The Twenty by Ray J Robbio

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Ray J Robbio's character Nick recalls a frighteningly intense dream at his local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

I could feel my knees shaking as he called on me to speak. I had attended these meetings for some time now, but had only been a passive observer and never contributed. My mouth felt like it had cotton balls in it, and I took a gulp of my bottled water before standing. I could feel the eyes of the room fall upon me as I made my way up to the podium. I felt dizzy and nauseous, like I was drunk. I would give anything for a hit of cocaine right now.

"Hi," I said loudly, much too loudly, I might add, "My name is Nick, and I'm an alcoholic."

Everyone responded with the customary "Hi Nick" and then fell silent.

"Um, it's been six hours since my last drink." I thought a moment for something else to say. I could feel sweat beading up on my forehead as the few seconds I paused seemed like minutes.

"Nick," the moderator chimed in, "Why don't you tell us your experience with not drinking the last six hours."

I thought for a moment, trying to think of something interesting to say. Then I thought back to the night before.

"Ok," I smiled. "Well, it's funny, ya know. Drinking and drugs get such a hold on you that it's all you think about. I have a demon on my shoulder all the time. He's always helping me to get the next fix. His voice is hard to keep quiet. I try playing video games, or watching TV, but he's always there in the background telling me that what I am doing isn't enough. He's a real bastard."

I paused hoping for a smile from the crowd or a measure of understanding, but they just stared at me.

"Um, anyway, I decided last night not to listen to him. I chose to go to bed early instead. The amazing thing about my demon, is he has a way of getting into my dreams. The dream I had last night was intense and I'd like to share it with you, if that's ok."

I looked to the moderator for approval.

"Of course, go right ahead," he replied.

"I woke up at about eleven and sat straight up in bed. It was as if the demon was tapping me on the shoulder. I was shivering. My body felt like it was burning up, but I was freezing cold. Anyway, he convinced me that I needed to get a drink. The problem is I was broke and my cupboards were bare. All of the liquor bottles I had laying all over the floor were empty, and it panicked me. I got dressed and headed out to the convenience store on the corner. They carry a small supply of booze. Certainly enough to satisfy me in a pinch. It was a particularly dark night, and the street lights were all flickering."

I paused again, not sure if they understood what I was talking about.

"Ya know, it's a dream. There are things that don't make any sense. Like the bum sitting on the street corner asking for money. Really? At eleven at night? Funny thing is, as I'm crossing the street, I see a guy giving him a twenty. I'm sure he's going to trade that twenty in for booze anyway. What a waste! The demon tries to convince me that he isn't deserving of such generosity. And, I must admit, he has a point. I mean, he's a bum. He's just sitting there. I, at least, 'work' for my money. Whether it's hustling the assholes down the street playing dice, or swiping some rich bitch's pocketbook, I, at least, put the time and effort in. This fuckin' bum just sits there with a sign."

The moderator quietly interrupted me and reminded me to watch my language. "I'm sorry," I said, not realizing that I swore.

"Anyway, the sign read; 'Please donate whatever you can. I have three kids at home and I need food'. I'm mad now. Really? You have three kids? I wasn't born yesterday, ya know. The demon agreed with me. The bum MUST be lying. Somehow, in my mind, lying isn't acceptable. I'm at least honest about my intentions. Anyway, I crossed over to where he was sitting. As I got closer, he started with his BS speech, asking me for money. I could feel this rage building inside of me. The demon kept taunting me, like a fly buzzing around my head. I would try to swat him away, but he would keep coming back. I asked the bum for his money. He told me he didn't have any. Again, a liar! I reached down and grabbed the cup from his hand, sending the change spilling all over the sidewalk."

"'Really? What's this then?' I asked.

"'Please, sir, this is all I have. I need it for my kids.'

"'What's your son's name, Jack Daniels?'

"I grabbed the few dollars that were on the ground and searched for the twenty among them.

"'Where's the twenty?' I asked.

"'I don't have a twenty,' he pleaded.

"I really hate liars. I took out my knife and waved it at him.

"'Give me the f'n money, asshole,' I yelled. I didn't want to kill him, just make him think I was going to. How I actually ended up stabbing him is still a mystery to me. I'm sure the demon had something to do with it. He always takes things to the extreme. His motto is 'better them than you'. And, I really can't disagree with his philosophy.

"Anyway, in the dream I stabbed him until my arm started to hurt. Surprisingly, there were no cops around, no people of any kind. Dreams are weird like that.

"I searched his body and found the twenty I was looking for tucked in his back pocket, along with a picture of some kids. Amazing the lengths these bums will go through just to score a couple of bucks for booze!

"I tossed the knife in the storm drain and quickly ran back across the street to the convenience store to get my fix. I found my drink of choice and headed to the counter, already twisting the top off. I could taste it on my tongue even though the bottle was still sealed. I put the bottle on the counter along with the twenty.

"The cashier behind the counter looked at me and said, 'Sir, your money is no good here.'

"His eyes looked glazed over, like a snake. I stared at him, partially because his eyes were so peculiar, and partially because I didn't understand what he was saying.

"'What?' I asked. 'What 'cha mean, it's no good?'

"'Sir, your money is no good here,' he repeated, handing the twenty back to me.

"'I don't understand,' I said.

"'I know,' the cashier said, 'That is why it's no good.'

"I was getting so pissed off. All I wanted was the booze. I grabbed the bottle to run out the door, but it was stuck to the counter. No matter how hard I pulled, it wouldn't budge.

"'Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Come back when you have money.' He motioned towards the door. He remained calm, and his eyes stayed fixed on mine. I'm not really sure why I didn't flip out on him, but I left. I was furious.

"I stood on the sidewalk, which was now full of people. Through the crowd I could see a bum sitting in the exact spot where the other one was. It looked like the same one! I watched intently as one by one he would ask for money from the passers-by and one by one they would all hand him a twenty dollar bill. The guy had twenties falling out of his tattered coat and overflowing in his cup. People were frantically pushing through one another to get to this bum, just to give him money. It was as if they were paying him to clear their collective consciences. I stood there trying to make sense of the commotion around him.

"Well, I thought, fuck him. I'm not going to give it back."

"Nick," the moderator said, "Please, watch your language."

"I started walking down the opposite side of the street, all the while my eyes couldn't look away from what was happening. The bum looked directly at me, and I clutched harder onto the twenty that was in my hand. He slowly shook his head. I wondered what I was not understanding. The fear in those people's eyes scared me. Why were they scared of this lowly bum? Can someone please explain this f'n dream to me?"

I suddenly realized I hadn't opened my eyes almost the entire time I was telling these strangers the story. I finally opened them and looked out at the full room of addicts. My head was drenched in sweat, and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. They were all just staring at me. It was like they had no reaction. Didn't they hear what I was saying? Didn't they care?

"Is there anyone who can answer Nick's question?" the moderator asked, looking out into the crowd.

I scanned the crowd. They all seemed to blink at once, and when their eyes opened, they were glazed over like a snake. The fear hit me all at once. A small hand went up at the back of the room.

"I can answer his question, moderator."

"Please do, sir," the moderator answered.

Nick could see the figure get up and head down the aisle towards him. The room was far darker now, and Nick could see what looked like fog hugging the cement floor.

"Sir," said the bum standing before him, "my name is Valefar, and I believe I can answer all of your questions."

I was paralyzed with fear of the bum. He was the one in my dreams!

"I... I... I was just wondering if you knew what my dream meant?"

"My dear Nick, what makes you think it was a dream?" He laughed a most evil laugh. "My master put me in charge of the thieves for a reason. I am very good at what I do. Collecting the souls of thieves is easy when you know their weaknesses, their vices. You were easy." Valefar walked up to the podium and held his hand out. "Now, give me my twenty back."

I looked in horror at the demon before me. I slowly reached into my pocket and to my surprise, pulled out a twenty dollar bill. As I placed it in Valefar's hand, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

"Wait! Why were the people rushing to give you the twenties back?" I cried.

Valefar sighed. "God has a pesky little law about redemption. A deal my master made with Him some time ago. A useless capitulation if you ask me."

The floor in the center of the room fell away, revealing a chasm that was burning hot. I was frozen in fear at what awaited me.

Valefar turned, smiled, and took my hand. "Lucky for me, there will be no redemption for you."


  1. That was a very good story with the characters ringing real. It goes to show the old adage that we all reap what we sow. Good job!

  2. Another fine creepy story. I like the symbolic use of the bum and money.

  3. liked it very much, yes it´s true, what goes around, Comes around

    Michael McCarthy

  4. Like his previous work "Mr. Tibbs", author Ray J Robbio seamlessly weaves reality with mysticism creating relatable characters in eerie scenarios that make the hair on the back of the readers neck stand on end. I look forward to his next effort.

  5. Great story by Ray J Robbio ! Could not begin to imagine the ending, very clever.
    Question ...where can I find more works by this author?
    Love the surprise and the goose bumps!

    1. You can view all stories by Ray J Robbio on this website using the following link: - there'll be a new one from him appearing here on 29 September!

  6. This story kept me guessing. Every time I thought I had it about figured out, there was another twist. Well done!

    1. Thanks for the comment! If you haven't read my other short on this site "Mr. Tibbs", you might like that one too!

      Ray J Robbio

  7. What a gripping story! Reading that first sentence, truly put me in the plot. The fear and confusion the character felt was intense. I extremely enjoyed The Twenty! I will be looking forward to more stories by Ray J Robbio. Thanks for all the stories, Ray J Robbio. You are a very talented and gifted writer

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Please check out my other short story Mr. Tibbs! Plus my next one being published on here called "The Wish Box".
      Ray J Robbio

  8. very believable characters. the coice of setting and plot was execellant!
    Looking forward to reading Mr. Tibbs and The Wish Box. I will sugest these to my friends as they enjoy horror also.