By L. Roger Quilter.
All Hell had broken loose. I thought the end of the world, as I knew it, was at hand. I had been struck on the head by what appeared to be a planet or meteorite. I was dazed. I managed to open my eyes for a brief second and saw my theory was right, there was a large, bleeding planet in front of my eyes. It was huge. It was round with a pitted, white surface covered in red-hued gore. Was it Mars, the red planet? Or was it a massive fireball from outer space? Before I could tell, I passed out.
My day started with the strident sound of my telephone, which woke me from a deep slumber. My mouth tasted like I'd been eating off the bottom of a bird's cage and hammers were swinging wildly against the inside of my skull. I had celebrated the first Friday of the week the night before and, as usual, I had overdone it.
Reaching across the recumbent form that lay face down in my bed beside me, I picked up the receiver with a trembling hand. Whom it was laying there I wasn't sure, and right now, with my head expanding and contracting, who cared? One of the barflies I'd chatted up last night, no doubt.
A glance at the alarm clock showed me it was two o'clock. If I hadn't been feeling so delicate I would have screamed at the inconsiderate oaf who had disturbed my beauty sleep. As it was I could only manage to whisper, "Yeah?"
"Hey, John, you wanna play a round of golf today?" It was my best friend Gerry and he sounded too damn cheerful for my mood.
"Huh?" I managed to utter. Being awakened after a night on the town finds me not at my brightest.
"It is a cool, bracing afternoon my friend, so get your ass out of that pit and get showered and dressed." He knew what I had been up to. "Sling that floozy out and let's get down to some serious golf." He knew more than I thought he did.
Bright sunshine caused me to screw my eyes tight shut. I suddenly realized I had been asleep for hours; it was not early morning after all. Gerry's idea of cool and bracing meant the temperature was close to freezing. His work is performed in a cool environment.
"OK Gerry, give me an hour and I'll see you on the first tee." I hung up and lay back on my pillow and lit the first cigarette of the day, inhaling deeply.
"Jesus, why don't you quit smoking, it’s bad for your health," a rasping, female voice screamed in my ear, restarting the hammering in my skull. I turned to find the ugliest witch of the five females that had frequented Sammy's Bar and Grille last night, pouting in my direction.
One look at the disheveled harlot with bags under her bloodshot eyes and I decided I'd give up drinking before smoking. She had matched me drink for drink last night and if she looked that bad, I didn't want to look in a mirror. I blew a cloud of smoke into her face and stepped out of bed.
"You miserable bastard." Jumping out of the bed, she headed for the bathroom, coughing and sputtering. "And if you think anything happened between us last night, you're out of your mind. You certainly couldn't perform after the booze you swallowed, you drunken bum!" The bathroom door slammed shut, compounding my health problems.
That fact, so casually dropped, made me thankful. I shuddered at thoughts of intimacy with what had been sharing my bed.
Standing there with my legs crossed, trying to ease the agony from my bloated bladder, I felt the need to throw up. How long would she be in there?
It seemed like hours, but was less than five minutes. She stormed past me, threw on her clothes and left. That is I think she left; I was in the bathroom before she had finished dressing. Good riddance! Give a girl room and board for free and she doesn't appreciate it.
Having relieved myself I stepped into the shower and shivered under the cool water. Eventually I managed to adjust the flow to a reasonable temperature, although each drop felt like a hailstone on my shattered skull.
God that woman stinks, I said to myself. There was a dreadful stench in that small room that I eventually discovered came from my mouth, not her. I wonder why we are born with our noses so close to our mouths.
I stepped from the shower and, out of respect for my condition, toweled myself dry very gently. I needed a shave, but I knew I couldn't attempt that chore as I had a bad case of the shakes.
To rid myself from the awful taste in my mouth I reached for a bottle of mouthwash on the counter and poured a liberal dose of fluid into my mouth.
"Yikes!" What I believed to be gargle juice turned out to be cooking oil. I disposed of last night's intake of beer immediately. Had I attempted to cook up something the night before? I stepped into the kitchen and saw that I had, as there were two or three broken eggs on the floor. In my drunken stupor I had carried the cooking oil with me in my haste to reach the bathroom in the early hours of the morning.
After cleaning up the mess, I thought about breakfast and felt ill. I managed to beat a raw egg in a glass of milk, spiked it with a large shot of vodka and downed the concoction. I began to feel a bit better. I was still drunk, but not as hung over. Sober people had nothing to look forward to when they woke up, while I knew my health would improve over the next few hours. Did I believe that old saw?
I dressed swiftly, ate half a slice of dry, burnt toast, making a mental note to get the bloody toaster fixed, swallowed another vodka and called a cab. Two minutes later, I threw my golf clubs into the back seat and jumped in beside the driver. I kept my eyes closed during the ten-minute drive as my head was reeling under the influence of fresh alcohol on a near empty stomach.
It was chilly in that cab. The driver had lowered his window as soon as I got in. My mouthwash did not work too well, apparently. The Hell with him, I was the one who was suffering.
I paid the cabby the exact fare and received a malevolent glare in return for the absence of a tip. I retrieved my clubs and tottered off into the grounds of the prestigious New Meadows Golf and Country Club. Their green fees are outrageously high, but I had money to burn after my father passed away and I didn't care.
Gerry laughed uproariously when he saw me and I broke into a chagrined grin. I knew I looked awful.
"You sure you're up to this?" he queried, "I've seen better looking cadavers." Gerry is a mortician.
"Shut up," I growled. "I need the fresh air."
After three holes, Gerry was way ahead. I couldn't concentrate and my head ached with every swing I took. My nightmare began at the tee for the fourth hole. I looked up in time for the offending planet to crash into my skull.
There had been no warning of any object in space changing trajectory. Surely any differences in planetary orbits would have been noted and the information communicated to the world's population.
I had thought it to be a fireball, yet there were no flames and I detected no heat prior to being struck. Several questions flooded my mind as I struggled to regain consciousness; a useless attempt as it turned out.
How could a large solar system rock come hurtling into the earth's atmosphere without anyone having knowledge that it was on a collision course? Even traveling at the speed of light it took a long time to reach any space destination at these distances.
There were so many millions of miles between the stars that any change in orbit of one of them would be observed in plenty of time to warn everybody. Nothing beyond our atmosphere could reach us so quickly that the scientists on earth couldn't calculate where it was going and how long before it arrived at a certain point. I knew the speed of light but I didn't remember just how far the planets were. In any case, being unconscious I was no calculator, was I?
It defied all logical explanation, yet something had smashed into us and had caused damage, probably irreparable damage. Was the world doomed? What catastrophic results had occurred since I had fallen prey to that terrific collision?
Something else bothered me. Instead of polar ice caps in the north and south, I remembered there seemed to be white sections east and west. This also bewildered me. My dreams faded as I sank into deeper unconsciousness, almost a coma.
I knew I was alive. My senses were slowly coming back to me. I was suffering severe pain and kept my eyes closed tight.
I knew I had a severe concussion and I wondered how the outside world was doing after the planet struck.
Judging by the sounds I heard, the place I was in had survived. Low moans and whimpering reached my ears and I knew I wasn't the only survivor. Antiseptic smells assailed my nose and sounds I associated with an emergency room told me I was safely in a hospital.
Did this make me happy? Not a chance. I knew I wouldn't be drinking my favorite tipple for a while and smoking was banned in hospitals in my neck of the woods.
Everything around me sounded reasonably normal so I slowly opened my eyes. I found the planet still in front of me and I quickly closed them again. Was I still in danger? Was life on earth about to die out?
I heard Gerry's laugh. "You scared the life outa me, sport," I heard him say. "Thought you were dead for sure. I nearly measured you up for a coffin."
He sounded cheerful enough, so he must have evaded the collision. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter for a moment, then opened them. There was Gerry, in front of me, holding up a bloodied golf ball. I stared at him and he told me: "You were so drunk you stumbled in front of me as I teed off."
That ball had hit me full on and I had opened my eyes to see it drop. As it was, after the initial impact, the ball and I fell to the ground at the same rate, so it seemed that the pimpled orb was in front of me as a permanent fixture. The red was my blood. I have suffered head wounds before and I knew how much blood could flow when somebody's scalp is opened up.
Before I went to sleep that evening, sober for a change, I thought to myself life is all bleeding wrong. I blamed my condition on several things, bleeding smokes, bleeding booze, bleeding golf and most of all, bleeding planets."