September RLW Winner Image

Into the Unknown

By: Paul Andrew Butterworth

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Luke finally had it in his soft sixteen-year-old hands. It had been difficult, mind you, and getting hold of a photo of his older brother, Darren, was the hardest part of the equation. Darren had laughed when his little bro had told him why he needed it, although, it wasn’t as if Darren hadn’t done the same at Luke’s age. Come to think of it, big Dazza had started even earlier.

As far as Luke could remember, Dazza must’ve been fourteen or fifteen when he had first walked, brazenly, into the local bottle shop. He’d been dressed in one of Dad’s suits – he’d even worn a tie, one of those striped brown and cream combinations that you clipped on. As it turned out, the bloke behind the counter hadn’t blinked and simply took the cash, then served the next customer as Dazza walked out of the store, smiling. When he had arrived home, he and his mates shared a cask of De Bortoli. Luke was too young at the time, and not the least bit interested. When Dazza’s mate, Bernie, threw up all over the back porch, Luke promised himself he would never touch the stuff. But here he was, standing out the front of school, flicking his first fake ID from hand to hand.

‘You got it?’ Billy asked.

Luke smiled. ‘Yep.’

‘Bullshit!’ Smithy said. ‘Give us a look! Yeah, not bad, Bradley Cartwright! You get it off Salmo?’

Luke nodded. ‘Twenty bucks. You guys coming tonight?’

Nods and high fives all round. Smithy said, ‘What’s your star sign, Bradley?’

‘Aquarius.’

‘Date of birth?’

‘23rd of January, 2001.’

‘Eighteen,’ Billy said. ‘Very smart.’ Billy’s twin brother had been busted trying to get into the Unknown with a fake ID. Problem was, and despite all advice to the contrary, he’d asked Salmo if he could be a bit older. You know, impress the chicks. Idiot.

Before long, the boys were lining up. The line was short – surprising given it was 9 pm on a Friday. Smithy, Billy, and Luke approached the bouncer, a thickset bloke, very tall and a shaved head. ‘Evening, boys.’

Smithy flashed his ID, and the bouncer nodded towards the entry. Next, Billy presented his, no problem. Luke attempted to follow his mates through.

‘Hang on,’ the bouncer said. ‘ID.’

Luke removed it from his wallet, his hands shaking.

‘Date of birth.’

‘January 23rd

, 2001.’

‘Address.’

Luke peeled off the answers like he was that Indian bloke from Slumdog Millionaire.

‘In you go.’

He went into the Unknown, his suburb’s only pub. The drinks went down like a street

hooker on a customer – easy and cheap. His head began to spin on the walk home, and before

long, he was emptying his stomach of its contents all over Mrs Framingham’s petunias. As

the vomit flowed, and despite several promises that this would never happen again, two

weeks later, history repeated itself.

It wouldn’t be the last time Luke ventured into the Unknown.