Maybe you thought this was your kind of place. Dank and gone to seed. The smell of stale piss that led you here must have comforted you, reminded you of something. What did you expect? Not this. Not us.
Squint your eyes. Let them adjust to the dimness, the gun smoke, the room much darker than night. Ain't no stars here. No moon. Flames are the only lights for us. Light needs to burn. In the jittery candlelight shadows jagged grins are carved into our jack-o-lantern faces.
Were you planning on meeting someone here? Where the fallen meet the damned. We are a tattered and torn regiment of the lost, the defeated, the orphans, the mutants. Unwanted, unloved. Love? That's the stuff sticking to the bottom of your shoes, the ash that coats the inside of our lungs. And it'll kill you like anything else in here, just slower, like starvation. Or maybe that's hate. What's the difference again?
Turn around, Pilgrim. Go back to where you came from. Unsee us. Forget us. If you can.
You took a wrong turn. You zigged when you should have zagged. You missed that left turn at Albuquerque. Those were our regrets you tripped over on the way in. We couldn't stand the stink of them.
Look closer now. Can you see the monsters in the back? Do not feed them. Scales for skin. Fangs for teeth. Claws for hands. Everything in here is dirty and sharp. Our lives. The drinks. What'll you have? You don't want what we're selling. One pill makes you smaller, the other makes you forget what planet you're on, what language you speak.
There's magic here, all black. Like the walls of the cauldron you've wandered into. This place is lousy with voodoo dolls. The ghosts leave chalk fingerprints on your wrists, on your neck, and their whispers hum like a plague of locusts.
Yes those are wings. Fly? Sort of. We can glide down, only down. Will you join us?
What did you come here for? No? To save us?
It feels good to laugh.
We can't be saved, won't be. We sold our souls for a jigger full of dreams. Nightmares, each sip makes us shiver. Besides, if you saved us, we couldn't sing.
That's what that sound is. The songs of the damned. Hypnotic isn't it? Magnetic, majestic.
You've walked into the wrong saloon. We don't serve your kind here. Last chance. Last call. Last dance. Get out before it's too late. Before she starts singing and gets her hooks into you.
And never lets go.
Formerly a network exec for 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, M.W. Miner has escaped back home to Connecticut with his wife and two daughters where he is finishing up a novel and hammering out a collection of short stories. He has a story appearing at Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, www.solsticelitmag.org/ice/.