Jeff Mount

The Halfway House (short version)

For Zach Miller, excess was the norm. Drinking, girls, drugs, fast cars. Nothing was done half-hearted.
Dave Stanton and Zach hung out and partied together frequently. They were pretty good friends, although they were very different. Where Zach was the model of excess, Dave had complete control of himself and never let things get too out of control.
On the night of Zach's 29th birthday, the two of them were driving home from a party when Zach said, "Man, the booze and the pills just aren't doing the damn trick, I need a new drug!" He slurred heavily as he spoke.
Dave said, "I heard about a house in north-east that slings some crazy new hallucinogenic mixed with alcohol or something along those lines. I guess it's the wildest thing ever."
"OHHHH DUDE, what are we waiting for, let's do this!" Zach was bouncing on his seat.
"Well, there's apparently a caveat." Dave said casually. "The guy who has the stuff just gives it to you for free, but he claims that your soul is his once you drink it."
Zach burst out laughing. "What the... and you believe that story? What a push-over! Let's check it out!"
"No way, not me." Dave said. "I'll drop you off there but I want no part of it."
Zach punched Dave's arm jokingly and laughed heartily. "Drop me off then, ya' pansy!"
"OK, buddy, but don't say I didn't warn you."

They pulled up to a dingy, two story, yellowing house with a roof that was severely bowed inwards. No lights appeared to be on.
He rang the doorbell. No answer. He turned around. Dave was already gone. He knocked on the door and the door opened slightly. "Hello?" He said. There was no response. "I'm coming in!" He announced, and stepped through the doorway into the dark hallway inside.
"In here." The man's voice came from up front to the left. Zach saw light under a closed door and moved towards it. He reached out and grabbed the door-knob. There was something sticky on it.
The fattest person Zach had ever seen was spread out on a king sized bed. He covered most of the sagging mattress. He was completely filthy. He wore stained sweat pants and a yellow t-shirt that used to be white. The smell was unbearable.
"So, I heard you might have something for me?" Zach inquired once he had his bearings.
The man stopped laughing, nodded, reached to the side of his bed and grabbed a bottle that appeared to be made out of intricate stained glass. It was quite large and many colors sparkled all over its surface. It had a huge knob on the top that looked like a diamond. Zach was instantly mesmerized.
"There are couple of things you should be aware of before you imbibe. The price of this potion is your soul." He smiled too widely. His teeth were grayish black. "And, once the fluid touches your lips, your life will be exactly half-over."
"Half-over huh? So, I'll die when I'm 58? Eh, that's a few years longer than I thought I'd live anyway, so bring it on!" He was chuckling to himself at this ridiculous notion. He ignored his guttural instincts that told him to run out of there as fast as he could.
A rat scurried across the floor. It made Zach jump a little.
The man reached the bottle out towards Zach. He took it, and turned the knob on the top counter-clockwise to open it. He took a little smell of the fluid inside. It smelled spectacular. His mouth started salivating. He took another look at the huge man, grinned at him, put the bottle to his lips, and took a long draw of the fluid.
As good as it smelled, the taste was even better. Incredible flavors he had never experienced danced over his taste buds and down his throat. He was immediately warmed and felt as if he could defy gravity. He yelped with glee.
"This is amazing!" Zach said. He was spinning around in circles with his hands over his head, beaming like a child on Christmas morning.
"Don't forget our deal." The man said.

Zach backed out of the room, ran out of the house, and spent the next four hours roaming the streets in a state of pure bliss.
Life got a lot better for Zach over the coming years. He found a girlfriend that cleaned him up and helped him get his life on track. He gave up most of his bad habits. He found a great deal of success in the stock market. He got married and had two lovely children. They owned a very large house in Multnomah Village.
By the time he was in his fifties, Zach was one of the most successful businessmen in the Portland area. Then, on his 57th birthday, he got a phone call.
"You have exactly one year left." The voice on the other end said.
The memory crashed over him like a tidal wave. He had recognized the voice on the other end. Fear coursed through his body like a freight train.
Zach got in his truck and drove to the north-east side of town. Finally, he found it. The dingy yellow house with the caved in roof. Remarkably, it looked the same. He slammed on the brakes at the curb and started running up the path towards the house.
The door in front of him opened and Dave Stanton walked out. Zach had not seen him in twenty years or so but he recognized him instantly. Zach was shocked.
"Dave?!" Zach stopped in his tracks and looked at his old friend hopefully. "What are you doing here?"
"Zach, you should have waited until you were older. I'll live to the ripe old age of 114 before I have to go to hell."
Dave wandered off down the street and Zach crumpled into the fetal position.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Jeff Mount.
Published on on 01/30/2009.


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