Seven Months Earlier~
There was a sharp knock on the door of Gary Kings room. Gary, who had been half asleep on his bed, got up and walked to the door. A hand pushed it open as soon as he had turned the doorknob. Gary jumped back. "Yes?"
"Talking circle. Now, please." Gary inwardly groaned and followed the man who was dressed in normal everyday clothes. The people who worked in the home weren't to wear clothes which would intimidate the patients. Everyone knew they weren't to be crossed.
The hall had chairs laid out in a circle and Gary was guided to one directly opposite the therapist who offered a smile Gary didn't return.
Slowly, more and more patients filled the empty chairs. The therapist gave each of them the same smile. Only some returned it. Others couldn't or wouldn't.
Once everyone was present, the therapist explained the instructions despite everyone knowing them already. "Each person is going to give a story of the happiest time of their lives. You will listen and take your turn to tell your stories and ask questions. You don't have to if you cannot, but unless this is the case, I wish for you to tell a story. Right. Mary, first." Gary turned to look at the girl on his right. Had she not been so skinny, she might have glowed. She was lovely, in her twenties and no one really knew the details as to why she was there. She shared her story which was short and extremely pleasant. Three more people shared their stories, then the therapist shared the story he always shared. He'd attempted suicide and had been happy to survive. It was a story of hope. Time passed and each person shared their story. "And last but not least, Gary. What's your story?" Gary gazed into space, thinking before he spoke.
"Have you ever had one of those nights that starts like any other night but ends up being the best night of your life?" He smirked at everyone in turn as he began. "It was June the twenty-second, our final day of school. There were five of us: Oliver Chamberlain, Peter Page, Steven Prince, Andy Knightly and me. They called me the King. Because my name's Gary King." The hall vanished, to be replaced with the image of a teenage Gary, in a fully black outfit-a black trenchcoat, black jeans, black t-shirt, black shoes and black sunglasses. Even black hair. "Me and the boys, we were inseparable: Ollie was funny, he fancied himself as a bit of a player but really, he was all mouth. We called him O-Man because he had a birthmark that looked like a six. He loved it." The image was replaced with a teenage Oliver on the phone to someone. They group tries to distract him and he raises his middle finger and mouths 'fuck off'. "Pete was the baby of the group. We sort of took him under our wing. Pete wasn't the kind of kid we'd usually hang around with but he was good for a laugh and he was absolutely minted." The image became young Peter getting pushed in the corridor by a much older and bigger student. Then to Peter's garden where Gary cannonballs into Peter's swimming pool, soaking an old man-Peter's dad. "Steve was a cool guy, almost as cool as me. We jammed together, we formed a band, chased the girls. I think he kinda saw us as rivals. Sweet, really." It changed to a young Steven, handsome and tall, smoking with Gary while playing a bass guitar. They see some girls but both spot one particular girl and watch her as she walks past. "And Andy? Well, what can I say? Andy was my wingman. The one guy I could rely on to back me up. He loved me, and I'm not being funny, I loved him too. There were a few people we'd miss. Mr Shepherd was cool. I remember one time, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I just wanted to have a good time. He thought that was funny. Wasn't meant to be." Many different buildings flicked through a chain like they were on a camera roll. "Newton Haven was our hometown. Our cradle, our playground, our universe and that night it was the site of a heroic quest. The aim? To conquer The Golden Mile. Twelve pubs along a legendary path of alcoholic indulgence, terminating at the alehouse that would herald our success: The World's End." Twelve pub signs pass like tarot cards. "There was The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King's Head, The Hole in the Wall, all before reaching our destiny." The World's End pub sign comes into focus. "We took my car into town. I called it the Beast because she was pretty hairy." The image becomes a black Granada MK2 skidding across a car park. "And so our attempt at The Golden Mile began. We were off. We didn't waste time. We hit pub one and we hit it hard." The group enters The First Post. They sit at a table and down their pints together. "Things got crazy fast. There was drinking, there was fun..." They down pint after pint. Steven chats with an old drinker which makes the rest of the group laugh. "...there was controversy..." A publican holds up a red card to Gary, who protests. "...there were ladies..." They all flirt with three schoolgirls, two have blonde hair and one has red hair. "...there was drama, and of course..." Young Gary punches the wall of a pub bathroom out of frustration. "...there was drinking." They raise a toast together in The Good Companions. "After pub five, we were feeling invincible and decided to procure some herbal refreshments from a man we knew as The Reverend Green." They buy weed from a shifty dealer. Oliver throws up and waves them away. "Pint six put O-Man out of action, so we carried on without him. Good thing. I bumped into his sister in the next pub. We went into the disabled toilets and I bumped into her again." Gary flirting with the pretty girl that both him and Steven were checking out earlier. "Sam tagged along for a while but in the end I had to let her go. I had another date that night, and her name was Amber." The boys clash pints and have reached The Beehive. "Nine pints in and it was us against the world; least it felt like it." Drinks are spilt, a brawl starts and Andy is at the centre. "After The Beehive, we had to lay low and so we repaired to the bowls club, or as we liked to call it: The Smokehouse. And that's when it all went fuck up." They approach a bowling green clubhouse to smoke pot. "Everyone got para and Pete chucked a whitey so we had to bench him." They leave a comatose Peter on a park bench. "In the end, we blew off the last three pubs and headed for the hills." Gary, Andy and Steven stagger down a dark alley. "We thought about taking the Beast but eventually decided against it." The Beast crashes into a wall, smoke rising. "Don't know how we got up there in the end. Maybe Lady Luck was with us after all." Gary, Andy and Steven sit on a hilltop and look out across Newton Haven. A shooting star streaks across the sky. Andy puts an arm around Gary. It is the beautiful idyllic of youth. "I remember sitting up on top of that hill, blood on my knuckles, beer down my shirt, sick on my shoes, seeing the orange glow of a new dawn break and knowing in my heart, life would never feel this good again. And you know what?" The images vanished and the hall came back into focus. "It never did." Gary looked around at all the faces either blank, or in awe. He smiled broadly and leaned back in his chair. Only now were the resemblances between 1990 Gary and 2012 Gary so strong.
"Thank you, Gary. That was very enlightening. Would anyone like to speak or maybe challenge Gary?" A small voice came from Gary's left. He turned to look at the pale young man beside him.
"Are you disappointed?"
"That you didn't make it to The World's End?" Gary's face flickered with sadness before answering.
"No." He zoned out and was eventually led back to his room.