Short Story: Libation

Fifteen steps led down to the bar, poured from the same concrete that had been used to form the foundations and the bulk of the building’s superstructure. Coarse and grey, they were already slightly worn from the passage of patrons even though the building had only been opened five years ago.

Some of those same feet had obviously paused from time to time in their journeys, judging by the grafitti that snaked along the walls in a tumble of images, names, entreaties and threats. Evan assumed it had started life as a mural designed to brighten the entrance and soften the brutal lines of the prefabricated building. Idle petty vandalism had not been kind since then.

The door to the bar was closed, as was the venue for now. A darker stain seemed to have puddled at the bottom of the stairwell; all that remained of the bartender whose body had been taken away this morning. Evan frowned and moved down the steps.
The skin on his arms prickled, and the back of his neck tingled.

He stepped over the scene of what the police were calling an accident and Looked. There it was, the faint shiver in the air in the form of an outline just next to the door. With a confidence he wasn’t really feeling, he called out:

“Come on, I can see you, no use hiding.” He reached for his cigarettes before remembered he’d given up and had a clear nicotine patch on his arm. He sighed and converted the motion of his arm into a general armpit scratch to save face.

“Look,” he said, “this is the third one this week, and it’s pure luck the poor sod is still breathing. What do you want?”

Evan waited and saw the shimmer grow stronger before resolving into the shadows and planes of a face, and then the body, of an old man. It looked like a sketch in the air, composed of streetlight and grimy concrete shadows.

“I just wanted a drink…”

The voice was thin and reedy, barely there like a dusty breeze. The shadows of the eyes were deep, dark, and empty; voids with all the warmth of a skull’s sockets. Evan peered at the apparition to see if he recognised the face.

“Clive? From the underpass? It’s you isn’t it?”

“Who? Clive? I just… I just wanted a drink…” The ghost shimmered and lost focus a moment before resolidifying. It looked around, caught in confusion and despair. Evan sighed and drew out his hip flask.

“You can’t keep asking the living for drinks. They have a hard enough time coping with spirits in shot glasses let along spirits that keep knocking at the door.” Evan unstoppered his flask. “Besides which, you can’t go in, you’re not only dead, you’re barred!”

He took pity on the ghost and poured out a small libation for Clive before starting the exorcism. The wayward ghost departed without complaint; probably assisted as much by the single malt as the prayer

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