In the movies, this is where it the guy would lean forward and begin mumbling, and the audience would be left out. Then there'd be a scene-switch, and the plan--whatever plan was secretly discussed--would be put into action.
In real life, there's rarely a cut-scene.
"Here's the plan," I say. And then, instead of telling her the plan, I cough for about five minutes straight, hack up another huge glob of black shit and spit it into my napkin. I expect her to be grossed out, but she doesn't even flinch. She just sits there, waiting for a plan.
Poor little weirdo. She's been through miles of filth-filled trenches, and she's still na´ve enough to believe in heroes. Still thinks the drunk, self-destructive detective can save the day. There's an urge to tell her the truth.
Right in the back of my throat, more powerful than the urge to cough, more powerful than the urge to puke or cry or scream or lose my mind. An urge to tell her the truth.
Your fiancÚ is dead, and so are you, sweet thing. We're all dead, and there's nothing anyone can do about it, and if we're goin' to Hell, then we're goin' to Hell, and runnin' from the monsters until we're outta breath before then changes nothing.
Instead of that, I light up another cigarette.
"You smoke too much," she says.
"Sometimes, it's better than the alternative," I tell her.
"I thought you had some sort of a plan."
I want to make some sort of smart remark, but there's that feeling, that familiar feeling, and I suddenly know we have to be gone. I grab her hand.
"Flip us and start running!"
The world nightmares itself into a new suit, and I'm puking all over the place, but at least she's pulling me along. At least she didn't stop to ask questions. We're through the wall, through the people walking on the sidewalk, through the passing cars. I glance back as I stumble along behind her, and see the diner is glowing in green flame. I can only assume that in the regular world, the flames would be orange. The flames consuming the diner are too fast, too hungry. It's not regular fire. And as disturbing as it is, that isn't even the most troubling part.
The truly troubling part is that slug-like demons have covered the entire outside of the building, and are falling on the patrons as they run out. The slug creatures have human faces, and fangs like vampires. They feed on pain and fear. I know this as instinct, the same way that predators know to avoid certain prey in nature. I watch as one of the slug creatures drops from the roof of the diner and lands on a terrified woman.
She's pushing a stroller, and as the slug demon lands on her, she shrieks and falls to the ground. I don't know if the creature caused her to fall or if it just pounced her at the right time. The stroller rolls out in traffic, and the slug demon glows neon pink as the woman watches her infant struck by a car.
I puke again and turn from the diner.
We're moving that weird slow speed, like everything around us is missing frames, and I feel my mind slip another gear. Not sure how long I can take this, but what choice do I have, but to finish this? Big Daddy Tim's dead, and for that alone, I gotta kill someone. Someone big. Someone responsible for this bullshit.
I'm getting my second wind, I guess. Getting mad instead of overwhelmed. I take a drag of my cigarette and toss it at a passing demon. It screeches, and I laugh.
"Flip us again," I tell her. "Flip us again and again, as fast as you can."
"Are you insane?"
"Yeah. Do it."
And she does, which says a lot about Little Lizzie Grouper. Because even though it isn't nearly as bad for her, this is still bad. You can tell just by looking at her, and just by feeling the way it makes you feel. We flip and flip and flip, and I gag and cough and puke as we travel from world to world. I close my eyes but it doesn't matter, it's still like a strobe light, every time we're in my world, it's dark, every time I'm in the underworld, I can see through my eyelids.
We flip and flip and flip, and I start to see more. Flip, flip, flip, like images in a little book, you run your thumb over the pages, it makes a little animation. Flip flip flip, it shows a story you never want to see. Flip flip flipflipflipflipflipflipflipflip, the worlds running together, becoming the same thing, my brain's an overheated engine, my soul is screaming, and Lizzie, Little Lizzie Grouper, she's screaming too, and so am I.
We're all screaming, me and Lizzie and the world and the other world and suddenly it all goes nothing.
There's just me. Just me in a world of white, and Father Timothy, Big Daddy Tim, and he's smiling as he walks towards me.
"I knew the day I saw you that you'd be the death of me."
I don't know what to say, so I don't say anything. He sits down in a chair, and I realize that I'm sitting down, too. Wooden fold-out lawn chairs, because we're sitting on the lawn of some huge mansion, right by a swimming pool, and there's a barbecue and people are milling all around, laughing.
"What's happening?" I ask him.
Father Tim takes a drink from his red plastic cup, and he reaches into my pocket and removes my pack of cigarettes. He lights one and inhales, holding in the smoke that special way that only non-smoking smokers do.
"You have a gift from God, Saint. You are a gift from God." He takes another drag. I want to snatch the cigarette away from him, he's not supposed to be smoking. But then I figure what the hell, and I light one of my own. I take out my flask and take a drink, and then offer it to him.
He takes it with a smile. "You remember that song The Gambler by Kenny Rogers?"
He pours all of my whiskey into his cup and tosses the flask back to me. "You should listen to it again. In the meantime, keep the girl alive. The entire world depends on it."
And then I'm on my back in some gutter, staring up at the sky--my sky--and she's beside me, crying and telling me you're alive, ohmigawd you're alive, it'll all be okay, but you can tell she doesn't believe it. And I feel my heart start beating again, and I feel like puking.
Instead, I light another cigarette, and I notice that I'm two short of what I had before we left the diner. What can I say, man? I'm a detective.
"I'm not dead," I tell her, and she falls down onto me, crying and hugging me, which is really pretty gross, considering how much puking on myself I've been doing lately. I wrap an arm around her while she sobs, and I use the other arm to smoke.
I have more important things to think about, I know I do. But at the moment, I can only think about how hilarious Father Tim looked wearing his bright-colored shorts. What we used to call jams when we were kids.
I start to laugh, and Lizzie tells me to shut up, just please shut up, and I tell her it's okay, it's all gonna be okay, and I dare myself to believe it.
UPDATE: You can find part 10 here, and it has a link to 1-9.