BEING DEAD (Chapter 12) Storm

The door slammed to the Venar estate late into the night and John walked in, water trailing behind him from his rain soaked shoes.  Dim lights barely reflected the surfaces of the hard wood floor well enough for him to navigate the halls, but years of meeting with Alan had given him more than enough memory to avoid accident.  He wondered how long it had been since he first entered the lavish cave of his best friend.  How many nights he had spent playing cards or drinking with their friends.  How long ago that seemed.

“Alan?”  He called.

No answer.

“Alan?  You here?”   John entered the empty office.  To his surprise, everything was cleaned and organized—something that rarely happened in Alan’s world.  Random spurts of mania could be focused into a single day of mass cleaning, but it was only a day and that day was just one out of typically about 3-4 months.

He made his way toward the desk and glanced down at a half written on piece of paper.  He reached for it.

The chair in front of him turned away from the window and he let out a garishly feminine scream.

Alan raised an eyebrow at him and smirked.

“WHAT THE HELL?!”  Shouted John; obviously embarrassed.

“I didn’t hear you come in over the rain.  I fell asleep.”

John grimaced.  “In your chair?”

“No, on the ceiling,” said Alan.

Exasperated, John stepped back and sat down in his usual spot.  “What was that about this morning?”

The dark red chair turned sideways and Alan shifted his eyes toward his massive bookcase.

“Don’t give me that.  What happened today?  I tried to catch up to you, but you disappeared.  What happened?”  Asked John, this time sounding concerned.

Alan tilted his head toward his friend.  “Nothing too profound, John.  I’m fine.”

“I know that look and no you’re not.  Why did you throw it away like that?”

“There was nothing to throw away, “said Alan.  “It was already lost and I needed to hear it in person.”

John grimaced again.  “What is that supposed to mean?  I thought this whole endeavor was for your love to rekindle!”

Alan turned his chair slightly left and right repeatedly with his gaze fixed upon his books.  He did not answer for a moment and then took a deep breath followed by a sigh.

“You won’t like hearing this John, but I knew she didn’t love me.  The whole thing was pointless, but I followed it through for finality.  I thought it would be beneficial to us both.  Me for my obvious reasons of moving on and her for recovering past my death—however fake it may be to us.”

For a moment John was speechless.  He crossed his arms in frustration as he mulled over the statement and then tried to formulate a response to no avail.

“I know.  And I’m sorry.  I needed it.  You know me very well, John, but not as well as I know myself.  I am nothing if not self-aware.”  Said Alan now turning to John.

“So…did it work?”  Asked John finally.

“As much closure as any dead man will ever receive, I suppose.  I’m not too terribly concerned over it.  After all, I’ve got books to write and a normal, quiet existence to enjoy for the first time ever.  The only difference now is that I’m attempting to stop lying to myself so often.”  Alan was smiling at him now.  It made John uneasy.

“Well, that sounds good and don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about your progressions, but are you sure you’re alright?”  John shifted in his seat and leaned forward to meet eyes with Alan.

His eyes met John’s.  “You worry too much about me.  I’m a manic depressive, possible alcoholic, with enough childhood horror stories to make any sane and reasonable person question my ability to function, but I’ve always managed.  You know that.”

John nodded and rubbed his hands together.  “You’re right.  You’re right.  You have always soldiered on without a moment of complaints.”

Alan smiled softly, “My breaking point is much further from what we are used to with everyone else.  The trivial things won’t break me, and when the reality of this world does crash down then it takes it much longer before I seek out your solace.”

“Easy, I’m getting married, you know.”  Said John with a raised eyebrow.

“I saw you first.”  Said Alan.  He made a crude gesture with his tongue and they laughed loudly.

The rain fell harder outside and beat against the glass behind Alan.  Winds carried each droplet of water into a kamikaze flurry to form a blanket of blinding mist.  John couldn’t stop staring into the mass of moving darkness.  Somewhere in the abyss he could see the flickering outline of the iron gates at the entrance and the backwards spelling of the name “VENAR”.

“Well, it really is wonderful to hear that you’re alright.  I mean, this whole thing has been taxing on you, but I think you’ll be fine.  I think Meagan will be fine as well.”

Alan nodded.  “Of course.”

A cold chill ran down John’s spine and he used its momentum to stir himself into getting up.

“I think I’ll stay here tonight, if you don’t mind.  The storm out there is supposed to go on throughout the night,” he said.

“I mean, it IS your house now.  I don’t think you need my permission, good sir.”  Alan said with a grin.

“Don’t remind me,” replied John.  “The rent on this place is unbelievable.  I don’t know how you survived.”

Alan laughed, “I borrowed a lot of money.”

John laughed for a moment and then stopped.  “Wait…what?”

“Ha ha!  Don’t worry John, I’m dead!  With no family to take up the papers there’s no one to collect from.  The estate was left to you, so it couldn’t be sold as a payment.”

“Yes, but…how did you swing that legally?”

“I have other successful friends besides you.  Favors and all that.”  Alan said with devious eyes.

John shook his head.  “I’m going to bed.  At least I get to do that knowing that you can’t get yourself into too much trouble as a dead man.”

“Right.”  Alan replied softly.

“Goodnight then.  I’ll see you for breakfast in the morning?”  Asked John, taking off his coat.

“Sure.  I’m going to get some more cleaning done, so make it a late breakfast.”

John puckered his chin and glanced around the office again.  “I do like what you’ve done with the place.  You clean up nicely, Mr. Venar.  Mother would be proud.”

“Shall I give her a call and ask?”

John’s face turned pale as he glared forward.  Alan broke into laughter.

“Goodnight.”  Said John in a deep commanding voice.

“Goodnight, John.”

As he exited the office, Alan turned to face the window with the piece of paper John had been eye-balling earlier.  He had snatched it as John turned around to find his chair just after screaming.  The page was a stark contrast of black and white.

He glanced down at the carefully crafted words and lost his way after he passed a particular one.  He stared at it hard and felt the stinging sensation of nostalgia that he hated so much.

“Estelle”

He turned his chair and zoned out his vision through the grayed out glass in front of him.  All the noise from the rain was already louder than his thoughts and slowly he let himself fall asleep once again.

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