Chapter One: The Storm and Peter's Brother
Peter looked out the window to see what the weather was like today, though he already knew due to the insistent downpour roar resounding all around the apartment. This was the third day straight of rain. Just another sign of the coming apocalypse.
Peter frowned and set up his coffee maker. He knew he'd need more than just coffee to prepare for the walk, though. It was just too bad that he couldn't even afford a car to get to and from work. The three mile trek to work used to be his fun in the sun. Needless to say, this monsoon of sorts had made that very untrue. He would call someone for a ride to work, but he didn't have a phone and no one would give him a ride even if he could get a hold of them.
Two hours till he had to be clocked-in. Peter grabbed his glass pipe and sat down on the loveseat in the living room. They didn't have a couch or a coffee table, so he laid his large dictionary across his lap and got to work deseeding and de-stemming the small bag he got last night. Three days of storm and a dime was all him and Victor could get after searching for four hours the previous night. If this thing went on much longer, there wouldn't be anything for miles.
Peter swiped the waste from the dictionary to the carpet and then stuffed the bowl and took a tentative hit. He hadn't tasted it yet because he hadn't wanted to waste a buzz by smoking and sleeping last night, and it tasted like shit as expected. He didn't know the guy's name who had gotten it, but he had seen him around before and knew that he was the type of dealer you went to only if you had no one else to go to. This pot had probably been wrapped up in a baggy awaiting a buyer for a month or so and it probably hadn't been too pretty even before that.
Peter let the small hit out. It was putrid, but it didn't burn his throat. He took a much larger second hit and held it in for at least fifty seconds before letting it out in a gasp. Lung capacity wasn't his strong point. If they were smoking in a circle of six people, Victor could take a deeper hit than Peter had just taken and hold it the whole time the pipe was being passed around to everyone else.
That's a talent Peter wished he had. His biggest hits would end all too soon in spurts of spastic coughing and sometimes vomiting.
Usually the rainy days made it worse, but his throat had been relatively fine throughout this three-day downpour that had caused schools, churches, and several stores to shut down everywhere. The scary thing was that this rain was being reported from as far away as Buffalo (ninety miles to the north) and Erie (forty miles to the south). To Peter, who had been waiting for the signs of the Apocalypse since 9/11, this seemed an oddly strange event to coincide with the inauguration of Barack Obama into presidency.
Despite the scoffs and laughs the idea was greeted with by Timmy and Victor, Mike and Peter were paranoid that Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ. Be assured this paranoia in no way implied that they were Christian in any degree. The two of them were agnostics, and the both of them agreed that some dark force was rising to swallow the Earth, whether it was supernatural or not, and their paranoid notion was that Barack Obama was to be the leader of this force, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Peter had smoked the rest of the bowl and ashed it over the carpet. He set it on top of the entertainment center. It was an unfortunate habit of his to leave such illegal paraphernalia where it was right in view the moment you came in the front door. One time they had almost gotten into some serious trouble because of that habit. Luckily, they were saved by how very short Mike was.
Peter suddenly found himself dipping into his old memory well, climbing down deep into the darkness, remembering a near-tragedy that was preceded and succeeded by real tragedies.
Peter had a younger brother named Teague. It was a strange name that had earned him a lot of bullying in school. Most of the bullying came from the fact that Peter intentionally leaked that he had been named Teague because their mother wanted his nickname to be like Winnie the Pooh's friend, Tigger. So Teague was TeagueR throughout school. After Peter graduated high school he moved away from the big city Buffalo, NY to a small town called Jamestown. He left Teague and his mother in Buffalo because him and Mike planned to gradually move south at least a hundred miles at a time over the next decade.
Peter landed a really good job full-time at a factory doing third-shift work. He was getting seven-hundred-dollar paychecks every two weeks. Pooling together, Mike and Peter were both paying for their apartment and their food while still putting away a decent savings.
When Teague graduated from high school, he stayed at home and started partying heavy. Amelia, their mother, was working three part-time jobs, so she was never at home throughout the day. Teague worked two days a week as a dishwasher at a run-down restaurant paying him under-the-table. The rest of the time he snorted coke or smoked grass or dropped acid or got drunk or all of the above. He had little money and what he had went into drugs.
Then one day Amelia woke up late for work. She panicked and ran through the kitchen to the front door in a big hurry. During the night the cats had pulled the small rug by the sink out into the passageway, all tangled up so that mostly the soft part was on the linoleum instead of the sticky stuff that kept it from slipping. Amelia was no small woman, either. When she was moving there was no stopping her. Peter always was scared by this as a kid. Now as an adult he thinks, "Well, something finally stopped her, all right."
Amelia slipped on the rug and fell forcefully face-first into the sharp corner on the doorway out of the kitchen. Her skull crushed inward and punctured her brain. Teague found her dead body later that night when he finally got home half-dead himself from being up for two days straight.
She was dead and Teague had no money. Amelia had isolated them from the rest of the family aggressively and none of them even visited for the funeral. No relatives came to aid Teague with a place to live or help with the rent.
When he was kicked out by the landlord, he moved in with his childhood friend, who had also fallen into bad habits. Peter arranged to send him a check every month to help with the rent and food situation. This money was sent on the condition that Teague was working at least one job.
So, that's all that Teague held was one job. It was part-time shelf-stocking at a grocery store. The other place had fired him when he stopped showing up and never called. He tried half-heartedly for better jobs when Peter requested it, but for the most part just spent the money from his job on more jobs. Eventually, of course, he began dipping into what Peter gave him for rent.
Peter was frantic with worry for Teague, but he wasn't about to abandon his goals towards moving south and Teague had no interest in moving away from Buffalo. What he was doing was draining the formerly healthy bank account. He understood from his occasional trip out there that Teague was allowing himself to be submerged in guilt and depression instead of actually doing something for himself.
When he found out Teague got fired again and was planning on going on unemployment benefits, he drove out there with one more check. Peter drove up there for the last time to tell his brother that this was to be the last monthly check for at least until Teague really showed some initiative in picking himself up.
When Peter began the conversation, Teague immediately admitted that rent was two months late and the landlord was threatening eviction. Peter became enraged with this because he knew he had sent Teague enough money to cover his half of the bills and then some. If it was all wasted on drugs, then what was the point of sending it in the first place?
Teague admitted to spending the first missing month's rent on drugs and a small television for him and his friend. He then told Peter that he had used to the second missing month's rent on a gun with which he had intended to kill himself.
Teague had not been able to do it despite sitting there with it pressed to his temple for almost two hours every couple days pleading with himself to do it, and at that current juncture wanted rid of it so that he would not have the chance even if he wanted to. Peter took it from him to hold on to. He left in a very dark and scared haze after Teague promised that he was going to get things together and claimed that he was chasing a full-time job as a stocker at a warehouse as proof.
When he got home he left the 9mm on the entertainment center right where it could be seen if you were standing at the front door looking in. That bastard of a habit. That particular moment in which his mind forgot how to think each and every time. Then he went to bed and slept through until noon.
When he got up Mike was standing at the kitchen counter eating a bowl of cereal and brewing coffee. He hadn't gone into the living room yet and had not seen the gun to move it. Peter had forgotten he had left it there and watched TV mindlessly for a few hours when there was suddenly screaming and yelling down the hall outside their apartment. This was commonplace for the raucous apartment building they lived in. Sirens sounded outside and Peter stood at the open front door of his and Mike's apartment, watching as people in uniform and people in bathrobes ran up and down the stairs down the hall for a while. Mike was standing there with him. After a while they shut the door and resumed watching television.
Neither of them had noticed the gun.
Fifteen minutes later there was banging all up and down the hall on all the doors. People were talking aggressively. Suddenly their own door was banged violently upon.
Mike and Peter performed the quickest game of Rock, Paper, Scissors in history. Peter won two of three. Mike reluctantly went to answer the door, Peter standing close to the door, ready to be addressed.
Mike stands an amusing five foot five, making him seven inches shorter than Peter at a proud six feet. That height made Peter the tallest among the four of them, but even he had to tilt his head back slightly to meet the eyes of the two cops standing at the door. God, were they tall! The two of them were practically the same height of at least six feet and six inches, staring intently down with the attitude of people who had gone through nothing but obnoxious people fucking with them all… day… long…
They seemed perfectly willing to rip both Mike and Peter new assholes to exact some sort of punishment on someone for what they had been going through.
"Do you know a man named Sebastian Gale?" Giant One asked in what was almost a growl, deep and intimidating. The two of the giants were glaring down, waaaay down at Mike who was practically trembling as he gazed up pathetically.
Peter had a crazy image of Mike stammering to say something and the officer clasping down on his shoulders with cartoonishly large hands and his face bulging out and growing red about to scream at him. He almost laughed but managed to hold it back, turning his head and clearing his throat as silently as possible so as not to attract any attention.
When he was about to turn his head back his eyes landed on the gun on top of the entertainment center not five feet to Mike's back, just sitting there in plain sight of the two very pissed-off cops. Peter's eyes widened and he felt the blood drain from his face.
He had not gotten the papers from his brother. If the cops saw the gun, then they were fucked.
"Ladies upstairs said Sebastian Gale has a friend on this floor and he's probably hiding out," Giant 2 said in what was almost the exact same voice as the other. Peter was struck by a feeling of disconnection. It was too weird. There were two giant and angry cops who looked like body-building twins with roid rage standing at the door of his apartment while a gun his brother had contemplated suicide with laid right in front of their eyes. He couldn't believe they hadn't spotted it already!
After a moment it became suddenly obvious why they hadn't. They had to crane their necks practically straight down to make eye contact with Mike because he was so short. They were seeing pretty much nothing but Mike and the floor. There was another dangerous moment where Peter almost burst out with what would have been fatal laughter.
Mike managed to squeak out that they didn't know a Sebastian Gale. The giant cop standing closer to Peter slowly looked up and made eye contact with him. Peter was almost paralyzed in the cold stare he received. Then the two cops appeared to understand that there was no meat on these two and that their main prey was elsewhere. They simultaneously turned and walked away, and their walk was like thunder echoing down the hallway.
Mike shut the door turned to look at Peter reproachfully for making him answer the door, Peter looked at the gun, and Mike followed his gaze. There was several moments of shocked silence.
"There's a gun there?" Mike asked dreamily.
"They didn't see it?"
Mike burst out laughing hysterically, slid down the wall, and sat on the floor laughing.
Peter took the gun into his room and hid it deep in his closet. When he called his brother later to tell him what had almost happened, Teague told him that he had purchased the gun from a friend who was trying to get rid of it because it was a hot item from being used in the non-lethal shooting of a state trooper. Enraged at the fact that Teague hadn't mentioned this earlier, Peter hung the phone up and never tried to contact his brother again after that. The next time he would see Teague was at Teague's funeral.
Three months after their final conversation, Teague's roommate moved out and he got an eviction notice. The night of these two events, Teague took a few gulps of Drain-O and that was the final chapter of his story. Peter sometimes wished that there was at least a suicide note to provide an epilogue of some sort, but no such luck. No luck at all.
Peter grabbed his rain coat out of his closet and then shut the door on these dark memories that he also connected to the notion that the darkness was coming. That it was on its way.
He threw his rain coat on and took off into the storm on his way to work, unhappy that his buzz could not last the entire day.