I gripped the glass tight in my fist, and it hissed under the pressure. It was a warning not to press the issue or attempt to follow me when I left. I glared at him from the corner of my eye and drank the rest of the whiskey in one final gulp.

I stared down at my drink, struggling to keep these thoughts from my mind. I left home to escape my hatred. I thought leaving to travel these lands would give me some peace. Apparently, I unknowingly packed my jealous rage and hatred for the things I should hold dear to my heart.

My heart, what a joke, I didn’t think I’d ever had one. If I did, it turned black and rotted in my chest long ago. That didn’t bother me. Hearts, love, compassion, and empathy are all tools for the weak, building their lives upon a fragile foundation. Violence, hatred, fear, jealousy, now those are emotions the strong build their existence upon.

The foundation of my life, my soul, if I had one, was forged in the shadows. I had to build it alone while my family ignored me. That’s why I felt so comfortable on the road. Nobody to run into. Nobody to know. None of these mortals recognized me or knew who the hell I was, even if I bothered to tell them.

Solitude was my partner. It would never let me down. Give me an empty bar with a good bottle of whiskey, and I was as content as a bear with a pot of honey.

“Are you going to drink that or stare at it all night?”

I peered at the drunk who broke into my thoughts. His eyes were barely open. I was sure he was hoping I would shake my head and allow him to have the drink. As if I needed the help. 

“What’s it to you?” I answered his question with a question, hoping to ruffle his feathers a bit.

“It’s none of my business,” the drunk man replied, holding his hands in the air. “I just noticed you staring at this fine glass of hooch for the better part of an hour.”

“You’ve been watching me for an hour?” I questioned, rotating my torso around to face him. I was hoping this act would get my point across, but he was oblivious to my reaction.

This was my biggest complaint with mortals. So damn naïve. Some had the necessary brain capacity to understand the subtle art of conversation and body language. However, most behaved in this manner, making it difficult to hold my annoyance in check.

Normally, I would pretend and oblige the man with casual conversation. I would make him feel comfortable, like I was a regular mortal with similar interests and feelings. That hadn’t helped me to this point. That’s why I was going to ignore my normal impulse.

“I wouldn’t say I was watching you,” he replied. “I would call it looking—”

“I don’t care,” I interrupted him, turning back to my drink.

My interruption of his explanation offended him. He stared with a blank look on his face, uncomfortable in his own skin, not knowing how to proceed with the encounter. I’d make it easy for him.

I gripped the glass tight in my fist, and it hissed under the pressure. It was a warning not to press the issue or attempt to follow me when I left. I glared at him from the corner of my eye and drank the rest of the whiskey in one final gulp.

“Is that better?” I grumbled. He didn’t answer. His eyes rolled around in their sockets, trying hard not to look in my direction. I was wrong. Maybe this mortal could understand the point I was making.

I removed my wallet from the inner pocket of my jacket and placed a crisp fifty-dollar bill on the table next to the empty glass. I gestured at the bartender, and he nodded.

I left through the front door, not looking back at the mortal. I didn’t want to create an opening for him to follow me like a lost dog. That’s the last thing I wanted or needed right now.

The crisp breeze greeted me as I exited the bar. I didn’t mind the cold. Winter had always been my preferred time of the year. I welcomed the arrival of snow, preferring it over the rain or blistering heat. Besides, my rage was enough to keep me warm no matter the temperature.

I retrieved the pack of smokes from my pocket. It felt light, and I realized I was running on empty. There were only two left, and I’d smoke one on my way to the store to get more. The streets were empty from the late hour, so I decided I’d walk.

I retrieved the box of matches from my pants pocket, shaking the tiny box before sliding it open. I’d always enjoyed the sound of the wood rattling against the cardboard. I positioned the cigarette between my lips and flicked the tip of the match with my thumbnail. As it flared, I heard the click of a gun behind me.

“Wallet. Now,” the voice instructed.

The match flame flickered as I snorted at the order. I took my time, allowing the tip to ignite, before inhaling deeply, savoring the smoky taste.

“I’m not going to ask you again,” the voice barked.

I turned around to find a thin man pointing a six-shooter at me. I couldn’t help but grin. Never a dull moment when it came to mortal life.

“Somethin’ funny?” the man growled.

“Yeah, but I’m afraid you won’t understand the joke,” I said, exhaling smoke at the tip of the gun.

I smacked the gun away from my face in one quick swipe. My slap forced the man to squeeze the trigger in defense. I clutched him by the neck, hoisting him off his feet, and he dropped his gun.

“Why is it that violence finds me?” I grumbled, staring deep into the man’s eyes. He was afraid, and he should be. With a single flick of my wrist, I could snap his neck, and there would be nothing he could do about it. “I just want to be left alone. How can I overcome my demons when I’m constantly forced into these types of situations? This is rhetorical, of course. I hope you understand that.”

A soft whimper interrupted my laughter. I looked in the direction of the sound to find the drunk man who I’d encountered at the bar curled up in the fetal position. He was clutching his abdomen in obvious agony.

What an interesting chain of events. I left to get away from one mortal bothering me, to be inconvenienced by another mortal, who then inadvertently shoots the first mortal because of me, and it was because of me.

I didn’t want his death on my conscience, so I set my captive back on his feet and released him from my grip. I leaned in close and said, “I’d run if I were you.”

The man wasted no time. He turned and ran in the opposite direction as fast as his legs could take him. I watched him slip and stumble around the corner.

I moved casually over to the wounded drunk, making sure no prying eyes were in view. Kneeling next to him, I carefully pulled his hand away from his injury. It was bleeding profusely. I turned him over, and that’s when I saw the exit wound. This was perfect.

“Close your eyes,” I instructed him. He complied, so I placed the palms of my hands over each wound. The man could feel the heat and opened his eyes quickly. “Keep them closed,” I demanded. He shut them tight.

I felt the wounds closing under my hands, and I waited until his breathing returned to normal before I removed them from his torso. “There, good as new,” I muttered.

The man opened his eyes and looked down at his healed stomach. His eyes darted up to mine in disbelief. “You, you, saved-how did you—”

I punched him in the jaw before he could finish. My perfectly placed hit rendered the man unconscious. Now, it appeared the man had too much to drink and passed out on the street after leaving the bar.  

Nobody would believe him. Nobody would believe he was shot, and some stranger healed him with the touch of his hands. That much I could count on when it came to mortals.

Even though that may be true, it’s better for me if I just left now. I’d get in my car, smoke my last cigarette, and hit the next town over to get another pack before I drove further away. I want to forget it all. I just need to keep moving.

Dinlas (Justin Brimhall)
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