“The Demon Drink” is my first story of 2019 for The Word Count Podcast. Woo hoo! I’m happy to continue writing for Richard’s fabulous show. The theme for this season is Landscapes and my story is based on the following image, a beautiful lake in Norway.
Story Inspiration: I wrote this story before going to Cuba, so I was thinking about escaping the cold at the time. Perhaps that’s why I interpreted the water in this picture as I did. 😉
You can also listen to me reading “The Demon Drink” on episode 82 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.
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I walked along the narrow path, crunching snow under my boots. Fog hung over the lake, while an expanse of treetops obscured my view of the town. Parts of the lake had frozen, and it was only a matter of time before it turned into a giant skating rink. Yesterday’s high winds and storm would hasten the process. With snow weighing down the massive evergreens, branches cracked as I walked by them.
Temperatures had already fallen to below normal for this time of year. I hated January. How was I to put up with four more months of this cold, especially now? I purposely chose to stay in this remote area with no cell signal, cut off from family and friends. Self-imposed detox was serious business. I gave myself a month to make it happen.
My friend, Kimberley, had said that all it took was a week to get the taste of booze out of her system. After that, she didn’t feel the urge to drink anymore.
I had to admire Kim. She and I had been college drinking buddies, but following her divorce, she stopped drinking. Getting away from her alcoholic ex-husband was all it took, she said. For a time, I suspected she was still secretly drinking until I noticed her change in appearance. She had slimmed down. Her once saggy face looked firmer. At fifty, she looked ten years younger. The new boyfriend on her arm didn’t hurt either.
I was intrigued. Having had at least a few drinks every day for the past thirty years, I wondered if I could stop too. Frequent bouts of insomnia started me thinking about it.
“It’s a lie that alcohol helps you sleep,” Kim had said. “It knocks you out but interrupts your sleep pattern. I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in years since I’ve stopped drinking.”
Yes, insomnia worried me, but not as much as my dreams when I was able to sleep. The dreams always involved drinking, not alcohol—but water. I must have felt so dehydrated all the time that it was all I could think about. That, along with disgracing myself at my family Christmas dinner following one too many eggnog cocktails forced me to do something drastic.
Ten days dry so far, not a single drop of alcohol. Optimism brought a smile to my cold lips.
From afar, someone was walking toward me. I assumed the person to be a woman based on the small stature and contemplative slow steps. Bundled in a black woollen coat, black hat, and a scarf piled high around the face, it was impossible to tell for sure. Oddly, it was the first time since I got here that I wasn’t alone on this deserted path.
Suddenly, this person started running toward me, not in a sprint-like fashion, but with hands in pockets, head down, and shuffling forward at a steady pace.
My internal dialogue kicked up a notch. Something about this did not seem right. Why was she running? Was she being chased? There was no one behind her. As she got within ten feet of me, I yelled: “Stop!”
The person jerked to a halt and stared at me, revealing the only part of her face that wasn’t covered.
I was right, it was a woman, and she was breathing heavily. She pulled down the bottom half of a balaclava hidden behind her scarf.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” I said. “You were coming at me so quickly I was afraid you would barrel into me. Are you okay?”
She fidgeted on the spot, as if she was restless after coming to such an abrupt stop. “I didn’t see you. My eyesight’s not what it used to be.”
Her voice was like playing an old record album, scratchy and full of static. I noticed her hands shaking. “You must be cold, is that why you were running?”
The woman shook her head. “I’m always cold.” She pulled the balaclava back up and adjusted her scarf more securely around her collar. “I was trying to outrun a demon, that’s all.”
My mouth dropped open but no words came out. Outrun a demon? What was she talking about? This woman was definitely not of right mind. “I see …” I said, surveying her discreetly. Aside from her voice, it was impossible to learn more about her considering she was covered from head to toe. “I’m headed back to my cabin. Is your place nearby?”
“It’s down there.” She wagged her chin in the general direction of the town.
Her vague response worried me, but I had to trust my instincts without alcohol, shaky as they were. Was she lost? Elderly people with dementia wandered from home all the time in the city. Maybe that’s what happened to her. “Can I walk you home?” I said. “The sun will be setting shortly, so it’s only going to get colder.”
She shook her head once more. “You can’t walk me home. I live in the lake and I must return there before it freezes over completely.”
Her words chilled my already cold bones. “Please.” I offered my hand. “Why don’t you take my arm and we can go to my place? It’s not far. I’ll make us a cup of tea, and I can drive you back to your house.”
“That won’t be necessary.” She took an unsteady step forward. I reached out to grab her, but it was too late.
She fell silently into the abyss just as the sky darkened. I awoke to the sound of my own scream.
Sweat mixed with tears ran down my face. With my pyjamas completely soaked, it felt like a tiny lake beneath me. I wondered if I would ever be able to outrun the demon.
Your comments, questions are always welcome! More of my stories can be found under Free Reads.