General Fiction posted November 15, 2016


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A man wakes up in a cell

The police cell

by snodlander

Somewhere in the warm dark cotton-wool of his dream, something pushed at Andy. He tried to ignore it, sinking into the womb-like comfort of his sleep, but it was insistent. A part of his daytime brain told him he had to wake up, but somewhere in the real world something hurt. He moved his head and the pain ripped the sleep from him. He opened his eyes a fraction. It was bright. Not sunshine bright but a harsh artificial bright. What time was it?

He peered at his wrist, trying to focus. No. He screwed his eyes shut, took a deep breath and threw them open. Grunting against the pain of the light he tried to focus again. No watch. He must have put it down somewhere. There was something else in its place. He pushed his arm a little further away and squinted. A phone number? Someone had written a phone number on his wrist in thick red ink. Lipstick, maybe? It ended in three 'X's. Who had done that? He groaned and closed his eyes.

Never again. That was it. He was never going to get drunk again. Hell, he was never going to drink again. My God, how much had he drunk? He tried to think. It was Penny's leaving do. They'd bunked off early on Friday and hit the Four Candles to wish her bon voyage. Just a couple of pints, that was all he'd meant to have. He didn't even know her that well. She was in Finance and he was in Sales. He'd exchanged half a dozen words with her in as many months.

No, he'd just had three or four pints, that was all. Wait. Hadn't someone suggested a club? Had he gone to a club? There was music, loud music, and that couldn't have been the Four Candles. He pulled at the duvet, trying to get comfortable.

Except it wasn't a duvet. It was a thin, rough blanket that barely covered him. The bed was narrow, hard and covered in vinyl. Had he crashed at someone's flat?

He opened his eyes and forced himself to take in his surroundings.

Brick walls painted white. A light behind a heavy glass pane reinforced with wire. A metal door, painted grey, studded with rivets the size of golf balls. A stainless steel toilet bowl fixed to the wall. Bare concrete floor.

Andy closed his eyes and groaned. He wasn't in a friend's flat. He was in a police cell. Not that he'd been in one before, but what else could it be? Oh, God. How hammered had he been last night? Why hadn't any of his so-called mates looked after him?

His right foot itched. He tried to scratch it with his other foot, but the itchy foot was encased in a boot. Had he been so drunk he had only been able to take off one boot? Wait, why would he be wearing boots? He'd been wearing his office shoes, hadn't he?

He lifted his head and peered down the length of the blanket. His left sock-encased foot peeked out of the end, dwarfed by a huge plaster cast. He dropped his head back onto the bed and whimpered. Oh, God Almighty, what had he done last night? Had he broken his leg? Before he got drunk? After? During? Was he legless when he became legless? Maybe that could explain his state. Maybe they'd given him painkillers on top of the beer.

He sighed. God, but he was up to his neck in it. What would Rachel say? Oh, my God, Rachel! She would go ballistic. She wouldn't just hit the roof, she'd go into orbit. Had he warned her he was going to go out for a quick pint? He'd meant to, but had he actually done that?

There was nothing else for it, he'd have to phone her, get her to come collect him. She'd do that, right? Even if it was only to scream at him, she'd come and collect him, right?

He prised himself up into a sitting position, closing his eyes and fighting the wave of nausea. Slowly he swung his legs round and gingerly placed them on the cold concrete floor, eyes screwed shut against the searing pain that started behind his eyes and lanced straight through his brain to the back of his skull. He would not be sick. He would not!

He opened his eyes and stared at the floor. Focus, that was the secret. Focus on the real world and ignore the sensation of the world spinning away from him. He pulled the blanket aside and stared at his bare knees. The cast extended almost to his knee. And above the knee --

He looked up, focussing on the steel door instead.

No.

Nonononononono.

No, he was still drunk. Or the painkillers. That was it. He had imagined it.

He looked down again.

No, it was real. He was wearing a tutu.

It was a pink frilly one, full of -- ruffs? Was that what they were called? Ruffs? A lacy material, several layers, and a pink so bright moths would be blinded. He was wearing an honest to God pigging tutu. What the hell? What the actual hell? Where had that come from? Who made tutus for people with forty-two inch waists?

And a T-shirt. He never wore T-shirts during the week. He always wore tailored shirts, pastel coloured to complement his tie. Not -- he pulled it out -- not silver T-shirts with a picture of The Carpenters holding heavy metal electric guitars.

He closed his eyes and sobbed quietly, not putting much effort into it because his head hurt so badly. Dehydration, that was it. That was what made hangovers bad. He needed a drink. Next to the toilet stood a washbasin in the same brushed steel. Andy sidled along the bench until he was next to the wall, then prised himself upright, hanging onto the wall like a long-lost brother, plaster-encased foot clear of the ground, and waited for the world to stop spinning. Then he hopped towards the sink.

He grabbed the edge of the sink with one hand and turned on the tap with the other, leaning heavily on the sink and closing his eyes. He opened them for a moment, glanced in the steel mirror then shut them again.

No.

Nonononononono.

No.

He opened them and stared at the apparition that looked back from the mirror.

Half his hair was missing. The right side of his head was his normal haircut, but the left was shaved to the skin. His face was caked in some sort of white makeup. His left eye looked like that guy from Clockwork Orange, mascara and eye shadow making it grotesquely large. What had once been red lipstick ran from his lips in a smear across his cheek. And there was something else, something wrong with his face. He peered at the reflection, trying to identify it.

His eyebrows. Or at least, his eyebrow. The right one was missing.

There would be a reckoning. Oh, hell yes, there would be a reckoning. He would be avenged. He would rain down retribution that would make an Old Testament prophet quake. He was going to kick arse, and every other part of the body he could reach on his so-called friends. People would tell tales of it to frighten the children into being teetotal for the rest of their lives. The gits! The complete and utter gits. He was going to get his own back, and then some. There would be blood.

"You complete and utter --" He stopped and stuck out his tongue. Why was his tongue blue? How was his tongue blue? He gripped the edge of the sink and screamed, ignoring the pain.

Then the anger subsided and he whimpered. What was he going to do? How was he going to explain this to Rachel? How was he going to turn up at the office on Monday?

He heard footsteps in the corridor outside. No, first thing first. He wasn't the only guy ever to have started a night out only to end it in a police cell. No, he'd apologise to the police, make his phone call, pay whatever fines would get him out of here, and then he'd sort things out after a bath and haircut. The worst was over. He was man enough to tough it out. What didn't kill you made you stronger, and after this, what obstacle could life possibly throw at him that was worse?

The door opened and a man in uniform entered.

Andy put on his most charming but contrite smile. Turning, still holding the sink for balance, he said, "Hi. Um, sorry. I must have had a skin-full last night. Plus, I think they gave me pain killers. And, well," -- he indicated his face and attire in a single sweep of his hand. "I guess my friends had a bit of a joke at my expense. Not very funny, not for me, anyway, but, still." He coughed, aware his charm offensive didn't seem to be having much effect. "If you could just maybe see your way to calling my wife? And I'll sign whatever papers I need to. Bail and suchlike, I expect. Hm?"

The officer frowned.

"Parlez-vous Francais?" he said.


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