as forlorn as she did. This place lived up to its name alright. I was on my third pint of Dutch courage when Dawn staggered over to me. I hadn’t spoken to a woman in ages.
I was a mess of a man, unkempt, the ring on my finger Frodo-like, turning me invisible for the last ten years. I stank of cheap booze, the same shirt gracing my back three days running. It wasn’t a record. There was only so much blame I could pin on a possessive ex-wife. Besides, I was a free man, tonight was supposed to be a celebration. The previous five hours had been just that. What better way to kill the fatted calf than to do it with this fine woman shadowing me like a re-homed greyhound. Her seductive scent was stimulating parts I’d forgotten existed. Play it cool, I told myself.
“It sure is dead tonight.” She said, gazing down at me through large trusting eyes.
Her hand snapped forward, pulling a chair out from underneath the table, joining me. She squeezed my arm tight. My heart started pounding, my knees doing a Grobbelar. This wasn’t happening. It was too easy. I was old enough to be her father and she was drunk. I couldn’t believe my luck.
“Can I get you another?”
“You better.” she replied, her voice touched by a sadness I really didn’t want to get into. Whilst I pitied the bloke that ditched this fine woman, I couldn’t help but thank him at the same time. I was looking for confirmation I wasn’t quite past it so I plastered a smile on my face and hoped for the best. We drank, smoked and talked, mostly about her and how her life was officially over. I wanted to go somewhere more private but she kept talking. Maybe that was all she ever wanted to do. Maybe she didn’t want to feel wanted at all. Maybe I had been out of the game too long and couldn’t read the signs.
“You’re gorgeous.” I remarked, foolishly. All that Richard Curtis bitch-piss Barbara forced me to watch had taken its toll. Dawn glared at me.
“Just kidding,” I said, trying to claw back some self-respect. I shifted awkwardly on my stool, rubbing my sweaty hands along my thighs. A bottle of Stella flew at my head. It was too big, too quick and too fast, my reflexes too comatose to stop the missile exploding on my face.
Dawn buried her head deep into the table in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. She was more insane than Barbara. Now was definitely a good time to leave. I staggered from my stool, glancing across at the barman out of politeness. He stared back at me. That’s when I saw his face…
I felt a tap on my back. I spun around, feeling a searing pain at my throat. That was no love bite. Snarling at me, Dawn now resembled Boris Karloff in drag; a hate-filled, flesh-flying, disembowelled cannibalistic zombie. She hesitated, a vacant and unsuspecting face awakened from death by the return of something I really didn’t want to know about. I came here for a drink and a bite to eat, not the other way around.
A bell signified last orders. I turned to see the mutated barman ring that bell like his lack of life depended on it. His arm fell off. I spun back to the girl. She was on the table, teeth readily sharpened, my own blood dripping from her imperfect teeth. I had to get out of there. There was no way out. The door refused to budge, the windows refused to smash. I was trapped.
Dawn had decided to eat me out instead.
I awoke in the best shape of my life. Then I peered out the window and saw my ransacked Rover wrapped around the tree, a body being shunted into an ambulance. My body. My eyes stretched further, tyre tracks leading into a ditch where another vehicle was. Another body escorted from the wreckage. A woman. Dawn.
“They found a bottle of whisky by his feet.” said the paramedic.
Some celebration. I glanced back, reaching for the door handle. It refused to open. I suddenly found myself trapped and I wasn’t alone. The barman greeted me with a wry smile. Perched on a stool was a mournful Dawn, a nasty head wound hiding her fragile beauty.
The next time I see her she’s dead.