Solatium – Short Story 

The barrel of the gun was pointed to his temple with a shaky finger resting upon the steel trigger. John was never one for abrupt endings, but the fumes dispersing into the desolate night air from the gaping mouth of the sewers dampened his will to persevere through his hard-ship. He was left with nothing after the steel mill laid him off; forced to scour the streets for the least bit of something to eat, and evicted from his shanty apartment to a pile of collected trash as a place for him to sleep. The fulguration of his memories kept his finger from slipping, he couldn’t muster the notion to silence his frustration; instead, he began to sob in contemplation.

“You ain’t never gonna amount to anything but these slums, and the chime of the change flung by the passing patrons who show the least bit of care.” he said to himself, staring into the abyssal night sky. The grit from the industrial pollution encoded nothing but disdain and malcontent to the expression in his face along with the skin-fractures of age. He felt beaten and maimed by his situation—what brought him to this point of the cold steel against his skull. John pinned himself against a wall in a dark alley that comprised of the cheap rent, the ceaseless spewing of smoke stacks, and the decrepit streets that plagued his dead-end existence; until a strange event occurred just beyond his tear-smothered view.
John was about to be confronted by a contingency beyond his capable grasp of understanding. He was about to feel alive again . . .

A man presented himself at the other end of the alley where John was positioned. The rapid steps that echoed from brick wall to brick wall coerced John’s attention out of his introspective state, and into the direction of the sound. As soon as he caught glimpse of the rapidly approaching gentleman, he stowed the pistol into his back pocket; he did not want to attract unwanted attention. As the man came closer, so did John’s curiosity toward the matter, for he felt that this man was part of something he was hoping for: an end, or a new beginning. The steps grew closer near until the man was peering down at John, out of breath. “What have you down in these slums, dear sir?”

John continued to stare downward out of anticipation that this finely-dressed man would be the death of him; although John was armed, he never killed a man. He responded in a lightly stressed tone, “I’m a broken man, just leave me alone.”

“Well,” began the mysterious man with a pompous voice, “I do say my good sir that you have the utmost potential to see where this may bring you.” He reached into his pocket while leaning on the wall of which John was sitting against, and placed a green round pill on the cap of his knee. “I assure you,” the man continued to speak; “there is no worry that should be considered.” John’s hand was still tightly wound around the grip of the pistol in his pocket.

He peered up to the face of the character that bestowed this substance onto him asking, “What is this?”

“It’s nothing that would drive your senses to use that rusty piece in the back of your pocket on me.” The man said as he poked a glace with an animated brow toward John’s concealed hand. “You are smarter than that now, aren’t you? As you can see, I’m only trying to help.”

This enigma of circumstances bewildered John’s logical thought process; he did not know what to make of this. “Are you,” John started to say, “Are you tryin’ to sell me somethin’? If so, I’m not interested.” The gentleman kicked his cane from one shoe to the other, still leaning toward John with a sense of amusement.

“ME? Trying to sell you something?!” the animated man laughed as he spoke, “I am here to rid you of the turmoil and doubt that befuddles your weary mind, my good sir!”

John looked perplexed, yet intrigued at the sole pill sitting on his knee. While still staring at the substance he muttered, “And how do you know about what’s in my pocket?” It was at this moment when there was the absence of a snide remark. John lifted his head up to nothing but the empty brick wall staring back at him. The man had disappeared with no trace of his existence to be found.

John’s eyes whipped from one end of the alley to the other in a frantic fury of confusion, unable to retain any kind of understanding of what just occurred. The only evidence of the man’s visit was that of the pill he left behind. John’s grip loosened from the gun lodged in his back pocket as he directed his sight toward the pill, wondering if he should ingest it. He raised the gun up to his hip and swapped glances with it, and the pill. Given his circumstance, and the enormous curiosity of what may happen if he decided to take the substance overwhelmed his decision. Without a second thought, he dropped the gun and picked up the pill, glanced at it once more, and threw it down his esophagus. It traversed downward to the pits of his stomach and saturated itself into the bloodstream. Not before long, John nodded away into a sound slumber. His body released all forms of animation as the pill began to take effect. He soon fell into a state that brought him from the desolate alley to an alternate reality.

The deer poked him when he was somberly sleeping; the notion entered his dream with discontent which forced his weary sleep to a close. As John arose from the dreariness of his mind, he found the deer’s beaded black eyes piercing into his.

“Hurry John, we must find the cause of that resonant bang off in the distance, I fear it may become the worst of us, or to our home!” The deer said with haste. In a rush, before John found the notion to speak, he looked up toward the sun to catch a glimpse of where he was. It seemed, according to the shadows of the trees and the surrounding plant-life; he found himself in a dense forest. He sighed as he dragged his head along the tree line, in a daze of delirium. Inflicted with a foreign pain in his temple, he tried to recollect the previous events that lead him here; but he could not muster the images. He only felt alive and one with the earth, as well as knowledgeable of the terrain—as if he lived in this forest his whole life.

As he ascended from the ground, he felt aches and pains that seemed to inflict only the interior walls of his intestines, causing the spleen to take action against his reality. He remembered only taking the pill, and nothing else. Before John could catch his breath from the discomfort, the deer nudged its nose into his shoulder cavity in order to get his attention toward the situation at hand. John showed it a smile of reassurance as he said, “It sounds too far off in the distance, farther north then I can see. I wouldn’t be too frightened deer.”

The deer lowered its head, granting him the right to say what may be true. “You may be right John; this land is shared by many only known to you, but that disturbance was of another origin. Not from these lands.” He dismissed its anxiety with a gentle rub to its brow, “Be not afraid, for I feel that I have the right of passage in this forest— what disturbs the silence is nothing more than a faint growl of a dying predator.” The deer shrugged its antlers at him in agreement for the time being.

John walked over to the ridge of the basin of which he was resting upon to see further into the horizon that settled above the land. The deer trotted close by as he stepped toward the edge to stare down through the trough in an attempt to see what lay ahead, as well as to clear his head. Upon staring into the diluted thoughts of his delirium, he heard a voice speak with a softened utterance. “The feeling of the rapture from the pill will contort your brain’s receptors to dispatch frequencies of resolve, to seek the foreign sound of this land, and only then will you feel the sensation to live again.” A few moments passed while he stood motionless and introspective, until the repeated noise shuttered his ear drums again and again and again. This time, the deer was disbanding from him in anxiousness to see what, or who was creating such a flurry of vibrations.

“If you must deer,” John shouted, “I will accompany you in this expenditure!” He quickly grabbed his coat, and vigorously scaled down the cliff after the doe, until he reached the mouth of the valley.

Upon arrival to the entrance of the gorge, a river was slowly revealed to John as he traversed around an intricacy of shrubs and vines. He approached the doe at the edge of the water as it paused, peering across the ravine towards a passage covered with dense flora. “It must be over there, passed this stream and beyond that path.” It said gesturing its head in that direction.

John’s perception of the woods flashed at the sight of the passage; he saw within the darkness, a faded isle of brick and moss, coated with vines and trash that reminded him of home. “I’m not going through there deer, that path is littered with regret, and besides, I am kind of enjoying it here.” The deer shook its head at his response and said, “John, this bang will not stop unless you seek it to be resolved.” As it said this, the blaring bang interrupted the serenity once more, sending John to his knees.

“It won’t cease until I find the cause of it?” He asked facing the deer as he got up. “What could it be that would make me cross this river to find out? I may slip and fall!” The deer paid little heed to his concerns and insisted for him to proceed across. John failed to comply with the antics of the deer and decided to retreat back toward the face of the ridge when the deer’s composure began to shift and turn before John could muster a step forward. He jumped back from the phenomenon in fear that it may warp him too, and sought refuge behind a near-by boulder no bigger than twice his size. As the deer’s composition fluctuated, a familiar voice began to flutter the air that caused John to retract from his hidden position.

“Oh, Dear John what am I to do with you? You know as well as I, that banging won’t stop until you do something about it!” John cautiously rose from the ground to peer across the top of the boulder, revealing only his eyes and above. To his astonishment, he found himself looking at the mysterious over-enthused gentleman that granted him the pill from the alley.

“You!” John shouted as he trampled over the boulder to confront the man. “Is all this from the pill you have had me take?!” The man stood with posture of pride that complimented his suit. The cane, still frolicking in his hands tapped the tempo of his impending judgment on the matter. “John, do you wish to stay here, among this lavish landscape of greenery?” John stuck his face into the man’s breathing range, squinting a perplexed stare that brought him to respond, “ I most very well want to stay here, but not with you.”

“Then take this tether,” just then a rope and hook appeared in the man’s hand, “and ring it to that tree over there,” John turned slightly to the tree the gentleman was pointing at with a raised index finger, “You know, so you can get across?” He said as he placed one end of the rope into John’s hand. “Is this the only way?” John asked with disdain in his voice. “Of course. . .” the gentleman replied.

John took a few steps toward the trunk of the tree when he began to feel the pain again in his gut. It shot straight through his intestines, causing him to keel over in slight agony. “Do hurry dear sir,” the man said to John, “If you wish to stay here, you must deal with that banging before the pill deals with you.” John paused until the pain subsided, then asked “What are you talking about, before the pill deals with me?”

“You only have a few hours until the pill loses its effect on you, and when that happens before you can stop this banging,” The flamboyant mannered man let out a chuckle, “Well, let’s just say we will have all the time in the world to get to know each other.” John finished tethering the rope to the tree trunk when he stopped at the sound of the bang, this time it was louder with more effect on the ear drums.

“Ahhh . . . Are you saying that if I don’t find out what’s causing this deafening noise before the effects of this pill run out, I will be stuck with you . . . here?!” The man clicked his cane to the brim of his top hat, “Precisely so my good man.”

John was at the point of no return when he heard these two only options. After a quick analysis of the situation, He was sure to pursue the origin of the noise; for it was beginning to cause his eardrums to bleed and the pain in his temple to exponentially grow with every succession of the bang. “Ok,” he said, “Ill cross the river and take that desolate path to seek the end of this reoccurring noise.”

“Good,” the man said, “I wouldn’t want to live the rest of my days with you lad. You are rather boring.” The rope was thrown by John to the other side, lassoing the end to a rooted branch. The gentleman watched his effort, pretending to show concern through playful banter. “Be careful John, if you fall into the fury of the water, I won’t be able to get you out; I just had these shoes polished!”

John latched his grip with strength to the tautness of the rope while ignoring the antagonizing remarks from the gentleman. He soon began to make his way across until he reached half way, “I’ll be sure to make it across with no regard to your . . .” Just before John could finish, he slipped on a wet rock protruding from the rigorous flow of the stream, and smacked his head on the proceeding rocks that blanketed the floor of the river. There was a bang that accompanied his fall, that of a gun which he knew in an instant before he made contact with the gravel.

The gentleman reappeared over John’s body in the alley, staring into the bullet hole that plagued his complexion as a dead man. “Poor fellow,” he said to the corpse, “I helped you pull the trigger without a lift of my finger, but by the fabrication of this here drug.” The gentleman reached into his pocket to reveal a green rounded pill that he flicked up into the air, “A life for a trip, don’t you feel better about yourself John? You wished to cross the river the moment you loaded that gun.” He said as he caught the pill with his hand, in search for another desperate fellow to ensue the same fate of the dead man John.

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