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Still Smoking

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The sound of the rain beating against the walls of the McKittrick is soothing. You close your eyes and listen for the crash of thunder.

When you were a child, storms frightened you. Once, you stood too closely to a tree that was struck by lightning. The crack, and then the explosion of bark happened so quickly, you didn't even have time to blink. You thought you were the one who had been struck by lightning. You'll never forget the clean smell of ozone and how green the grass was against the dark clouds. When you looked up at the tree, it was still smoking.

You reach blindly for your shot glass and bring it to your lips. It's empty. When had you taken that drink?

You turn toward the decanter. It's half empty. Or is it half full? you wonder as you pull the lid from the base. You pour yourself a new shot. It's really too much to contemplate. You should have another drink instead.

The bell rings.

You turn and no one is there. Not surprising. The McKittrick is notoriously haunted and that bell is the ghost's favorite toy. All day it rings, and all night, you hear it in your sleep.

You throw back the shot. It burns the whole way down, and you're already thinking about the next one.

The madness will come. The blood will cover your hands and you will be powerless to stop it. You can try to save her, but you won't. You will hear her screams as she dies, but you won't watch. You close your eyes and hide.

The sound of the ringing bell will drown out the sound of her dying pleas as you try to sleep. It's a small comfort.

One more drink.

You look up and he enters, the most beautiful boy in the world. Your heart aches to be with him. To touch him, to press your mouth to his and take him inside of you. You're honored, sometimes, to even look at him.

And he knows he has you wrapped around his finger.

He smiles and mocks and when he leads someone else away to be with him, you pour yourself another drink.

Anything to dull the pain.

You cry, not just for him, but for yourself. For everything you've done and everything you cannot do. You cry for her, and the storm outside. The ache, it spreads from your heart throughout your entire body. You can feel in your fingers as you grip the shot glass. Your hand shakes as you bring the glass to your lips.

Yes, that's all there is.

Somewhere, lightning has struck. Somewhere deep in your heart, that tree is still smoking.

You pour yourself another shot, and the decanter is nearly empty now. This time, you merely hold the glass in your hand. You close your eyes and listen to the rain.

The storm will never end.