Even though he hadn’t seen him in over thirty years, Tony knew it was him. Nate. Standing in the doorway, as cocky as ever. There wasn’t a doubt in Tony’s mind.
“Hey. I’ve been waiting for you,” Nate said.
Tony was shocked into silence. He couldn’t move. Couldn’t respond. He could barely hear the cooing of the clock. He couldn’t see Angela, but he could guess that her exact reaction would be about as interesting as anything else she did. Nate walked towards him and hugged him. If the human body produced an odour in that place it would have near enough knocked out Tony.
“I’ve been waiting for you for so long. I’d cry if I could,” Nate continued.
Tony couldn’t react. Nate eventually let go of him and stood back.
“You’re so big,” it was all Tony could think to say.
“Well that’s what happens when you get older. I haven’t seen you in such a long time. A part of me thought that you would never show up, that he’d never get you. I’m glad he did though. In a weird way of course.”
“Am I dead then?” Tony said. “I know you died.”
“I did die, but you didn’t. He grabbed my soul just before I died. He uses them as food. Another one every week keeps him alive. But I’m guessing you already knew that. Best thing though. He doesn’t digest us. We just survive here. You didn’t die. I’ve been watching you. You didn’t die.”
“What happened then?”
“Sit down. Do you really want me to tell you? You sure? You remember anything about you and your wife? You kids? One of them, Johnny, he got hurt bad. Nearly died. Took forever for him to get better. It broke you and Jennie up. Thought you would have remembered that much? You don’t remember the drinking? Nearly drank yourself to death. Funny where you are now. You passed out drinking one night. Jimmy got you. Took the soul out of your body. Back home, everyone thinks your in a coma. It broke Jennie’s heart when she found out. I suppose she thought that you would clean yourself up at one point. Not worth thinking about now though. I got to tell you.”
Nate carried on talking but Tony didn’t listen. He couldn’t listen. Nate changed everything. But he also made Tony realise something. There was no way that any of it could be real. Instead it had to be in his head. It was the only explanation. He closed his eyes and took everything. Nate’s words forced Tony to remember. He remembered the way in which his child got ran over. Remembered the way he drank every night. He remembered other things as well. He remembered Jennie telling him to stop. He threw the glass. It smashed. He pushed her against the wall. He shouted at her, his spit flew in her face. He never hit her. Although she flinched when ever he got close after drinking. He remembered the time that she told him he was all right when he wasn’t drinking, that he should stay like that or she would take Chrissie and Johnny away. And she did. The flat got smashed up. He put his fist through the wall of the living room. He cried. He drank. He felt sorry for himself. Then he was on the road. It was as simple as that.
When he opened his eyes he was on the floor. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Angela above him. She had actually moved from the bar. Nate was standing with her. He assumed Joe was somewhere close by.
“Should we do something?” Nate asked. “I mean I’ve never seen this happen before.”
“I don’t know. He looks like he’s coming too,” Angela said.
“None of this is real,” Tony whispered.
“What did he say?” Nate said.
“I don’t know. He looks fine,” Angela said. “I actually thought something interesting was going to happen.”
Tony blinked a couple of times and then got up.
“None this is real,” he said again, that time louder.
“Yeah it is,” Nate started. “Or in a way it is. In another way it isn’t. But it’s as real as it’s going to get.”
“No. It’s not real. Everything is inside my head. I created this world to escape everything. It can’t be that far from the end now though. If I’m beginning to remember things then it’s got to be close to the end.”
“What? You think this is in your head?” Angela asked.
“Yes. It all makes sense.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble hun but this is as real as it gets. We’re all stuck here. Get used to it. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
“That’s just a test. You want me to believe that. But I know the truth. I’ve just got to wait it out. It’s worked out like that so far. Soon I’ll be awake. Jennie will be there waiting. I just know it.”
“Look. Hun. I feel for you. I truly do, but this is real. You remember asking me about my past? Yeah? Well look at this,” she pulled up her sleeve, revealing large slash marks. “Moma did this to me when I told her about the letters. She did this too me. You didn’t imagine that did you?”
For a second Tony even began to doubt himself.
To Be Continued…