The Evils of Drink
by P.S.Gifford
forum: The Evils of Drink
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Evils of Drink


        Josh had sat contently near the roaring campfire, examining the dancing flickering flames and the crackling of the firewood and considered the day's events. Chester, his college roommate, had urged him to go on this trip. "A few days roughing it in the Canadian woods would do you good," he had energetically cajoled, until Josh finally, as he so often did, gave in.

        One of the highlights of the trip, as Chester had so enthusiastically explained, was the proximity of the small multi-award-winning micro-brewery, which, despite being miles off the beaten track, still managed to attract swarms of enthusiastic beer drinkers each and every day, all in search of the perfect pint. Josh could never understand this quest; he had always considered beer to be an insipid gassy liquid. Yet, despite this, after quickly setting up camp this morning with Chester still passionately harping on, they had both trekked the mile and visited the brewery.

        As they approached, Josh noted that it was nothing more than an old shack, with several large barrels in back. Yet despite its appearance, as he had been informed, dozens of seemingly educated, rational folks had also made the trudge through forests and were jubilantly sitting on dirty old benches and drinking large glasses of the stuff. Josh reluctantly accompanied Chester inside and ordered two of the samplers. Within a few minutes, two old cork trays with six small glasses in various hues of brown on each of them were presented to them. They returned outside and found an empty bench, and Josh watched on amazed as Chester keenly drank and spurted phrases like "Well hopped, beautifully balanced, and malty." Josh attempted to do the same but found the task unbearable. All of a sudden a lofty man dressed in faded overalls and sporting a straggly grey beard and a balding head took a seat next to them. He seemed contented at Chester's consumption and nodded at him but looked a little dismayed at Josh's six still nearly-full glasses.

        "My name is Wilkins," he informed them. "I am the head brewer here… I see that you don't like our regular offerings." He eyed once more the full glasses and sighed. Then a broad grin transformed his wrinkled face and he raced off with surprising spryness and returned moments later to jubilantly place down on the table two large glass jugs. "Then please accept these here gifts… Our special brew… I like everyone who comes here to be satisfied." With that, he got up, slapped Josh heartedly on his back and walked off whistling to himself.

* * *

        Chester had quickly begun drinking his prize almost immediately upon completing the mile trudge back to the campsite. Within a couple of hours, his jug was empty and he was in a jovial drunken stupor in the tent, obnoxiously snoring. As nightfall began to silently creep in, Josh sat there, determined to understand the attraction this local brew held over people, and as the new moon lit up the cold night sky, he examined the glass gallon jug. "Witches brew 6.9 APV" was the dubious name that was hand written upon it. 'It looks innocent enough,' he thought… 'Perhaps I should give the stuff a second chance.' With that, he unplugged the rubber cork and lifted the jug to his lips. "What's the worst that could happen?" he reasoned as he took a long gulp. "Yuk" he said out loud, but his mind was set and he continued to drink. When the jug was a quarter gone, his opinion began to shift. Songs from his childhood began streaming from his normally quiet mouth, and he felt himself being washed over with a strange sort of unfamiliar sanguinity and cheeriness. As he continued to drink, the feelings only intensified further. The sweet songs of his childhood became replaced with bawdy Irish drinking songs that he was surprised he even knew. It was then he spied it in the dark forest, a campfire in the distance. Glancing in the tent at his sleeping roommate, he decided to set off into the darkness to explore. 'What's the worst that could happen?' he thought as he set off into the night, his now half-emptied jug firmly in his hand.

        As he trekked into the night, the campfire acted as a beacon for him. He continued to drink…

        Twenty minutes later, with the beer jug now empty, he slowly came upon the mysterious camp. His congenial manner was now being overtaken by nervousness. He was having a hard time focusing his eyes and was having difficulty maintaining his balance. He saw several men about the fire, and as he lowered himself into the safety of some bushes, he fell and landed awkwardly. A sharp pain shot up from his left ankle. "Shit," he whispered into the night as he lay there and examined the scene in front of him. He held his breath in horror at the sight that now met his eyes. Three men, including the seemingly friendly brew master he had met that afternoon, were carefully attending to their task at hand. Over the fire, a large wooden frame had been constructed, and tied by rope to it hung a man's limp body. He appeared to be already dead and had been stripped bare and hung upside down. The brewers, using what appeared to be razor blades, were cutting slits in the dead man's wrists. It somehow reminded Josh of how syrup is drawn from the maple tree, slowly and delicately dripping... Despite his horror, he felt a curious urge to take a closer look… The blood was dripping into a cauldron over the fire…. Then he began to scream uncontrollably as his eyes managed to focus on the words hand-written on the front of the cauldron: "Witches brew 6.9APV."

        Suddenly the men paused from their meticulous task and began to run furiously towards Josh, who was at this point screaming hysterically… He attempted to get up and run, yet the intense pain in his ankle and the overwhelming dizziness in his head made him once more fall to the ground.

* * *

        Josh was never to be seen again after that. Three weeks later, Chester went back to the area in search of him, and as he sat there in the brewery explaining to anyone who would listen his friend's disappearance, once more the head brewer amiably ambled over and offered him a free jug of beer.

        "I am sorry to hear of your friend's disappearance, young man… Perhaps a sample of my latest brew will help take your mind off it," he said, grinning.


The end.



copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford lives and writes in Lake Forest, California, which is quite a good distance away from Birmingham, England, where he was born and raised. His wife and son find him a lovable but rather odd sort of a chap who locks himself away in his office... But at least they find him. He does have a rather nifty website aptly named where you can, if you so desire, discover more about the man that would be acceptable in polite dinner conversation.