"When I finally come out of it," Aloysius suddenly stops talking. He swirls the water in his glass then gulps it down. "When I finally come out of it, I have no damn recollection of what happened. Just the last of that third can of Red then I'm stumbling around in an alley somewhere or face down in the middle of a landing strip. Came to in an alley in Hong Kong once, not a shred of information as to how and why."
"Not even a hazy recollection of anything?" Mitchell asked.
"Not ever! No, not a shred!" Aloysius answered. He banged his glass on the table top but the noise was muted against the rolling sand dunes on all sides. "Well, once."
Stars begin winking out against the pre-glow of the sun. Mitchell thought it best to just let Aloysius continue without any prompting. He usually did.
"That once was kind of terrifying but equally a euphoric power fantasy. I was some kind of acrobatic beast fighting some kind of tentacled nightmare. It was all flashes, you understand. Like a flip book but it's a mile away and there's heavy fog. I knew whatever it was had a woman, a hostage, coiled inside it so I was pulling punches. I was supposed to get it out. I tried to be careful, I knew. I could see that much. Not wanting to hurt her; someone I cared about but not really sure why."
With every passing second more stars winked out as the creep of the sun continued.
Aloysius looked toward the glow. He looked close to tears. "And that was it."
By the tone of his voice, Mitchell could tell Aloysius didn't want to keep talking. But mixed in with that tone was regret even sadness, something that Mitchell didn't think Aloysius was capable of. Either one. Maybe he would continue talking.
Aloysius stood up. "Probably best that we get moving now."
Mitchell got to his feet as well, shifting the carrier on his back. It was loaded with cans of Red.
"Always what's needed," Aloysius said. He eyed the three cans of Red on the table. "That's what happens."
He drank them in quick succession and somehow shifted. Mitchell thought his entire body had been turned to a dense cloud of mist. The cloud that was Aloysius swirled then snapped back into solidity: a wide Persian carpet.
"A carpet?" Mitchell said angrily. "That's what was needed?"
He stopped himself from raging and looked at the carpet again, wonder in his eye. He sat down on the carpet, which jumped into the air like a rocket-propelled grasshopper. They were flying home.