Author Topic: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.  (Read 1425 times)

Offline landmersm

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The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« on: February 04, 2019, 09:47:56 PM »
This is a little bit of a departure for me, and I'm not sure what to do with it. It's, maybe, part of something bigger I've been working on for sometime. I just decided to give it a go.


The whiskey didn’t burn as much after the fourth shot.

The warmth in his body grew outwards from his stomach and throat and moved to his arms, legs, and finally the top of his head. The liquor relaxed him. Four quick shots in succession. Now, he could sip on the fifth and enjoy it. He needed the quick hit, like a junkie shooting up. That first jolt to the system. It knocked some sense into him while knocking a little bit out at the same time. Most of the noise was gone by the end of the fourth shot. He could manage what was left.

The fifth wasn’t a shot, though. It was a tumbler full, a double on the rocks with a water back. He only ever ordered the water to make it seem like he wasn’t such an alcoholic. A quick look around the bar. No one. Just him and the bartender. Who would think him a drunkard beside the tapper, and she probably saw her fair share of much worse on any given night.

“What time do you close?” he asked. Voice raised a notch or two.

“’bout an hour or so,” she said. She was wiping off the taps at the far end of the bar.

“It always this dead around here?”

“Pretty much.” She tossed the cloth onto the bar top and slowly walked to where he sat. She nodded to the single row of four booths behind him. “Usually one of the regulars sleeping it off back there by this time.” She frowned in thought. “Come to think of it, haven’t seen him tonight at all. That’s not like ol’ Trent.”

The regular was currently in the bottom of the dumpster in the alley behind the bar. Or the remnants of him were. 

“Maybe he’s sleeping it off somewhere else,” he said. He emptied the tumbler in one large gulp, the whiskey not burning at all now. A finger tapping on the rim of the empty glass.

“You not drivin’, are ya?” she asked.

“Nope,” he said. “I’m within walking distance.” He could see the thoughts running through her mind, wondering where he could be staying in this part of town, but she let it go.

She filled his glass once more, adding two more small cubes of ice.

“Haven’t seen you in here before,” she said.

“I’m new to the area,” he said. “Devon’s my name.” He proffered his hand. He had to be careful here.

She smiled, thinking the hand shake was quaint. “Ruly.”

“What?” He smiled, taken aback.

She smiled, too. A pretty smile. “The name is Ruth-Lee, but the drunks around here slur it to Ruly. It just stuck, I guess.”

“Ruth Lee, huh?” he said. “Not too many women with two names. Not too many guys with multiple names, either. Maybe serial killers.”

“Yeah, but they always have three, don’t they?” she asked.

“A lot do, yeah.” He smiled. “My name’s Devon Wray Wilson.”

Her smiled vanished, and she stepped back from the bar, her backside against the shelf of liquor behind her.

He laughed. “I’m joking! It’s a joke! Promise!”

She produced a half chuckle, still unsure, and eyed the pistol underneath the bar just below where he sat.

“Come on,” he said and patted the bar top in front of him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. You’re in here by yourself with some stranger. That was wrong of me. I apologize.”

“Okay,” she said, a little more at ease. “That your real name, though?”

Real enough. “Yes, it is,” he said. “You can look it up, if you want. I’m not a serial killer.” He knew she wouldn’t with him sitting in front of her.

“So, back to Ruth Lee. Catholic or Louisianan?”

A quick cock of the eyebrow. “Huh?”

“Well, lots of good Catholic girls have two names. Mary Kate. Mary Margaret. Mary Ann. Lots of Marys, go figure. For the other, I grew up in Louisiana, and the guys were called by two names quite often. At least where I grew up anyway. David Keith. Brian Matthew. Jeffrey Thomas. I thought maybe where you came from they did the same with females.”

“Nope. Born right here. And, as far as Catholic goes, the only thing my mother worshiped was the needle.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t apologize. Nuthin’ you did.”

“Regardless. Let me buy you a drink.”

She hesitated still.

“For my bad joke. A peace offering.”

She thought about it for a moment longer and then grinned. “Okay.” She walked to the clean spigots and poured a mug full of beer. Back in front of Devon, she held out her beer. They tapped glasses. “Cheers.”

“Cheers,” Devon said.

He drank half of his while she only took a respectable mouthful.

“So,” Ruly said, “what do you do?”

He grinned and thought to himself. Here we go. “I’m a . . .” He stopped, how should he describe it? No one had ever really asked him. “I am a death dealer.”

She leaned against the liquor shelf again, folding her arms just under her chest. “Look. I’ve had a long night. I’m tired, and I want to go home. If you want to play games, fine. Just go play ‘em somewhere else.”

His smile vanished. His eyes saw through her, out into the world. To every horrible thing he had ever done. “I’m a dealer of death and destruction, and I’m fucking sick of it.”

“Okay. That’s enough. Time to-”

“STOP!” His voice boomed throughout the empty bar. He turned his eyes to the bartender.

Ruly was frozen to the spot. She tried to move, but her body would not listen.

“See,” he said, “I was given this gift, but I don’t want it anymore. I thought I did, and, I guess, for a while . . . You have two weapons behind the bar here. Just in front of me and below the counter. Don’t you? Go ahead. You can answer.”

Ruly found that she was able to only nod her head yes. Her mouth could not open to speak.

“An old wooden baseball bat. I’m guessing that’s for the drunks who get a little handsy? The other is a pistol. A thirty-eight? Yeah. What’s that for? Had a couple of robbery attempts here, huh?”

She nodded again.

“Ruth Lee, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I’m . . . I guess I’m what you would call a devil. Don’t give me that look. I know how it sounds, but, well, your current situation ought to tell you that I’m at least a little something more than normal. Right?”

All she could do was agree in silence.

“I’m a devil, not the devil. I’ve never met him or her. You know, it’s funny. I hear women say all of the time that god is a women, but I’ve never heard one of them say the same about the devil. Why do you think that is? I mean, if god is female, why does the devil have to be male? I never thought about it before now. Funny how things come to you at these inopportune times.”

Ruly tried to move but could not. She strained and struggled, but her muscles only ached from the effort.

“No, I was given this gift, this ability. I don’t know who gave it to me. His name or whatever. Never figured that part out. Maybe he was the real deal. I don’t know. Anyway, I ran with it. I did all sorts of terrible things. I enjoyed it, too.” The grin made a comeback. “Watching people die. Making people do these horrific, disgusting things just by simply telling them to. Some, sure, I had to coerce, force their hand. But they always did whatever I wanted in the end.”
Tears rolled down Ruly’s cheeks.

“Oh, don’t cry, dear.” Devon reached over the bar and wiped away a tear with his thumb. He slowly moved his thumb to his mouth, tasting the salt. He closed his eyes for a moment and made a sound something close to sexual gratification. “I know I told you I’m tired of this, but you have no idea how intoxicating someone’s fear and sorrow taste. That’s the one thing I’m going to miss.”

This did not stop Ruly’s tears. The opposite.

“No. Don’t. I’m not going to do anything to you. I promise. On the contrary, I want you to do something to me.”

Her expression switched from fear to disgust.

“No. Not that either. I’ve had that every way possible and imaginable. And then some. No. What I want now is for you to take that gun from underneath the counter, put it right between my eyes. Right here.” He tapped the bridge of his nose with his forefinger. “And pull the trigger.”

Ruly could feel the muscles in her face and neck return to her, and she attempted a scream for help. Her voice and her control vanished before she could make more than a squeak.

“Now, I said I wasn’t going to hurt you, but if you’re going to be foolish-”

She mumbled disagreement and shook her head no.

“Good. Listen to me. I don’t want to do this anymore. I mean it. I’m tired of it. It’s . . . what do you call it? Sort of like a midlife crisis.” He pleaded with her, a man at his end. “You still don’t believe me, do you?”

She was afraid to answer.

“Fine. Here.” He held his hand out, palm up, on the bar top and watched Ruly bring her hand slowly, and against her will, towards his. “I apologize in advance for this.”

It was as if a bolt of electricity ran through her. Her body tensed and shook. Her eyes rolled back in her head, only the white showing. Her free hand white knuckled the edge of the bar, fingernails digging into the old wood until two of them broke away from the force. It was inside of her, however, where the real horror was taking place. Through her mind’s eye, flashing hundreds of images a second, her poor brain struggling to keep up. Countless horrors. Sorrow. Pain. Suffering. Hundreds of people. Thousands. The pain they all endured. A sea of writhing forms, humans in immeasurable misery. All of it coursing through her body, spilling out from him and into her.

When he finally released, she pulled her hand away quickly. The skin on her palm was burnt, the flesh near smoldering. Ruly was speechless. She didn’t think the images would ever leave her. She closed her eyes, shook her head back and forth. No use. They were still there. She could hear the cries of anguish, the pleas for help. Behind her eyelids, the visions remained. It was too much.

“Now,” Devon said, “you see? Every time I . . . do what I do, I lose myself more and more. Soon, there won’t be anything left.” This monstrosity inside of him was to the brim, ready to spill over. He couldn’t keep it contained for much longer. He had to put an end to this. “I used to enjoy all of that. Not anymore. It’s . . . there’s nothing more. Do you understand? Once you’ve pushed someone to the brink of sanity with their pain . . . once you’ve broken someone’s mind and body with the things you’ve put them through, what more is there? I need you to stop me.”

Ruly cried. She wept, for as much as he would allow her to weep.

“I need you to end this. Pick up the gun.”

She did as she was told.

“Make sure it’s loaded . . .”

It was.

“. . . the safety is off . . .”

Checked.

“. . . now, put it to my forehead. Right between my eyes.”

The cold steel pressed into his flesh until it would not go any further.

“Do it.”

Within moments, two gun shots, two bodies in the floor, both with self-inflicted wounds.



My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2019, 10:46:53 PM »
This is a good story. It kept my attention all the way to the end. Did she shoot him or did she shoot herself then he shot himself with same gun? Either way you did a great job writing it.     Jan
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 09:23:39 PM by heartsongjt »

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2019, 12:00:13 PM »
Thank you.

She shot him and then herself. Self-inflicted because he forced her hand.


My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2019, 09:26:56 PM »

Offline Rantideva

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2019, 11:31:01 AM »
This is a well written story.  Great pacing kept me on edge and I wanted to know more about the character.  Could have been the start to an interesting novel.  However, much too dark for my liking!

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2019, 07:58:25 PM »
Thanks for reading and commenting.
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline EliTaffJr

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2019, 12:34:38 AM »
Great story! Starts strong with a powerful first line, then hooks you with the mystery of who the character is, why he's there, what's his connection to the girl.

If I can give any constructive feedback, maybe a little trimming here and there to give the writing a bit more punch? Simple word substitutions to give the lines a little more impact.

For example:

“Come to think of it, haven’t seen him tonight at all. That’s not like ol’ Trent.”

The regular was currently in the bottom of the dumpster in the alley behind the bar. Or the remnants of him were. 


If you change it to:

“Come to think of it, haven’t seen him tonight at all. That’s not like ol’ Trent.”

Ol' Trent was in the dumpster behind the bar.


Stuff like that might be cool.

You set up an intriguing, mysterious world, then slug 'em with a quick jab of brutal, bloody violence!

I can't think of anything else, really great work. Would love to read more!
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Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2019, 01:49:50 PM »
Thanks for the feedback.  I appreciate you taking the time.
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline MikeAnderson

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2019, 12:13:46 PM »
I'd hate to see what happy hour at this dive is like! :o

I have to admit; I'm becoming a big fan of your stories, and the way you write. The dialogue is fantastic, your mechanics are sound, and the build-up to that final twist made sense and was gripping. Plus, take it from a war veteran; experiencing death and danger on a constant basis can crush even the hardest person.

This is excellent. If this is a departure for your norms as a writer, feel free to keep switching lanes. 8)

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2019, 09:00:16 PM »
Thank you for your kind words and thanks for taking time to read and comment.

My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline AspiringAuthor

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2019, 07:45:11 AM »
It knocked some sense into him while knocking a little bit out at the same time.
Like your earlier work, pay attention to the repetition of words.

He could see the thoughts running through her mind, wondering where he could be staying in this part of town, but she let it go.
I know what you meant but the way you wrote it made it seem like the dude’s psychic and able to read her thoughts.

Her smiled vanished, and she stepped back from the bar, her backside against the shelf of liquor behind her.
A bit of an abrupt, strong reaction in my opinion since this dude gave no reason to alarm her just yet. Either add something before and gradually build-up to that reaction or remove it.

“Come on,” he said and patted the bar top in front of him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. You’re in here by yourself with some stranger. That was wrong of me. I apologize.”
[/b]
Coincidentally, now that would be something that would realistically work the opposite. “You’re in here by yourself with some stranger.” If I’d put myself in her shoes I’d get alarmed by that.

He grinned and thought to himself. Here we go. “I’m a . . .” He stopped, how should he describe it? No one had ever really asked him. “I am a death dealer.”
I’d suggest you find a better title for his occupation. Honestly rolled my eyes. The lines that follow with death and destruction are cheesy too.

The scene with Ruly freezing up is too weak. There’s not a reasonable explanation why is that. Ruly seemed the type to handle this sort of nonsense and out of the sudden this dude screams and she can’t move.
The change’s too abrupt without reason. If you elaborated the shift wouldn't seem abrupt. Is it a supernatural effect, is it just plain old fear that makes people freeze? Why the fear? Because he shouted?

Hear women say all of the time that god is a women,
Spelling error here – god is a woman.

The paragraph with the contact and the possession or psychic link or w/e it was. I feel like it would have a stronger impact if you describe what actually happens rather than use adjectives.
Make a scene out of the following:

Through her mind’s eye, flashing hundreds of images a second, her poor brain struggling to keep up. Countless horrors. Sorrow. Pain. Suffering. Hundreds of people. Thousands. The pain they all endured. A sea of writhing forms, humans in immeasurable misery. All of it coursing through her body, spilling out from him and into her.

Like the ending but “within moments” fall short. Diminishes the impact.

Honestly, liked this piece. Keep up the good work.

Edit - Remember the interchangeable comment I made a while ago on a different story of yours? Well, between these two characters there is a clear distinction. :)
« Last Edit: April 05, 2019, 07:57:15 AM by AspiringAuthor »

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2019, 09:29:34 PM »
Thanks for the feedback.
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline Stayce

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2019, 10:01:07 AM »
Hi there!

I'm new on these boards, but thought I'd jump in with both feet and start offering feedback. Please take what I'm saying with a pinch of salt, as I'm still fairly new at this. This is kind of a thousand foot perspective on it as I'm not really confident enough in my own grammar to effectively pick apart the nitty gritty someone else's.

Overall I think it's a good piece with a lot of promise. It's certainly evocative in parts, but I do agree with some of the other feedback in that it feels like some of the intended 'moments' don't quite land the way I think you want them to. I think it mainly comes from the narrator seeming to speak in multiple different 'voices' that muddy his motivations somewhat. He goes from conversational, to creepy, to dominant and back again a bit too quickly and it deflates some of the building tension.

I would suggest trying to have him start in the same place he does now, but avoid the abrupt shifts in his tone that exist currently, and instead try to ratchet up the tension more evenly. At the start, he comes off as manipulative rather than dominating, and I would personally try and stick with that characteristic. While you are inside his head, I think you want the reader to feel like Ruly, not really certain of who this guy is and what they are dealing with until they are in too deep and it is far too late.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on it. Hope they are of value.

Offline An Albatross Man

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2019, 07:41:10 PM »
Excellent opening, and a Twilight Zone like vibe I like. But I have a quibble, and it comes down to view-point character perspective.  My personal soapbox it may be, but I feel like you always need to have one (and exactly one) character's viewpoint in a given scene.  Switch between scenes sure. Not in them.  I know there are some published novels of literary repute that "head-hop" -- but I usually put those books down as soon I get to that part.  It totally throws me out of the story.  With that in mind the following lines immediately jumped out at me:

She smiled, thinking the hand shake was quaint. “Ruly.”

She produced a half chuckle, still unsure, and eyed the pistol underneath the bar just below where he sat.

From the first line, it was clear that the perspective was Devon's.  We're in his head, hearing his thoughts, and seeing the world through his eyes. Yes, you introduce the idea that he is psychic, later--but the reader doesn't have any reason to know or even suspect that yet. You've haven't revealed it, so you these two lines come off as "head-hopping." And I think they are. 

In this case, its a really easy fix. Two lines, and the rest is pretty slick. I do agree with the previous comment though that "Death Dealer" is a little bit purple. Okay, completely corny. I'm sure you can do better.  Put yourself in Devon's shoes: he wants her to believe him. Wouldn't he try to minimize what he's telling her?  Make it sound less crazy, with euphemisms and metaphors first?  Kind of like telling a someone you just met that you are a legendary adult film star.  "I do a little acting . . . They're sort of romances, mostly. . ." You get the picture?   

   

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Bar. 2100 words. Fiction. Some language.
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2019, 09:06:11 AM »
Thanks for the feedback.

I see your point, and I was going for a  . . . well, a look thing. She looks visibly more comfortable and okay with the handshake.


Yes, I know. Death Dealer is crap.

This is really part of a bigger whirlwind of an idea in my head and would be something that takes place towards the end.

I guess that doesn't matter, though, for this.


Thanks. Your comments have given me (more)stuff to think about.
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)