I had been on the road for hours. I put many miles between myself and that mortal conflict. That moment gave me an all too familiar chill up my spine, knowing what would have soon followed. Distance. That’s my mantra. It had to be if I want to succeed in my goal.
I pulled into a small parking lot off the highway. The gravel crunched under my tires as I slowed to a final stop. There were only a handful of vehicles in the entire lot.
The cold air gripped my throat, forcing me to cough. I reached for my smokes, placing one in my lips and igniting a match. The tiny flame kissed a soothing warmth on the tip of my nose. I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with the burn I’d grown to love so much.
I walked into the place casually. I didn’t want to make myself known or bring any unwanted attention. I kept my head down, darting toward the booth in the corner.
The billiard balls cracked against the faint sound of an old country song on the jukebox. I chuckled to myself at the thought that this place was almost as old as me. It was equally funny to me that there were quite a few mortals here, but there seemed to be no conversations or laughter of any kind.
I sat quickly, adjusting myself comfortably before I placed my pack of smokes on the tabletop. I slid the ashtray from the edge of the table next to my smokes, taking a deep drag on my lit cigarette and flicking the ash into the hard clay disk.
“What’ll it be, handsome?” the waitress said, her boots clunking against the old wooden floor.
“Whiskey,” I answered.
“Which one? You know, there are quite a few to choose from,” she said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Surprise me,” I replied.
“Got a preference?”
“Just something strong. In fact, bring me your strongest bottle,” I instructed, looking up at her.
She looked to be middle-aged, a fading beauty who had definitely seen better days. Her straight blonde hair flowed over each shoulder of her worn flannel shirt.
Her smile made me smirk. We shared a glance for a moment before she nodded and turned away to fetch the bottle.
When I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the bench. The woman couldn’t have been gone for a minute, but the glass clinking against the table forced me to reopen them.
“Here you go. Strongest hooch we got,” she said, placing a small glass next to the bottle. I chuckled. “Somethin’ funny?”
“It’s not you,” I advised. “Someone recently referred to whiskey as hooch. Small world.”
“Anything to eat?”
I shook my head, twisting the cap from the bottle. As I poured, I felt her eyes scan me intently. “Go ahead, ask me,” I said.
“You’re not from around here,” she replied.
“That obvious?” I joked.
“What’s with the suit? You a businessman? Salesman?”
“Neither,” I answered. “I like to dress nice. That’s all.”
“That’s all, huh?” she questioned. “We don’t get many rich folks coming through here too often. I’d watch your stuff. People around here have sticky hands and itchy fingers if you catch my drift.”
Why did I always find myself in situations like these? I had to stop at a place that could provoke me into some kind of conflict. I would keep my head down, enjoy this delicious smelling whiskey, and be on my way.
“I appreciate the tip,” I said.
She nodded. “Let me know if I can do anything else for you,” she added, walking away.
I looked up to notice her turn back to look at me. She winked and turned back around, disappearing through the double doors into the back. That’s when I saw a large man snarling at me from across the room. It would seem he saw our encounter and didn’t care for it.
“You can’t run from me.”
The familiar voice startled me. There he was, sitting across from me. The minion I hoped to leave behind. Jealousy.
“Are you sure about that?” I growled. “It seems to me I’ve been steps ahead of you.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Din,” he said. “I only let you get this far on your own. It’s so obvious you need me.”
“I don’t need you,” I snarled.
“You do, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s kind of essential.” He chuckled. “Do you really exist without me?”
“I don’t answer to you.”
“Of course you don’t,” he interjected with a sarcastic tone. “I know you’re the God of my sister and me. What’s her name again? It seems to have slipped my mind. I don’t suppose you know who I’m referring to—”
“Hatred,” I interrupted.
“Hatred, that’s right,” he said, snapping his fingers. “I wonder how long it will be before she realizes where we are and pops her nasty little head up.”
“Can I just drink in peace?” I asked, peering from the corner of my eye at the rest of the room. At this point, it had become clear I was having a conversation with myself.
That’s why I left. Jealousy and Hatred fueled me. They were the source of my power. They gave my existence purpose. But I was tired of feeling the way I did, and hearing them constantly banter back and forth was difficult. Mortals couldn’t see them, which was why I chose to walk amongst them. The problem was, mortals could unknowingly summon them and draw them to me at any given moment. I assumed the man I caught glaring at me across the way led Jealousy right to me.
“No, you can’t, but I appreciate you asking me instead of demanding everything,” he replied.
I shook my head, downed the glass of whiskey, and refilled it to the rim. I took another drink, avoiding eye contact with my annoying minion.
“Don’t you do that,” he groaned. “Don’t try to ignore me. We both know how that’s going to go. You do this every time.”
“What is that guy jealous of?” I barked.
“He’s quite fond of that lovely lady,” he answered.
“So? All we did was talk for a brief moment.”
“And you shared an intense gaze as I understand it, followed by a seductive wink—”
“Come on, Din,” he urged. “You know what it’s like to yearn, to want something so bad, even though you know you will never have it. Then look over at your sib—”
“Shut up,” I shouted. The mere idea of my family brought my blood to a boil. I could already feel Jealousy’s hooks in me as his venom started to fill my heart.
The looks from the mortals in the bar didn’t help matters. They stared at me with pity in their eyes. Even the man’s expression from across the room changed to concern upon my outburst.
“Control yourself, Din. Unless you want my sister here for the road trip,” Jealousy chuckled.
I took a deep breath, calming myself for a moment. He was right. He’s always right. I hated that.
I threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table and snatched my pack of smokes. I hurried out of the place, keeping my head down and trying to prevent an altercation.
“Where are you going, Din?” he shouted from behind.
My feet felt heavy against the gravel. My shoes couldn’t grip or gain traction as I ran. I opened the car and jumped into the driver’s seat, quickly slamming the door behind me.
I didn’t waste any time. I started my car and peeled out onto the highway, speeding away as fast as I could. Looking in the rearview mirror, the lights from the bar shrunk until they disappeared under the horizon.
Shaking my head, I lit another smoke to calm my nerves. I took a couple of puffs to soothe myself.
“Guess who?” Jealousy shouted.
I growled, jumping in my seat and dropping my smoke into my lap. I reached quickly for it, swerving into the next lane. I had just retrieved it and placed it back in my lips, when a semi-truck honked wildly at me, and I looked up to see I was headed straight toward him.
I swerved back into my lane, looking in the mirror at my minion.
“You can’t get rid of me, Din,” he said. “I’m a part of you. You’re a part of me. We’re in this thing together.”
“I don’t want you here,” I snapped.
“Hey, Din, don’t worry, I don’t want her here either,” he assured. “I want it just to be the two of us. I hated sharing my time.”
Jealousy ungracefully crawled into the passenger seat from the back, and positioned himself comfortably. I glared at him, blowing smoke from my nose.
“Din, this is going to be fun. I can feel it.”