Ubiquitous

ubiquitous (you-BICK-wih-tuss), adjective

Something that is everywhere, all around you, constantly surrounding you, and you cannot escape from it.

1886

Three men bullied one man sitting in the corner of the old timber lodge. Their badly deployed taunts annoyed me, but I was not there to be concerned with other people. I just wanted to drink myself into oblivion.

I finished my glass, and nodded to the barkeep. He refilled it again with suspicious eyes. I had no intentions of causing anyone trouble but myself. But son of a bitch those men were loud. The louder they prodded, the more I drank. There was too much yelling, laughing, drunken spittle covering the floor and that poor man’s beautiful black hair.

Their hatred was ubiquitous.

Two. Three. Four more drinks slid down my throat, and that painfully pungent, home-made whiskey burned my stomach and scratched my innards. I was irritated at those men for being bullies and frustrated with myself for being a coward. I nodded at the barkeep, a flash of ill-equipped ambition gleaming in my eyes.

He poured and said, “That’ll be your last.”

I drank and slammed my glass on the bar and turned to my chosen adversaries. Three sloppy steps got me to the corner of the bar and with the forth I grabbed one man’s jacket, slamming him into a nearby post while swinging full force at his unsuspecting friend. While the second drunkard spun to the ground under the weight of my fist, the third, having had time to respond swung, knocking me square in the side of the head. My right ear stung like a thousand pieces of shrapnel had hit it, and I swung back without composure. More quickly than I had hoped, three different sets of fists were swinging and pounding me to the floor.

“Good plan,” I thought to myself as I lurched upwards towards the post and reached for the lantern that was hanging there. I slapped it across a man’s head, shattering glass and kerosene across his face. A blood-curdling scream echoed from his throat and I was down to two adversaries.

The whiskey I had so generously consumed was quickly overpowering the adrenaline from my inexplicable sense of heroism, and my feet began to stumble. One stepped where the other should have been and I flailed across a table, upsetting two customers’ beers and even more patrons’ moods. In a moment, every man in the bar was yelling and punching and throwing whatever was convenient. A fire had erupted where the kerosene lamp had spilled and the whole place was rank with sweating men, abused alcohol and burning timber.

I regained my feet, ready to fight the crowd. I punched someone in the jaw, only to turn around and have a tooth knocked loose by the barkeep. The dirty wooden floor felt soft against my cheek and I decided to just stay right there.

When I awoke I was hidden amongst some bushes about two hundred yards up the mountain from the smoldering remains of what used to be the most popular tavern in town. My hands felt like bricks and my face felt like hell.

A rustling in the bushes startled me and I tried to move, but my body wouldn’t let me. I tried to yell, but my broken jaw only let out a quiet muffle. Through the bushes popped the black-haired man who had been bullied the night before. His face was stern and unfriendly, but seemingly unscathed. He held out a satchel of pine nuts and berries and dropped them on my lap before turning around and leaving.

I poked at the bag on my lap with swollen hands. My fingers would not grasp the tiny nourishments this man had left for me. My stomach knotted and my cheeks lunged towards each other inside my mouth. Excruciating pain seared my jaws as saliva dripped down my bloody lips. These perfect berries, which my stomach was audibly ready to eat, were so far out of reach. With every bit of energy, I focused on pinching one single pine nut. Surely I could squeeze that between my cracked lips. But my hands were too weak and swollen and my right one was definitely broken. A tear stung my eye and I could not longer keep my head up. He’s not coming back for me. This bag of useless and cruel nuts is his thanks for standing up for him last night. I tried with one more mighty effort to grab a nut or berry, but knocked the leather satchel to the ground near my legs. The contents spilled out gently.

My head flopped against my chest. My eyes pushed out a few orphaned tears, and then I fell asleep.

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