Chadpocalypse 1:5 - The Most Important Meal of the Day
1:5 The Most Important Meal of the Day
When Chad awoke it was to the pounding fury of the hangover to end all hangovers. The first thing he noticed was the furious pain in his temples, jabbing like tiny needles behind his eyes. The second, was a woman brandishing a lamp and screaming something about an “Intruder in her apartment”. From the moment his eyes fluttered open, it was clear that something was very wrong with the world.
“What the hell are you doing on my floor?” shouted the woman, swinging the light through the air making dizzying streaks.
At first Chad couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone would be so upset with him, and then, in the dim light it dawned on him; this isn’t my apartment. The furnishings were far too tasteful, and aside from the smell of his own vomit, there was nothing familiar about the place. “Woah, woah, woah,” he stammered, trying his best to ignore the bass drum beating against his brain. “Let’s all just calm down.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” the woman screamed. “You’re the one in my bedroom! Get out now, or I’m calling the police!”
“Alright, let me just get my,” he looked down at his feet noticing his shoes were still on. “Never mind, I’m going.” With the grace of a drunken acrobat, Chad scrambled into a standing position, and dodged around the woman’s vicious lamp swing. It collided with the wall, sending a shower of sparks over the room and plunging it into darkness. Chad maneuvered behind her and flung open the door sending a blinding ray of light into the room behind him. Looking at the maroon colored carpets of the hallway and brass numbers beside the doors, he was confused how he had thought it was his building to begin with. Must have had a few more than I thought.
“Get the fuck out of here!” screamed the woman, redoubling her assault, this time with a children’s baseball bat. There was a muted thunk as the wood struck Chad’s shoulder and he cried out in pain. It hadn’t carried much weight, but after a point, a bat was a bat.
Not wanting to test his luck further, he took off down the hallway at a dead sprint. Immediately, his heart began to pound in his chest. Sweat beaded on his forehead and a slow ache crept into his calves. People do this for exercise? He made a mental note to kill himself if he ever started jogging.
Several apartment doors were open with concerned denizens poking their heads out to get a good look at the source of the commotion. What they saw was a red-faced youth, curly brown hair flying every which way, stumbling down the hallway at an impressive pace, and trying his best not to vomit. To Chad’s credit, he succeeded in the last, right up until he burst through the door leading outside. At the confrontation of what could only be the brightest sun he had ever seen, Chad immediately doubled over and threw up on the concrete.
Instant relief spread over him in a wave as the previous evenings toxins were expelled in one fell swoop. He wiped his mouth, glad that the worst was over and then vomited again. It took him a few moments after that to trust that things really had ended, but when they had, he straightened up, brushed off his tattered jeans and started off in search of breakfast.
For Chad, this was nothing more than a typical Sunday morning. The air outside was humid and smelled like stale cigarettes. Such was the charm of Midway. What a crazy night, he thought, unsure of what exactly had happened. He could remember grabbing his second beer at a local dive, but everything after that was a blur. Blacking out was a normal occurrence, and for the most part, he was just proud he had ended the night out of a jail cell. Chad tried to remember the dream he had been having before the woman had so rudely woken him with her shouting. “Even if I did break in, I wasn’t hurting anyone,” he muttered.
A couple passing by gave him a disgusted look usually reserved for rich aristocrats observing the profoundly homeless.
Chad ignored them, he was too busy thinking about the visions of Hell and the horseman that had appeared in the woman’s bedroom the night before. What a crazy dream. Wouldn’t be a bad idea for a book, he mused, thinking that he might pick up writing again after he had found some food. Chad’s creative works consisted of a series of one-page story openers that had each been abandoned at the first sight of a cold can. All the same, he fancied himself an artist.
Up ahead was B’s Diner, one of his favorite establishments to frequent after a night of heavy drinking. B was a local legend. She had run a diner out in the sticks for years but sold it to come out to the big city. It didn’t take long after opening for the new location to become a local institution. B’s diner gained a reputation for serving portions that could kill a man with contents that could clog his heart.
Chad looked up at the angle of the sun. If it had risen too far, the diner was likely to be packed, and handling that many people in his current state was going to be difficult to stay the least. To his luck, it was still early morning, and the diner was nearly deserted. The silver-paneled walls of B’s glinted at him in the warm orange light like a lighthouse to a lost ship.
“Hallelujah,” he exclaimed, taking the remaining distance at a brisk walk. Inside he was greeted by cool air-conditioning, Don’t Fear the Reaper playing through the restaurant’s jukebox, and his favorite red vinyl booth, unoccupied. He slumped down in the seat and pretended to read over the menu. He would have eggs benedict, as he did every time he visited the diner, but the illusion of choice was important to keep the spice in life.
“What can I get for you darling?” asked a sweet voice that Chad almost recognized, but couldn’t quite place.
Strange, George usually takes the morning orders. Chad peered over the top of his menu cautiously and was surprised to see that it was Mrs. B herself taking his order. His face went pale and a chill swept over him as if he had been dunked in ice. A year ago, Mrs. B coming out to serve the customers would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but given that she had died of lung cancer a few months prior, it came as a bit of a shock.
Mrs. B stared at him as if she wasn’t the ghostly specter of a woman that once was, impatiently tapping her pen on the order pad.
Chad could do nothing but stare back at her.
“Just the coffee then for now?” she asked, sweetly.
“Pardon,” started Chad, unsure of what to say, “but aren’t you dead?” Saying the words sent a fresh chill rushing down his spine. He desperately wished the diner hadn’t lost its liquor license years ago.
“Oh, straight to the point then, eh?” Mrs. B brushed herself off as if to look more presentable and sat down opposite him. There was no sound as she did so. An eerie, muffled silence had set over the diner, making it feel like something out of a dream.
Chad continued to stare, unsure of how to process the image before him. Does no one else see the dead woman sitting across from me? He looked around the diner and found that there was no one else there to notice.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” chimed Mrs. B politely. “We’re sort of in a frozen state right now. They can’t see us, and we can’t see them. I’ll pop you back proper when we’ve finished our talk.”
Chad’s head thrummed with the psychotic beat of his hangover. “Alright then,” he managed, wincing from pain, “but can I at least get a cup of coffee?”
“I think I that can be arranged.” She held out her hand in the direction of the coffee pot and it came zooming over to them.
“Right, if being dead means you get Jedi powers, I’m about to kill myself.”
“Don’t be silly,” she chided, pouring him a cup of the steaming hot liquid. “I’ve only got them on loan for the day. Higher beings decided they might come in handy, and they weren’t sure you’d be so receptive to the idea.”
“Receptive to what?” he blurted. “Dead women coming back to serve me breakfast?”
Mrs. B made an impatient clucking sound with her tongue. “No dearie, with the impending apocalypse and all.”
Chad froze in his chair. No way. There’s no way. “Apocalyp…”
Mrs. B cut him off, growing annoyed and checking the clock. “Yes Chad, now sober up and pay attention.” She pushed the cup of coffee toward him. “You’ll recall your meeting with the horseman last night, correct?”
“Well I was pretty far down the bottle…”
“Jesus Christ, the Devil sure knows how to pick them. Why oh why did it have to be you?” She sighed.
“Hey, I didn’t come here to get berated by the recently deceased for my life choices.”
“No, you came here to fill your body with enough grease to sop up one of a thousand hangovers that was to be the rest of your life. Sound about right?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Right, well you’ve been given a chance to deviate from that path. How much do you remember of the horseman?”
Chad strained his mind, and saw flashing images of a molten lake of fire, and a pretentious equestrian in a polo shirt. “I remember he looked like a bit of a prick.”
Mrs. B rolled her eyes. “Well of course he was a bit of a prick. Being a herald of the apocalypse isn’t a job for a good Samaritan.”
“Fair point,” admitted Chad, and drank greedily from the coffee he had almost forgotten. The liquid cascaded down his throat and the tension behind his eyes began to ease.
“Now, I’ll explain this to you one time, and one time only.” Mrs. B looked at the clock again,. “I don’t have much time. When the apocalypse comes, the horsemen are required to pick one mortal to pass the knowledge on to. This is supposed to be indicative of fair play between the regions beyond. So, to make it easy on themselves, they picked you, no offense.”
“Some taken,” muttered Chad.
“You’re going to have to show them that was a mistake,” she continued.
At the far end of the diner, Chad noticed a small crack beginning to open on the floor. Just your mind playing tricks on you, he thought. It wouldn’t be the first time a hangover had taken a turn for the hallucinogenic, and part of him was convinced it already had.
“But why…” Chad trailed off. The crack in the floor had continued to grow, and red light was streaming out of it.
Mrs. B turned to look behind her. “Oh shit. It looks like we have less time than I thought.”
The crack ripped open and fire spewed to the top of the diner.
“What in the holy hell is that?” exclaimed Chad, jumping onto the vinyl seat as if the floor were lava.
“Well, it’s Hell of course,” she spat. “They’re coming to take me back dearie.”
A massive, clawed hand reached out of the floor. Chad’s mouth dropped open.
“Ok, listen to me Chad. You need to find Nick Ventner. There’s no time to explain, just do it.”
“Mrs. B!” Chad yelled. “Look out behind you!” His heart thumped wildly in his chest and his senses cleared, forgetting the hangover that had dulled them moments earlier.
A black demon with massive, curling horns jumped out of the hole and onto the quickly crumbling tile floor. It’s eyes glowed red with hellfire and it expelled smoke with each heavy snort it made. “Mrs. B, pleasure to see you,” it grumbled, in a deep British accent. It cocked its head to one side and lunged forward.
“This is going to hurt,” moaned Mrs. B.
With one swift strike, the demon plunged its massive claw through her back, and out the front of her chest, spraying the diner with black, congealed blood.
“Holy shit!” Chad screamed.
“Don’t fuck this up,” whispered Mrs. B, and then fell limp.
“See you soon, Chad,” chuckled the demon, and then with the grace of an Olympic diver, twisted through the air diving back through the hole in the floor.
All at once, sound rushed back into the diner, and people popped up in every booth around him. Chad stood on the vinyl seat, mouth hanging open, clutching a breakfast menu. The blood was gone from his shirt, and there was no sign of the massive hell portal in the tiled floor.
“The usual, Chad?” asked a man standing just by his side.
Chad jumped, and slid into the corner of the booth.
“Jesus man, you alright?” the voice asked.
Chad turned to see George, holding an ordering pad, looking concerned, and expectant. “S-sorry,” Chad stammered.
“Another wild night?” George laughed.
“Yeah,” Chad said. “Something like that.” His stomach rumbled impatiently. “I think I’ll have the eggs benedict…”