Jun 2, 2015

Wonderbook Exercise: Last Drink, Bird Head

You can check out the exercise here. The images below are meant for inspiration. These are from the site, click on the link to see more. As you can see, the exercise led to the anthology below being published. Mine's a little long, but as the point was to get writing, I wasn't too strict about that.
One For the Road

The bar was called The Last Drink. John's hands shook a little as he pushed the door open, wincing at the creak it made. Who still had manual doors in this day and age? That last bottle had been a mistake; his head ached and it felt like thousands of tiny insects were crawling around on his skin.  He tried to focus. The alien who impounded his ship had said that this place would fix him, for good. John didn't see how. It seemed like any other drinking establishment on this boondock mining world: dirty floors, faux-wood furniture, and the stink old booze and new hangovers hanging in the air.
      The bartender motioned him to pull up a stool. It was one of those self-molding ones. They always made John feel uncomfortable, like someone was copping a feel.
      "Last drink, eh?" the bartender said as he stuffed brilliant-blue beetles into a bottle of green brew.
      "Is it true, then? You can cure me?" John asked.
      "Don't know about cure, but this will be your last drink, for sure.There was something cruel behind the bartender's smile, and his teeth were a little too sharp, a little too white.

      John fidgeted with a cocktail stick that someone had left on the bar and looked at the man from the corner of his eye. Something not quite right about that one.  Maybe he should leave? But he couldn't. This was his last chance. No backing out now.
       "Let's do this,John said, tossing the cocktail stick into the waste disposal.

      "You want to have a few regular ones first? To say good-bye?"
      "Yeah, I guess."
      "What's your poison?"
      John cringed at the bartender's choice of words. "Aldebaran whiskey, if you have it."
      The man took down a green bottle from the shelf behind him. The label had a hologram of a slowly rotating whirlpool on it. Maelstrom, 2255. Good year. The bartender poured a generous amount into a glass and placed it in front of him.
      John downed it in one shot. After three more he slowed down to a more leisurely pace. The whiskey filled him with its familiar, comforting warmth. Nothing better in the world. What the hell was he thinking, even considering giving this up? But then he thought about Katya and that final fight before she left him, the loathing in her eyes as she gathered her things. He had gone on a two-week bender after that and lost his job. He had blamed her for it, of course, and bought more hard liquor with his severance pay. Things had been okay for a while, but then they had taken his ship. No one left to blame, now. No one but himself. He finished the drink and pushed the glass away.
      "All right. I'm ready."
      The bartender looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "You sure you want to do this?"
      "Of course. I have to ask. So many lose their nerve. Now, here's your last drink." He took a green bottle in the shape of a long-beaked bird in flight down from the shelf, blew off the dust, and then poured a thick yellow liquid into John's glass.  It looked like the thing was throwing up. John laughed drunkenly.
      "Here's to sobriety." He toasted the bartender and swallowed the liquid. It tasted foul, like the smell of a ship's recycling unit mixed with industrial soap. The bar dissolved into a rainbow of spinning shapes and the counter rushed up to meet his face. 

A throbbing pain, something crawling out of his left ear.  Slimy, wet.  It flapped down over his cheek and onto the counter.  A  skeletal bird with the gossamer wings of a dragonfly. Empty staring eyes in its skull. The bartender shoved it in a jar and closed the lid.
      "Another one for you, Jenny," he yelled.

      A pretty blond girl fetched the jar away. That was when John passed out.

John woke up in the morning with a splitting headache.
           The bartender handed him a glass of water. "You all right?"
           "Yes, I think so."
           "Want a drink?"
           John paused to consider. For the first time in years, he didn't. He really didn't.
           "No, I prefer water." He jumped up. It worked! It really worked! John got up to leave, but something was bothering him.       "Hey, how do you stay in business if all your clients stop drinking?"
           "Oh, it's not the alcohol we sell, really. We have clients with . . . special tastes."
           John shrugged. Fair enough. It was none of his business, anyway. He walked out of the bar, whistling.
In the dark cellars under the bar, a part of John's soul flapped its wings against the glass and screamed as the blond bartender poured liquor over it, shook it with ice, and poured it into the tall beaker in front of her client. The six-dimensional being downed it in one gulp in five dimensions and small, torturous sips in the sixth. It flashed and winked and sparkled at the bartender. She checked her translator. It offered half-a-dozen different options, but the closest translation was: Ah, that really hits the spot.


So that's mine. I wrote it about a year ago. I'd love to see what others came up with. Link in the comments if you want to share.

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