Where Chuck is introduced

“And then the bitch left me.”

My new acquaintance spat these last words out, obviously filled with disgust and contempt. My eyes lifted from the edge of my beer to meet his.

“Uh huh.”

That was all I managed back towards him. I wasn’t necessarily in “Dr. Phil” advice mode. I leaned back on my bar stool and took a second to survey my current drinking buddy. Immediately, when he had first sat down at the empty seat next to mine, my mind labeled him as a vagrant. Homeless, even. However, the more time he spent filling my head space with his word noise, the less I thought this to be true.

I mean, he sure looked the part. His hair was wild and unkempt, with enough grease to cook up an entire tub of gravy. His beard seemed maintained enough, trim with a splattering of grey and white amidst the jet black hair that covered the lower part of his face. His eyes, however, are what made me uneasy. Dark brown, almost black circles jutted out from behind those eyelids, and the way he held his stare with such an intensity was unsettling. I found myself breaking eye contact with him again, and returned to examining the swirling foam in my beer.

Those eyes though. I could picture them floating in my glass, staring back at me from behind the suds. Perish the thought. This dirty old man seemed to have experienced some intense shit in his day, as his story about his ex-girlfriend began to fill the air again. Not listening, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that this man was not homeless. Even though his faded green jacket was tattered and sagging in areas, as if gravity was finally taking its toll on such an old item of clothing, I wasn’t fooled by his appearance. His eyes displayed a sort of passion and purpose that you don’t normally associate with the common bum.

So what was this guy’s deal?

“So what’s your deal, guy?” I asked, cutting him off in mid sentence. His voice went silent as he paused, and slowly straightened himself on his stool. He turned his attention from the empty space that he had been talking to, and brought himself to face me. A shiver went down my spine as I watched his lips tremble and slowly pull back tightly, pressed against his graying teeth, in what I surmised to be an attempt to smile.

“My deal? Why, I haven’t told you that I came here to bargain.” He said, face still stretched into that ghastly grin, pulling his beer towards his face.I couldn’t help but notice his instant change in demeanor, as if he had flicked the switch from ‘crazy’ to ‘sane’. His eyes, while still smoldering, weren’t wild anymore, locked in on me from behind his mug. At this point, I had no clue what to expect from this conversation.

“Okay. So no deal. That’s cool,” Turning back to my drink, I started to get the feeling that I didn’t want to be here anymore. His voice came after me again.

“There is no deal to be had. What will happen is the culmination of events started eons ago,” I peered at him from the corner of my eye as he paused for a second before continuing. “There is no stopping it. You and all those you know have met their end. You have two options. You can accept fate and continue to enjoy your floundering existence for what little time is left, or you can deny the ultimate truth and suffer by consequence.” A look of smug satisfaction settled upon his face, as if IMDB had just settled a “name that actor” argument in his favor. Whatever.

“Whatever man,” I gulped down the last of my drink and signaled to close my tab. “And here I was thinking looks were deceiving when it came to you. Crazy bum. The world isn’t going to end. That’s what they said about Y2k and yet, somehow, here we are.” I said, waving my arm towards the rest of the bar.

His eyes narrowed, and he clicked his tongue. “I would argue that the world did indeed die that day, Charles.” My eyebrow twitched as he addressed me by name. How the fuck did he know my name? He spoke again. “What has happened since has been a mockery of existence. Society running around like a chicken with no head, oblivious to its certain demise. Selfish actions riddled with lack of foresight, complicated by lies that are fed to the ignorant as truth. No, Charles, what has happened since that day has been a lie. We have all been lied to for so long. Now is the time for truth.”

He ran his fingers along the bar counter, and lifted his eyes to meet mine. I knew there was more to this guy that a shitty relationship and poor fashion sense. “Okay,” I relented, “I’ll bite. What is this truth you speak of?”

His lips pulled tight as the so called smile filled his face again. “Charles, my dear boy, all in good time. There is much you will learn.”

I hated being talked down to, especially from mangy clairvoyant bums. “Alright jackass, what makes you think you’ve got this all figured out?

He leaned back, crossing his arms in front of him, as the smile grew on his face. “The extent of my knowledge would confound and confuse you. My wisdom is ageless, as you will discover. Heed my word.”

I stared at him for a second before leaning my head against my hand, fingers rubbing my temple. “So let me get this straight. You know the world will end, you know everyone will die.” He nodded. “You say you know all this because of some sort of infinite knowledge.” Again, a nod. “Right. So, you have all this worldly knowledge, yet you still couldn’t save your relationship?”

The smile fell from his face. His face boiled red as he boomed, “There was NO saving it! She was a ruthless cold hearted bitch!” His fist slammed the bar top, shaking loose several nuts from their bowl. His gaze was fixed on the clenched fist.

Tickled by the reaction I elicited, I turned to wave down the barkeep. Just as I started to entertain the question as to why a guy who figured the world was about to end was so concerned about a long term relationship, I felt his hot breath in my ear.

“Make peace with whatever god you believe in, Charles. Your time is up.” I blinked, jerking my head away from his voice and turning to face him. He was gone. The fuck? Had I just had a drunken conversation with Bruce Wayne? Shrugging, I turned back to close my tab. My arm was waving towards the bartender for a good few seconds before I realized that he too, was gone.

I glanced around the rest of the dimly lit bar. Cues sat laying across the pool tables, balls left to be played, yet no one shooting. The bar had cleared out. Had it always been this empty? Where the hell did everyone go?

Luckily, I knew exactly what to do. I knew to never let an opportunity go wasted, and I also knew I had to act fast. I grabbed my empty glass, reached across the counter, and poured myself another beer. Sipping my fresh pour, I walked around the bar, finding my tab and promptly tearing it up. There, problem solved. Still weird about the disappearing people though.

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