The sleep thing kept catching me off guard, the first few times. Not the dreams, mind you, but the whizbang firecracker process itself – losing hours of New Time in the blink of an eye. And let me tell you, it staggers when you’re not quite expecting it, the waking up part. Which is why, before I opened my eyes, I didn’t notice much was off the third or fourth morning of my little cruise on the ol’ corporeal yacht. (Not that Gunn’s body had much in common with said vessel, the poor boy. “Dinghy” might’ve been a cozier metaphor; deflated lifeboat, now that I think of it.) That there’s too much to take in the precise moment of waking would be a shameful understatement.
While I fully anticipated finding myself nose deep in the tobacco-scented plush of my Ritz London suite’s top-notch carpet as I jerked up, slipping off the bed with sunlight flooding my half open eyelids, it was a decidedly less pleasant surface that greeted my (probably) cocaine flecked schnoz upon hitting the ground.
I mean. Fucking ow.
Groaning, I turned over onto my back, blinking skyward. And once my retinas had stopped burning long enough to return focus to the rest of my eyeballs, they gave me more than one reason to believe I wasn’t any bloody where near the Ritz, or the Clerkenwell flat, or whatever other place in the material world that ought to see the possessed Declan Gunn waking in it, hungover on coke and booze or not.
I had then the tiniest itch to stretch my wings, so to speak; to drop the body then and there to regain my bearings, or something of the sort. But slipping into that state of being would bring with it all the buggering force of my angelic pain, and I went numb to the idea immediately. (Did it bother me that this bothered me? You betchyer bootstraps it did. But at the time, I tried not to think about it.)
Better to find out where in the name of Jimmeny Farking Christmas’s Bleeding Heart I’d ended up with the perception afforded by flesh alone.
So I rolled over again, scrambling to my feet, cursing under my breath, and experiencing for the first time the coppery bite of blood on my tongue (I didn’t realise what this delightfully piquant flavour was until later, when a wetness on my upper lip prompted me to swipe the back of my hand under my nose) as I righted myself.
‘Gabriel!’ I shouted.
‘Gabbers, get down here you cheating cunt! What the-’ Just about then, I spun around and nearly walked smack into the glass front window of a shop proclaiming itself “Duty Free.” But it wasn’t any shock of just avoiding a collision that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. No, it was catching sight of the ghostly reflection facing me from the other side was responsible.
Why, you ask? Because, my dears, it was not the plain and balding visage of Declan Gunn that peered back at me.
The eyes were a cool and sharply etched blue, the hair short and blonde, the build stocky. Strange, yet familiar, and by that I don’t mean I’d an inkling of who the carcass belonged to. (Which was, in itself, a bit odd...but more on that later.) It was so...hm. Well. If I didn’t know any better, I’d call it a pretty approximation of an incorporeal essence made tangible, as though some ethereal casting director had decided a disembodied voice wasn’t going to cut it for yours truly.
‘Strike that,’ I muttered heavenward, having made some headway in feeling myself up by the time the previous train of thought had completed its circuit. Inevitably, the belt buckle was undone and the flies to the jeans opened as I snuck a little peek down between my newly begotten thighs.
Not bad. But as any pubescent lad will tell you, you really don’t know about these things ‘til they’ve been taken for a spin. And I was resolved to have a wank right there and then, I tell you, when while fumbling around with my jeans my hands came in contact with the comforting bulge of a pack of Silk Cuts in the front pocket.
Well, getting one of these beauties between my lips took precedence over putting the new equipment through its paces. So I did just that, wandering into the shop (which was still as a grave, by the way) to plunder a Zippo display, which yielded this little number.
Needless to say, the old snake was well and truly pleased with himself as he fired up a cigarette and returned to the outside to lean (flies and belt open, face bloodied) his shoulders back against the window with a sigh.