Zack Sterkenberg has allowed BUnow to feature some of his creative writing. Enjoy, and check back for more of Zack’s amazing work.

Even dreams can be nightmares.

“Pass the bottle over here, man!  Who’s 21st is it again?” laughed Jake in a half-drunken stupor.  He was in his backyard drinking heavily with about fifteen of his closest friends while the fire roared, and inhibitions died.

“Fine, fine, but only if we get another round of shots!” yelled Chris, as he grabbed a few shot glasses and made his best attempt at pouring the vodka into the glasses that must have looked to him like needle points.  “Come and get ‘em!  Shots all around to my man Jake!”

Chris’s aim was clearly off as streams of clear liquid began to run off the table onto the green summers grass.  Surely it was obvious to any sober bystander that Chris’s night of memories was over three or four shots prior.

Four friends including Jake jumped up to heed Chris’s call.  They quickly abandoned their positions around the fire and stumbled as sober as possible over to the small glass table that was covered in vodka, with four shot glasses filled to varying degrees; Chris’s best attempt at another successful round for his good buddy.  They were one shot short for the group and before anyone could change their mind and wander away, missing another miserable shot of $8 liquor, Chris poured (if one could call it that) another shot, with at least another half of a shot ending up in the puddle of vodka saturating the table.

“Don’t worry, man, I’ll slurp it all up after this shot,” said Chris eyeing the puddle gathered in the center of the table.  He knew Jake wasn’t too happy about the dreadful job he did pouring the shots, and the amount of alcohol lost in the process.

“Here’s to another evening of booze, fine women, and mistakes all around!” said Jake, slurring his S’s slightly as everyone raised their glasses and in one swift motion, downed their sacred nectar.

The party raged through the night with acoustic guitars giving each individual conversation an elegant background tune since the radio had long ago died; relieved from its entertainment obligation after its batteries ran dry.

The last shot had Jake’s head in a swirl, and with his drunken logic, he decided the best remedy would be to meander around the yard in search of a whiff of marijuana, which he found in just seconds, eminating from a circle of people huddled shadily behind a large pine tree.  He quickly joined in the rotation and after a hit or two of the blunt, he felt he had had his share.  This however, was the end of the night for Jake and his unmemorable introduction into the age of legal alcoholism.  He stumbled and fell in an attempt to get back to the fire, but as he lie there in the cool, damp grass, he zoned out, and not long thereafter, blacked out…

The next morning Jake, Chris, and three others woke up in a strange and unfamiliar place with head-splitting hangovers.  Jake perked his head up for a second and looked around this massive green lawn which they had somehow come to rest upon.  There was a thick patch of woods to their backs and as he glanced up towards the upper half of the lawn he noticed a very large and once elegantly decorated home, which was very open in its design and looked like it might be better suited to the Caribbean, rather than the Northeast United States.  The thing was however, the house was completely torn apart and destroyed.  Walls were caved in, plants and palm trees were strewn throughout, and windows and doors were splintered and demolished.  It looked as though someone had driven a tractor or a truck through the house on a joyride, and immediately Jake’s heart sunk a little bit inside.

He mustered up the courage to walk up to the battered and wrecked house to find out where exactly they were.  He slowly and carefully stepped into the house.  Sparks of electricity unexpectedly shot out from disconnected wiring, walls creaked and drywall was falling down, crumbling with each careful step.  He tip-toed his way into what looked like was the kitchen, before the demolition derby rolled through, and in the house were four people whom Jake assumed lived in the once magnificent mansion.

“Hello, folks…,” Jake said hesitantly.  “I’m sorry to see that your house is destroyed and all…  My friends and I are, err, lost and we need to get home, could you point the way to Parish Ridge?”

A man leaning against what had been a dark marble countertop, but now looks more like a heap of black cinders and wood splinters, and who was dressed in a fine silken smoking robe muttered something, but Jake couldn’t quite understand.

“What was that sir, sorry, I couldn’t quite hear you,” responded Jake sincerely.

The man muttered and mumbled once again, then laughed hysterically before lighting up a very large Cuban cigar.  He had a large white beard and gray hair that was gradually whitening, but for some reason, nothing he said made any sense despite his rich appearance.

Jake gave up and looked to one of the other three people in the room hoping he could get something more helpful, and asked a very average looking women who he took to be the man’s wife.  He asked her the same question, if she knew how he could get home.  She was, thankfully, comprehensible, and a big help.  She gave Jake directions back to his house, and he thanked her before he headed towards the hole where the front door might have at one point been, and hoped that his friends had been smart enough to meet him out front.

He was heading for the door when he noticed a very strange looking “being” sitting on a reclining chair next to an uprooted potted-plant.  The person or thing had skin that resembled an amusement park arcade tent; striped with various outrageous neon greens, purples, reds, pinks and they were constantly fluctuating.  It had two horn like things protruding from its head and a mask of the alternating skin covered its facial features.  For some reason, he knew this was one of the incoherent man’s wives as well.  He stopped for a second, completely baffled by this beings appearance, he shook his head like he couldn’t believe his eyes, and then quickly shuffled away before the situation became any more awkward.

He walked through the front door-hole and saw, parked crookedly in the front driveway, his car, which looked like it had taken quite a beating.  The windows were completely shattered, there were massive dents in the body, the paint was completely stripped in some parts, and a +400 pound Greek-looking concrete pillar was sticking out from a hole in the roof in the back seat.  Jake quickly came to the obvious conclusion and ran around his car, ripping his license plate off the back of the car, grabbed everything that had his name on it and stripped the stickers from car, then sprinted to catch up to his friends who were anxiously waiting down the street for him.

He turned his head back around while in a dead sprint, and walking out into the street was one of the people from inside, a girl whom he had went to high school with.  He paused for a moment and came to a stop.  Suddenly a weird sensation come over him that he couldn’t quite explain, and he found himself waving to her to come with, and she did.  They all came together and immediately they were ready to head to one his friend’s houses across town for another night of reckless mayhem and drunken debauchery.

.  .  .

That night they were all about seven shots deep, and possibly double that deep in beers chugged or bonged.  The graveyard of empty beer boxes and cans were piled high out back near the trash, and the night was only just beginning.  However, for Jake, it would be a relatively short night.  The thought of him destroying a multi-million dollar home and getting away with it unscathed was a bit much for his guilty conscious to handle, so he did all he could think to do, and that was to just drink it all away.

“Chris!  Let’s get another round of shots, man!” yelled Jake, absolutely plastered.  He was five or six beers beyond blackout, and everything afterwards would be judged as either a mistake he could live with, or a soul-crushing embarrassment when he came to the next morning.  “Everyone, let’s take shotsss!”

“Dude, nobody is on your level right now, not even me!  What’s that saying?” said Chris, his attempt to show his belligerent best friend that his night is heading for a one-way trip to the trash bucket, or toilet, depending on how well he could stumble.  “I think you should take it easy for a bit, don’t worry about earlier, we got away with it!”

“Nooo, man.  I want shotttts, now!” said Jake, slurring every other word.  “Fine, I got disss, I’ll pour ‘em!”

He started pouring a shot, then in an instant, fell and knocked his chin off the edge of the table in a blackout fallout.  Another drunken frenzy gone awry for the freshly 21 year-old reckless boy.

The next morning Jake woke up with a familiar searing pain from somewhere in his frontal lobes and a nice gash on his scruffed chin.  He proceeded to bang his head on the wall three or four times before he realized that was really only making things worse.  He laid there in a puddle of misery and half-drunken despair for a few minutes, waiting for someone to wake up to tell him about how fun last night was, and how drunk he was.  He was already aware that he reached new heights, or depths, based on the severity of his headache.

He shoved his hand into pocket and grabbed his cell phone.  He had a missed call and a voicemail from a number he didn’t recognize with the time stamp saying the call came in at 3:45 a.m.  He looked around to see if anyone was up so he could ask if anyone recognized the number, but nobody was awake, so he opened the voicemail and listened eagerly.

“You are the scum of the earth!  I hate you with every morsel of my being!  I curse you to hell you rotten bastard!  I will make it my personal goal to take you down just how you slaughtered my daughter!  I know who you are, I know where you live, if I were you I would learn to sleep with one eye open you fucker!” screamed a lady, half crying in anger and sorrow.  It was a voice he did not recognize.  “I will pry your knife from my daughter’s throat and lead you to a miserable death.  You just wait…”

His heart sunk and even his soul seemed to give him an icy shoulder.  He was alone in the world for the first time in his life, not even he wanted to be himself.  He didn’t know what he had done, all he knows is that he got drunk and blacked out, how could he have possibly committed such a terrible act as murdering someone?  How could he?  He didn’t understand, he had thought of himself as a kind and loving person, this was so out of character…

He quickly got up from the couch and ran out the door, heading for home.  He was a mess, and as he approached his front door, he realized that he couldn’t go in.  He didn’t even have his own shirt on.  How could he confront his parents after all of this chaos and violence he’s unleashed upon this undeserving town.  He turned away in disgust over his actions, and started walking towards nowhere, down the street.

As he sulked down the sidewalk, he felt that life had completely turned on him, and he was prepared to turn on it as well.  He was heading for the subway downtown.  He passed house after house, trees, birds, barking dogs, and as he passed every object, every animal, every car, he knew they were all praying for his demise.  They wanted their town, their life, free from his evil.  He was half waiting for the angry mob with torches and pitchforks to come from over the crest of the hill and slaughter him; to end his reign of terror.

As his pace quickened, he was joined by the girl from the house that he destroyed from his first birthday night; the girl from his high school days.  “She must not know, no logical human being would want to be around a person like myself,” thought Jake.  But she walked silently next to him as he headed towards the subway, downtown.  He didn’t give her even a word, he was too ashamed.

By the time they reached the subway, dusk had turned to night, and the stars blinked forgivingly on his crushed soul.  It was a sweet night, and the air had a certain pleasantness to it that Jake couldn’t explain.  It almost gave him a sense of hope, but he realized that all he wanted was to get away, and never come back.  What he did could never be recovered from, he was a dead man here.

He stood in the dark subway, he and his high school friend.  The concrete walls stood solid, unjudging, and for a moment he forgot about the murder, the destruction of the family’s home, and his car.  He forgot that the entire town which he grew up in loathed him.  He forgot that he himself, hated his very being.

The dim lights flickered on and off and the gray walls stood strong in their ignorant sympathy.  He heard the screech of the oncoming subway train, and with it, it brought him a sense of rebirth and the first flicker of happiness that he had felt since this whole crazy journey to adulthood began.

Closer and closer came the screeching until the conductors train flew by at what looked like 100 miles per hour, and then the never ending train came to a quick halt.

The train doors opened and out strolled a man with large glasses, wearing a gray work coat and khaki pants.  He looked around for a second, and then checked his watch.  He turned to Jake and his friend from high school, who were both standing there looking around aimlessly, trying to ignore the man’s presence.  He looked directly at Jake until Jake had no choice but to look back.  Then, with a smile the man uttered the unthinkable…  “Happy Birthday Jake!”

…And in what seemed like the snap of a finger, or the flash of a camera, the concrete walls dropped like curtains, revealing rows upon rows of cases of beer and bottles of every liquor known to man.  Thousands and thousands of bottles and cases were appearing every second and each row of shelves stretched further than his eyes could see.  He had never seen such a display and was absolutely shocked.  He noticed that his jaw was hanging wide, and his eyes were wider than a hermit who eyed a woman’s beauty for the first time in years.

From behind him, he heard a boisterous laugh, and from the shadows came the family whose home he had destroyed, holding a picture of their house in its original magnificence, smiling and laughing, while the man in the silken smoking robe muttered incoherently.  The “being” drove up in his car, which was miraculously in perfect condition; and his jaw dropped another half of an inch.

To his left came the familiar voice of the woman who he had last heard proclaiming savage and murderous revenge on his soul, only this time she was laughing and as he turned to face her, she was smiling at him with her daughter at her side, also smiling and more importantly, alive.  Jake started to cry.

The door to the train opened once more and out poured all of his friends from the night he turned twenty one, and the crowd from the second party which also occurred on his birthday, following suit.  Chris walked out sipping on a mixed drink, as usual.  Jake dropped to his knees.

“That was the cruelest joke I’ve ever had this misfortune to be a part of,” said Jake with tears streaming from his face as he sat, baffled and trembling with rage on the cold subway floor.  “I’m leaving, f*ck you all.”