Where Everybody Knows Your Name

You’ve been going to the same bar every night for the past five years. In fact, you’re such a regular that when you enter the, the other patrons yell your name and the bartender already has your drink waiting for you. But then one Friday you arrive and no one seems to recognize you, not even the bartender. What’s going on?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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227 thoughts on “Where Everybody Knows Your Name

  1. maxime

    I preloaded at home. The double bourbon whiskey didn’t kick in the first few minutes so when I got up the armchair, I went to the bottom of the cupboard where I hide all the spirits. Not really a good hiding spot if you ask me, considering my wife notices I’m on my knees every evening as she passes by. She could think I’m praying but she knows I’m no believer. Oh, goddamn she knows.
    My god has been the booze for the last five years. Worshiping in the best way I could, I poured myself a good glass of cognac. That was enough, the walls started sliding from side to side, my blood warming inside my chest. Walking with my head moving as if I was a pigeon.
    In a matter of minutes I headed back downstairs, my hands touching every wall and my arms sweeping the air like the lights were turned off.
    I could hear a woman crying, which was probably my wife considering there’s only the two of us now, could be the ghost of my daughter.
    Bloody car.
    Everything can happen so fast.
    Even after five years, this thing could still blast my heart the same way I heard the news the first time but let’s just walk for now.
    I did, miraculously I’d say, manage to get to my temple which, luckily for me, is only two roads away.
    After bouncing off everything on the way, I let my body fell forward and pushed the door that way.
    Bryan was behind the bar, serving Jimmy and Larry their usual ales. I made my way there and slammed Jimmy’s back.
    – How is it going pals? While resting half of me on the counter to not fall off the boat, the whole bar swinging like the last minutes of the titanic.
    – Bryan, where’s my booze? I smiled. The guys looked at me and left to go at the snooker tables.
    – Sir sorry, you must be confusing me with the usual bartender, he smiled back.
    – No way Bryan, No way! I know you! moving my finger around, saying again: I know you! you’ve got a wife, two daughters and a dog.
    – Oh ok, that’s creepy but…good guess, how did you know? did Sam told you that?
    – Hmm… who’s Sam?
    – Sam is the bartender I’m replacing, it’s my first day today. He said while drying some glasses.
    I banged my head in my hands
    -Doesn’t make any sense.
    I paused for a while.
    – Which day is that?
    Bryan pushed the nearby newspaper to me.
    5th October 2012, dammit, a day before my world collapsed five years ago. What the heck just happened? Why are we back here?
    With a start, I got up and moved from left to right towards the door. See my daughter again.
    Then I stopped. A few seconds past, maybe a minute.
    -That can’t hurt, Bryan…a double bourbon whiskey!

  2. maxime

    I’ve put my story several days ago with the hopes that people could criticise it for me to improve my writing. It seems my comment didn’t show up… or hasn’t been approved.
    Can you let me know how to post a story please?

      1. maxime

        It’s odd. It didn’t even say “waiting for moderation” after posting it, as opposed to the short comment I did write. Maybe we need to comment several times to be able to post long comments?

      2. maxime

        RobinY, I think there’s a bot stopping you posting if there is some words in it, I changed “sh*t” and “f*cking” so that it can be posted. 😉

  3. Peggy Jo Farr

    You have stepped through a wormhole in the time/space continuum and find yourself sitting in the same spot you occupy night after night only in a different century. You pay the bar keep with coins because your paper money looks fake to him and he will not accept it. You sit taking it all in. The clothes, the conversations, and the drinks ordered…

  4. colkirkwood

    Every Friday night I get the nerve to get myself out of the house for a couple of hours. I head to this bar called The Capri, where everyone knows my name. But this Friday, was different.
    A few days earlier, I let someone get the best of me. I lost myself in someone I loved, and I can’t find myself anymore. Being a broken hearted girl is common, right? And I’ll get over it sometime. Except I am a depressed broken hearted girl. I won’t get over it, because it just added onto the sadness that I already had. I sunk deeper into the pit of despair that is oh so hard to get out of, all because of a boy that cheated on me.
    I can’t work up the energy to get out of bed anymore. I don’t look happy. I am pale. My eyes are sunken into my face, with bags underneath. I am not recognizable. Not even to myself. I don’t eat, I sleep too much. I lost what little happiness I had when I let that boy come into my life. When I let him take over my mind and soul. When I fell in love.
    Walking into the bar on Friday, no one seems to know me. I don’t even know me.

  5. gvenditti

    Like Rip VanWinkle, I awoke from my slumber and soon realized it had been at least 24 hours since I had my last drink. Shambling through silent streets on this cold November night, I swung open the door to my favorite dive bar, Johnny O’s.

    I had been coming to Johnny O’s for the last 5 years. I knew not just the bartenders but all the regulars too. So many fun nights of good music and drinking into the wee hours kept me coming back for more.

    This night, however, was not to be like all those other nights.

    The room was silent, save for a few patrons and one bartender. Music emanated from the jukebox, but it was low and indiscernible.

    “Cormack! How’s it going buddy!” I said, perching myself upon my usual bar stool.

    Instead of fist-bumping me, he looked up from cleaning a glass, an empty look in his eyes. “What can I get you?”

    I pulled back my fist – he never left me hanging like that. “Well come on bro, you know what I like! Is that a trick question?”

    Cormack stared at me, unfazed. “It is not a trick question. What did you want?”

    After some back and forth, which took way too long, he finally fetched me a pint of Killian’s Red. Which, oddly enough did not taste as good as usual. But, it was alcohol, and I was too thirsty to be picky.

    On the other side of the bar I noticed Deeks, another regular. He was usually one of the loudest patrons here, and a good time at that. But tonight he just sat there, quiet and subdued.

    “Hey Deeks, whattaya having tonight?” My greeting had no effect on him. He just stared into his drink.

    I tried talking to the others around me, and they all looked at me as though they had never seen me before. When in fact, we were part of the usual crew that was in here every Tuesday night.

    About an hour and three drinks later, I figured it was time to eat, and asked Cormack to get me some food – the usual, of course.

    “Food, you say,” said Deeks, who walked over to the jukebox and turned it off. “I was thinking the same thing myself.”

    The other patrons then all got up at the same time, and slowly gathered behind Deeks. “A magic word, if there ever was one,” said the thing that appeared to be Cliff. They stared at me with a look of malicious intent in their eyes. Eyes which collectively began burning bright green, with hints of black. One by one they shed their skins, revealing themselves to be lizards!

    There was a tug on my shirt sleeve. It was Cormack, who pointed at a sign above them, which said, “Serving Man” with an illustration showing lizards licking their claws.

  6. Jake

    The last cold bite of fresh winter air nipped my ankle as the large oak door swung closed behind me. A warm blanket draped over me as I took one step, then another towards the bar, hand already in motion towards my first drink of the night, a tall scotch to ease out of the troubles of the day and into something more comfortable. My left foot hit the ground, and then my right, but then, as if stopped in my tracks by a large wall, I took not another step. There was no drink waiting for me at the bar.

    It hadn’t struck me as out of the ordinary that an oversized and ruggedly grotesque shell of a man had occupied the stool, and one or two on either side, which I normally called my home. In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to me that no single companion had made gesture towards me since I first clambered over the threshold. My desire to wake up from this hell, to reacquaint myself with the welcoming atmosphere of the auburn stained bar, and to share a pint or two with the best damn patrons this side of the Mississippi, had completely overtaken my keen perception.

    As I meandered over to the high countertop, nonchalantly taking in this new scene, I began to evaluate the situation. Paul and Sara at their usual, Tom in the corner throwing darts, and Jon, my saving grace, behind his tap just where I needed him. I thought about sending over a wave, but decided to play it off coy. I couldn’t let them all know I needed their validation.

    One step removed from the next available leather capped swivel chair, I nearly had my knees to the countertop when Jon’s booming voice came across sharp. “What’ll it be?” He asked me, as if I hadn’t frequented his fine establishment every night for the past five years. I cracked a smile and stared at him with a large grin on my face. What a mistake that was.

    Sober as I was, I’m still not sure I correctly saw what happened next. Before I could open my mouth to shoot back some coy response, Jon’s head whipped around in a full one eighty, body remaining perfectly in place. I followed his unnatural gaze to a printer size paper on the wall bearing a picture of what could only be myself. The paper had only one word on it.

    Before my mind could fully grasp the gravity of the situation my legs were headed in the other direction. My left foot hit the ground, and then my right, and then darkness.

    My head cracked hard on the ground, I faded for a moment, blackness, and then spots of light. I heard footsteps approach from behind, and a soft rush of air as a thin white sheet floated gently down beside me. As it landed by my head I could just make out one word, scribbled in red ink.

    Kill.

    1. francaiskitty

      Great story! Love your wording and descriptiveness. The foreshadowing and suspense is an awesome plus, especially for a story prompt like this.

      1. francaiskitty

        Also, I am kind of new to Writer’s Digest. Could anyone–hopefully soon–tell me how to post my own short stories on the writing prompts? I can only find a way to reply to other’s stories. This is getting frustrating and I could really use some help!

  7. Nossorgs

    Finally.

    I close the laptop and lean back with a sigh. Documentation is the worst. Sure, it’s important, especially for dimension hoppers. Knowing that D-734 has no atmospheric oxygen can be the difference between a fascinating day out and a nightmarish death, and someone could have mentioned all the dinosaurs in D-9233.

    But it’s still the worst.

    Good thing it’s 7 ‘o clock. Even hoppers stick to working hours. If the world they’re on has time, at least.

    I run my hand through the stubble on my chin. I seriously hope Lazy Pete’s in this one, too.

    ***

    Work’s still lingering on my mind as I walk down the main street. Of course all the basic checks are done and dusted, but most dimensions have other twists. Usually a notable lack of life. Or, if there is life, some vital change in the surviving ancestral species.

    So far, this world – D-14463 – has been surprisingly mundane. Same physics, same chem, same tech. Same animals and plants, at first glance.

    I wonder what’s different about this one. Might be another “X drinks tea instead of coffee” ‘verse. I hope not – those take ages to figure out.

    I turn the corner. Yup, there’s The Mad Dog alright. Splendid. It even has Bert in his usual spot outside, cig in one hand and pint in the other.

    I stand at the corner for a moment, watching the pub. Will I be in there?
    Ugh, please no. I don’t think I can face another D-6682. Never realised just how grating my voice was.

    Still, I need that drink. I saunter over to Bert.

    “Evenin’ Bert.”

    He looks up, raises an eyebrow. “Who’re you?”

    Ah. Well, that can happen. I’d been looking forward to my personal It’s A Wonderful Life experience ever since we’d discovered parallel universes.

    “Oh, no-one in particular.” I indicate the pub. “Just popping in for a drink.”
    “You Sam’s brother, or something?”
    Huh? “I am Sam.”
    “Nah,” Bert says, squinting at me suspiciously. “Sam’s inside already.”
    “…right.” Interesting. I smile at Bert – who glowers back – and head inside The Mad Dog.

    At once the lively conversation around the bar stops as everyone turns to observe the new arrival. I know the drill, though it’s been five years since I’ve seen it from this perspective. I’m pleased to see the old crew, though they don’t look as glad to see me. Well, I’m not their Sam, after all.

    I let my gaze wonder, looking for the mysterious ‘Sam’. There’s James and Linda, regulars for more than 12 years. Barry “Pinpoint” Roth, local darts hero. Lazy Pete himself, polishing a filthy glass with a filthier rag. Nat, Dave, Ruth, and-

    My jaw drops. It’s me alright. The same dirty blonde hair, grey-blue eyes hidden behind square-rimmed glasses. Same gormless expression of shock I can feel on my own face. Same stupid shirt. Looks a lot better on ‘Sam’, though.

    It must be the breasts.

  8. Jennifer Park

    At least my favorite stool was free, but, judging by the mood in the bar, someone could have easily kicked it out from under me as I tried to sit down. They did not do that. They just ignored me furiously.

    Even Nolan, the bartender. For five years, I came here just about every weeknight, on my way home from work, and ordered the same drink every time. One Manhattan. A few weeks in, he started having it ready for me just as I sat down. Even when I was late or early, he somehow knew. Maybe he had one already made; I never asked.

    Not tonight.

    I waited patiently, hoping someone would say “hi” or something. No need to call out my name.

    The TV was on Food Network. Usually it was on CNN. No one was in the mood for that now. Not for another four years. Maybe eight.

    So this was what winning felt like. Sitting at my favorite bar, being ignored by my best friends, because I voted for the wrong candidate and dared to enthuse about it.

    I waited some more. Nolan was now talking to Barbara, who had been a regular here even longer than I had. Barbara glanced at me for a moment, but decided again to ignore me furiously.

    I looked down on the familiar counter, taking in the familiar wood grain. Probably for the last time. At least for four years. Maybe eight. I got up, to go home.

    To my surprise, I saw that there was a Manhattan sitting right in front of me. Nolan was still talking to Barbara, but he turned to look at me, and winked.

    I nodded back, and sat back down.

  9. DanJCrocker

    “The usual please” I called across the room as I entered the local, at the same time that I had for the past 5 years. The place was strangely quiet tonight and there was a strange unfamiliar damp buzz to the atmosphere. By the time I reached the bar and had reached into my inside coat pocket for the usual £10 note I kept there, I noticed that Olivia the usual barmaid with the perky fun bags was only staring at me in total confusion.
    “Are you okay?” I said with a hint of concern in my voice.
    Olivia only continued to stare at me as if I had walked in dressed as a leprechaun and merrily skipped to the bar sprinkling gold dust as I went.
    “What can I get you sir?” she asked in a way that you would to a person you had never met.
    “Did you fall and hit your head?” I said with a nervous grin on my face.
    “Its me, Dan, you know the guy you have been serving the past five years.”
    This brought on only more awkwardness to Olivias face along with a long awkward silence.
    “fine” I said in defeat.
    “Just get me a Guinness will ya” I said and turned away from Olivia to take a look around the bar, making sure I had stepped into the right place. As I looked around I noticed familiar eyes were staring at me in an unwelcome manner. Then it occured to me, Maybe I have become a Leprechaun over night.
    With that thought I completely forgot about the extra cold pint of black goodness that now sat before be and headed for the restroom.
    I was greeted with the fresh smell of unrine as I entered, the door went behind me and filled my nostrils with it. I took in a deep breath as if it was as appealing as freshly baked bread.
    I stepped before the mirror that overlooked the grimy sink that had never been cleaned and looked at myself in the mirror.
    What I saw sent an icy chill of terror down my spine.
    What had happened to me?

    1. Isabella

      Hey! I’m here to offer some friendly feedback on your work.
      One thing that I really enjoyed about your piece was that you used imagery effectively to activate our senses. For example, when your character enters the bathroom, you very bluntly introduced to us the scent of urine. When you mention the “grimy sink that had never been cleaned,” I personally can feel the “grime” and see how gross it looks.
      Another aspect that I really liked was your specificity. For example, “as if I had walked in dressed as a leprechaun and merrily skipped to the bar sprinkling gold dust as I went.” Of course, the audience knows that leprechauns don’t exist, but this image was very specific and worked for me. Also, I noticed how you carried the theme of the leprechaun on a little further into, “Maybe I have become a Leprechaun over night.” For me, the placement felt a little awkward, because this doesn’t seem like the natural train of thought for a person, but I appreciate the theme overall. It really helps to peak interest (and maybe foreshadow?) when the main character looks into the mirror and thinks, “What had happened to me?”
      If you were to continue working on this piece, I’d say to focus on getting to know your character and really looking into what would actually be said in certain situations, but continue with your awesome detail and imagery.
      I hope this was helpful:-)

  10. GrahamLewis

    “So,” I said as I drew up to the rail. “You must be deafened by the silence.”

    “Nope.” The barmaid barely made eye contact and wouldn’t keep it. “So, what will you have?”

    “What will I have? You have to ask me that, Jenny? After all we have been to each other?” My voice boomed across the room. I looked around for conspiratorial smiles or even a laugh or two. Nothing. The guy next to me at the bar moved two stools down. Women seemed to grab the arm of their male companions, or draw into tight groups or study the menus. The men gave me cold glances and turned back to their drinks.

    I looked at Jenny. “What happened? Somebody die?”

    “Are you going to order a drink?”

    “Sure. A draw and a shot, same as every other night since forever.”

    She set the stein and shot glass in front of me. “That’s $5.75”

    I shrugged. “Put it on my tab.”

    “You don’t have a tab.”

    I nearly went over backward. “ Have I ever stiffed you on a tab?”

    “Five dollars and seventy-five cents, please.”

    I slapped a fiver on the rail. “Buy some Midol with the change, bitch.” I downed the shot, and carried the beer to my usual table. I pulled out my chair and all fell silent. “What is it? Does my reputation precede me? Hello?” Chairs slid away on both sides. My best friend Mark stood up and almost stumbled into me, slipping me a folded napkin in the process, and ambled away.

    “Wait two minutes,” the note said, “and meet me in the john.”

    I don’t have a watch so I counted to 120, then went in. He locked the door. “Anybody follow you?”

    “Well,” I snorted, “it’s a bathroom. People come and go.” He looked unamused. “No, nobody seems to notice me at all.”

    “You know why?”

    “No clue.”

    “You remember last night?”

    “The early part. After that, the usual blur. You try remembering after a few draws and shots.”

    “Nothing about Nicky Taylor?”

    “The house slut? Don’t think so.”

    “Yeah,” he said, “you called her that, just before you made a move on her.”

    “Oh man. Did I score?”

    “No, she slapped you and left.”

    “Man, I can’t even get somewhere with a tart like her?”

    “You yelled that as she was leaving.”

    “Okay, I get it. But what’s that got to do with this cone of silence?”

    “Do you know her boyfriend?”

    “Nope. Can’t imagine.”

    “Well,” Mark said, “imagine big. Tattoos. Black leather. Killer instinct. Jealous.” He paused. “He’s due home tonight, and word is he’s coming here to smash you to smithereens, and anyone who even seems to know you.”

    Someone pounded and shouted at the door. Mark flushed the toilet to cover sound of the opening back window and we slithered into the night.

  11. Beebles

    Old habits die hard. Like Sunday lunchtimes at the Red Lion.

    She hesitates on the threshold.

    It’s been a year since she was last here. Is she doing the right thing?

    She straightens her bag over her shoulder and nervously checks her hair in the dining room window a last time. The pub sign swings gently above her head. Disappointingly it doesn’t squeak. Geoff always keeps it well oiled or the neighbours complain. It should squeak on a day like today.

    She can hear their voices as soon as she enters, smells the timeless reek of beer. She’s missed it so much. Her palate moistens in anticipation.

    It’s not quite like the old films when she walks in. The hushed, almost reverential conversation continues. For the three men at the bar this is hallowed ground. This is their last supper before the Calvary of burnt beef and overcooked veg on a warm summer afternoon. Her stool stands empty.

    She smiles at them as she rounds the horse brasses at the corner of the bar. Now the talk is drawn to a close and they turn their heads. All except Ian of course, sitting as always at the far end. His eyes remain fixed on his pint. Those soft brown eyes she remembers so passionately. Her heart leaps to see him. See them all.

    She feels Reg, Tank and Geoff survey her in that familiar routine. A first glance to check her out, then a look past her, waiting for her husband, partner, children or uniformed colleagues, to enter. There is a pause when no-one appears, like the inner appreciation of a well-played cricket stroke.

    Just her. She finds it surprisingly titillating.

    ‘What can I get you, Miss?’

    In an age when decorum is almost dead, Geoff is like a steam engine at a space port.

    ‘Usual please.’

    ‘I’m sorry?’

    ‘Oh, sorry, yes, just a half of Theekstons, please.’

    Reg will be the first to speak, she knows.

    ‘Passing through, pet?’

    ‘Er, no actually, I’ve just bought a house in the village. Thought I’d try out the local.’

    Ian looks up now. Snatches a glance and their eyes meet. It is brief, but it melts her inside.

    ‘Oh that’s grand, always pleased to see fresh blooms in our garden,’ Reg continues. She’s missed his patter, the silver plated tongue he uses at the car showroom Monday to Friday, half-day Saturday. He’s won salesman of the year two years running now, or is it three? Still, it is just him and the boss. ‘What’s ya name, pet?’

    ‘Juliette.’

    ‘Ah, Juliette,’ he sings, ‘when we made love-,’

    ‘… you used to cry,’ she finishes for him. The others laugh and Reg looks taken aback.

    ‘Our Dire Straits fan is Reg, I’m Trevor, but everyone calls me Tank.’

    She shakes their hands. Tank’s hand is rough with that greasy patina she remembers and the smell of swarfega . A gentle man who only gets animated when talking about a Massey Ferguson or an A class Lexion 580.

    ‘And the quiet one?’

    She saunters round to stand in front of Ian. He’s forty two, same as her, widowed, or released might be a better way of putting it. He is still examining his glass, summoning the courage until at last he stands like a jack in the box and takes her hand.

    She has waited so long for this, endured so much for it. The sensation of his skin is too much and she feels the panic rising.

    ‘Oh, do excuse me,’ she says, flushed, putting down her drink.

    She hurries through the door to the toilets. She grasps the handle and pauses, while her heart refuses to calm down. She doesn’t know if she can do this. Lost in her thoughts she jumps at Ian’s voice behind her.

    ‘Er, excuse me, love, er … Juliette. The Ladies is the next door down.’

    ‘Oh, oh, thank you. Of course.’

    They exchange bashful smiles and she makes for the unfamiliar sign.

    This is going to be more difficult than she thought.

    Old habits die hard.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Beebles, a masterful piece of writing, everyone should read who visits our site. It is so personal, it almost embarasses as we read her inner thoughts. I don’t have fancy words to praise with but it is deliciously beautiful.

    2. writer_sk

      Beebles, I too, was going to say “beautiful” to describe this. So I will- beautiful. The sadness and longing really comes through. The wording was very well done.

    3. Pete

      Wow, this is one where a few months from now a line from the above will come to me and I’ll try to remember what novel it was where I read it. Then I’ll remember, it was here. Perfect.

    4. jhowe

      Anyone who bashes alternative lifestyles should read this. It’s done to perfection, medium rare, with just the right amount of seasoning. Congratulations.

  12. ShamelessHack

    I walk in, and it’s a comfortable feeling to see the usual crowd in their usual good frames of mind. I come here almost every day. It’s almost like my home away from home.
    Cooper is in his usual spot.
    “Hey, Coop, ” I say to my old pal. “Just water for me,” I tell him. “As usual.”
    “Usual?” He cocks his head and says. “Not sure what you mean, fella. Have you ever been in here before?” He slides a water over to me and says, “You new in town?”
    “Coop!” I say. “What do you mean? It’s me, Max. Don’t you recognize me?”
    “Never saw you before.” He shakes his head. “Well, enjoy your drink.”
    I’m about to say something when Molly sidles up to me with her usual innocent look on her face.
    “Hey, Molly,” I say and lean over to give her a kiss.
    She backs away. “Whoa, stranger. I don’t even know you.” Her brown eyes fill with caution. “Back off.”
    What! Now I’m getting really worried. Molly and I go back a long way. And not only as friends, but as lovers as well. Over time her loose definition of loyalty has caused us to drift apart a bit. But this? I don’t get it.
    “Molly, it’s me, Max. What…”
    I suddenly feel someone staring at me. I turn around. It’s my best buddy, Rocky.
    “Rock,” I say to him. “What’s going on?”
    But the look on Rocky’s face tells me he too doesn’t recognize me.
    “Didn’t you hear the lady, pal?” he growls. “She said lay off.”
    That’s it. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m not taking that from anyone, not even my best friend. I step back a few paces and start to circle Rocky. I know where this is going, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
    Rocky shows me his teeth, I show him mine and we’re about to get down to it when the door opens.
    It’s Tina and Henry, owners of this establishment.
    They take a quick look around and spot me. “I’ll get him,” Henry says.
    In two strides he’s on me. He grabs my collar and runs a big hand through the fur on my back. “We missed you yesterday Max,” he says. “Everyone else was here and got their annual vaccinations except you.”
    Tina bends down and says to me, “You don’t want to get sick Max, do you?”
    Before I can protest, she expertly jabs the needle in my paw, and it’s over in a second. I barely felt it.
    Tina straightens up and says to Henry, “Do you think these rabies vaccinations really affect their memories?”
    “Not sure. They say they do, but only for 24 hours or so.”
    A golden retriever trots over to me, all smiles. “Hey, Max,” he says. “What’s up, old buddy?”
    “Who are you?” I say, baring my teeth.

  13. Kerry Charlton

    WILLIAM CHARLTON SR.

    1839 – 1888

    April 26, 1887, William was furious at the former Mayor of Philadelphia., William S. Stokley. He rushed to his fancy carriage and spirited horses, and drove full speed downtown to the courthouse. Upon arriving, he made enough noise to startle half the city’s townspeople.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer, and I quote. “William Charlton rushed into city hall yesterday during a city reception. They recognized him alright but no one dared approach him. In a loud voice, he yelled out,

    ‘Where is ex-mayor Stokley? Fetch him and bring him out, I want to kill him.’“

    Well that friend was my great grandfather. Perhaps we should back up in history to explain.

    William was born in Philadelphia of Irish Immigrants, Jane and Francis Charlton. By the time he was in his early twenties, he had become a professional engineer and went to work for L. Martin Lampblack Co. His rise in business was interrupted by the Civil War.

    William joined the 3rd Regiment Engineers being commissioned as a Captain. When the war was over, he came out as a private. Who knows what went on. He married and had six children of which three survived. He joined the Republican Party, was elected as the 15th Ward council man where he locked horns with Mayor Stokley.

    Meanwhile he invested heavily in real estate, owned a coal distribution company and took on city contracts on a regular basis. He was accused of taking a $400.00 bribe while letting a bridge contract. No one would testify against him. In the middle seventies he was elected to the Board of Port Wardens.

    Taking a paving contract for the city, he completed it and was paid $4,000.00. Two years later he received a duplicate check for the same amount and kept it. He was not indicted for no one would come forth and testify against him. City records had been conveniently lost.

    By this time he was in his late thirties, he built a three story house for his family, managed the coal company, his real estate company as well as his construction firm. Being a regal looking man, he made friends easily and enemies even faster. On May18 1886 during a furious ride in his carriage, he was thrown from it, suffered a serious head injury which he intermittently never recovered from.

    William took his family to Cape May to recuperate and made progress. The Inquirer ran a news article as he returned to Philadelphia. He rescued a drowning woman in the ocean of Cape May.. Former mayor Stockley had grabbed control of the police department, made zoning changes while William was gone. This takes us to the start of this story.

    Several police officers had assembled after William shouted his command, escorted him to his carriage, drove him home after politely saying, “Have a good day.”

    Diagnosed with what the doctors called “Brain Freeze“, he lost the ability to talk and quietly became insane. On February 28, 1888, he was laid to rest. His wife Jane had a thirty foot obelisk constructed which overlooks his grave at Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

    At present the cemetery is closed due to lack of funds. The obelisk is one of the few recognizable landmarks left. Trash litters the front entrance, trees and shrubs have taken command and the state of Pennsylvania has turned it’s back on the matter.

    . .

    1. pven

      Interesting history.
      Did the zoning changes impact William’s existing structures, or just his ability to expand? Curious as to what prompted the death threat.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you for the read pven. Usually zoning changes don’t effect existing structures because of rhe “Grandfather Clause”. But Stokley and William waged political wae for 15 years or so on large and small matters. With similiar personalities both would not yield or comprise. I have a gut feeling my great grandfather had a larger share of success than Stokley but not sure about it.

        Both men were famous for their “quirks.” The newspaper kept quite busy reporting their differences.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, what a great read. I had to, of course, Google Mt. Moriah, etc., and even looked at the photos. What an amazing story that you’ve brought to life, and made me care about. Is this part of your autobiography? Wonderful, whatever you do with it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        As always Reatha, thank you. If you go to the regular internet and type in William Charlton 1888, Philadelphia, my fourth cousin’s biography on William comes up on Find A Grave. As far as my AB, it starts with my earliest memories and stops on my 19th birthday. I want to write a book about William but haven’t found the time. He was fascinating. .

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Yes, I did read that. How wonderful your family has this. Find A Grave is a great, and easily utilized, resource for anyone doing family history.

    3. Beebles

      Ooooh, there is passion here Kerry and pride and frustration. It comes oozing out of this. That’s how to write a biography in c.500 words. I enjoyed some of the devices you used, like the newspaper and the confidence in the use of the timeline: just smacks of a natural writer’s instinct.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Beebles, That is high praise coming from you. I have met some people with the same overbearing personality like my great grandfather who can channe gears in an instant and charm a bird out of a tree, one of which was my own Father. I never had a complete understanding of him until many years after his passing. While studying my great grandfather, it all fell in place. I never knew my grandfather Frank Charlton as he died in 1908 when Father was six. But there is as much information recoded in history as there was in his father. He had a total opposite personality of his father. Was a total gentleman, was heavily mourned by those in his church as well as business. And I guess you know what I’m leading up to. My own Father was not only named William but could have been reincarnated from his own grandfather Is real life not fascinating?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks John, i didn’t like this prompt and decided to skip it when my great grandfather knocked on my brain. Happy you enjoyed it and as I get older I recognize some of his quirks sneaking in.

  14. Witt.Stanton

    “We called him The Scotsman,” said the bartender, polishing the wooden bar top. “Every night he’d sit himself in his seat o’er there and order one keg of beer, straight. Operated like clockwork, he did.”

    I glance up at him from my drink with a grin. “He cause you much trouble?”

    “I’ll say. Now, he wasn’t one of those dry boys, but you shoulda seen him at it. Chugged his pint like there was no tomorrow.”

    “You can’t blame him for it, though, can you?”

    The bartender laughed. “No, not rightfully, with his family and all. That’s why he came to Ireland in the first place. But you hear me, he was born a brawler. Cost me a new chair, he did. Smashed it over some poor bloke’s head. Everybody here loved ‘im.” He catches my eye and grins. “Can’t imagine why you’re so interested. He’s been gone nearly half a decade.”

    I unbutton my suit jacket and ease myself into one of the bar stools. “Well, he sounds like an interesting fellow, that Scotsman. Where’d he go off to?”

    “After all these years, I don’t know, laddie. He was a youngster. Rumor was he headed back home, though I very much doubt that,” he huffs, raising his eyebrows.

    “Why?”

    He leans in close to me, his red-flushed face inches from mine. “Why?” he quietly repeats. “Because his daddy had a mean swing. That’s why. You hearing me well enough?”

    “Right you are,” I laugh dryly, taking a long draw from my beer. “Cheers.”

    If I hadn’t been staring right at him I would’ve missed it. The bartender straightened up, taking a proper look at me. “You know, that Scotsman was a ruddy smart one. And, if I’m not mistaken, I heard he got himself cleaned up.”

    I smiled. “I’m a new man.”

    A grin spread across the old bartender’s face and, before I could protest, he had me in a bear hug. “Welcome back, laddie.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I could tell it was coming a little after the middle of the story. A real heart warmer and down to earth story. Did it really happen and are you writing about yourself? It is so real.

    1. Beebles

      That is a warm sleeping bag of a story. Not a dry Gaelic eye in the house. Short sweet focussed. I often find that the best flash fiction is fine tuned around a single moment or emotion, like this one. Being picky i might pull you up on the use of the term laddie when spoken by an Irishman. But then i can’t think of the Irish equivalent – son maybe?

  15. RafTriesToWrite

    Virgil inspected the oddities of his county at 3 in the afternoon as he walked past the empty playground and the park that was always full of familiar faces this time of the day. The moms that used to hold their babies in their arms up, Virgil had seen them grow over the last few years in this very own park.

    But how come no one was around now?

    The place was so deserted that all he could hear was the rusty sound of the swing set being carried by the mercy of the wind. ‘It was odd’ he thought, but he continued his walk to the pub.

    There were no cars parked around the pub, when it would usually be full by this time.

    “Curiouser and curiouser” Spoke Virgil. He looked at the signboard hanging at the door. Garry’s pub was already open, yet it seems like there’s no one inside, or so he thought.

    As he entered the now unfamiliar doors, he was surprised as to how full the pub was. It was full of people he recognized, yet somehow they don’t seem to know Virgil. No one looked at his way when he entered, no one cared that he was even there. There was even a person on his usual spot, which was near the restroom and the pool table, where he would watch the players play on the pool endlessly for hours.

    Virgil thought there was something wrong, from the static noise coming from the radio down to the people drinking not drinking beer, but water. The pub was so quiet that the static from the radio was the only sound you could hear. The people drinking never talked, they looked at each other like they were talking telepathically, some were smirking awkwardly, some were frowning and some were winking but kept a straight face.

    “What an odd sight to see” Virgil spoke. Everybody turned their eye on Virgil in unison, like they were trained by the army to look at one thing altogether in harmony at the snap of a finger.

    Virgil trembled in fear. ‘What was happening?’ He thought. In all of the five years he’d been going to Garry’s pub, not once he experienced what he was going through right now.

    Everyone was staring at Virgil, eyes wide, lips pursed, they all look ready to attack him. Then it started.

    Murmurs. Murmurs coming from the back turned into soft whispers going around, until it was loud enough to consume the pub with nothing but whispers. Virgil couldn’t even hear his own thoughts. All the people in the pub were walking slowly towards Virgil in an attempt to invade his personal space.

    The whispers turned into small voices, getting louder and louder. He couldn’t make what they were saying, even though the voices only repeat one phrase over and over again. “State your name”.

    Virgil steps back, but a hand made its way onto his shoulder, sending shivers all over his spine, making him stop in his tracks and swallow in fear. The voices stop as he looked to the person who was touching him.

    “State your name” the familiar man that he never knew the name of spoke. He recognized him from playing pool over the past. Virgil noticed something at the man’s eyes, it was grey, and his own reflection was upside down. ‘That’s scientifically preposterous’ Virgil thought.

    “V-Virgil?” he spoke full of doubt. His hands were shaking, his heartbeat erratic and his sweat dripping down from his forehead.

    Virgil was waiting for the man’s response even when he knew he shouldn’t have. But still, he did.

    “Take him for memory replacement”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I really like how you used sounds to move the story, a most effective device. Very well done. You might want to be careful with tense in your next one, just a minor suggestion.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It reads like “Inner Sanctum”, a radio show I used to listen to on the radio. Scared the l’Living Willies ” out of me. Loved the voices also as they got louder and louder..

    2. Beebles

      Creepy, RAF. I expected Donald Sutherland to hove into view at any moment. I thought the playground was particularly evocative. Where are they from, what do they want and how long do any of us have left?!!

  16. pven

    I walk into my place and enjoy the crisp 10-degree drop in temperature. With no windows, thick wood paneling on the walls, and an unwieldy door intent on shutting out anything that allows the heat or the sun or the bustling city into the darkened room, Scottie’s Bar is an oasis from the real world. A demarcation point between the struggles of the day and the adventures of the night.

    It isn’t really my place; it’s Scottie’s. But he’s the kind of guy who lets everyone believe that whatever corner of the bar they inhabit is theirs. I can enter most any time of day to find Joe residing in the smack middle of the bar, ready to talk Cubbies to anyone within a three stool radius. So of course four stools away there’s Lucy, who doesn’t give a damn about sports or what anyone thinks about the fact that she’s there, alone, nursing her third B&B. In the far corner, you’ll find Paulie, who…

    Well, you don’t talk about Paulie.

    I raise two fingers to acknowledge Scottie, who’s watching me from the bar. He gives me a look — studies me — as though he’s noticed that special hike in my step. Scottie’s always observant of his customers’ moods. He’s a unique breed of man who knows what you need before you do.

    “Yeah, today is a special day,” I say. “I should order something special. Royal Ages, rocks.”

    Scottie pauses before answering: “We don’t carry that.”

    “No? You used to.” Scottie’s expression doesn’t change. “Dewar’s, then.”

    I’m stopping by Scottie’s before going out to see Marguerite. It’s our second date, but I can tell already: she’s something special. She’s the one. Sharp, sultry, a total package. Has a secretary job in the Loop, but she’s not married to that.

    A blast of sunlight and wave of heat announces a new customer. I give her a casual glance – still nobody I know – and turn back to the Dewar’s Scottie places by my hand. He removes the empty glass next to it and addresses the gorgeous blonde. The door hasn’t closed behind her – sunlight and noise penetrate our cavern to fall just inches from where I’m sitting.

    “Thanks for calling me,” she says. “How much do I owe you?”

    Scottie hands her a tab. She places two bills on top of it.

    “Dad?” The blonde puts her hand on my arm, and suddenly she’s a familiar vision; the one I’m supposed to meet in an hour.

    “How did you get here?” she asks.

    “Marguerite? I haven’t seen you here before. You know about Scottie’s?”

    “I… No, Dad. I’m not Mom. It’s me, Julie.”

    I don’t know any Julie.

    “Your daughter.”

    “My… You’ve got me mistaken. I don’t have a daughter. I…” I look at Scottie. That’s not… “That’s not Scottie.” The pudgy olive-skinned man is focusing on washing a set of glasses. “Where’s Scottie? Joe? Paulie? Where the heck is Paulie?”

    The bartender shrugs. “Don’t know ‘em.”

    “Dad…”

    “Let me go! I’m not your father! I’m… I’m…”

    “Dad. This isn’t Scottie’s.”

    “Used to be,” offered the bartender. “Bought it years ago. Had to change the name.”

    Realization softens the blonde’s pretty face. “Oh,” she says. “How long’s he been here?”

    “Few hours.”

    “Hours? No, no. Just came in for a quick drink to calm the nerves before I meet Marguerite. It’s our second date. You… you look just like her, you know.”

    She touches my arm again. “Dad, you know that place we talked about? With all those people who wanted to help you? They’ve got a space for you. They just told me today. Isn’t that great?”

    “What place? No, no.” I stand violently to find my legs are uncertain that I can. Did I have too much to drink? I can’t go to Marguerite like this. I… “I’m going to see Marguerite. I can’t leave her waiting, she’s not one to be kept waiting. Scottie, tell her… You’re not Scottie! Where is Scottie?”

    “Dad… Mike, I’ll take you, OK? I’ll take you to see Mo… Marguerite.”

    I realize this is the first time I’ve heard my name all day. I look into the blonde girl’s worried face.

    “You know her? You know Marguerite? You look just like her. Are you her sister?”

    She smiles, this vision standing in a beam of sunlight. “No, but we’re family. Take my hand?”

    I stare at her long, tapered fingers as though time alone could make them less incongruous. And in a sense, it works. A sharp breeze pushes the door fully open and I can see the changes time and new ownership has made to the bar, and I realize that it’s not my place, that I’m the incongruous one, a shadow returning to old haunts only to learn that you can’t go home again.

    “OK,” I take her hand. “Take me to my Marguerite.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It is very beautifully written but so very sad a story. My heart goes out to the father and also his daughter. The mind is a wonderful thing when it works but so sad when it doesn’t.

  17. pven

    I walk into my place and enjoy the crisp 10-degree drop in temperature. With no windows, thick wood paneling on the walls, and an unwieldy door intent on shutting out anything that allows the heat or the sun or the bustling city into the darkened room, Scottie’s Bar is an oasis from the real world. A demarcation point between the struggles of the day and the adventures of the night.

    It isn’t really my place; it’s Scottie’s. But he’s the kind of guy who lets everyone believe that whatever corner of the bar they inhabit is theirs. I can enter most any time of day to find Joe residing in the smack middle of the bar, ready to talk Cubbies to anyone within a three stool radius. So of course four stools away there’s Lucy, who doesn’t give a damn about sports or what anyone thinks about the fact that she’s there, alone, nursing her third B&B. In the far corner, you’ll find Paulie, who…

    Well, you don’t talk about Paulie.

    I raise two fingers to acknowledge Scottie, who’s watching me from the bar. He gives me a look — studies me — as though he’s noticed that special hike in my step. Scottie’s always observant of his customers’ moods. He’s a unique breed of man who knows what you need before you do.

    “Yeah, today is a special day,” I say. “I should order something special. Royal Ages, rocks.”

    Scottie pauses before answering: “We don’t carry that.”

    “No? You used to.” Scottie’s expression doesn’t change. “Dewar’s, then.”

    I’m stopping by Scottie’s before going out to see Marguerite. It’s our second date, but I can tell already: she’s something special. She’s the one. Sharp, sexy, a total package. Has a secretary job in the Loop, but she’s not married to that.

    A blast of sunlight and wave of heat announces a new customer. I give her a casual glance – still nobody I know – and turn back to the Dewar’s Scottie places by my hand. He removes the empty glass next to it and addresses the gorgeous blonde. The door hasn’t closed behind her – sunlight and noise penetrate our cavern to fall just inches from where I’m sitting.

    “Thanks for calling me,” she says. “How much do I owe you?”

    Scottie hands her a tab. She places two bills on top of it.

    “Dad?” The blonde puts her hand on my arm, and suddenly she’s a familiar vision; the one I’m supposed to meet in an hour.

    “How did you get here?” she asks.

    “Marguerite? I haven’t seen you here before. You know about Scottie’s?”

    “I… No, Dad. I’m not Mom. It’s me, Julie.”

    I don’t know any Julie.

    “Your daughter.”

    “My… You’ve got me mistaken. I don’t have a daughter. I…” I look at Scottie. That’s not… “That’s not Scottie.” The pudgy olive-skinned man is focusing on washing a set of glasses. “Where’s Scottie? Joe? Paulie? Where is Paulie?”

    The bartender shrugs. “Don’t know ‘em.”

    “Dad…”

    “Let me go! I’m not your father! I’m… I’m…”

    “Dad. This isn’t Scottie’s.”

    “Used to be,” offered the bartender. “Bought it years ago. Had to change the name.”

    Realization softens the blonde’s pretty face. “Oh,” she says. “How long’s he been here?”

    “Few hours.”

    “Hours? No, no. Just came in for a quick drink to calm the nerves before I meet Marguerite. It’s our second date. You… you look just like her, you know.”

    She touches my arm again. “Dad, you know that place we talked about? With all those people who wanted to help you? They’ve got a space for you. They just told me today. Isn’t that great?”

    “What place? No, no.” I stand violently to find my legs are uncertain that I can. Did I have too much to drink? I can’t go to Marguerite like this. I… “I’m going to see Marguerite. I can’t leave her waiting, she’s not one to be kept waiting. Scottie, tell her… You’re not Scottie! Where is Scottie?”

    “Dad… Mike, I’ll take you, OK? I’ll take you to see Mo… Marguerite.”

    I realize this is the first time I’ve heard my name all day. I look into the blonde girl’s worried face.

    “You know her? You know Marguerite? You look just like her. Are you her sister?”

    She smiles, this vision standing in a beam of sunlight. “No, but we’re family. Take my hand?”

    I stare at her long, tapered fingers as though time alone could make them less incongruous. And in a sense, it works. A sharp breeze pushes the door fully open and I can see the changes time and new ownership has made to the bar, and I realize that it’s not my place, that I’m the incongruous one, a shadow returning to old haunts only to learn that you can’t go home again.

    “OK,” I take her hand. “Take me to my Marguerite.”

  18. SargentBlaum

    I had been labeled a terrorist because I could extrapolate and manipulate probabilities on a macroscopic level in the same way that modern police do, but without the sophisticated implants they required. Simply by doing the math, albeit not very simple math, I can derive an optimal path for my maximum benefit. It’s why I continued to visit my favorite drinking establishment – I had determined that there was a very low probability of their attempting to acquire me there.

    This particular occasion was on a cold and snowy Friday in February, and also my last visit to The Parched Poacher. My regular tipple, a pint of Old Speckled Hen, was not in its usual spot on the bar, and my habitual perch was claimed by a throwback to the 1960s, complete with long hair, beard, flannel shirt and jeans that were faded from wear. Most people glanced my way, but no-one said anything – never mind pins, feathers dropping would have been deafening in that moment.

    “Hey Robert,” I called over to the bar man, “could you set me up an Old Speckled Hen?”

    Robert’s eyes scanned my face and his brows lowered, as he picked up the glass to fill it. “Do I know you?”

    “Sure you do, Robert. Is it April 1st already?” I settled on a bar stool three down from my spot, trying to ignore the flannel shirt who had started yammering to his girlfriend once more as the conversation picked up generally.

    “Sorry sir – I don’t know you. And, uh, that’ll be three pounds.”

    I dug the coins out of my pocket, glancing about and seeing some of my friends who seemed to know each other, yet not me. In my head, I checked off various elements of attack vectors, eliminating possible causes for the selective amnesia. My regard settled on the beer and then those around me. “Robert, did a group of suited men visit this place at lunch time today?”

    “Sure they did – we always have a large working lunch contingent on a Friday.” Robert had moved to pour drinks for other thirsty customers, but he seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

    “Did they wear sunglasses inside the pub?”

    “No. Why would they do that?”

    “How about briefcases?”

    “Oh, there were only a few men with briefcases. They are a rarity these days after all.”

    “Ties?”

    “Yeah – nice floral patterns too. I figured they were lawyers.”

    The improbable but inevitable had occurred. By injecting regularity into my life, they had tracked me down. Doubtless the beer was fixed: if I drank it, I would be captured. I left a large tip on the table for Robert, nodded to those near me politely and made my way to the door. I checked the windows and noted the positions of the interception crew, then calculated a vector that afforded me maximum possibility of escape and executed it. I miss that place, but the police would not have been gentle with a precocious probability terrorist.

    1. pven

      Interesting. I presume the floral-patterned ties would actually have fractal designs? Perhaps an identifying uniform of sorts for your probability police?
      I imagine this tale is replete with hidden references like that if I just understood more maths.

    2. Beebles

      Never mind the pounds, the speckled hen screamed England and possibly Brit? Here’s a test – if I said Old Peculiar what pose would you strike? Loved the MC and his thought language. Really entertaining read.

    3. SargentBlaum

      Thank you all for your kind comments – there were indeed some hidden math references in this story. As for the ‘Old Peculier Pose’ I’m afraid that I haven’t enjoyed Theakstons brew for quite some time. Apparently they now have a Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate!

  19. MoiraiTQ

    It’s been a heck of a week. I’m so glad today is Friday and it’s over. 5 pm just couldn’t get here soon enough. After signing out of all work apps and shutting off my computer, I grab my purse and phone and head out the door. I never realize how chilly it is in the building until I step outside and the heat hits me in the face. I do have to say that it does feel good on my knees. I hate having bad knees, as it makes me feel so old.

    Today, I’m feeling older. I blame the heat, not eating right, and the week. No, it’s The Week. This was not a lower case week, but a sentence case week. Not quite an upper case week.

    I decide that I’m going to meet Paul at Aleworks today instead of driving home and then we go together. I pull into a parking spot across the street, get out of my car, and cross the street. I see that Brendan has painted the windows and glass doors for their next event, so I cannot see my reflection. I don’t want to see it anyway, as I’m sure I look tired and warn out as hell.

    I pull the door open and walk in. The cool air feels good on my face. I see Paul sitting at the bar; there is an empty seat next to him. I walk quietly up to the bar and sit down without giving him a hug and a kiss. He turns and looks in my direction. His face looks as if he’s looking at a stranger. Weird. Maybe he’s just playing. Josie is behind the bar and she is also looking at me like I’m a stranger. She asks me if I’ve been in before and asks what I want. I start to chuckle and say, “It’s me, Suzanne. I’ll take the IIPA.”

    I lean in to give Paul and kiss and he pushes me away.

    WTH!

    Do I have a bugger on my nose? A third eye? A horn growing out of my forehead? I pull my phone out of my purse and look at my reflection of the darkened screen. Yep, it’s me. No third eye and no horn. Not sure about the bugger because it’s not a true mirror. I get up and go into the bathroom. I look in the mirror and scream like I’m being murdered. It’s not me! OMG! I’m flippin’ Hillary Clinton! Wait! No one saw me as her. She’s famous. She would be recognized. I do check my nose. No bugger.

    I go into the men’s room and look in that mirror. OMG! I’m Bill Clinton! But why would Bill Clinton carry a purse? This is just too much. No wonder Paul wouldn’t kiss me! I wouldn’t kiss me!

    I almost run out to the bar area, grab my purse, and yell to Josie about being right back. I quickly get out the front door and get back into my car. I’ve still got my clothes on. I pull my rear view mirror down so that I can see my(?) reflection. It’s me. I take a deep breath. Put my rear view mirror back where it should be. Since the bathroom mirrors reflected two different people, but something I own shows me, I’m not sure what is going on. I look around and see a truck with big side mirrors. Once again, I grab my purse and phone and get out of my car.

    I calmly walk over to the truck and look in the mirror. It’s me!!

    OK, let’s start over. I walk to the end of the truck, look both ways, and cross the street. No more artwork on the windows and glass doors. I check my reflection and it’s me. So far, so good. I open the door and walk toward the bar. Once again, the seat next to Paul is empty. I quietly sit on the seat. Paul looks over to me, smiles and gives me a hug. I’m back.

      1. pven

        Perhaps the typo was an unconscious means of signalling the craziness to come. Look out! Political discourse ahead! Or something.

        I appreciate the symbolism of mirrors reflecting two different people. Perhaps MC is in PR? Or a beleaguered consultant?

  20. JRSimmang

    RED SHIFT, PART 2

    She stopped moving. She stopped shaking, she stopped beeping, buzzing, and my sweat and blood froze in the cabin in front of me. Timeless. I was staring out at a sea of color that defied explanation. I was staring out at a vast endless supply of moving energy.

    The Endemon was perched at the edge of the creation of space. And, I found it, here, in the Kartegan sector. At least, I thought that was where I was.

    It, this nexus, was outside my window, shifting in and out of focus, an inflating and deflating balloon, a magician’s scarf trick, a fractal explosion of kaleidoscopic color, one second blue, the next red and orange. It was crystalline, the sharp edges ripping through the surrounding blackness, tearing it like a knife and exposing me to the other side of the universe, then it was soft and tumbling on itself like the bubbles in a bathtub. It vacillated, varying in size so that I couldn’t get a proper estimate of how large or small or far or close it was. I had to take measurements. I had to take readings.

    I shifted, rapidly moving my fingers over the buttons and switches and knobs. None of them worked. Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw the nexus splinter and explode. A wave was erupting toward me, and I braced for impact.

    The window transformed, looking like waves under waves. It shook violently, then it shattered. The nexus flooded into my ship and washed over me. I shut my eyes against its force and felt it’s surging power. Then, black.

    “Enceladus Gravitational Authority to unknown spacecraft. Please identify yourself.”

    I slowly opened my eyes, my head pounding against them.

    “Repeat per Statute 097. Enceladus Gravitational Authority to-“

    “Benny Taro, Subspace Photodynamics and Tachyon Displacement Field Analyst, Chronicon Research. Vessel is The Endemon, Authorization code 1196653-D, modular transport and subspace class.” I’d rattled off my authorization codes so frequently, I didn’t need to be fully conscious to recite them.

    “Hold please.”

    I inhaled deeply to try to shake the grogginess away. It usually doesn’t take this long, I thought. “Um, is there an issue?” I said after a couple minutes.

    “Endemon, please proceed to Detainment Station Delta immediately. Coordinates are being transmitted to your navsys.”

    “Sorry, gentlemen, but what does this concern?” A new shock of wakefulness pulsed through me.

    “Your vessel, and you, are not in our database. Nothing to worry about. We’ll just need to get you registered if your numbers check out with the Webcomm.

    My ship autopiloted to the detainment station on the southern edge of Etna. There were several Truskan cruisers, a couple Delvian blunderpasses, and a large ship I’d never seen before. The design was similar to the Yllarian Star Feeder, but those were a thing of myth nowadays.

    I assumed there was a burp in the system. Maybe the nexus nixed my photoinducive transmitter and somehow erased my backtrail. I didn’t care. I needed to get out of my ship. I needed time to deconstruct my assessment. I needed to see if I imagined it all.

    The detainment officers tagged me with an infrared signal that could be tracked down while they scanned my ship. They would need to see it for a few hours, and it would take that long to get contact established with the universal Webcomm to check my supporting documents. So, they let me go into the city. I knew exactly where I was headed first: Anthe’s Dive.

    The bus disembarked and I took in a good lungful of Enceladus air, which was crisp and refreshing. Beorn probably already had a drink for me. The bar was crowded, so much so that I had trouble pushing my way to the bar top. Beorn had his hands full with drinks, and I didn’t see any of my usual friends, so I scanned for an empty booth.

    There weren’t any, so I made myself awkward and shuffled to the handoff and shouted the traditional Enceladian greeting, “Wazzap, homie?”

    He turned to me and said, “Be right with you, bud. Little busy. Be thinking on what you want.” Then, he turned the corner of the bar and skidded off two Flaming Noxians to a couple of Betraxans.

    What was that? I asked myself. Maybe he’s too busy. Just happened to glance through me, not at me. A Gallian female looked me up and down and winked one of her thirteen eyes. I decided to rustle back through the crowd toward Beorn.

    “Beorn!” I shouted over the din. “Beorn! What’s going on?”

    At the sound of his name, he stopped and turned to face me. A face I’d never seen before. He put a fist on the bar top and leaned over, his face red and creased. “No one. NO ONE! Calls me by that name any more, jacka-s-s.” He motioned over to one of the bouncers, bouncers that had never been here before – I assumed they were bored patrons- and they started walking over to me.

    “Beorn?” I asked weakly, then I turned and struggled to go the opposite direction of the bouncers. Elbows. Shoulders. I’m sorries and hands in places they shouldn’t be.

    “Grab my arm,” she said. “Now!”

    I reached out, and where the bar once was, with Beorn’s red face, and the bloated bodies of the Betraxian bouncers, was now Etna’s Central Park and the magnified sunlight from Sol. I turned to face the woman who got us here.

    “My name’s Anazia,” she said flatly. “And you are not supposed to be here.”

    -JR Simmang
    Part 3 Coming Soon to my blog

    1. dragonchef

      Eeowzuh! (I hear that’s Betraxian for WTHeck! Could be wrong.)
      Seriously, JR? You’re gonna make us not only wait but go to your blog to get the lowdown? You stink – but on Garbageelus-9 that’s a good thing.

      1. JRSimmang

        Oh, you know me, DC. I love watching you all squirm ;).
        Hey, what’s one reason no one goes to Garbageelus-9?
        There’s nothing but “trash talk”!
        Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
        Ha.

  21. soochybee

    A fine mist of rain coats me as soon as I step out of the office. It’s already been such a hell of a day, I take no notice. When it starts falling more heavily, though, I decide to cut through the park and head to my local haunt, Flannigan’s. I hop onto my bike, wishing I’d taken the car today. Sunny skies can be deceptive. The light in the park is dim, and I’m squinting my way down the path, when a shadowy figure hurls towards me, and everything else happens in quick succession. It’s a girl, around nine or ten years old. I swerve out of her way, but there’s a rock on the side, and I’m thrown to the ground just as she tries to run past me. Our bodies collide, and then there is just blackness.

    I wake up on the wet grass. I have a raging headache, and I groan when I see my bike is missing. Bracing myself on the ground, I stand up, puzzled. something feels different, but I can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Ah, well. after this I definitely need a drink.

    Flannigan’s is well lit, giving it a warm, inviting glow from within. I push the door open and sink into a bar stool gratefully. I’m getting some odd looks. I must be filthy from my collision earlier. I wave my hand at the bartender.

    “Double whiskey. it’s been that kind of day”.

    My voice is coming out strange, kind of high pitched, almost girly. It’s bizarre. The bartender narrows his eyes at me.
    “You lost, little girl? need me to call someone for you?”
    I laugh uneasily. “Good one, Sean. Come on, I’m in no mood for my balls to be busted tonight. I just need a drink”.
    A nearby patron sniggers. “Boy, the mouth on her! Who put you up to this, darlin’?”
    Sean leans in closer to me. “Look, little girl, I’m not sure how you know my name, or how you got in here, but you really shouldn’t be here, so let me call you mother or father”.

    By now I’m fed up. “Godammit Sean, I thought you were running a business here. And why the hell are you calling me little girl? Didn’t we all graduate elementary-”

    I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind me as I swivel to face Sean again. And this time, the high pitched screaming coming out of my mouth makes perfect sense, because he’s right. I am a little girl.

    Several onlookers look concerned, and Sean is back behind the bar, dialing a number, when a man bursts in breathing heavily. He spots and heads straight towards me.

    “Jenny! There you are. You nearly gave me a heart attack!” He grabs my wrist and motions towards Sean, who has stopped mid-dial. “It’s ok, man. I’m her father”.

    He pulls me towards the door with him, and now I have more to worry about than the fact that I am a 28 year old man currently trapped in a ten year old’s body, because I can feel his tight grip on my wrist. It feels all too familiar, and suddenly I am gripped with a terrible premonition about what will happen once we step out that door.

    1. dragonchef

      Dear me – another two-parter? Does anyone but me stick to the 500 word (cough – yeah, right) limit anymore? Guess I am behind the times. (sigh)
      Soochee – I must say, I am riveted. Are you going to take this further or leave us (and by us I mean ME!) hanging a la Rosewood, Season 2 series finale?

    2. JRSimmang

      Where’s Al when you need him?
      Great job with the conversation, and I think you did well putting us in the right place to begin with. I’m with DC on this one. Where will you take us next?

    3. Beebles

      I was enjoying the concept of the foul mouthed girl, made me chuckle, made me think of the film Ted – was it Ted, I’ve only seen clips? Anyhow then it took a sinister turn and I wanted to know more. Well you’ve got me.

  22. Smileyface256

    Wow, this really got away from me.
    ———————————————————
    I don’t usually walk home from work, but I was off early and it was a nice night. I cut through Central Park to enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass and jaywalked to Benny’s Pub and Subs, the best place to spend a Friday night. Just as I stepped onto the curb, a little guy in a coat that was way too long sideswiped me and I landed on my butt between two parked cars.

    “Hey! Watch where you’re – ” The little dude was gone. So was all the traffic. I blinked; the entire street was empty, silent. Huh. Maybe I was just tired from that party last night.

    I opened the door to Benny’s, expecting to hear at least a dozen different voices yell my name and tell me how the Yankees’ last game went. I at least expected Mike to already have my favorite screwdriver sitting in front of my stool. He barely even glanced at me, some guy that I’d never seen before was in my seat, and everyone else kept their eyes on the latest football game. I sucked it up and sat in a different stool.

    Mike came up to me with a glass and rag in his hands. “Can I help you?”

    “Hey Mike, is uh, is everything okay?”

    Mike narrowed his eyes. “How do you know that name?”

    My stomach twisted. “Heh, you’re kidding, right? We’ve known each other for a over five years.”

    Mike looked at me sideways. “You sure you’re in the right bar, ma’am?”

    “Yes, I’m sure. This is Benny’s Pub and Subs, isn’t it?”

    “You’ve got that right.”

    “Hey, Ben!” called the guy in my spot, “I need a refill!”

    Mike turned to him. “You got it, Carl!”

    My head spun. “Ben? That’s your middle name…”

    Mike – Ben sighed. “Just let me know when you decide to order.”

    “Orange screwdriver,” I said to Mi–Ben’s retreating back. Maybe a little intoxication would set everything back to normal.

    Mike came back with my drink. Finally, something familiar in all this weirdness.

    It wasn’t. It tasted wrong, different, like it wasn’t mixed right or it was made from powdered orange punch instead of actual juice. I threw a twenty on the counter and heard Mike/Ben shout something about fake money as I ran outside to the street that was way too empty for 7:30pm in Manhattan.

    I took out my phone to call my best friend Chelsey; if anyone could figure this out, she could.

    A message popped up on my phone that said, “Out of service area.” That couldn’t be right, I always had reception on my phone.

    I ran the two blocks to my apartment, hoping that Chelsey was home to help me out of this mess. The longest elevator ride in my entire life took me to the seventh floor. I stuck my key into the lock of 708. It wouldn’t turn. I jiggled and jimmied and tugged and swore, this couldn’t be happening, this wasn’t happening – the deadbolt was drawn back from the inside. The door opened as much as the chain lock allowed and my best friend put her face in the gap.

    I almost cried with relief. “Chelsey! I’m so glad to see you, you wouldn’t believe what happened at Benny’s today – ”

    “Sorry, do I know you?”

    She might as well have punched me in the gut. “You’re…you’re kidding, right?”

    “Uh, no.”

    This had to be a sick joke. “Chelsey, please! It’s me!”

    “I’m sorry, but…who are you?”

    “It’s me! Carla! We’ve been friends since fifth grade! Remember when you got detention for throwing a lamp at that kid’s face and telling him to lighten up? And I got it with you because I laughed for twenty minutes?”

    Chelsey narrowed her eyes. “How do you know about that?”

    “Because I was there!”

    “Well…you do look familiar, but I don’t know why you think you know me well enough for–whatever this is.”

    I threw my hands up. “We’re roommates! I saw you this morning!”

    “Nope, didn’t happen.”

    “Yes, it did! Okay? Either that or I’m just going nuts, apparently!”

    “I’d say you’re going nuts. Good luck, or whatever.” Chelsey slammed and locked the door.

    I didn’t want to cry, but tears slid down my face. Maybe I was going nuts. Maybe I had somehow blinked out of existence. Maybe I was dead. i pinched myself hoping that this was all a dream, but nothing changed. My phone still had no reception, so calling my mom wasn’t even an option. I slid to the floor and sobbed like a child.

    Footsteps pounded up the stairs and I pressed myself in the corner, trying to be as small as possible. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, policemen came up the stairs and surrounded me.

    “Get on your feet with your hands in the air; you’re under arrest.”

    I swiped my eyes. “But–what did I do?”

    One officer jerked his thumb towards Chelsey’s door. “The lady in this apartment called with a complaint that you were stalking her. Now come along.”

    Huh. Maybe these cops could actually help me out. Or send me to an insane asylum. Either way, resisting arrest probably wasn’t a good plan.

    1. Smileyface256

      Part 2

      One cop car ride and hours of questioning later, I found out that I didn’t exist on any records. My driver’s license didn’t match anywhere, and my social security number was nonexistent. No matter how many times I swore that I was giving them the correct information, no matter how many times I told them where I worked, what I did at work, who my boss was, who my parents were, and any other information that could possibly be used to identify me, the records came up blank or no one had ever heard of me. The cops were convinced that I was some kind of criminal.

      Halfway through another interrogation, one of the walls sprouted a round portal and two guys that looked straight out of Tron: Legacy stepped out. Somehow with all the other weird stuff that had happened tonight, I wasn’t even surprised.

      “Carla Matthews, you are in violation of the time-space agreement of the Multiversal Federation of Earth Sector 4,” said the blond one. “How do you plead?”

      I replied with an intelligent, “Uuhh…”

      The brunette guy spoke up. “Do you understand the charges?”

      Maybe there was something in that weird drink earlier. Maybe it was because I actually was losing my mind, or my comprehension of “What else can go wrong in my life” had finally reached its limit, or I was just too exhausted to have any other reaction. For whatever reason, I laughed. The Earth cop was frozen and the space cops looked weirded out (the irony), but I laughed until I cried.

      The brunette guy shifted awkwardly. “Miss Matthews, are you…okay?”

      I swiped my arm across my face. “What do you think, space cop? Do I look like I’m okay? I just wanted to hang out at my friendly neighborhood bar tonight, but instead I apparently stopped existing from all of time and space, either that or everyone I know suddenly disowned me. Everything started falling apart ever since…” Wait a minute. That short guy… “Ever since that midget in a trench coat ran into me! This is all his fault! He’s the one that got me into this mess!”

      The agents exchanged glances. “Do you think it’s Gulliver again?” muttered the blond.

      “Who else would it be?” said the other agent. “He’s the only one I know of that wears a coat too big for him.”

      “So,” I cut in, “What’s going on?”

      The blond glanced at me. “You were pushed into a different dimension, parallel to your own, where you don’t exist. It caused a disturbance on the fabric of reality.”

      I blinked. “Okaaaay, I understood about half of that.”

      “Basically, you’re on another world where you were never born.”

      “Uuhh…” I felt like my brain was melting and dripping out of my ears.

      The agent waved me off. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you back to your home dimension.” He scanned me with a device on his wrist and turned a dial on it. Another portal opened in the wall opposite to the first one. “Just step through there and you’ll be right back to the time and place that you were before this mess happened.”

      I looked at the ominous hole, wondering if it was actually a portal to Hell. “This will fix everything?”

      “Yes, it will. It will also wipe your memory of this whole experience.”

      I…might want to forget this anyway. “But not like, all my memories, right?”

      “Right.”

      I stood. “Okay. This is beyond weird, but here goes nothing.” I stepped through the portal. It felt like going into a walk-in freezer that was also an oven. Every nerve in my body tingled and for a second, I could see all of time and space. Just when I thought my mind would explode, it was over.

      My feet landed on solid ground and I felt dizzy and disoriented. Where was I? I leaned against a parked car and gazed op at the neon sign. Right. Benny’s. I checked my watch: 7:24pm. I must’ve…fallen asleep on the bus. Yeah, that’s it. It was the only explanation for the weird images fading from my mind. I opened the door and a dozen voices called out my name. Danny told me how much the Yankees beat the Mets in the last game. Mike already had my usual drink in my spot on the counter. I smiled; it felt good to see people who knew me.
      ——————————————-
      This was way longer than 500 words, but I hope y’all enjoy it.

      1. writer_sk

        I loved it. This was very good. Had the right pace, the ending made sense and it was believable, which is hard to achieve when handling time travel or dimensional travel etcetera. Nice work.

        Maybe one note if you don’t mind constructive criticism–her questioning her own reactions to things was something I would maybe do less of because her reactions are warranted. When she’s like “am I going nuts?” it goes without saying that she’d be confused as to what was happening. Again, excellent story. Best, Sarah

      2. JRSimmang

        No need to apologize for going over. If the story’s good, and yours is, I don’t think any of us here mind reading.
        Carla’s had a bad day, but you resolved it well. You did a good job with the pacing, with Carla’s characterization, and with building the bartender, Mike Ben (or is it Michael Benjamin) Something. I think that this could be worked into a larger piece, spending time to extend Carla’s time with the Time Cops (wasn’t that an awful movie?), as it felt a little rushed. This is one exciting story!

      3. Beebles

        I agree with Pven, I like Gulliver too. Now I want to know about him. It didn’t feel long, because I was engaged only slightly disappointed when it was so easy to get back cos I thought of all the fun he could have had tryin to get home caught between all those dimensions. Basically I’m after you writing the series. Tremendous stuff

  23. writer_sk

    PART 2:

    PART 2
    The panic set in. Cate rubbed her clammy hands on her jeans. She had been digging her nails into the flesh at her sides while listening to the short exchange and not even realized it. What if Freddie got together with some other girl tonight? What if he met some salsa dancer and fell in love? She washed her hands and touched up her makeup in the inadequate mirror adorned with magic marker tags. Cate escaped to the nearby outdoor terrace. Huddling in her shawl she breathed in the night air and began to fantasize about what it would be like if she were Freddie’s girlfriend, knowing somewhere that the idea wasn’t far-fetched. As she started to conjure up the image of them walking into the “Nate and Cate” Starbucks together she heard some people behind her. It was DJ Jacked and his entourage.
                “Damn, my man is ripping it up in there,” he said.
                “Yea, I never knew Freddie could spin,” someone said.
                “He’s great with specific records so I try to bring those when I know he’ll be here doing his thing,” said Jacked.
                Cate thought it was something to see DJ Jacked in person after hearing a lot of Freddie’s adventures which often included Felix or Jacked. Then, some unknown part of Cate’s personality took over as she strutted across to the bunch.
                “Hi, Jacked?”
                “Hi,” he said, looking her up and down but trying not to. Cate was 5’7” and slim. Maybe she could use a little weight on but it was due to her rather nervous exercise habits that she was not as healthy looking as she wanted to be. She knew how to wear clothes that flattered her figure, though. She got checked out she thought, based on her style and confidence. Her yoga practice also helped her to accept herself and her form as it was.
                “Hi, I’m Catherine. Actually, I work with Freddie at Barney’s.” She said a silent prayer that he’d know her from Freddie.
                “Oh, right, alright,” Jacked said with a polite smile, buying some time, she thought, and trying to place the name.
                “Oh, sh*t! Cate, right? The ‘Catherine’ threw me off. You’re his home girl! You here with him or your friends tonight?”
                “Oh, a friend and I stopped here after Suenos. I like your music, by the way.”
                “Yea? Great. Well let me buy you a drink. Freddie know you’re here?” he began walking back into the club. He was so friendly talking to him felt like an extension of Freddie’s great personality.
                Once inside the music was building to a crescendo with someone different in the DJ booth and to Cate’s dismay Freddie was dancing with one of the girls’ room chicas. Jacked took Cate’s hand and danced her over to him

        1. writer_sk

          Ohmygosh…There’s more before this also. So nervous about putting this here. It’s part of my 1st draft of unpublished book, my baby, “Cate and Freddie” It doesn’t answer the prompt, she is never *not* recognized…I just posted something else cuz my bowling alley story from a few weeks ago was at a bar so I figured -something different… but any thoughts on the excerpts dragon??

    1. JRSimmang

      SK, I’ve been out of the dating scene for so long now, that I forgot what it looks like. From what I remember, Cate fits right in. She’s complete with subtle self-doubt. I can see her trembling with anxiety. Is DJ Jacked Freddie’s wingman? I’m curious about how the relationship between Jacked and Cate will blossom. Freddie’s either a no-good womanizer, or he’s just happy to be dancing all the time.
      This has to be Cate’s story, and I can see it taken in several directions.

      1. writer_sk

        Great, thank you. Honestly I’m just glad you read it. Really thanks.

        DJ jacked is not a main character but the character who helps/reflects Freddie. The third person ( not in this scene) is cate’s ex, Nate. The book is about a love triangle that is played out from when the characters are young adults into their 50s.

        No Freddie is a good guy who keeps following his heart.

        Ha! Me neither been attached for years – no dating but it’s fun to imagine how people feel.

        Anyway I could go on forever about my book. I am expanding it but it takes so long. I still have to read all this week’s answers. Sorry for my long answers.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      Ahhh I can feel the good ‘ol days when I was reading these types of works in wattpad.
      I completely forgot about the prompt and just focused on the brewing jealousy of Cate for Freddie’s girl’s room chicas, the dance instructor and the other girl with the dance instructor.
      This was like a blast from the past, even though it was just like four or five years ago.
      I liked the story so far SK, just wish there was a next part.

  24. writer_sk

    When the song ended Cate made her way through the congestion to the restroom. On her way she checked out the scene. The club was packed. After scanning the area, Cate’s gaze fell on the DJ booth, where the person on the turntables was working hard. When she was about to turn away someone caught her eye. Up on stage next to the DJ booth she spotted a great looking guy and to her surprise, it was Freddie, dancing and moving his hips to the beat. He had on simple jeans and a plain white tee shirt. The girl he danced with was average looking but a good dancer. She looked a lot older than Freddie and a bit like a dance instructor. She wore something halfway between a dance recital costume and what a kindergarten teacher might wear. As she moved the taffeta and tool from her shirt sleeves stayed ridiculously stiff but her ankle-length skirt swished with the rhythm of her hips. Another girl was grinding up against Freddie from behind. To Cate’s amusement he whipped around and in a precise move swung the girl around, twirled her and dipped her. Cate could tell the girl was laughing but Freddie’s face looked somewhat serious. His dancing was incredible – he seemed to fuse traditional Latin salsa dancing with modern, current dance steps that went well with techno music. Next he put on a show for anyone watching. He gyrated down the stairs and into the DJ booth at which point he put on a NY Yankees baseball cap that was hanging there and positioned himself at the turntables next to the DJ. He chose an unexpected song to play: Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” but it was being mixed with techno by the DJ next to him who’d deftly faded out the previous record, flipped it off the player and in seemingly the same motion thrown on the current tune. As she heard Elvis’s satiny voice crooning beneath the pulsating techno beats, Cate felt she was in an alternate world for a moment and she thought of Barney’s. She and Freddie often had a repeat conversation at work because the song “Hound Dog” by Elvis was part of the loop and when they heard it they lamented the fact that nothing else from his catalog ever graced the sound system at Barney’s. Cate didn’t know what to do next and stood frozen. She felt she was beginning to gape at Freddie’s performance. She let out the breath she hadn’t known she was holding and found the restroom. A small space, Cate had to squeeze by two mean-looking gangster girls. In the stall she second-guessed her outfit, but why? She questioned, for Freddie?  He always saw her at work and complimented how she dressed. Why would she be self-conscious of it now? The voices of the two girls broke her self evaluation.
                “DJ Jacked?” one said, in a high pitched voice, “Yea, I wouldn’t mind getting with him.”
                The other girl replied, “If you think the DJ is all that, have you seen his friend? That man can move.
    “Who, Freddie?” asked the first girl. “Oh, I’ve always thought he was s*xy. Come on, let’s go salsa.”

  25. typewriter

    Everything seem different here at the Drunken Parrot tavern.
    Somehow things have taken a (too much) peculiar turn around the bend. The people have changed, like the bar itself; dull and dingy. Full of vigilants. There is a pungent odor of formaldehyde permeating the room. It was so bad. Frankly, no one recognized me as I step in through the door, at least they were (not drunkenly rambunctious and shouting my name—Randall!?! On this casual night) normal.
    The bartender, an elder crone, stood behind the counter serving regulars patrons. She usually notices me, but today wasn’t the Friday as the last one. I thought she had a martini, but what was a diner basket of fresh, french fries and a small container of green ketchup. No, this isn’t right. I’ve must been mistaken with someone else. What’s happened here? … the people. The people are acting strangely weird.
    I saw the clock on the wall, it had stopped at 3:07 a.m.
    (3:07? Why?)
    I can hear creaking up in the rafters; like rope tightening. Like something ought too heavy at the end. I look up and saw nothing. It’s too dark.
    The door opened, a burly man in a raincoat steps inside, he’s drenched from head down to his boots. He came directly towards me, white bushy beard, with rainy specs on, and placed his bum on the stool next to me. The bartender gave him a dry cloth, he removed his hoodie and gaze to the wall where all the liquor bottles with stainless steel, speed pourers are aligned, like soldiers. I’ve counted nine. The wall gotten its name, the 9-Bottle Bar.
    I’ve commence on eating the french fries in the diner basket, dabbing one into the green ketchup. The bartender staring at me with dejection. I needed a drink. This was all so strange.
    Another emit of lightning, the bar illuminating wholly. The man beside me didn’t talk, or ask me how’s life, the small talk. Never introduced himself. He wiped his face clear with the dry cloth. I glanced at his wristwatch. It too had stopped at 3:07 like the clock on the wall.
    I asked the bartender, “What has happened here?”
    No response.
    “What time is it?” I wanted to ask to see if all the clocks were stopped at 3:07. The time actually was 11:30 p.m.
    Then the bar came alive and simultaneously they all said, “Three-oh-seven.” Their voices, low and toneless.
    My stomach transformed into a large mass of Silly Putty. The patrons looked at me as if I know something. I knew nothing. I didn’t have any theories to why the bar was the way it was. It was all too strange.
    Everybody swifting their eyes off of me, they crane their necks and stood immobilize with grinning faces. They are looking at the rafters. The rafters where the creakings are presented. Projecting by the lightning, all the people whom were once alive had been hoist by nooses like festive dummies.
    I stood still, screaming inside.

    1. writer_sk

      Yikes – bone chilling! The ending was so grotesque and the description well done. You did well w/ the Clues leading up to it. Green ketchup (I don’t want to know!)

    2. JRSimmang

      There was a diner out in West Texas that served the notorious Heinz Green Ketchup, and it make me wonder if marionette bodies would start hanging from the rafters.
      This is certainly a creepy piece, Type. You painted the scene well, and the character seems to be unwittingly dragged into a maniacal plot.
      Be careful of your tense shifts, and work on showing the scene. Horror thrives on playing to our senses, so don’t be afraid to describe how the grinning corpses thwacked together, the simple slime of their skin suctioning from one’s arm to the other. How the light shone through them, highlighting the transparency of their organs…

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Hmmm, interesting. Not certain what it all means, but made me think, which is good. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, paragraph spacing helps with reading.

  26. Rene Paul

    The Devil’s Lounge is my favorite place to have a drink and forget those things in life that need forgetting.

    Tonight, was different.

    Henry McGill, the owner, placed my bottle of ‘forget-about-it’ juice on the counter closest to the back exit, near the phone, music, and bathroom. My regular stool for as long as I can remember.

    I greeted half a dozen fellow patrons as I passed through, we all knew each other’s name and stories, every one filled with how life had dealt an unfair hand packed with troubles and pain.

    It was well past the witching hour when an odd-looking man sat next to me. After a brief period of silence, I introduced myself and my story, concluding with, “That’s when she cheated on me.”

    “So, Joe,” the stranger said, “you’ve been alone ever since?”

    “Five years of piss and bliss,” I said.

    “Would you like me to do something about it?” He asked.

    “Of course,” I said, “but my problems not yours, and I don’t know how you could possibly help.”

    He said, “I’m in the impossible business, for the right price!”

    “Ok,” I said, “name your price.”

    “Do you believe in God?” He asked

    “Not at the moment.”

    “Excellent!”

    My guest stood, leaned in and planted his face in front of mine, and blew hot air from his mouth into my nostrils. As weird as that is, it felt natural.

    He backed away and said, “That revenge you seek will come sooner than you think.”

    A full gut-wrench sobers me for a moment. The stranger’s red eyes penetrate my soul.

    “Nice to meet you,” He said, “I’ll be seeing you soon.” That’s when he vanished before he exited the back door.

    Very Strange!

    I turn toward Henry, “Pour me one more for the road.” Henry nods, calls out to the few remaining patrons, “Last call,” and withdraws.

    Maybe time slowed on its own, or, maybe the booze altered my senses, but it seemed an eternity before Henry returned with my best friend, Jack-in-the-Glass.

    “Do you want to settle your check or add it to your tab?”

    “Tab it,” I said. Then I asked, “Who was that guy I was talking to?”

    “Call it a night, Joe.” He said. “You’ve been sitting here for the past two hours with no one but yourself. Have a good night.”

    A quarter falls in the Jukebox next to me. Somehow the metallic sound filters through the cerebral haze, much louder than necessary.

    The records rotate, the arm selects one and places it on the turn table. A little intro static precedes the music; ‘Laugh Laugh’ by the Beau Brummels, begins. I toast the music machine and down my last shot.

    I take the lead vocal, ‘Laugh laugh, I thought I’d cry, it seemed so funny to me.’ I slur a few unrecognizable sounds to cover the fact I can’t remember the rest of the words. I lift the glass to my lips and tilt it back, it’s dry.

    Empty.

    I stare at the glass and can’t seem to remember why.”

    The second song plays, ‘He’ll Have to Go.’ I accompany Jim Reeves on lead vocals, ‘Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone…’ I hum the next line, then the words come back, ‘And you can tell your friend there with you, he’ll have to go.’

    I slide off the stool and reel toward the exit. The Jukebox plays the last song in the set, ‘Hey Joe’. It’s a remake by Jimi Hendrix of the original version by the Leaves, how apropos is that? I guess it is… time to go.

    I sing the lyrics, ‘Hey Joe, I said where you goin’ with that gun in your hand, oh I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady. You know I caught her messin’ ’round with another man.’

    As the song fades out, it hits me. I’ve got a gun! I’m drunk and I’ve been waiting a long time for an inspiration, it’ll be an experience… neither of us will ever forget.

    The next evening, I walk through the front door of the Bar, Henry isn’t there and I don’t recognize the patrons. I approach the counter and ask the barkeep, “Where’s Henry?”

    “He departed to a different place.”

    “He bought another bar?” I ask.

    The barkeep looks at me, smiles, and says, “Where he went… they don’t have bars.”

    I said, “My name is, Joe. I’ve been a regular here for a long time.”

    “Yes, I’m aware of that fact,” He said. His blood-red eyes creeping me out. 

    That’s when he smiled and sang, “Please allow me to introduce myself…”

    1. dragonchef

      “. . . I’m, a man of wealth and taste.”
      The name of the place should have been a clue to poor Joe.
      Read a lot of horror, RP? Bet you’re a Stephen King fan. Fun read, mon ami!
      But, I have to ask: In the third paragraph, Henry places a whole bottle of Joe’s favorite at his designated squat, and then later asks Henry to pour him another one. Was the bottle a beer, and Joe was doing shots of Jack? Not that it matters – it’s a confused nitpick is all. Your story still stands as EXCELLENT!

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks dragonchef, a good catch. It is a bit confusing. My main concern: I hope I’m not isolating too many readers with the song references, especially the last one. I’m glad you got it!

        1. writer_sk

          Hey. I knew the Hendrix but not the other song but did not find that isolating. It seemed more real being that people’s taste in music varies so widely. Better than choosing generic songs…

    2. JRSimmang

      Sometimes a deal with the devil is no deal at all, I say. I love your song selections. “Laugh Laugh” leaves Joe lonely, and it’s such a great choice for a first song.
      I do wonder why the placating gesture of putting a gun in Joe’s lap if Satan wouldn’t let him go find Henry.
      And now, the Rolling Stones are in my head. Thanks.

      1. Rene Paul

        I’m glad you appreciate the song selections, I had to really think about them and their meanings so that they made sense and added to the story. The gun reference was suppose to read like: I own a gun, I’ll go get it! And then I’ll do what I should’ve done a long time ago. You’re right it doesn’t read that way. It needs a re-right.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      Well I never knew any of those songs sadly.
      But it tied the story quite nicely if I do say so myself.
      Wondeful job here Rene, and I loved putting the pieces together on who did Joe’s girl cheated him with.
      I could feel the suspense in every line as the story progressed. Fun read, loved it!

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks, Raf, you must be a lot younger then this old hippy from the 60’s. The last song – Symphony for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones – was the song they were playing at Altamont Speedway in 1969 when a Hell’s Angel (acting as the Stone’s security) stabbed a man to death. The other two weren’t so Heavy, but still Groovy.

  27. Turkey Girl

    This is a poor attempt at the prompt, but I simply had to write it.

    Country music flowed out of the doors of the bar, greeting me like a breath of fresh air after a long eluding day. I was a regular at this bar. In fact, I went there for a glass of cold beer every night at eight. I pushed the door open and walked in. I was used to the bartender calling my name as if I was a celebrity as I strolled in. He’d then hand me my favourite beer right as I sat down at the bar.

    This time, he just stared. In fact, so did everyone else in the bar. I seemed to be an alien. Even their regular friendly nature seemed to be absent. Somewhat unsure of myself, I sat down at the bar. My eyes glanced at the bartender’s face, half-covered in his long beard.

    “Hey, Bryan, what’s wrong? I come in here everyday, at the same time, but this time, it seems like I landed on another planet.”

    The bartender laughed nervously. “When do you normally come in here again, sir?”

    The word “sir” stopped me in my tracks. This was the land of dudes and cowboys, not “sirs”. “I’ll have a cold Budweiser, please.”

    The bartender nodded. “That’ll be eight dollars.”

    I counted out the bills and handed them to him. The word “dollars” surprised me too. Most guys around here said “bucks.” He handed me the beer and I sat at the bar, watching everyone for several minutes while I sipped my beer. Alarmed by the experience, I finished my beer and went home.

    Once I was home and I had ensured that my room was securely locked, I collapsed on the bed. I was a wanted man. People thought I’d blown up the White House several days ago. I knew who had done it, but it wasn’t me. Not only were the police chasing me, but the actual terrorists were as well. I’d been hiding for three weeks, but somehow, I never had to leave town. I resolved to go back to the bar the next day and sort everything out.

    Precisely at eight the next day, I returned to the bar. My previous visit seemed to be only a dream. Everyone knew me again, and the bartender already had my drink ready. I was back in the land of dudes, cowboys, and bucks. I had several more beers when I suddenly noticed that there was a large group of people at the door. Time to run again. Feeling for my Colt which I kept at my waist, I headed for the door. Outside, I examined the group of people. They looked exactly like everyone in the bar. I looked back. Sure enough, everyone who was supposed to be in the bar was. Then the answer struck me. They were clones, sent there to observe my behaviour.

    The fake bartender was approaching me. I recognized him instantly. He was the man who blew up the White House. My Colt was in my hands before I knew it. Firing off a few quick shots at the man, I turned and ran down the street. Bullets scraped up the road all around me. One hit me in the foot, but I ignored the pain and kept running.

    Only when I was several miles away did I stop. I examined the damage on my foot, but it was minimal. The worst bit was that now they knew my routine. I could never go back to that bar again.

    1. dragonchef

      TG . . . Clones of everyone in the bar? Sent to observe his behaviour? . . . That threw me for a loop, I must say. And then they give chase and shoot at him.

      No offence to your MC, but if I did something so drastic as what he allegedly did, and was all over the news for it at that, I would NOT go to my favorite watering hole. As they say . . . first place they’ll look. Not to mention that the REAL terrorists would probably want to claim you as one of theirs, not try to kill you–they may even offer you a job.

      Good premise, but I was kind of expecting him to wake up at the end, sweating from this crazy dream. That would have tied it all together nicely.

      1. Turkey Girl

        I must say, I didn’t think of making it a dream. It did make the guy seem rather stupid to go to his favourite bar again, but I guess he just did it out of habit. Thank you for the feedback!

    2. JRSimmang

      Curious, TG. I’d have to say clones didn’t occur to me, bonus creativity points. It seems like this guy is not just wanted, but has such a high price on his head, it’d be stupid to shoot him dead in the streets. To go through all that trouble of making clones, he must be some sort of special trouble. I think you built a decent setting, and the premise is certainly novel.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you TG for the story. Listen to JR, the story has good promise and I also use clones, sometimes six clones of the same bad guy so the MC doesn’t know who he’s trying to kill. It’s certainly worth the due and don’t tie yourself in knots about the five hundred. Going to six won’t get you thrown off of here.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      TG, the clones were a surprising twist to be honest. I liked it.
      But I’m with dragonchef on your MC going back to the same bar and going along with his daily “routine”. I’d be at hiding or at least keeping a low profile until they catch the real culprit behind the attack.

      Still, I liked how it ended. I’m just wondering now why the clones were trying to kill your MC the next day when they all surrounded him at the bar the day before. They could’ve killed him easily then and there. Or was it all just one crazy dream? Hmmm..

  28. ReathaThomasOakley

    Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    “Hey, hey, Crystal!” Rusty’s shout cut through the smoke as other patrons repeated her name. “Usual’s coming right up.”

    Wish just once, Crystal thought as she hesitated by the door, I’d walk in here and nobody’d even notice. Just once. She unwound her scarf and headed to the bar.

    “Cold one tonight,” Lonnie said as he moved over, he’d been on her stool.

    “He ain’t been in,” Chug yelled from the corner, “not that I seen.”

    “You still seeing, Chug? You ain’t drunk enough if you are.” Lonnie laughed at his own wit and slapped the bar. “Rusty, my man, again.”

    Crystal sat and pulled the glass over, the shot burned all the way down, a reminder she could still feel something. Reflected in the mirror behind the bottles she saw three women at the table next to Chug’s. She’d smiled that way when she first walked in, but they hadn’t smiled back. Now they were whispering and laughing.

    Oh, Lord, Crystal prayed and pushed the empty glass toward Rusty, hope it wasn’t one of their men last weekend.

    “Crystal,” Lonnie leaned over and lowered his voice, “why don’t you make that the last, then get on home. Spend time with them kids. He ain’t gonna come in tonight.”

    Crystal laughed.

    “They got their granny, rather have her anyhow, she’s making them marshmallow and cereal things. Making a big mess all I could see,” she grabbed the fresh drink. “How you know he ain’t coming?”

    Rusty rested his arms on the bar.

    “Hon, he ain’t been here, two, three weeks,” Rusty said and Lonnie nodded. “Why you doing this? He ain’t worth it. Everybody knows it.”

    “Ain’t that the truth!” Crystal clinched her jaw. “This place, this town, everybody knows everything, my name, my past, my story.” She fought to hold back the tears. “Just once, just once, I want to come in here, or go in Walmart, or anyplace and nobody’d know me.” She wiped her face on her scarf.

    “Now, Rusty, a few more, then Lonnie here’s gonna take my keys and you’re gonna call me a cab. Ain’t that the way it goes, the way it always goes?”

    1. dragonchef

      Careful whatcha wish for, Crystal. Ain’t you seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimi Stuart?
      Guess that’s the unwritten part of the prompt, but one could just imagine. And that’s what it’s all about.
      Nice Reatha.

    2. JRSimmang

      As usual, you’ve painted the South perfectly. The slow, steady trickle of hospitality and knowing, the familiarity of it all. Crystal’s such a tragic figure, and they all know it. The bar is the perfect place for commiseration.
      Should we memorize these names? I feel like they may return.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      Curiouser and curiouser.
      Will she find who she’s looking for?
      I sometimes wish too that I was in a place where nobody knew me. You know? Start fresh, start from scratch, start anew. Synonyms.
      What a delight must it be to have a new beginning every once in a while.

    4. RafTriesToWrite

      Curiouser and curiouser.
      Will she find who she’s looking for?
      I sometimes wish too that I was in a place where nobody knew me. You know? Start fresh, start from scratch, start anew. Synonyms.
      What a delight must it be to have a new beginning every once in a while.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Well, I disagree with almost everyone here
          A cutting edge story for sure and Miss Crystal doesn’t want to forget at all and neither do I, we both want to leave our mistakes where they are and personally I hope people remember me getting up off my.knees and starting over
          My mistakes are as important as my meager success is. John McCain and I are the same age, cut from the same piece of cloth and he ain’t never.goin’ to give up. And neither will I. So you youngsters better damn well remember.

  29. rlk67

    She waked down the stairs, head up, radiating confidence. This was the place she needed to be…who made up that these joints were just for men? Against her will, her palm began to sweat as she opened the door. People just turned and stared. It was odd. It stung, but it wasn’t their fault.
    This was the retreat from what had been a cruel life. The lack of validation and credibility had kept her away, and now, had brought her back. Larry tossed a bottle of beer behind his back, adeptly catching the narrow part with his other hand, then flicking off the top and pouring smoothly for a patron. He glanced at her quickly. “Hey, sweetie, what can we do for you?”
    She tried to stifle a choking sound, and cleared her throat clumsily instead. “Perhaps just a nightcap for a hard day, thank you,” she said in a flat tone. She sat on a stool closest to the door.
    Marv didn’t bother looking up from his drowning troubles. “Nightcap…hmmm. Means different things to different people, oh lady with deep voice. Don’t have what I’m having. Not for the delicate at heart.”
    “Oh, really?” she wanted to say. But she was prepared that he might say something like this.
    “Leave her alone, Marv,” Sandy chimed in. “Don’t mind him, maam. He’s a regular like the others. You got a name?”
    She took a deep breath. “Barbara. And I don’t mind at all. I’ve been around, Miss.”
    Larry delivered her a glass with something that she knew wouldn’t help her. “Are you ok, sweetie? Your voice sounds sort of…um…”
    “I’m fine, thank you. I’ve been in the hospital recently, still recovering a bit. Perhaps I’ll just refresh myself.” She walked towards the back.
    “The ladies room is by the…” Sandy began, pointing to the back.
    “Yes, I know.” Barbara disappeared.
    “What do you think is going on with that lady?” asked Larry.
    “Something with the month, my wife says. I think it’s a full moon or something.” Marv smiled briefly.
    Barbara returned, and placed some money on the counter. “I don’t think I’ll be staying after all. Have a lovely night.” She walked out, her palms still seating.
    Larry sighed. “That was funny.” He walked over to the door and watched. “You know, speaking of funny, what ever happened to Bob? He doesn’t come by anymore.”
    “Yeah,” nodded Sandy. “Last time he was here, he mentioned something about a cruel world and how he needed a change.”
    Marv moaned, still with his head down. “Strange guy. I hope he didn’t do anything drastic.”

    1. dragonchef

      Drastic? Nothing drastic about a sex change, eh?
      Sad to think some are uncomfortable in their own skin; but it does make one wonder if there isn’t some truth to the belief in reincarnation.
      Nonetheless, this was a very interesting read, RLK. And a very good take on the prompt. It’s interesting to see which direction some writers’ minds are willing to take.

    2. dragonchef

      Hm. Seems my first comment to this got 86’d. Didnt’ like the $-e-x.

      So, one more time . . . Drastic? Nothing Drastic about a $ecs change, eh?
      Sad to think that some people aren’t comfortable in their own skin; but it does make one wonder if there isn’t some truth to the belief in reincarnation.
      Very interesting take on the prompt, RLK. And very interesting to see which direction a writers’ mind will take. Well done.

    3. JRSimmang

      I’m glad to see so many authors today pushing the envelope, and you’re no exception, RLK. You’ve done a nice job pairing the depth of emotional relief with the seemingly innocuous to-do as going to a bar for a drink. Sometimes the things that change us the most are the things that happen every day.

      1. rlk67

        My first idea was to tackle the supernatural, like others did. I had a ‘Sixth Sense’ type theme. But once all my characters looked like Bruce Willis, I nixed the idea.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      rik, I think you captured a great scene, and setting, here. Barbara’s emotions, from nervous anticipation to final sadness, were well done. Well done.

  30. jhowe

    The drover slapped his hat against his leg and plums of dust billowed as he pushed open the saloon doors. He swept back his dark hair and recognized the song that Carlton banged out as Sal swayed to the music, dainty hands resting on ample hips. He gave his best smile but she looked the other way, apparently interested in other things. He’d win her over; he had a week’s pay in his pocket.

    Jack busied himself at the bar until the drover had to rap on the wood top with his knuckles.

    “Oh, didn’t see you there, pal. What’ll it be?”

    “Goddamn, Jack. Whiskey, as always.” He looked around, waiting longer than ever for his drink. Moe was watching Fish play solitaire at a table, neither of them returning his wave. Jack finally set down a small glass of whiskey, not even half full.

    “Twenty five cents,” Jack said, looking at the door.

    “Twenty five cents! For this lousy drink? What’s the matter with you?”

    The doors swung open and banged hard against the wall. All eyes turned then looked away as three black cloaked men walked in. The tallest one grabbed Sal’s chin and turned her face toward his.

    “I’m look’n for a man named Cruz.” His blackened teeth were bared as he spoke, his voice a rasp of syllables.

    “Don’t know no Cruz,” she said, her eyes less than steady, her tremble telltale. He pushed her away and walked to the bar. His friends followed, one of them smacking her behind as he passed. The tall man sidled in next to the drover and slapped a gold coin on the bar.

    “Whiskey, the bottle, three glasses.” He waited for the barkeep to set them up. “And some information.” He cuffed his hand over the coin when Jack reached for it.

    “Maybe I can help,” the drover said.

    “Not unless you know a man named Cruz.” The tall man eyed the poke with contempt. “You don’t seem like the type a man Cruz would associate with.”

    “I’d prefer me over the likes of you.”

    All three men drew simultaneously, backing away from the closeness of the bar. Jose Luella Cruz moved quickly, his hands crossing over each other, pulling twin Colts, firing six times. He replaced his six guns and slid the gold coin to Jack.

    “Whiskey, all around.” The music started and Sal wrapped her arms around Cruz’s neck, trembling and laughing. Jack got out his best bottle and started to pour.

    “The sheriff will be here soon, Jose.”

    “Let him come. These men are scum. He’ll figure it out.” Cruz gave Sal a long kiss, drained his glass and walked away. He used the back door. On second thought, he figured he’d avoid the sheriff. No sense rekindling that relationship.

    1. dragonchef

      Darn cowpokes.
      Looks there some side-story going on here, as well.
      Do you read Louis L’Amour stories – excellent westerns. I personally love his novels, though I don’t read them anymore. Not sure if it’s because I read them all or my interests got diverted.
      Anyway – Good read, J. as always.

    2. JRSimmang

      J, as per usual, you’ve built a little world in so few words. You’ve given us ample back story, and there’s a great character in Cruz: wanted by the law, loved by locals. A western Robin Hood. Personally, I’d like a little more gunfight, but that’s the Sergio Leone in me. It’s a great read, and certainly well-thought.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Gad this is beautiful gun play Reminds me of Alan Ladd drilling the bad guys in Shane one of the three best Cowboy movies ever made. Oh you want to know the other two. Well. Red River for one and perhaps Duel in the Sun . Oh wait, don’t forget the Shootist. Damn, John now I wanting to read ,em all over again.

  31. ClutteredThoughts

    Part 1

    “Pianist in the house!”
    He grinned at the sights and sounds; his dinky little upright in the corner, lid flipped open; the cover was down with two shots on top, and the customers lifted their drinks and cheered him as he sidled his way through the little tables.
    Five years of this gig, and he still swore he’d never give it up. There was something astoundingly refreshing and calming about playing whatever music he felt like to a bunch of old drunkards. Well, not old, but certainly very, very drunk.
    As he sat down on his stool and downed his first shot, his eyes searched through the crowd, looking for any old favorites he could play a special song for. Denise sat in the back corner, smiling widely, and young Adam was working the bar, giving shots to the same young man who’d been at the bar for the past three weeks.
    One shot left, and he nursed it as he contemplated the young man. Nothing stood out about his features, but something in his expression- something in his eyes- demanded a second look. He sat leaning against the bar, legs crossed, staring straight at the piano with a wistful, yet anticipating eye. No one the pianist talked to after his show knew who he was; he just kept showing up, leaving as soon as the music was gone.
    Second drink gone; time to start. He played Denise’s song first, a little dance tune that she’d once told him was her “girl’s night out” song, and then continued into some bluesy standards and rocking power ballads. Some of them required lyrics, which the audience provided in extreme dissonance, but their enthusiasm more than made up for their harmony. His fingers pounded the black-and-white keys, coaxing a sound of incredible beauty out of the ancient piano, making it rise above the crowd’s noise.
    At the end of the first set, after Adam’s old Irish ballad, he approached the young man, raising a hand at the waiter to order his next two shots.
    “You’re quite the player.” The man was soft-spoken, but his voice cut through the bar’s hubbub with ease. “It’s a joy to listen to you.”
    “Well, thank you, sir,” the pianist replied. “I’m glad you enjoy it. I’ve seen you around for the past few weeks, thought it was high time to meet you.”
    The man smiled briefly, but didn’t offer his name. “Thank you.”
    His shots arrived. As usual, he downed the first and nursed the second, waiting for the young man to say his request. He wasn’t quite sure what kind of song the young man wanted, but he was too curious to go play the second set just yet.
    “Could you play something for me?”

    1. ClutteredThoughts

      Part 2

      “Depends, what’s it called?” The pianist had hundreds of songs stored in his memory.
      “I actually wanted to hear something you create on the spot.”
      He spluttered slightly. “Improv? You want me to do improv, at a bar?”
      The young man stared him dead in the eyes. “As beautifully as you can. I want to know what you’re capable of.” The pianist paused, seeing that intangible something in the eyes of the young man, and then nodded.
      Back at the piano, he shook his head. Improvisation- he never should have agreed. Yet he had, and he’d die before he broke a promise. Without warning, his hands started to pick out a few notes.
      “Here’s something a bit different,” he called out to the audience. And there it was: a song about something different. As he strung out melodies and wreathed them together, more and more heads turned until the bar was in total silence, save for the piano. Notes bumped into each other, found their own space, and sang across the range of the instrument- and now it dropped to near silence, just a deep bass hum. Slowly, the pianist looked at his audience, and thought of each of their songs. He knew them all, how they fit together and wove out the tapestry of the world, and he played it, describing everyone he knew and would ever meet, and everyone else as well, a massive song for a massive world.
      When he was done, the clock read two in the morning. He stumbled home, dizzy with what he’d done, and slept.
      The next day, he walked in, expecting the usual cry of “Pianist in the house!” But no one yelled, no one greeted him with a smile, and his piano was gone. Where the young man usually sat, there was only a note.
      “Thank you for my song,” it read. “I hope you find yours.”
      The pianist sat down in shock. He had played the song of everyone in the world, but he did not know his own. He turned with a start as a guitarist strutted through the doors, to the cheers of everyone in the bar, making his way to the pianist’s old spot. He sat, and watched, and as the guitarist started playing with as much skill as he’d ever had, he thought about what his own song might be.

      1. dragonchef

        Whoa! If I may ask . . . Was the pianist the next young man sitting at the bar with his legs crossed, and in three weeks time will ask the guitarist to play a song from improv?

        Either way – Really nice story CT. Being a musician myself I can relate. Still nodding my head. Thanks.

        1. ClutteredThoughts

          Thanks dragonchef! I’m sure the loop will continue, as it’s always been meant to. Glad to know there’s other musicians on this site.

        1. ClutteredThoughts

          Thanks sk, although I’m curious as to what lesson you picked up on since I hadn’t written it with one in mind. That seems to happen to me a lot.

          1. writer_sk

            What I meant is the theme: How he learns that while he was playing everyone else’s song trying to please everyone he was meant to search his soul to find what his song is or his life’s purpose…that’s how I read into it.

            I really liked your whole piece.It had an eerie feeling when he couldn’t stop play the piano keys.

      2. JRSimmang

        So, I’m reading The Kingkiller Chronicles, and there’s a heavy emphasis on music and its impact on us hidden in the story. You, I believe, have made us believe in this magic. The Pianist is an interesting creature, unaware of his own importance. I am led to wonder if he’s just a small part of all our psyches, just itching to play a new song for us.

      3. ReathaThomasOakley

        You’ve created an amazing character here. The tapestry of the world, yes it was. One request, putting spaces between paragraphs makes reading much easier.

        1. ClutteredThoughts

          Yeah, I normally try to do that but I was running late when I posted it… I’ll be sure to do it in the future. Thanks for the feedback!

  32. Creatrev

    “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” always ran through my head when I heard the familiar littlest bells jingle when I opened the door at Malone’s, right before I heard a group of 15 or so of my closest friends yell, “Woody”! The irony is not lost on me.

    Here is the back story. 25 years ago a man named Frank Malone opened a bar on a whim because of his favorite tv show. It was a nice neighborhood place. His name was Malone like Sam from the show, hence The name Malone’s. The bar became incredibly popular once the tv show went off the air. “Cheers” was gone but we had Malone’s our little place “where everybody knows your name”. One night, I was having a conversation with Frank and I told him I was born in Iowa. Big mistake. From that moment on I became, you guessed it, Woody.

    I have been coming to Malone’s on my way home from work for about five years. Once I became Woody, every time I entered the place everyone greeted me with a hearty “Woody” and Frank had a ice cold beer, sweating into a coaster, sitting on the bar top right above “my” stool, the third one From the door on the left hand side of the bar.
    After a long hard day at the office there was nothing better than a frosty mug sitting in my spot at 6:10, my usual time of arrival.

    Today’s workday had been hard. I had lost an account, then was yelled at by my boss, who happenes to be named Norman, (not a jovial fat guy, but a skinny, uptight jerk who I am guessing never had a beer in his life), and wanted to “Office Space” the printer after seven failed attempts to print my expense report. I needed a beer. The smile on my face couldn’t have been any bigger when I opened the door to Malone’s and heard those little bells jingle.

    I stepped through the oak door and expected to hear, “Woody”. Only a few people turned to look, and the faces of those who did look didn’t seem to register any look of recognition. I took a few steps into the bar and I smiled at the faces of the regulars, but no one seemed to know me. I walked to my usual spot only to find it was occupied. The only time I had ever seen this man, he was leaving as I was coming in and now, here he was, sitting in “my” spot. I pushed past him and leaned against the bar. Frank looked at me and me asked what I wanted to drink.

    He hasn’t asked me that for years. I have the same beer every time I come in here. Thinking he was joking and this was all an elaborate prank I decided to play along. I wondered how he got everybody in the bar to play along, but hey, I’m not one to ruin a joke, so I told him I wanted a beer. He told me he would pour it and bring it to me at my table. Table? I have always sat at the bar. Maybe he wanted me to sit at the table to get a good view of whatever joke he was playing.

    I made sure to check for glue or some other foreign object in the chair before I sat down. I was hoping I could foil the joke in some clever way before the punchline. I appreciated all the trouble he had gone through, and his acting job of pretending not to know me was top notch, I almost believed him. No glue, tacks or other substance was in the chair, so I sat down. Anxious to know the payoff.

    I glanced down at my watch, force of habit, wondering how long it would be before the big reveal. 6:05. I had arrived a few minutes earlier than usual. I left work a little early, bad day and all. 5 minutes later, 6:10, I began to get annoyed. Nobody was talking to me, Frank hadn’t refilled my beer and I was starting to get angry. As I was about to stand up and let Frank have it, I heard the bells of the front door open. I turned and looked to see the man who was sitting at my stool walking out the door. Sitting on the bar at the stool he just vacated was an ice cold beer. I watched in horror as “I” entered the bar. Nobody saw my face however as they all turned towards the door and said, in unison, “Woody”.

    1. dragonchef

      Just another magic Monday . . . or is that Freaky Friday? Poor Woody, replaced by a pod person.
      Will the old Woody run to the bathroom to look in the mirror?
      Will the pod-Wood be doing his job in the morning?
      What will happen when both go to the same house at closing time?
      Stay tuned next week . . . for the rest . . . of the story.
      Fun read Crea!

    2. JRSimmang

      For every choice we make, another branch is created along our timelines. What happens when late night TV becomes reality, and someone decides to go off-script?
      This. This is what happens.
      Trev, you did a great job building the atmosphere of Malone’s, and developing an alternate “Cheers”. The mood of the story certainly toys with us, making the ending that much more puzzling and savory.
      So, if the two Woodys accidentally touch each other, will both universes explode?

  33. JRSimmang

    RED SHIFT

    Bleak, they told me. Cold, they said. That the stars don’t look the way they do once you get off the ground. That the only truth I’ll find is loneliness. I reached over to my notepad and scribbled some notes about the passage of time in absolute zero, when the solar storms cease, and the dark matter matrix has been exploited for its holes.

    Here, even light is afraid.

    The Endemon, my vessel named for the first man to pull past light speed, hung in the Kartegan sector like a ripe plum seconds after falling. I quickly closed the window shield, and shook my head to refocus before I adjusted the nodes to scan for transplasmodic frequencies and discordant tachyon fluxes. Finding myself satisfied, I reestablished the link between my ionizers and pocket thrusters.

    Space is flexible, but only finitely so. The Endemon wrapped itself in a cocoon of matter, condensing the free bosons around it until only a fraction of the mass of light remains in a small opening. Then, it twists, expends a neutrino stream through the opening, and follows in the wake. I’ve never witnessed it; we’re supposed to keep the window shield closed and locked to minimize the effect of radiation on our sensitive organs. The Qiniccans have no internal organs, and they are encased in some sort of symbiembryonic plasma that denatures any half-life deterioration. Quite fascinating, the Qiniccans. Of course, their planet is constantly bombarded by solar radiation. Their atmosphere was nearly stripped an eon ago, and they took the skies out of necessity.

    As did humans.

    I felt the familiar rumble of nearspace, and I opened the window shield to the Alpha quadrant. I engaged the outboard thrusters and maneuvered my way to Enceladus. There was only one city on Enceladus, Etna, and it served the best replicated whisky in the galaxy. I radioed out to the Enceladus Gravitational Authority, and cleared my ship for landing. From there, I had to take a skiff to the outskirts of the city, then a hoverbus to Anthe’s Dive.

    “Christ in a bucket,” shouted Beorn, the bartender. His first name was Chuck, but he never answered to it. “Is that Taro?” My first name is Benny, but I don’t answer to it. A few other patrons, Mack and Stiffler, Fran and Un’gun’t turned to me and shouted and raised their glasses.

    “In the flesh,” I replied and found my seat.

    “I thought you’d be gone a couple weeks at least,” Beorn shuffled a double neat into my open fingers. “But that was only, what, three days?”

    “I didn’t find what I was looking for,” I shrugged. “Plus, in the Kartegan sector, a man can get awfully thirsty.” I raised my glass. “Here’s to the ever swallowing darkness, and this brilliant point of shining offal.”

    We drank into the night, to the point where I started ordering water. I had to be back on Rhegar 3 in the morning, then back out to Kartegan by 0700. I decided to wish everyone a good night, and I found my usual wayhouse. Ms Tinkette offered me some company, but I needed only a bed and a wake-up call. Gwinny was off that night anyway, and if I couldn’t have her, I didn’t need anyone else.

    Funny thing is, once I tasted emptiness, I ceased to dream. It’s like the vacuum of space sucked everything out of there. So, my wall panel beeped me out of my sleep and I got up, showered, and got a move-on.

    I downloaded my new mission from the Rhegar 3 Check Station, then enabled my pocket thrusters as soon as I was out of live space.

    The fabric of bosons encompassed my ship, then I was out again, drifting.

    I tuned my autospread sweeps, then my red warning light started blinking. Then, The Endemon shuddered, and I was thrown against my harness. The readout from my screen fritzed, then started smoking. I was pulled to my right at what felt like 3 Gs, my stick was shaking so violently it threatened to tear from its socket and blast through the roof of the ship. My nose started to bleed, and I realized I had only one option.

    I had to open my window shield. I had to know what was outside.

    I reached up, powering against the g-force, and fumbled for the lock.

    I felt it snap, and I slowly slid my window shield, inch by inch, until I was staring directly out into the whole of something I couldn’t understand.

    Part 2 Coming Soon

    1. dragonchef

      Uh . . . okay!
      I’m kind of thinking this guy is really spaced and should check himself into Motel 8. Not that I haven’t ever considered my vehicle a space ship, especially in 1977 right after total mesmerization through the first Star Wars movie, and then doing light speed around the Capital Beltway at midnight. Okay, there may or may-not have been some transduction of alien DNA taking place, but I’ll never admit it.

      Looking forward to P2, JR.

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks, J. This one has taken me by storm, and I’m excited to be writing it. Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” and “SevenEves” have been boring slow holes in my brain, rewiring my fantasy-leaning brain and fashioning it into something Isaac Asimov would approve of.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      I like this new world you’ve taken me into JR! I can almost see it getting on a big screen in 3D, just reaching for that window shield, slowly opening it just to see what was outside.
      I want me some pocket thrusters as well.

  34. dragonchef

    The door at Timony Cricket’s was different than usual; it now had a nice, shiny brass frame, and a cigar smoking cricket acid etched into the glass. They must have made some upgrades this morning.

    The crowd seemed rather subdued as I entered, like someone important died. No one looked up or greeted me with a Hey, Pete! Long day no see or some such familiarity. And to top it off, someone was sitting on my bar stool. My stool! I snarled inwardly and sat at the only open stool available, the one between the large pillar and the service section, the place no one can see you, not even the bartender.

    I managed to grab his attention by waving my arms like a wild man.

    There was a slight smirk of irritation on Kyle’s face as he came over. He tossed his bar towel over a shoulder and asked, “What’ll you have?”

    “What’ll I have? Kyle, you always know what I have. Come on, man!”

    His irritation became clear. “Beer? Whiskey? What? Work with me here.”

    I was perplexed to say the least. Five years in coming here and he has never acted like that.

    Someone from across the bar, the guy on my stool, yelled out, “Kyle – another round please.”

    Visibly grateful for the disruption, Kyle spun around. “Coming right up, Frank.”

    Someone new I had never seen before, a pretty girl with great red hair—a Merida look-alike if ever there was one—sidled up to the service bar.

    “A hard place to order from, hon. Can I get you something?”

    She smiled sweetly.

    “Shot and a beer?” I replied.

    “Coming right up. Whiskey good?”

    I nodded, still perplexed.

    Merida yelled out, “Kyle, three drafts . . . make that four drafts, and a whiskey.”

    A minute later Kyle brought her order; she placed the shot and a beer in front of me.

    “Thank you,” I called after her as she scurried away.

    A short while later Merida returned and leaned against the pillar.

    “So, what’s going on that has everyone so glum?”

    “Glum?” she shrugged. “It’s the same here every night; has been since I’ve been working here.”

    She inhaled deeply and looked around. “I see what you mean though—no one seems happy, even with all this alcohol going around, everyone speaking in hushed whispers.”

    “Yeah, kind of reminds me of a wake.”

    She looked at me wide-eyed. “Yeah, exactly like that. Odd isn’t it? But, hey, it pays the bills.”

    “So, how long have you been working here?”

    “Seems like forever.”

    “Wait, I’ve been coming here for five years and I have never seen you before. In fact, this place has never been like this before. It is usually full of life, people laughing, having a good time. This looks like somebody kicked the bucket!”

    All talking ceased and everyone in the bar turned and looked at me.

    Merida smiled—a very strange and . . . demonic rictus smile. “Someone did, Pete. You!”

      1. JRSimmang

        Oops, posted before I finished typing. Characters are well-fleshed out, nice job conveying annoyance on Kyle’s part. I am left wondering who Merida is and why she is so important to Pete that she would manifest herself as his almost-Virgil.

          1. JRSimmang

            I didn’t think it was too bad at all. It didn’t get the attention it deserved. And, now that you made that allusion, it makes more sense to me. Thanks!

          1. JRSimmang

            Virgil led Dante through the Inferno, sort of his good angel on his shoulder. Virgil is the author of “The Aeneid,” though Dante used him to represent all that was good in the Roman gentry: wise, creative. Virgil was highly protective of Dante as he descended through the levels of h-e-double hockey sticks. Of course, this “Merida” would be the evil version of Virgil.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Well done with great details, like the position of Pete’s table just outside the scene. If this is H*ll, no one seems in much pain.

  35. Pete

    Rip woke up alone and parched, his eyes needing several rubs to open. He looked around, seeing none of the remnants of last night’s occurrences. Even Wolf, his loyal companion, had left his side. Rip’s clothes were in tatters and his rifle had been replaced by an old rusted flintlock. In full day of ambling about, Rip had stumbled from the Catskills to find no one he knew, nothing he recognized, and only hurtling fleets of lifeless machinery everywhere.

    At long last, after ducking and wincing his way across the hardened strip of earth, Rip entered the tavern, wild eyed and out of sorts.

    “What in the name of King George is this? This is not the little village inn.”

    “And you ain’t the guy from Duck Dynasty.”

    Some scattered laughter from the strangely dressed men. Rip couldn’t fathom what they wore on their heads. He looked left then right, before he was transfixed by the maniacal images conjured inside the rows of windows above their heads.

    He jumped back, expecting Lucifer himself to leap from the apparatus. It seemed to be conjuring up spirits with its rapid blinks. Rip stumbled to stay afoot.

    “Easy Pops.”

    Again Rip thought of the elfish man in the woods. The draught he’d tasted last night. This strange town that had replaced his village with fewer trees and harden lifeless ground. The boxes that whistled by at supernatural speeds. There were lights everywhere, noise, and the man approaching was talking gibberish into his hand.

    He read the words on the man’s bill hat.”Make America Great Again.”

    America? This was certainly strange. Rip tugged at his beard. He was astonished by its length and color. “I’m looking for my dog. Wolf?”

    The man belched. “Haven’t seen him.”

    Rip was too frightened by the large hurtling objects outside to leaven. He made his way to the bar where the men brought him in and gave him a stout. They pointed to the flashing screens above their heads. Rip only understood pieces of what the bill cap wearing townsfolk were getting at, an election of some sort.

    Rip, already perplexed, could not make sense of what he was seeing. And while he was no stranger to ghost stories, witches, or Indian folklore, he had never heard the one about a woman voting, much less running for office against what looked like a Dutchman. What would Van Bummel make of this?

    Rip asked the fleshy man when His Majesty had approved such activities. The man exchanged a sidelong glance with another. Rip must have looked perplexed. He’d been asleep only a night but everything had changed.

    The bar wench smiled and said, “Let me get you another beer, sweetie.”

    There was little else he could do but look into the majestic landscape of her ample chest. She’d somehow torn her shirt but seemed unconcerned about it. Rip offered his jacket, the skirt shredded from his tumble through weeds and grapevines. The wench gave him a perplexed smile.

    Rip choked down the weak beer as the townsfolk shouted and voiced their allegiance, even though they all agreed that the woman—and Rip couldn’t help but see a stark resemblance to Dame, his termagant wife—was a liar and crook and that the Golden Dutchmen would help them to secure more coal.

    The tavern, well-water beer, and the puzzling glow that sucked the life from the patrons’ eyes, caused Rip yearn for his lively discussions with Derrick, Nicholas, and Van Brummell. He also missed Wolf.

    More elbows found the bar. The patrons took an interest in Rip, laughing and speaking into the glows in their hands. One man asked Rip where he stood on the issues, Rip, who took his bread white or brown and never wanted much of a fuss, only shrugged. “Oh, I’d rather starve on a penny than work for a pound”

    The man reddened. “Hey Jimbo. You hear what Bernie over hear is sayiin?”

    Jimbo, the pregnant man who smelled like a boot full of muck, bristled. “What are you some sort of communists?”

    Rip assured them he was no such thing, professing his loyalty to George the third. “Oh no. God bless the king, I say.”

    This only enraged the men. With flushed cheeks they spat and grunted and they demanded that God blessed only America. They took out their wallets and held up pieces of green paper. Things were only getting stranger, but Rip, seeing their agitation, their tribal markings and their peculiar uniforms with numbers on the chest, figured them to be some sort of militia. Or slow.

    Rip feared the worst, when all of the gadgets began chiming and ringing. The men were zapped by their phones, pulled back into the glowing trance, giving Rip the chance he needed to slip away.

    Whether it was a lapse in time or judgement, Rip was certain of one thing. He was going to have to find a new tavern.

    1. dragonchef

      Mr. VanWinkle in the house!
      I don’t think I would care much for waking up several hundred years into the future. The beer will probably taste like seaweed . . . or worse–kale . . . Monsanto kale at that!
      Good one, Pete.

    2. JRSimmang

      That was certainly entertaining. America 2016 is definitely a different place than it was 300 years ago, and I think Rip had some genuine reactions to what he would see today. The timeline gets a little confused for me here, though. Communism was an established political philosophy only in the mid-19th century, and I’m assuming Rip is a loyalist in the mid-18th century. You did push the envelope here, and I think that should be rewarded. Nicely done, as usual.

    3. jhowe

      If Rip thought the stout was weak, it’s a good thing they didn’t give him a Bud Light. I enjoyed this greatly. Rip’s thought process was really well done.

    4. writer_sk

      Pete, this was very creative.

      Part of the fun of your story was the perfect placement of clues as to what was happening as seen through Rip’s eyes.

      The rich details made the scene come alive.

      Loved him wondering about the numbers on the shirts, the “Golden Dutchman” helping “secure coal”.

      I forgot my own ideas for prompt when reading, could picture his situation.

      Only wish wolf appeared as a “future dog”

    5. ReathaThomasOakley

      Fun story, poor old Rip, I don’t think he’s going to find a good tavern. I’m not certain you needed the “glowing trance” to finish the story, just a thought.

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