I was delighted to be asked to participate at last night’s Noir at the Bar (NE) in Newcastle.  Everyone had a lovely evening and we heard an array of dark and humorous tales from a host of amazing talent.

I wrote a short story especially for the night and I’m happy to say it was very well received.  For those that couldn’t make the event, here’s the story you missed…

Closing Time

By Rod Glenn

The bar was quiet, even for a Monday night.  The torrential rain was only partially responsible.  There was something in the air that night, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I felt … on edge.  I put it down to a crappy weekend that had followed a hellish week that had followed a God awful year.  I needed a drink … a lot of drinks. I intended to drink until I felt some semblance of self-respect return or I felt nothing at all.

Wiping rainwater from my face, I ordered a double and knocked it back before Frank had the chance to ask for payment.  The cheap whisky burned its way down and a part of me prayed that it would melt my icy soul. I demanded another and threw a twenty onto the beer-stained bar.  The look on Frank’s face told me he knew where this was heading and accepted it and my money with the grace of a seasoned bartender.

Sipping my whisky, I glanced around the gloomy bar.  At first, I thought it was empty, but then I spied a woman tucked in the corner, hunched over a drink.  Sleek raven hair falling over her face, tight-fitting black dress.  Certainly not one of the regular crowd.  This woman looked like she had taken a wrong turn on the way to the theatre and stumbled in here to avoid the rain.

My self-respect was terminally ill, but not dead yet.  I shook droplets of rain from my coat, gripped my glass with the desperation of a Tinder addict and strode over.

“Do you come here often?” I hear myself say.  Do you come here often?  Is that the best I can do?  I can hear the life support monitor screaming.

The woman doesn’t respond.  Did she not hear me?  That was probably a good thing.

Glancing at the dregs in her wine glass, I try a new tack.  “Can I get you another?”

There’s a moment when I wonder whether she is either deaf or dead, but then she looks up.  Through strands of hair, I stare into eyes like opals, flecked with blue and green.  Her skin is alabaster and through blood-red lips, she utters a single, whispered word, “Please …”

Nodding, I beat a hasty retreat to Frank and order two drinks while consuming my second.  It is while Frank prepares the drinks that I ponder her quiet response.  Please … it sounded more like a plea for help than a response to a question.

With an encouraging wink from Frank, I head back to the woman and rather presumptuously take the seat opposite her.

She gulps down half her wine without looking at me.

I open my mouth to speak, but then choose to follow suit first, grasping for some colonial courage.  “What … er … brings you out on a night like this?” I falteringly ask in my pathetic way.  Just kill me now.

As self-loathing slithers through my mind, her head snaps back and those opal eyes bore into mine.  “What did you say?” she asks in a low, guttural growl.

I can’t help but sit back into my chair.  “I … er … what brings you out tonight?”

“Not your pitiful whimpering,” she snaps.  “What did you command of me?”

My mouth drops open and my hand instinctively goes for my whisky.  Could she possibly …

“Why do you wish to die?”

My whisky is forgotten in my hand, hovering close to my lips as I stare transfixed into the woman’s beautifully haunting eyes.  “How could you …”

Her eyes appear to pulsate in the gloom.  It must be some strange trick of the light.  She leans in closer and there’s a muskiness to her breath as she says, “Answer my question and you shall have your wish.”

I catch the tip of her tongue as it glides across wine-stained teeth.  Those eyes draw me in with a promise of release.  I find myself saying, “My wife left me … I lost my job … I have no friends …” I have no idea why I’m pouring my heart out to this alluring stranger, but I barely feel in control.

She sits back and smiles.  There is something predatory about it.  Something … isn’t right.  But I just sit there and smile back.

Frank watches the silent TV with the rain as its background score, lost in tedium.  After a time he seems to come back to his senses and glances around the bar, a confused frown on his face.  He looks up at the clock and realises its past closing time.

He turns to the corner of the room to see his regular still sat there, but no sign of the woman.

“Sup up, mate,” he says.  “Closing time.”

His regular sits there, motionless.

With a sigh, Frank approaches.  “Come on, wakey-wakey.”

He crouches and places a hand on the man’s shoulder.  “Come–” His mouth fails him and he stares into wide, lifeless eyes.  The man’s skin is grey and drawn like tissue paper over his shrunken features.  And yet the man’s smile is unmistakable contentment.