Friday, April 25, 2008

The closing circle

The party had been simmering down for a while, and Darren sat alone on the roof of the three and a half story Victorian heritage house. He didn't know the host very well but he had money, that much was sure. He did not look forward to finding his way back home to his ghetto-lite apartment, and instead leaned back against the starkly angled rooftop and drank deeply from a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The JD was a gift to himself, procured from a passed out frat boy he'd met downstairs. His name was Bob, or Dave, or something else equally boring, equally forgettable. Luckily the frat boy had already been wasted when he opened the JD and quickly passed out on a futon, the mostly full bottle hanging limply from his side. Before anyone else noticed Darren snagged his prize, and had been hiding away on the roof ever since.

But the new drink was sitting badly in his stomach on top of a layer of white wine. Darren pressed his hand against his forehead, and waited for the nausea to pass. It did eventually, but that only opened the option to drink further, and again he pressed the warm glass rim to his lips. The bottle bounced painfully off his tooth, and Darren laughed while thick red liquid splashed over his face. The effects of alcohol had always fascinated him. It was amazing how one could be so clear of mind, and so unresponsive in body.

He had started experimenting with alcohol when he was barely a teenager. His parents kept a few bottles of scotch in the basement of their house, probably long forgotten as they rarely drank, and he would sip at them regularly. That first drink tasted terrible, the alcohol burning in his throat, but it was only a minute before he fell forever in love with his sinful new friend. He remembered wandering around the house, giddy with delight over the discovery. Alcohol was good. It was also a fascinating subject of study. The body went through many changes while drinking. At first the alcohol acted as a simple lubricant, wrapping the host in a warm blanket of relaxation and making social interaction easier. Eventually that passes, and as you continue to drink you slow down. You become less aware of your surroundings, the circle of awareness shrinking until you can barely detect someone standing right in front of you. Eventually the circle closes completely, and if you're lucky that is the end of the evening.

Darren became aware that he was quickly approaching this point himself. He had drank a lot of liquor quickly, and it was hitting his system hard. There was really nothing to do but sleep it off, but first he would have one last swig. There was a crash of glass from somewhere below and someone screamed. When he lifted the bottle of JD to his chapped lips, they met only sweaty grime covered fingers. There was a commotion happening down below, and someone was yelling. It was hard to make it out, but he thought he heard his name.

Another side effect that was of particular interest to Darren was how ones vision would slow. He imaged the brain was so intoxicated that it couldn't make sense of all the visual information it was receiving. So instead of a constant visual flow, he instead saw only a series of still images. He could judge how drunk he was by how many images he was able to see per second. The most extreme case that he could remember was around three pictures per second, but this was only moments before passing out so it was hard to be sure.

Darren forced his eyes open against the sting of spilled whiskey. He saw only branches and the mostly full moon hanging weightless in the night sky. He was lying on his back but his body was upright as the angle of the roof was very steep. He sensed a shift in position, and now he could see the tops of houses across the street. He was sliding, he did not know how fast, but he reached out with both hands and feet and pressed hard against the asphalt roof tiles. His hands gripped painfully and he could feel the sensation of skin peeling from his fingertips, but his feet met no resistance at all. This could only mean that he'd reached the edge of the rooftop, and was now dangling above a three and a half story drop. In a panic, he twisted his body and flailed his hands out in a blind attempt to grab at anything that would slow his fall. He was on his front now, his left arm stretched out flat against the roof, pressing down with all his strength. His side was bent painfully around the triangular edge of the rooftop, and his legs dangled uselessly in the air. His vision caught up finally and he could see along the edge of the roof. There was a storm drain beneath his chest, half filled with wet leaves, and he reached out with his free hand to grab it. Too late, he was floating in the air, just out of reach of the storm drain. He could see his mangled hand and claw like fingers in front of him, gasping at nothing.

Next he again saw the moon, mostly obscured this time by a tree trunk and the Victorian house that had quickly risen against the unmoving backdrop. He felt like he too was weightless, floating in the air somewhere between the roof and the ground. It was a powerful sensation, and Darren savored it for every fleeting moment. In this peaceful place, he wondered if this was what he had wanted. He must have known the danger when he deliberately climbed drunk on to a steep rooftop, telling no one as he left, wanting only to be alone. Or was his judgment simply impaired? In either case it was done, and there was nothing left to do but land painfully on the pavement.

But even in this he was mistaken, as the alcohol finally overloaded his system and he slipped into a deep merciful sleep.

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