It's late when I get back to my apartment and I fumble with my keys before I manage to open my door.
"There's going to be a storm," is the first thing I hear. The voice, somehow both hard and wavering, comes from the darkness of my living area. I know the speaker immediately, though I can not see him. Caudil. He's been smoking, and the heavy smell of smoke is everywhere.
I hit the switch on the wall and hear the whoosh of gas and steam flowing through the pipes behind my walls. A moment later, the lights kick on, and I see Caudil sitting in my father's leather chair.
"That's my favorite chair, Caudil." I set my bag down, and step into the kitchen to get a drink.
"Did you hear what I said about the storm?"
"Did you hear what I said about the chair? It's going to take me a week to get the smell of whatever it is you're smoking out of the house, let alone the leather"
I hear him get up and walk into the kitchen. He's holding the pipe up like a teacher might hold a model of the heart, ready to explain. "It's vandian root, Reg. It'll be gone tomorrow," he says as he rounds the corner. There's a touch of irritation in his voice, and for the first time I see his eyes. They are red-rimmed and heavy and he looks much older than I have ever seen him.
"Tell me about the storm," I say.
Caudil opens his mouth to speak several times before actually beginning. I wonder when he has last slept. When he does speak, his voice quavers, and though it is quite deep and the lines in his face and the heaviness of his eyes suggest otherwise, he seems less like a man telling a tale and more a child recounting some terror in the night.
crossposted to thebackporch
story idea from the alt.fiction.orginal August Challenge