I couldn’t say how long. Ya know, how long I’d been there. I couldn’t say. To be perfectly honest, the closest I could come to telling you would be to say forever. That’s what it felt like. It felt like forever. I don’t want you to misunderstand, I don’t mean that as hyperbole, I mean it very sincerely. I really don’t remember anything before it, though I know there must have been times before. There must have been happy times. I must have had a childhood. I must have had parents and friends and maybe even lovers. In fact I’m sure of that part because I know I had a daughter. I don’t remember her, I, I can’t picture her. I can’t picture her face, but I know she exists. I know she does because of the screaming. I can hear her screaming all the time but I just can’t remember her. So if I have a daughter then there must have been other times, other places, but in retrospect I just can’t recall them.
It was my living room. I mean, it wasn’t my living room, but it was. I believed it was, and it felt that way, and it really might as well have been, but it wasn’t. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever seen the room before. Dim and dusty and small with low ceilings stained from cigarette smoke and wood paneling walls. The sofa I sat on was a weave of some kind of dirty beige and orange threads, thin and fraying at the edges. It smelled old and musty, but it was comfortable. It didn’t matter that it was comfortable I guess, I’d been there forever and it never occurred to me to try to stand up and leave. Leaving never crossed my mind any more than arriving did. There was nothing to leave for and nothing to come from, there was only this. There was only this room, this sofa, this bottle and this glass.
God I loved that bottle. It was lovely. Lovely in that it truly was a kind of love. It was tall and it had just the right curve in the neck topped with a beautiful red metal cap with gold trim. The paper label was old and was peeling off the glass at the edges. It was cream white with gold lettering that simply said ‘I love you’.
That’s what it said to me. Every time I looked at that label it said I love you. It said it so clearly and so sweetly that you wouldn’t even believe the sound it made. You don’t choose who you fall in love with, at least I don’t remember choosing. There was nothing to choose. I was here in this room where I had always been and I was with my love and there was nothing else.
That’s not entirely true. There were the monsters. Oh, I had forgotten about the monsters. There were in this place the most horrific of creatures. Unrecognizable demons that floated in and out of my room. They howled at me and tore at my clothes. I remember now, they pulled at me and whispered and growled and made my skin grow thick and lose. They made my beard grow and grey and my eyes sink in and my belly bulge. The scratched and tore and wept at me until they didn’t anymore and I was again at peace. After that there were, from time to time, fuzzy sounds or blurry images that came and went, in and out of focus, trying like fitful devils to draw my attention away, but I was consumed by love and no siren, no matter how enticing, could unchain me from my commitment to the ambrosia trapped in that bottle.
There was time, for over its span the room did change. The comfortable mustiness of the room slowly changed and was replaced with a potent aroma of vomit and feces. It drifted in and out and while unpleasant it accomplished the task of keeping the demons away from me. I remember that once there was light and then it was dark. Once there was warmth then it was cold, but through it all I was there and so was my love, my amber friend who made me everything I ever wanted to be and gave me the only thing I could imagine being called happiness. It made the room, the world that was that room, made it free of pain and strife and sorrow and anxiety. Those words, words that I knew but didn’t know why, they represented ideas so foreign to me as to have origins in the language of another species.
Time, though, took its vengeance on me. No man is allowed such happiness, and love like mine is invariably doomed from the start. Slowly, imperceivably at first, the bottle turned from resplendent ochre to hateful transparent. First the neck, then the body. The once seductive off white skin of the label, pronounced before its copper contents, now lay tattered on the scarred wood of the table and only an unreachable halo of mead lay at the bottom of the glass cathedral.
Now the demons returned and without my holy water to fight them off they began to break through my defenses. I heard the shouting the weeping the sounds of torment and torture that I was slowly being pulled towards. Hollers and silence and hollers again and I began to weep as well. My blistered raw face stung as the salt of my tears stabbed it’s tiny daggers into my pores and I began to pray to my devils to let me out of this prison of pain and into the sweet torment of hell.
My devils listened and in my hand I found a beautiful new bottle. Heavy and smooth, shining silver and chrome. It was everything the old bottle had been but more. It held the promise to fill me with love that would last forever and I accepted it with my entire soul. The bottle in my hand may as well have been a shackle for I could not put it down, not even when my daughter started screaming.
I could hear it, cutting through the fog that filled the room, and I knew it was my daughter though I could not picture her face. I could not see her or remember her or know for sure that she was real, but I could hear her screaming and I could not stop it, so brought the cold narrow tip of the bottle to my lips and