Friday, July 24, 2015

Day Eight-Hundred-Ninety: Hi

The bar, through some miracle, was empty.

Dragomir wasn’t too surprised. The parties of Pubton seemed to be raging almost exclusively in the streets, the product of good weather and a desire for the entire city - or as much of the city seemed amenable - to get in on the act. Not everyone could cram themselves into this small hole-in-the-wall - nor were they likely to, as Pubton had two other, larger, cleaner venues to choose from as well. The Hog’s Arse was not a terribly auspicious choice. Still, it seemed strange that even the proprietor wasn’t in the pub, cleaning up after the dinner crowd.

Don’t worry about that none, Dragomir thought, pushing the door open, the city’s skeleton key in his hand. He’d stolen it from Harold’s office. Get a drink. Get. A. Drink.

Closing the door behind him, Dragomir took a quick look around. The pub was enshrouded in darkness and silence, an alcohol-smelling tomb of the foulest kind. Most of the chairs were tipped over; your shoes stuck to the floor whenever you took a step; the countertop, and indeed most of the tables, was coated in a sickly mess of who-knows-what; and the only source of illumination was a single, burning candle, apparently ignored by the owner. Dragomir scowled, thinking of the fire codes he’d tried to institute as mayor.

The thought gave him pause once the rage had subsided. “Mayor,” he murmured, voice dry and rattling. It seemed so long ago, his time as mayor. The long days of toiling to build a community from the ground up. Created from a single pub. (And a much better one than this.) What an accomplishment! Back then he’d known exactly what he needed to do, because the people constantly told him what needed to be done, and he could see exactly what their demands entailed. Somebody needs water? Fine! You dig a damned well. Easy-peasy.

War did not work the same way. War dealt with possibilities. War was a gamble. Building a city was the same, but the results were often more predictable. Constructing that same well typically resulted in benefits. Everybody needs water. But sending a contingent soldiers off to fight a battalion of Non… sometimes they would win, sometimes they would not. When they did not win, they usually died. No doubt their odds could be stacked through proper implementation of strategy, tactics, and all that bullshit, but Dragomir had never properly learned how to act the commander.

That was your job, old man. You barely got me started on the basics.

Dragomir shook his head. Thinking about the past hurt too much. Why was he considering this shit in the first place? He’d come here to forget, not to remember.

Creeping across the pub - even though he’d thoroughly checked from the outside to make sure no one was lingering here - Dragomir made for the bar. He’d spent incredibly little time in any pub of Pubton since the beginning of the campaign against the Non. Indeed, he’d spent little time in Pubton itself. Still, he knew he would find the alcohol beneath the lip of the bar, and after one final sweeping confirmation that he was alone he craned over the bar and grabbed for any bottle he could find. It didn’t take long to find a particularly odorific cask filled with sloshing amber liquid.

I wonder if Grayson ever got drunk while he was on the road, Dragomir thought, staring at the bottle in the dim candlelight. Bet that June bitch got ‘im sloshed a few times. Just for laughs. Well, they’re both gone, now, so… guess it’s moot…

Dragomir shook his head. More strange thoughts. What did Grayson have to do with anything? He was dead. He was gone. Officially, this time. Good riddance. Fuck ‘im.


Gone, along with… so many other people.

Dragomir plopped down onto a stool. He yanked at the cork in the bottle, and it came free with a gentle pop. As he raised the cask to his lips - Gods, that fuckin’ smell, that’s foul - the names of the fallen dead zipped through his mind, unbidden, unwanted, unneeded. Robert. Edmund. Grylock. Pagan. Celine. Morris. Hell, even Bernard. And now… Dragomir’s own son… his son -

Dragomir took a deep swig. The alcohol flowed liberally into his mouth, sloshing from one cheek to the other, burning all the way down his throat. He choked on the first big gulp, pitching forward as burning fumes snorted out his nostrils. He braced himself, pounding the table with one hand, and, after a moment’s reprise, took another, smaller drink. It burned no less than the first, and he gagged on the terrible taste.

“Ugh, what is this shit?” Dragomir grunted, twisting the bottle to see the name in the candlelight. It was too dim, however, and he had to practically shove the bottle into the flame to discover that it was a mystery liquid, with no label. He could have been drinking turpentine, for all he -

“It’s Demitre ’64,” a familiar voice said from behind the bar. “Not a good year. Demitre didn’t know shit about making booze. Though you’d find just about any alcohol foul, kiddo. It’s a physiology thing.”

Dragomir jolted to a halt. The bottle tumbled from his fingers, hit the ground, rolled, and emptied the remaining liquid onto the floorboards. The burning sensation that tickled the back of Dragomir’s throat froze, as though someone had shoved a block of ice into his mouth, and his eyes took turns twitching. His mouth worked in strained spasms, trying to utter a word he didn’t want to say. A name.

Eventually, after several pregnant seconds of silence, he managed a raspy “You.”

“Me,” Litobora the Many replied from the other end of the bar. She raised a glass. “Cheers.”

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