The glass is empty, apart from a foamy film in the bottom. I set it down on the bar next to my lighter and my pack of smokes. I’d like to order a fourth beer right away, but I figure I better pace myself. Remembering the task at hand, I tilt my head to get a gander around the Jager display, past the pull-tabs, to where you and your friends are holding court.
I’ve seen your type plenty. Time was you were few and far between, but now you’re all over the place like ants. It started with a trickle. Scouts looking for new territory. You came here ’cause houses were cheap, at least compared to the city. But our houses weren’t good enough. So you knocked them down and put up those condo buildings. Then your businesses figured they could come out here as well, lower their overhead. And so more of you came out and bought houses and apartments, and the prices went up, and then the folks that lived here before couldn’t afford it anymore and had to move away.
I always thought this bar would stay true. The Hole was a local dive for decades. But now it’s more of a typical sports bar and most of the locals are gone. I see they have beers with names I’ve never heard. Some are dark and thick as syrup. The menu even has a veggie burger. The Hole I knew would never have stooped to this before you lot showed up in your Subarus. Sometimes I wonder, If this bar goes where will we find the people we need? The bar’s original owners are long gone; do their grandchildren even know where the bar gets its name from?
You and the after-work crowd have moved four tables together like you’re expecting a large group, but there’s just six of you, and I’m guessing most of you are too pussy to keep drinking, so that number will dwindle soon enough.
“Another beer, Ray?” Abby wipes down the bar and takes my empty glass. She’s new, but I’m not one to complain about her. She’s too good-looking to complain about and besides, she gets it. When one of the old gang is here, we get our drinks before any of you geeks.
I nod, though I should really slow down. It’s not even dark out and I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night. I reach for my pack of Winstons and the lighter sitting on the bar. Abby frowns. I know, I got to take it outside. Fucking gentrification. I’ve twisted a cardboard beer coaster into a totem-man. I leave him standing guard over my place at the bar. “I’ll have that beer when I get back.”
The sun is setting as I pass by the faded Monday Night Football Bud Light display and step out to the parking lot where they’ve relegated anyone who might want a smoke.
I wince at the glow topping the tree line. Do I have the right day? Late summer in the Cascades, the days aren’t as crazy long as they were just a week or two ago, but they haven’t given in to the dark months yet.
The whispers said this was the right day, or at least this would be the right night. I could swear it. Though who knows? It’s not like they’re known for their clarity.
The whispers said this was the right day, or at least this would be the right night. I could swear it. Though who knows? It’s not like they’re known for their clarity. They expect that we’re able to interpret. Sometimes it’s more of a feeling than an understanding that guides our hand to appease them.
Once I’ve killed my cigarette, I reach into my kit bag for the bone pipe, carved from the femur of my predecessor’s predecessor. I run my finger down the runes lining the pipe and then I trill a few notes. There’s no response. Nothing. Not even birds singing. All I can hear is the dull murmur of the jukebox through the glass. I trill a few more, but still get no response.
Here goes nothing. I pull the shaker out of my jacket pocket. It’s an old Indian prayer stick. It’s got juju, but I’ve always sort of liked the rattle, magic or not. I play the notes with the flute again, this time with an accompanying percussion from the rattle. Smoke rises from the ash tray to my side and begins to swirl around me.
Quiet. And then in answer I hear it in the distance, a low rattle of a large, nasty, oil-burning engine. A beast of a GMC Suburban lurches into the parking lot otherwise filled with German sedans and your fucking Subaru.
They’re coming. The apostles of the soil are on their way. Knowing I have the right date, I head back in for my beer…
This is just one of the stories in the anthology Redneck Eldritch, coming in April from Cold Fusion Media!