Difficulty Spike

“Todd said he wanted something big. This is it.”

Perhaps it was the vertigo, the Hawaii heat, or a slushy combination of the two, but Eric felt some deeper misgiving at those words. The stakes were high—had been for weeks now. It began with the Chad Muska serendipity, then the mess in New York, Tampa, and now, somehow, he and his oldest friend found themselves on a hotel rooftop in Hawaii at the edge of another near-fatal fix. Eric wanted the fame too, but to risk death so often? A building-to-building McTwist? The confidence reeked of the church freaks from his Mom’s side. But his friend kept punching his ticket to destiny, regardless.

At the ramp end of the hotel roof—a mere forty feet of flat concrete between them—Eric thought about home, New Jersey. He remembered the weird-but-kind drug dealers next door, the improbable rooftop half pipes, the masonry overrun with tombstones of locals he’d never met. To himself and the camcorder in his hand, he whispered “I want to go home.” The helicopter cut the words to nothing.

It was time. The skateboard wheels scratched with each kick. Eric swore it sounded like the trucks weren’t tight. His friend zipped past. The board popped against the ramps edge and skittered backwards. His friend was flying. For one microsecond, Eric thought he’d cleared it. The helicopter blades chopped the air and the skater.

Eric knew about meat grinders. A butcher’s tool, co-opted by corporate America to pardon the mincing of good citizens. Blood, flesh, and tears, all that. If he had been asked what happened when someone threw themselves into a literal meat grinder, his answer would have been the same—blood, flesh, tears. But here, there were only tears—Eric’s. His friend didn’t bleed, there was no flesh. He just disappeared. Didn’t even leave a pink mist to say goodbye.

Eric rubbed his face, pressed his sockets in until his vision pixelated. It didn’t make sense. There should have been blood, he should have warned him, there should have been so much blood. In the TV-static fuzz at the centre of his vision he could see the church freaks, the burning pyres in a cropped meadow, the circle of masks closing in tighter, and then—like a mosquito buzz in the night—he heard the wheels scratch the roof concrete.

His friend kicked along the hotel roof. Eric keeled back onto his bum. It was repeating. The worst moment in his life was repeating itself, like some sick Groundhog Day, or a scratched S Club Juniors album. Eric stayed, watched, cried. His friend tossed himself onto the spinning pyre again and again, punching his ticket to shreds, confident to the very end.

Jake is a cancer researcher from Cork. This is his second Daily Drunk adventure, and he has work featured/forthcoming in perhappened and Versification. Follow his twitter @JakeMcAwful — or don’t, that’s totally okay too.

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