About 30 Years Later

The pub doors banged open with such ferocity that the bartender dropped a handful of wet glasses he'd been carrying. He was kneeling down to clean up the pieces, but stopped mid-kneel as his attention was brought, along with the rest of the pub's, to the man who had just burst inside and was running with full force toward him. 

The man took no notice of anyone, but ran straight behind the bar-- crunching the broken glass on the floor-- and grabbed a bottle of what looked like vodka, leaned his head back, and poured it into his eye.

He growled in pain, but held his head steadily back and drank a few swigs of the vodka. He straightened up quickly, slammed the bottle down on the bar, and ran back out as fast as he'd run in.

 

A moment of silence passed as the pub patrons looked around at each other. Then they seemed to decide it was none of their business, and went on talking. Only one of them had recognized the man. Lewis Gladstone sat puzzled at the bar, waiting patiently for the bartender to finish sweeping up the glass, before he voiced his thoughts.

“Did you know that guy?” he asked when he got the chance.

The bartender looked up. “Not too well, but he’s been in here every day this week. Nice bloke. Bit of a nutter though.”

“Is his name Scotty August?”

“It’s Scotty something, yeah,” said the bartender. “You know him?”

“I’ve just heard about him, he’s a neurologist. But it’s weird...” And with that, Lewis launched into his story. “See, he published a huge body of work in this tiny little unknown scientific journal, and no one really noticed it for a few months. But then they finally read it, and realized he’d done this brilliant research, and he’d published his results and all his data, you know, just given it to them. But then, they tried to contact him, and he’d disappeared. No one could ever find him, they just had his name and a picture he’d put in the article. It’s been two or three years now, and no word from him.”

The bartender didn’t seem nearly as interested in this as Lewis had expected him to be. True, he did respond with a thoughtful “Hm,” but then went on about his business. But it was interesting, Lewis assured himself. A young scientist publishes what could likely be his entire life’s work, doesn’t ask a penny for it, and doesn’t even follow it up to see how the scientific community responds to it. Just disappears and leaves it behind. And here he is, frequenting a pub, occasionally storming in and pouring vodka in his eye?

Just as Lewis was thinking he hoped the man would come back so he could have a proper conversation with him, the doors opened again-- this time, much more politely.

The man called Scotty August strode in calmly now, his left eye red and swollen but otherwise looking much less scraggly and flustered than before. He sat down at the bar next to Lewis and addressed the bartender.

“Sorry about that, Blake, you can put all that vodka on a tab for me.”

“Already have,” said the bartender.

“Well then, add a single malt Scotch to it if you don’t mind! I could use a good drink.”

Lewis cleared his throat, hoping to catch the strange man’s attention and maybe spark up a conversation... hopefully ease into the questions rather than just blurting them out. That would be less awkward, surely. But what questions would he ask, anyway? Nothing struck him as a particularly good place to start. Why did you abandon your research? Why are you here pouring vodka in your eye? Probably one of those two, but both seemed out of place just now. Lewis generally tried not to say awkward things. So for now he just cleared his throat.

“ ‘Preciate it,” said the neurologist as the bartender handed him a drink. “Thing is, remember that trans-dimensional rocket capsule I was telling you about? Well I finally cracked the hatch open, and when I did, this chemical exploded out of it and got in my eye. Got on my shirt too.” He frowned as if this were a serious double-whammy.

Lewis couldn’t stand not being the recipient of this conversation, especially as the bartender was obviously not even listening. So he jumped in with something hopefully not too blunt or presumptuous.

“Aren’t you supposed to rinse your eyes out with water when you get chemical burns?”

The man turned and looked at Lewis for the first time. Fortunately he didn’t seem offended.

“Well, yes, generally. If you know what the chemical is. Better safe than sorry though, eh? Don’t want anything living in my eye, do I?”

“I guess not,” said Lewis. “What was it you said you were opening? A trans-dimensional... something?”

“Yes, a trans-dimensional something. I’ve got to get going actually, thank you for your patience, Blake.” He took some cash out of his wallet and handed it to the bartender. “Keep the change, I’m in a bit of a hurry.” 

He downed the remainder of his drink and left the pub without another word, or a nod, or even a glance at Lewis.

Lewis stared after him as he walked out. This was not acceptable. He still had so many questions to ask. And the only one he’d managed to get in was that stupid one about rinsing your eyes with water. Why had he asked that one?! What was the trans-dimensional rocket capsule? That would have been a much better question! Stupid Lewis, stupid!

But it had only been a few seconds. Surely the man couldn't be too far away yet, at the pace he was walking. If Lewis got up now, and went after him, he could still ask. He might have to run though, and that would seem embarrassing when he caught up. What would he say? I ran after you because I wanted to ask... But there wasn’t time to figure it out. Sometimes, Lewis told himself, you just have to do things without thinking about the consequences first. And this was definitely one of those times.

The urge to follow overcame him. He stood up and ran out of the pub, looking quite silly as he did.

 

He was not expecting Scotty August to be leaning sideways on the wall right outside the door, arms folded and staring at him. For a moment Lewis stared back at him in surprise; and then without a word, Scotty began walking briskly away, as if he’d just now left the pub and hadn’t stopped there and, apparently, waited for Lewis.

Lewis, once again forced against his will to make a quick decision without proper analysis, followed just behind him.

The End

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