“How long do we have to stay,” Grant asked impatiently.
“Would you relax,” Caleb shouted back looking over his shoulder to the basement’s mini bar. “It’s a night out. You don’t have work. You did well on your midterms.”
“Every time I hang out with you, it ends with a disaster,” Grant said, shrinking into the corner of the crowded basement filled with teenagers. Grant waved his hand to wave the strange smelling smoke from his face.
“We never hang out,” Caleb screamed over the music thumping in the tiny space. “Honestly, it’s like you’re like a charity case,” he mumbled underneath his breath.
“What,” Grant exclaimed with his eyes bulging.
“Nothing,” Caleb said loudly. He couldn’t help, but fidget and rub his neck, waiting for something to happen. “It’s nothing. You’re exaggerating. Like always.”
Grant twisted his head at the statement. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “Freshman year. Halloween. You invited me out to ghoulish wet T-shirt party. I did not want to go. I ended getting slapped because you lied to Nikki. Everyday I’ve seen her since, she wants to stab me,” Grant said calmly.
“Really,” Grant asked guiltily.
“Sophomore year. Easter fundraiser,” Grant continued. “Because of you, we dropped the bucket of tools off the rafter putting Stevie in the hospital! I have been banned from helping social gatherings. Shall I go on to junior year?”
“Nope. I’m an asshole. I get it,” he said, before rolling his eyes.
“How long do we have to stay,” Grant asked calmly, maintaining his posture.
“We don’t,” Caleb said, pulling out his wallet for some stray dollar bills to tip the bartender. “I want to stay.”
“How are you getting home, exactly,” Grant asked. “I’m your ride and I am not going home and coming back for you.”
“Then I’ll get a ride,” Caleb shot back.
“From who,” Grant answered with a tone as cold as ice daggers. “No one here likes you.”
Caleb smiled weakly. “Way to rub it in. You’re a real charmer. You know that, right?”
“You got an hour and I’m leaving,” Grant said with a stern point.
“Thanks, mom,” Caleb said to himself.
Caleb remained by the wall and placed his hands on his head and looked up, feeling helpless. A friend of Caleb came around to connect with. He had a light beer in his hand as an offering.
“Hey, what’s up with your chaperone,” the friend said. Caleb already knew who it was: Red. He dressed in all black and had stripes of red near his shoulders. He owned the home with two other students, but he made all the rules.
“Just drop it, will ya,” Caleb said, facing the wall.
“Easy cupcake. I come in peace. Want a drink?”
Caleb’s eyes lit up and grabbed the bottle. “Gimme,” he said as he powerfully chugged it down.
“Okay,” Red said awkwardly, “Something harder,” he called out, snapping his fingers at the bartender. He signaled with a point of his pointer finger to the nearest table. Two cups arrived instantly from two students. “Beautiful,” Red said casually. “Thank you.”
Caleb downed the two shots as quickly as he could. “Right,” Red said in bewilderment. “Okay, talk to me. What’s the deal with you two? He a friend from grade school you can’t shake or something?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Caleb said, drifting off into the distance.
“I mean… try me,” Red commanded as he snapped fingers again, never once breaking eye contact with Caleb. This time, four shots arrived instantly. Satisfied, Ryan placed the side of his finger near his face to signal no more.
Caleb grabbed his two shot glasses and downed it again.
“Wow,” Red mouthed silently as he protected his drinks from Caleb. He poured the device innocuously down his throat and bore his teeth. “I’m waiting…”
“You’re not going to understand,” Caleb replied.
“Have I not been hospitable? Tell me the answer to the damn question!”
“I have dreams about him,” Caleb finally blurted out.
Red spat his drink out at Caleb’s response. He let out a sigh of dismay. “What a waste of good alcohol.”
“It’s not like that. It’s not what you think.”
“Hey listen, if you’re bi, I don’t care.”
“You’re not listening to me. I don’t have romantic dreams about him, but when I dream about someone, I have to do what the my dream does or bad things happen.”
“Excuse me?” Caleb finally captured Red’s attention.
“I know it’s weird, but it’s the truth. It has been as long as I’ve had dreams.”
“Example,” Red demanded, leaning his head to the side.
“It’s complicated, but it usually involves someone dying at the end in real life.”
“Wow,” Red responded unenthusiastically. “So, you’re not kidding?”
“No,” Caleb answered defiantly. “That’s why I bring him around. You think I like hanging out with him? Come on! Get real!”
“So, what was the dream about?” Caleb attempted to answer, but became dizzy and ill. “Eric? What was the dream about?” Caleb let out a deep sigh.
“You alright,” Red asked, putting a hand on his shoulder to ease his anxiety.
“It’s hot in here. Can you open up a window,” Caleb said, trying to get his bearings.
“They are already open. Eric, how much have you had to drink,” Red asked.
“How many fingers do I have on my hands?”
“Okay, let’s just have a seat here, buddy. You’re okay.” Red led Caleb to the quieter section of the basement and knelt by his side.
“I’m a life dreamer,” Caleb said finally.
“I save lives. In my dreams.”
“I don’t understand.”
“My first dream was a nightmare. That’s the way I remember it anyway. Scott was a 2nd grader with me and we used to ride the bus home together. I remember it clearly. My dream I pushed him out of the school bus and he cried and he walked home. My parents heard. Dad got mad at me and beat me.”
Red let out a sigh of wonder.
“It was terrifying but Scott stayed alive. Three days later, I see it again. Scott is in the bus. I have deja vu. I got scared and ran away from Scott. I didn’t want my dad beating on my in my nightmare. Scott got safely on the bus and rode to his stop. Got out and a car hit him. Yeah… the school never got over that. But me, I knew it was my fault.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Listen to me. It is. I tried this three more times. High school kids used to call me the death’s little sidekick. Not exactly what a kid needs to hear.”
“So, what’s the deal with Grant?”
“I’ve been having reoccurring dreams with him in it. The last dream I had… it’s different. This time… I died. So now… either I die or he does. And it goes down tonight. “
“What are you going to do?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’m thinking about alcohol poisoning,” Caleb said, rubbing the corners of his mouth.
“Wow, you’re going to off yourself?”
“Sacrifice,” Caleb corrected.
“Okay. Sure. Whatever. How well do you know this guy?”
“How do you mean,” Caleb asked.
“I mean you can count on one hand how many times you’ve hung out with him. You guys are clearly not friends. Now you’re going to die so he can live? That’s a bad shake. You got a whole life ahead of you.”
“I see,” Caleb answered after a moment of reflection.
“You should let him go,” Red followed.
“Anything else,” Caleb asked, shaking his head. “Gimme that beer.”
“I’ll be your wingman,” Red said confidently.
“A wingman to a death sentence. Do me a favor, will you? Stay in this room. And don’t come out until one of us is out,” Caleb instructed.
Caleb returned to the party, but his vision blurred and the music attacked his senses. All the students were blurred out and the voices echoed. Until a blurry figure walked into his space with a finger placed on his chest.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Grant said very slowly. His speech was slurred.
“What’s wrong with you,” Caleb asked with a frown.
“I heard what you said! A charity case, huh?”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“You said to Red, ‘you think you like hanging out with me?'”
Caleb had the wind knocked out of him. He couldn’t believe after his dream, he was capable of that.
“I did say that,” Caleb said. “And I’m sorry. Are you drunk?”
“In case you didn’t realize, I can have a good time,” Grant said at a much slower rate.
“Was this your first time drinking?”
“Yeah, but who cares?”
“Look at me,” Greg yelled, grabbing Grant’s shoulders. “How much have you had to drink?”
‘I don’t answer to you, stuuupid. You’re slowly concerned with winning. I can win too. I can kick your ass.”
Caleb’s face lit up. “That’s it! Right now. You and me. Drinking contest. The last person standing wins. What do ya say?”
“Sure,” Grant said, swaying around. “I can win any day.”
“Maestro,” Caleb yelled to the bartender. “What’s the hardest drink you have?”
“Bacardi shots,” the bartender said over the subsiding crowd.
“Line em up,” Caleb ordered over the hushed crowd. The crowd lifted their voices in cheers and jeers. Caleb sat down and two students brought over a chair and a table for the shot contest. He closed his eyes and knew this would be the last moments he had earth.
“What are you doing,” Red asked. He had emerged from the rear room. “If you do this, you won’t win.”
“I know,” Caleb said. The shots were poured. Caleb and Grant faced each other down as the crowd fell silent. Caleb reached for his shot glass.
“No,” Grant said loudly. “I go first!”
Caleb smiled. “Okay. Ladies first.”
Grant’s smile melted away to disgust. “Screw you. You go.”
Caleb reached and drank three shots at once.
“Prick,” Grant said with a sneer.
“Yeah,” Caleb said with a fading smile. “You win.”
And with that Caleb fell over his chair and watch the lights dim on his made up mind.