The tall evergreens surrounding the back of the home seemed to have grown to unspeakable heights, casting long, dark shadows on the stone cottage.
Thunder continued to crackle on through the night, as oddly-shaped silhouettes traced their movements through the trees.
When the roar of thunder crackled again in the pitch-black night, the silhouettes appeared to have distinct, human-like outlines.
Antonio watched as these silhouettes moved back and forth behind the treeline like cheetahs on the prowl.
He poured himself another glass of red wine and took a long sip. He envisioned himself looking out over an open sea, the waves crashing into the cliffside down beneath the razor’s edge.
He felt a warm summer breeze gently tug at his tangled curls, blocking his eyes as he pushed them away. He wanted nothing but to look out across this endless ocean.
A vast sea of black and green. His mental picture of the ocean was quickly replaced by jagged tree branches and pine leaves. The warm summer breeze was replaced by spitting raindrops that suicide-bombed into his glass.
Another thunderous roar from the sky jolted him out of his momentary trance, as he returned to the party in the living room.
The group had spent the rest of the early evening unpacking bags, unloading briefcases, and stocking refrigerators with alcohol…and nothing else.
Billy said they’d stop in town tomorrow to pick up groceries for the week. For the time being, they settled on delivery. Five extra large pepperoni pizzas courtesy of Painter’s local Pizzeria.
Antonio felt the aroma of melted cheese and marinara sauce weaving in and out of his nostrils like Mexican Prairie Dogs in the wild.
“I’m starving,” Emily said.
“I’ll have one!” Sarah called to Pawel, who was handing plates to the group.
“So what are we doing tomorrow?” Ryan said.
“No clue. I mean once we stop and get groceries, I guess we can check out the town,” Billy said.
“Anything cool to see?” Christian asked.
“Not sure, I didn’t really check Google. Probably should’ve done some research,” Billy said, scratching his head with a dirty pizza finger.
“Let’s not worry about tomorrow, let’s worry about tonight!” Adrian said.
“What’s happenin’ tonight?” Collin asked.
“Uh drinking, duh,” Adrian laughed.
“Smooth,” Billy said. He chomped on his pizza like a cow chewing on grass, with no regard for flying crumbs.
“I mean we must’ve driven through part of town today. I saw a few storefronts on the way in,” Emily said.
Collin chimed in. “I saw a library, that’s about it. Wasn’t really paying attention.”
Adrian leaped over the chair, running into the kitchen. He came back a few seconds later carrying a large bottle of Jack Daniels and a couple of shot glasses.
“Who’s drinking with me?”
“I will,” Pawel said.
“Hand me one,” Antonio motioned.
“Not much for whiskey, count me out,” Christian said.
“I’ll try,” Billy said.
“Any glasses left?” Ryan asked.
“Nope, you’re shit out of luck, my friend. Maybe next round,” Adrian said.
Pawel, Antonio, Billy and Adrian all stood up, as the rest of the group joined in.
Everyone else was drinking various liquor out of red solo cups.
“A toast,” Adrian started. “To friendship, to good vibes, and to small-town babes. Let’s get wasted.”
The boys tapped their glasses, hoisting them up to their lips, swallowing Jacks’ harsh bite.
Antonio could only taste charcoal, as if he’d poured hot rocks down his throat. The after-taste lingered on his tongue.
“Another round?” Adrian lifted the bottle, as cups and glasses surrounded Adrian like preteens at a One Direction concert.
Those next few hours seemed to drift in and out of Antonio’s mind like he’d been travelling through some trans dimensional wormhole.
He was sucked out of the room and dropped back in, each time he left he found himself taking another drink. Each time he returned, he was greeted by the sound of crashing waves.
A sound that seemed so familiar to his ears, even though he realized he’d never stepped foot on a beach in his 24 years of living.
What did the ocean really look like? What did it smell like? Was it really salty to the taste?
What colour was the water? Was it royal blue? Crystal blue? A combination of green and blue – teal?
Did fish of all shapes and sizes co-exist so close to the shoreline?
He imagined walking waist deep into the ocean, with waves splashing against his face, the salt water stinging his eyes. Dark shadows, large and small, weaved in and out under the water.
He reaches out, as his hand makes the journey from the solid world above the waves into the liquid state. He starts to feel the undertow pushing, tugging, gripping at his heels, but he holds steadfast.
He wonders if he could cross over completely, let the water take him over.
Those shadows may be shadows now, but when he fully enters the nether, will those silhouettes reveal their true form?
Antonio is sucked out of the ocean and dropped back into a suede couch in the middle of a stone palace, as his friends pour another round of Jack Daniels into small silver glasses. The bottle has only a few droplets left to give, but Adrian and the rest of the crew have sucked the bottle dry.
Jacks’ life source has been depleted, and has become nothing but a clear, glass shell once filled with hopes, and dreams, and a harsh-tasting liquid.
Antonio’s eyes met Emily. Her eyes were normally chestnut brown, but tonight, he was seeing the ocean waves and it’s dark silhouetted figures coursing through the endless depths.
He turned to face Collin, who was passed out on the couch by the window. He thought he may have to retreat to bed soon too.
The rest of the night was a blur. He laughed, he drank, he laughed some more. He weaved in and out of his trans dimensional state.
He wanted to be here with his friends but his thoughts took him elsewhere.
A pin prick struck him ever so suddenly. A thought so sharp he may as well been struck by a knife.
He was standing yet again in the ocean, waist deep, surrounded by a circling gang of silhouettes.
However, he felt a strange feeling. He felt danger, he felt his time was to come to an end.
The figures began to rise out of the water. As the first strange shape began to cross from the liquid dimension into the solid, Antonio passed out.