It was 5.18 on Christmas morning and the only people left were mostly unconscious.
Carla was slumped against the DJ booth doggedly swigging from a bottle of prosecco, but her heart wasn’t in it anymore. Jake was nestled against the famous Miss Jenni Taylia’s waxed and glittered chest, both of them fast asleep under the magical glow of the discoball.
The deserted dancefloor was stickier than the bottom of Elton John’s bathtub and Alex thought there was something strangely peaceful about being practically alone in an empty club in that no-man’s-land between closing time and dawn. A calm descended over him as he poured himself another glass of fizz.
Outside the street was deserted and silent. Not a creature was stirring, apart from something horrible rummaging in the bins across the road
Alex inhaled another line from Jake’s meaty thigh and watched vaguely as the electric numbers on the till flipped round to read 5.19.
As they did, the strangest thing happened. Somewhere, out in the darkness, a bell began to toll, slow, heavy and ominous. Jake was certain the club was nowhere near a church, but, he argued, his brain fizzing as the white powder cast its spell, funny things happened to sound when all was still and quiet. Or so he’d read.
It never occurred to him that no church bells tolled midnight at 5.19 in the morning.
It was several minutes before Alex noticed the spectral figure staring down at him with hollow eyes and hollow cheeks as the hollow echo of the tolling bells faded. He promptly decided that he’d had more than enough Charlie for one night and that he should get some sleep.
But the spirit didn’t dissolve when he blinked. If anything, it stared harder.
“Alex” it intoned “You are in danger. I have come to save you from yourself.”
“You what?” said Alex.
“Come, I will show you Christmas five years hence.”
In a brilliant flash Alex was transported, swirling through space and time and thinking that the Charlie was a lot stronger than he’d realised when he landed, with a bump, in a snow-covered street. When he opened his eyes he saw none other than himself.
But he was changed. His clothes were old and shabby. His face drawn and gaunt with hunger and want, scabbed, bloody lips and desperate eyes. Future Alex crouched in a doorway holding his hands out for the falling change of distracted strangers.
Then, just as suddenly, Alex was whirling back again,spinning and swooping until he found himself back at the bar, back in his smart shirt and expensive shoes. The ghost was nowhere to be seen.
Panting, stunned, Alex leaned against the bar, his mind reeling with the vision the spirit had shown him, his head filling with all the ways he could be a better man, make a different future for himself.
No more drugs. No more drink. No more casual sex and staggering home at dawn. He was changed now. A good man. That shivering wretch in the doorway would never be him. He felt a profound gratitude for what the spirit had done. It had saved him.
Then he spotted the half-finished bag of Charlie on the floor.
Alex crouched down to pick it up. It was glimmering white in the darkness like crisp, fresh snow. Everyone else was fast asleep. No-one would ever know.
Alex thought again about the spirit then tapped out three delicate little lines on the bar. After all, this was exactly what New Year’s resolutions were for and he had six days till then...