A/N: Welcome to my "epic," as it is so called. This is kind of the long story, but it probably won't actually be that long, just split into parts. This is part 1, as one might imagine. As is true in most of my stories, italics denotes thoughts or things happening in the character's head, and bold is sounds, though those will rarely come up. Read, favorite, review, whatever you want. Whatever you do, enjoy.
"You ever had a margarita?" He slurred to the point where one large word, spoken slowly, without consonant sounds, was all that came out. The rest of the bar patrons looked on with mild disgust, which I thought to be a bit tame, given the situation. Preferably, the bartender would never have served Akira, but he looked like an old man, with his white hair going everywhere.
"No, because I'm sixteen. So are you." I slouched over the bar, gaining admittance only because of Akira's insistence that I was thirty, which was met with some skepticism, until he started buying drinks, at which point anything he said turned to gold, much like the several hundred bottles of rum inside the glass case behind the bar.
Putting bottles into a glass case always seemed silly to me. You have to serve the patrons quickly to keep them happy, so keeping them behind a panel would only slow you down. If the owner thought someone wanted to steal his booze, I didn't think glass was the best option.
The bartender wiped down a glass with his eyebrows raised as if he was either trying to read my thoughts and failing horribly, or trying to remove them by flexing his face so hard they flew off the top of his head.
"Bah, shuttup. I don't need your," Akira stopped momentarily to belch quietly, sending sweet tequila smell into the air, "sass."
"You've had enough." I reached out to take the glass from his hand. He flinched just enough to send the remainder of his drink onto the floor. Lazily, his eyes feel to the floor where the drink had landed, and he flailed the glass at it, hoping the drink would realize its mistake and come back home where he would murder it senselessly in an act of violence matched only by the blob.
"I'll tell you when I've had enough." He put special emphasis on the "you," succeeding in almost pronouncing it properly.
"You smell like rum. You didn't even drink rum. You are done."
"I could keep going forever." Akira lied like a child, with equal success. To keep with his inhuman failing streak, he threw up and passed out immediately upon finishing his statement. I checked my phone for the time.
"Right at ten, just like last time."
Drunk people, I have found, act much like duffel bags. They sag around if you try to pick them up directly, and can be difficult to carry anywhere. Duffel bags have straps to solve this, and people have limbs that can be used in this way. Unfortunately, humans are larger than these bags, and sometimes have to be dragged. Akira was not much larger than a duffel bag and smelled just as bad, in a different way, but I chose to drag him anyway, as I felt he deserved a good road rash after dragging me to the bar for the third time this week. Normally, that wouldn't have been such a problem, but it was only Monday.
To make it worse, every time he dragged me out, he went on about killing the demon scourge, the black plague, the hell raiser, every ailment society had ever faced. "Ryu," he would say, "I am your only line of protection between Hell and this city." And when he was done, he would throw up and pass out, right at ten, just like last time.
Right outside the bar, he began to stir awake. His head swung around, trying to extrapolate is current location. I strengthened my grip on him, shuffling him up to grab under his arm.
"Godammit, Ryu. Don't take me out of the bar, I'm still drinking."
"No, you're still living."
"Fuck you, man." He pulled his gun out from his jacket, smashing it into my forehead. I used my free hand to knock it aside. It skittered sideways, catching momentarily on a piece of gravel before flipping into a rest position.
"Your gun may work on convenience store cashiers, but I've seen it before. I know it's never loaded."
"I ain't done drinking yet. I can still-"
"No." I threw him back onto the ground. "I have been your best goddam friend since we were fucking five, but I am done with this shit. I am no longer your wing man, or whatever this is. I don't drink, you shouldn't, and next time I see you at a bar I'm blowing your cover. If you're trying to pick up women, you should try it with the girls at our school. Shit, if you're looking for sex I'm sure you could find one who would put out. Don't even worry about the STI's, anything is better than underage drinking. At least your chances of dying go down."
"Nah, man." He wobbled onto his feet, falling over twice before stabilizing. I stared at his shoe, scraping behind him, now more yellow than white, following maybe out of devotion to its owner and friend, the boy who wore it for three years, or maybe just by its laces, somehow tangled around Akira's foot.
I watched him go for a few seconds, mostly turning back and forth, staring at Akira, his shoe, back at the city, and then back to the shoe.
"Don't go back to the bar," I finally sighed. The ability to maintain my own balance allowed me to catch up, grabbing him under the arm again. "You need to detox. Let's go home."
"Fine." He laughed. "When did I become your bitch? Following you home. You gonna rape me, faggot?"
"Shut up. You're such a dick when you're drunk."
"Make sure you wear a condom!" His laughter echoed against the rundown buildings of west Shithole.
My parents' decision to live in the city never failed to amaze me. If safety was the biggest issue, suburbs were defended too, even more so. The people living there had more money, paid more taxes. Or they had said. As I grew, the suburbs fell, dropping off the map one by one until only cities were left, even more crowded than before. Whatever had influenced them into the pollution and rot, it had saved our lives.
Living in the city did not make sense at the time. There were cheaper houses in better school districts, less violence, and more lawn. The one thing that bothered me the most was the lack of our own lawn. I always saw other kids running around with their parents, pretending to fly, doing whatever. I wanted to do that. Too late in too many ways.
The scourge began about when I was born, I was told. Demons had existed before, but in such small numbers as to be insignificant, less dangerous than cougars in Alaska. Rare enough that some people would not see one before they kicked the bucket. Demons arriving in grander numbers pretty much removed all possibility of easy living for almost everyone. Only the extremely wealthy had a chance outside the gate.
My apartment rested happily on floor three in the cheapest building downtown. Before I moved in, six vagrants found residence here. I had little doubt hookers used it while I was out sometimes. And not the expensive ones. I had not paid rent in four months, and Eddie still called me his "best tenant since George Clooney." I think Eddie had some of the same problems as Akira, though definitely not all of them.
It consisted of a "kitchen," actually just a counter on which a toaster oven was placed, with an attached room, somehow containing a couch. I added a matress later because my back started to hurt from the couch. The mattress hadn't helped.
Once inside, Akira resumed his usual activities, sitting on the couch, pulling the trigger of his gun pushed against his head. He said it calmed his nerves. I was just glad he quit smoking.
"Man, why you gotta be such a killjoy?" Click.
"Why are you ruining our life?"
"Because I'd rather you live than just die the way you want." I made sure the door was locked, jiggling the knob to check for faults.
"Fuck that. I can do whatever I want." Click.
"I am taking everything he wants! You will not stop me!"
"You're gonna end up killing yourself one of these days." I sat on the couch next to him, the holes in the cushions throwing foam into the air around us.
"I don't die. I'm the good guy, remember?" Click.
"We love each other, right? We don't need to fight, you just have to calm down."
"Those are just stories. It doesn't work like that here."
He grinned stupidly, his temple falling against mine. "Stories can happen too sometimes. They're like these big, epic journeys. You're the good guy too, I'll take you with me." Bang.
I stood up, Akira unable to react in time, falling headfirst sideways into the cushion, where he refused to get up. "I'm going to bed."
"Why, man? The night's just getting started, let's go party."
"You go ahead. I just want some sleep." I began stripping, stopping with only my pants remaining, and lay down on the mattress. Someday I'd have the money for a blanket that wasn't also a sweatshirt.
"Nah, it's cool. I'll stay," he said with such clarity a poet would have wept. I sat up to question him on his sudden sobriety, but he had already fallen asleep, gun resting against the rotting floor, body sagging into the cushions, eyes rolled back in his head.