The First Line Was The Last
by Rick Cook Jr
Once upon a time, there was a story so short, it was only a single line. That line danced up the straw into my nose, a churning whirlwind of promise. I leaned back, snorting and coughing, holding my nose shut against the tingling urge to sneeze all that powder back out. Everyone around me laughed as I started to sniff. I didn’t feel anything different, except a pleasant numbing sensation. It tasted funny, in the back of my throat.
Roger slapped me on the shoulder. “I haven’t seen anyone bump for the first time in like ten years. You did good, kid.” I could hardly understand him over the bass rumble of the music and the yelling.
“Twenty,” I shouted.
“Twenty? What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” Roger’s hand twitched and hovered over the gun on the couch next to him. Christabel and Christopher had warned me about that. The twins and the other partiers in the room tensed, expectant.
“I’m twenty. Not really a kid.”
Roger stared at me, as if he’d never heard such a thing in his life. He laughed, a braying horse laugh so loud my ears popped. “Shit, if you never bumped, you’re a kid, far as I’m concerned.” Roger laughed and leaned down to the longer rails he’d prepared on the onyx surface, snorting one.
“Who’s next, who’s next. Christa? Christo? Get to Hoovering.” Roger leaned back and relaxed, sniffing and rubbing at his nose. Christabel bent over, and just the way she was situated I could see right down her blouse almost to her bellybutton. Her lips spread into that little grin I loved when her eyes caught mine. I sniffed and snorted, wiping my nose as a line disappeared up her straw. My hand came away covered in red. Christopher handed me some tissues, giggling.
Christabel got to her feet and came over to hold my nose. “Who had Red River?” she called out. Her voice sounded funny to me, slow and low, like a recording slowed down for comedic effect.
Someone I didn’t know answered her, a brunette girl on the couch with Roger. She waved her hand and it was hard to track the motion, like my eyes were moving too fast in my head. It felt like time was slowing down for everyone but me.
Roger and the brunette collected money, and she stuffed most of it down her bra. My heart began to race, thumping so loud I looked down to make sure it was still in my chest. I started to sweat. Something wasn’t right. But it kind of was.
Christopher bent over and another rail disappeared. I felt like I could see the individual particles zipping into the hole of the straw, like a high-speed camera. It was awesome.
The bleeding stopped and Christabel got into my lap, swaying to the beat of the music. She snatched my drink and drained it half away. I knew I could have stopped her – she was moving so slow! – but a girl like Christabel, you kinda let them do what they wanted, right?
She leaned in like a stripper giving a lap dance and whispered into my ear, “We told you it was incredible.”
I nodded. It was easy to imagine how cocaine just steamrolled lives, if it felt like this. I took my drink back and finished it, but I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to taste like; didn’t care. My heart thumped harder and harder, but I ignored it. How could my body be important when her body was next to it?
She stood up and took me by the hand, and I just wanted to run my fingertips across her skin. It was like discovering a new sense; I could almost feel the individual strands of hair and bumps on her skin. I couldn’t tell which was bumping harder, the music or my heartbeat.
Catcalls came from around the table as we disappeared upstairs and into one of several bedrooms on the second floor of Roger’s home. I felt like a stick of dynamite. I had to have her. The door to the bedroom closed and she tossed me to the bed. We couldn’t get our clothes off fast enough.
It was the best sex I’d ever have. We fell into a frantic rhythm until suddenly nothing was right anymore. My heartbeat, thumping harder and harder within my chest, gave an ungainly lurch. It contracted and squeezed, expanded and felt ready to burst. My left arm got all tingly right before going numb. I wheezed, trying to get my breath, to ask for help.
Instead I collapsed on top of Christabel, drooling. Her screams hardly penetrated the growing fog.
Heart attack at twenty. My mother had always warned me about heart disease in our family.
But oh man, what a way to go!
I blacked out, thinking it was all over. I wasn’t scared. I thought I would be.
I woke up in the hospital, a tube down my throat. Feeling had returned to my arm. Something was in my hand. I struggled to identify the source, and into my field of vision hovered an angel’s face. Christabel.
Once upon a time there was a story so short it was only a single line, and that line started the rest of my life.
This piece of flash fiction is for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge, “Last Lines First” in which he took his favorite last sentences from the previous week’s challenge and told us to use one of them as the opening line in our story this week. He chose ten (mine didn’t get picked), and of those ten I really liked a couple of them, but one struck me as the most challenging, so I chose that one.
Josh Roby: “Once upon a time, there was a story so short, it was only a single line.”
Since there’s really no way to write this story without some kind of open-ended subversion in that sentence, I chose instead to make “a single line” a very different thing. Thus the story above. I guess as a disclaimer I am not a recreational drug user, and as such have never had cocaine in my system, nor do I recommend it since it’s still illegal and can ruin lives when abused. This is also not supposed to be a cautionary, D.A.R.E. tale trying to prevent people from using. It just is what it is.
Hope you enjoyed it!