Off the Wagon | C.R. Gardner


Off the Wagon

C.R. Gardner

The New Years Ablutions Award



A thunderclap. A light explosion. Fireworks dancing behind my eyes.

‘Fudge nuggets! Turn off the freaking light!’ I cried out, my voice a weak and feeble whine.

Another click. Another thunderclap. Blessed darkness. Fireworks fizzling behind eyes of sandpaper. My mouth was dry, tongue and teeth furry with an odd taste. ‘Thirsty,’ I moaned.

‘I think you’ve had more than enough to drink,’ said a familiar voice.

‘I feel like something the cat dragged in.’

‘It’s called a hangover, Evie. Apparently, a bloody Mary or some huevos rancheros might help.’ Deafening footsteps clumped down creaking stairs, my head thumping in time.

‘What are huv, huv, huva…?’

‘Huevos rancheros are drunken eggs. I don’t do eggs, so I made you a bloody Mary instead. You’ll have to sit up though, I couldn’t find any straws. Come on, I’ll help you up.’

The glass banged down. I winced. Stacey was gentle, but that didn’t stop my brains trying to escape through my ears. ‘Horsefeathers,’ I moaned becoming vertical, stomach roiling and boiling like a witch’s cauldron. Everything ached, every sound and smell amplified a hundredfold; I could hear a dozen spiders spinning webs, the pounding of Stacey’s heart and the scent yesterday’s sweat on her skin. I shuddered; my skin tried to leave me and crawl away. Blowing chunks seemed a real possibility.

‘Where am I?’

‘My place.’

‘Is that a good idea? I mean…’

‘It’s fine. You’re in the basement. No-one comes down here but me.’

Groaning I massaged my temples, ‘I’m sure I didn’t drink that much alcohol. How much did I drink?’ I felt Stacey’s eyes boring into me.

‘Evie, you fell off the wagon big time! Wanna talk about it?’

‘I don’t remember…’

‘Last night. New Year’s Eve. You know, party, party, party, drink, drink, drink. One little taste and you just couldn’t stop,’ said Stacey, handing over the bloody Mary and sitting down beside me. Her blood roared through her veins like a rushing river and smelled deliciously sweet. I turned my head. Sparkly explosions went off behind my eyes, my head split in two. ‘Fudge nuggets,’ I moaned, massaging temples.

‘You’re such a good girl, Evie,’ she said, squeezing my arm. ‘I’d be swearing like a trooper.’

‘A religious upbringing can be a hard thing to shake.’

‘Drink it. I don’t know if it will help, but it’s worth a try.’

I noticed the tape on her finger and smelled fresh blood. ‘Cut yourself?’


I took a sip. It wasn’t bad and went down a treat – tomato, vodka and a hint of something else I couldn’t quite place. I kept sipping until I’d drained the glass, feeling the fireworks behind my eyes fade and the hammering in my head ease, even the boiling cauldron in my guts settled, but I still felt as though I’d shatter into a million pieces if I moved the wrong way.

‘How bad?’ I said, looking at her super model profile.

‘We tried to stop you, but you said you could handle it…’


Her heart bolted like a frightened horse. I could see the pulse in her throat jumping and the scent of fear hit me like a wall. She hadn’t been this frightened since… ‘Oh fiddlestix! How many?’

‘Behind you,’ she whispered, looking away.

I turned around slowly, dread twisting my gut. Thor’s hammer pounded my head while Odin’s spear gouged my eyes, the bloody Mary’s magic undone. Sweating and shaking I stared at the seven pallid women stretched out on a plastic sheet. Dead eyes stared back, accusing and bewildered. Drained beyond the point of death, there’d be no coming back for any of them. The glass in my hands shattered.