It was karaoke night. Aaron hated karaoke night with a burning passion. A bunch of dilettantes who think they can sing, or who think they can sing and be funny about it, gathering together in one building and given access to microphones with which to amplify their stupidity was probably the worst possible way to spend a Thursday evening. He looked at his fingernails, perfectly manicured, and tried to block out the inane laughter. The minutiae around him seemed infinitely more interesting than whatever was happening near the stage. His drink was warm, his mouth was dry, the table was dirty, his head felt as though it would split open and all he wanted to do was go home and sleep—yet here he was.
Awake. In a bar. By himself.
It was a change of pace, he supposed, leaning back in his chair and finishing his drink with a slight gag. A distraction—watching happy idiots in their natural habitat.
He tried to shake the feeling of ever present loneliness but still it hung around like a faithful friend.
A woman's laughing screech from the corner awoke him from his thoughts and as he looked up to see what was happening he saw a man stumble forward from the darkness and onto the stage. Watching him, Aaron's cynical brain presented judgment after judgment with startling rapidity. This man is clearly an idiot. What self-respecting adult would sing karaoke, anyway? He looks young…no, my age? Where did he even come from? He was not here a second ago. He probably walked in right off the streets. This must be the bar notorious for drunkards and homeless bums trying to find a place to crash for the night. Aaron rolled his eyes to himself and pulled out of his pocket his last cigarette, still watching him. That's right, silly man, get up on that stage and make an idiot of yourself.
The din of the crowd did not cease as the man took the stage; rather, noticed Aaron, it seemed to pulsate more intensely. From his table in the back of the room, he saw more drinks being ordered, friends chatting, beautiful women insecurely flicking their hair and adjusting their false eyelashes—all while this Mystery Idiot prepared to sing his song. Aaron watched the stage intently and narrowed his eyes as the dim stage lights shone auburn on his thick hair. Look at him. Would you look at this? He is taking himself seriously.
The singer fixed his eyes on the screen to the side of him, grinning, exhilarated. Aaron felt as though he were the only person in the bar actually paying attention. The singer closed his eyes and opened his mouth and from it came forth a voice unlike any Aaron had ever heard, and yet by its sheer familiarity chilled him to the bone. He put his cigarette out, not taking his eyes off the singer.
The man on the stage blushed furiously, a brilliant smile across his face as he continued his song. His long, delicate fingers gripped the microphone as he swayed to the music. Though Aaron consciously placed himself at a distinct distance from the milieu of the drunken rabble, the singer's rich, melodious voice touched even the darkest corners of the smoky bar. It wrapped itself around Aaron's soul and though he hid it well, left him quite nervous.
The noise around Aaron disappeared and he heard only that song. The singer closed his eyes and unabashedly let his voice roll from him as if it were escaping from the bleakest depths of his soul. He swayed gently when the melody called for it and rose to greet the harmonies if they struck him. Inadvertently, Aaron found himself swayed by the singer's persuasive style—a smile spread across his face and he was quite happy that he chose this particular bar to sit at.
Aarons eyes, still lingering on the singer, watched as he cried out his last notes, soaking into his very skin the lights around him; exploding with red fervor. Moments later, the song ended. Abruptly, quickly, and, in Aaron's opinion, too soon. The chill Aaron had been keeping inside escaped with a small shudder down his spine.
He went to find the mysterious singer, drawn to him. A tiny voice inside his head says the name of the man he thinks it might be; Aaron brushes it off immediately. It is stupid to think such things. Not to mention dangerous. His wild and bizarre imagination plays tricks on him; ghosts and spirits, when he is alone in the evenings, are his constant companions.
The old tattoo on his back still stung a little, reminding him that he is, in fact, alive.
Aaron tapped the man, Alexander, on the shoulder and was not prepared for the face that greeted him as it turned around. His mouth dried out immediately and dropped open slightly in shock. Alexander burst into laughter—not because anything was even in the least bit humorous, but because he was shocked. His laughter is not joyous. It is unpleasant, grating. Aaron stepped back, unaware of anyone else around him. There was something painful in the way Alexander's eyes glittered; something deadly in the way he bared his teeth as his laughter died down. His face shifted into a grimace. Aaron waited out the storm, mouth still agape and on the verge of vomiting. Alexander was the first to find his words.
"You sick piece of shit" He hisses. His white teeth resemble fangs.
Aaron swallowed, rapidly feeling himself succumbing to his nausea. He grabbed the nearest trash can and vomited, drawing unwanted attention. The patrons of the bar sense the tension between the two men and cautiously prepare themselves for what they think will be a fist fight. Alexander laughs. Aaron closes his eyes.
It is not a reunion of old friends. No. It is a reunion of rivals, each victims of the other; neither feeling like he had accomplished his goal. Each failures in their own tragic way.
"…How…it can't be you…"
"Oh, it is. Very much so."
In a flash the smile disappeared from Alexander's face and tears sprung to his eyes as he steadied himself against a wall, feeling faint. Aaron instinctively reached out to help him but was viciously slapped away.
"Don't you dare touch me. Don't you ever fucking touch me."
Aaron recoiled and stepped back, eyes scanning the dim room for his table. He looked around, embarrassed at this sudden display of emotion. Several men at the bar nudge each other and, chuckling drunkenly, motion to the old contemporaries.
"You can't leave, now." Alexander managed through his breakdown. His voice was shrill. Aaron's heart beat too rapidly for him to catch his breath. In his sudden flush of embarrassment, he began to sweat. The old tattoo on his back, acquired in a moment of impulse, burns and chafes painfully against his shirt. He looked around again, unable to find words. He covered his face. Alexander stepped closer.
"You can't leave now. Not now that we've met." Aaron could not take his hands from his eyes. Alexander, barely able to choke out his last sentence, was filled to the brim with rage, regret, and centuries of pain.
"All that is left now is to decide who should apologize first."