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July 15, 2024

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 33

By Lydia Manx

Just like my visit with Ruby to the neighborhood bar, I doubted if I got more than a few mouthfuls of food before Eddie polished off the appetizer platter we'd just been served. The food was decent, but I wouldn't have practically licked the plate clean like Eddie had. I wondered about him again. He seemed to have a lust for life and lives that went beyond what I'd seen with the numerous supernatural creatures that I'd met throughout my life. The attention definitely fed his claims of being a god in his world rather well. I found it oddly distasteful, not ever having given too much thought to religion and theology when I was growing up and training as a hunter. Just the idea that gods and goddesses still wandered his world gave me the disconcerting impression that they may not have totally fled my known world. After all, I'd been hunting things that go 'thump' in the night far too long to believe that humans were the only apex creatures that walked and talked a good game.

Mentally I gave Eddie a rather pointed thought to stop acting up. He looked over at me and winked. "You worry too much, Delilah! I am perfectly fine and we are having fun. Just you relax and enjoy. We'll venture out soon. I simply am savoring the crowd and being here with you." I found that overly smarmy, but he hadn't exactly done anything wrong yet ... there was just that nagging premonition of disaster ahead with this creature by my side.

Then I found myself dismayed to see two patrons wave to Eddie as Todd-Bob brought over another shot of Jack Daniels with another of the icy bottles from the local brewery offering that Eddie had requested earlier. Eddie was knocking back his liquor at a fast pace, and I knew that I didn't have disposable income on hand to keep him fueled. He didn't seem to be in the least concerned about the tab. That was going to be another discussion that he and I would have to be having really soon I knew. There was no way I was going to use any of my credit cards -- not that I had many -- and eventually my hard cash would disappear, and I would be stuck either giving up my location via an ATM or using a card some place with too many cameras. Archie would have the downloads before I could spend the cash -- that was the one thing that the Council excelled at, finding humans or non-humans rapidly from security footage and other shadow-filled sources.

"Courtesy of the Prices over there." The bartender indicated the two fawning folks belly up to the far side of the bar. They were in their mid-fifties or so, but I knew that with California folks it was hard to tell at times peoples' ages. Between all the sun-tanning and later all the nips and tucks, guessing ages were a crap shoot. From their postures and the bleached white teeth, mid-fifties seemed to be as good a guess as any.

Todd-Bob looked at me and raised an eyebrow, "They offered to buy you another glass of wine, but I told them I'd ask you first -- you must be driving since you aren't really drinking." It was a good guess, but I didn't have a car. My half glass of wine left went pretty much untouched while we'd been eating and I found myself wanting to keep my wits about me. But I did appreciate the couple picking up his shot and local probably pricey beer. Eddie was proving to be almost as difficult as I'd feared he might be.

"No, thank you. Let them know I appreciated their offer." I mentally willed the now overly-friendly bartender to walk away. He ignored me and instead smiled oddly at Eddie and asked, "Is there anything else I can get you?"

He wasn't very comfortable smiling and it was pretty obvious to me that Eddie had pulled that out of the man. Todd-Bob's macho demeanor was somewhat destroyed by the slight gap in his teeth. Eddie's eyes were glowing brightly green and I was surprised nobody had commented aloud about them. It was then I saw that librarian type skitter into the bar and sit down at the counter, in approximately same spot she'd had last time I'd been here with Ruby. She noticed us immediately, and her spine stiffened in shock. I watched her physically shake off whatever was disturbing her while her eyes flared with emotion.

"Not to interrupt but,"she raised her voice loudly to carry all the way to us, "Todd? Where's my hot tea and sandwich?" So I quickly gathered that she frequented the bar often and expected immediate service. I saw there had been a set of flatware placed where she'd selected to sit and a bowl of the pretzel mix to the right of that.

It was then I saw her eyes glance over Eddie and her mouth tighten. From the flicker in her gaze, I was pretty sure she either knew Eddie or had some idea of who or what he was. Eddie dismissed Todd with a casual flapping gesture and said, "Please see to the loud woman over there. She seems to think she has to have your attention immediately." I nearly heard the snarl behind his words and the woman in question definitely took offense.

His tones were snarky and his features had clenched slightly. Eddie wasn't happy at being ignored for someone else, and the woman's highhandedly summoning the bartender over seemed to hit a major nerve. He must have recognized the lady or at least had a guess who she was, and he was deliberately rudely dismissing her for all to hear, again ignoring my suggestion that he stay in the background and let me run the show. I probably hadn't been direct enough in my thoughts on the matter, or he had simply ignored it, since it was pretty apparent that he did what he wanted. Her face boiled with blood and anger. She made an odd bird-like sound deep in her throat. A smile flashed over Eddie's face and he turned away from her to find me staring at him.

"What? That creature? Meaningless. A crackle of nothingness that apparently litters your world, I'd say. She thinks she is more than what she is and I find it rather comical." He wasn't the one watching her boil over with sheer anger like I was, so I was pretty surprised when he turned slightly and flicked his fingers towards her and she rocked back on her bar stool slightly like he'd made physical contact with her. Todd was missing having flown to the kitchen for her meal and none of the other patrons seem to notice anything happening.

I noticed.

Her face went ash-white and whatever she'd begun to mutter beneath her breath was erased by Eddie's gesture. She crumpled inside herself and literally went slack. Her face was unmarred by her anger and she looked to me like a wax figure of the lady who'd been glaring at Eddie and wishing him a world of hurt. Todd-Bob quickly brought out her tea and a sandwich and she barely blinked. Not saying a word, nearly catatonic, she mechanically ate. The bartender didn't notice because he'd quickly returned to our section of the bar.

"Another round, my friend?" Todd-Bob looked at Eddie while still beaming oddly. I found the smile too creepy for words, but Eddie appeared to find it acceptable. I nearly snapped my fingers as it dawned on me that it reminded me of apes at the zoo staring down humans outside their cages while grinning to show their sharp and dangerous teeth. Todd-Bob might be acting as if he found Eddie entrancing, but something in his animal brain from the 'way back when time' of early humans knew that Eddie wasn't what he seemed. I was pretty sure once Eddie walked out that the bartender would be furious for no apparent reason having survived the encounter with the deity. The flight-or-fight stimulus would overwhelm the man most definitely.

"This one is courtesy of those folks partying over at that table," he indicated a group of college age boys hooting a bit at something on the television while doing shots of white liquor -- vodka or tequila, it didn't matter, because they were all getting plowed. Accepting the shot from the bartender, Eddie hoisted it to the men thankfully and they hoisted up their own shot glasses in reply. They all slammed back the liquor and laughed manically as Eddie tipped his head back, verbally thanking them after finishing his shot. He didn't look like the alcohol was even touching him, while the boys were getting wilder by the second. Chills ran over my skin as I absorbed the energy building in the bar. I didn't need to pull my pendant free to see that there was a swelling of toxic energy building. Things were starting to slide into place with unknown horrors chasing the edges. Every cell in my body craved escape after zapping them all neutral. All the while Eddie was beaming and glowing.

Looking directly into Eddie's eyes I said, "Stop."

A fleeting bit of what could have been guilt slid over his features, then his usual self-absorbed arrogance reappeared. Sullen and childish came his expected reply. "I'm not doing anything."

"Okay, then you are on your own. Enjoy paying the tab and escaping without a bunch of the locals here following you like hungry puppies." I whispered softly while I slid off the bar stool and sketched a wave to Todd-Bob. "Catch you later. Eddie here is paying and he's said he going to buy you all another round on him!"

While Eddie looked shocked, I fled rapidly. With all the new found friends he'd made, his way was blocked by numerous bodies. It took me a minute to get to the door and I was five blocks south before I felt Eddie racing up behind me.

"Why did you do that?" He was nearly breathless and looking a tad frantic.

"What? They all bought you rounds, it was your turn." I bit back a smile and kept walking towards the downtown section of San Diego. I knew that from there I could catch a train and head north. Something was pulling me in that direction on the coast. With everything going on, I figured I would listen to my gut instead of the insane babbling of those near me.

"I didn't have any actual money," he was whining which I found pretty funny. He hadn't given a thought to if I had money when he was ordering.

"So what did you do? Did you leave without paying them?" I spun on my heel and was no more than five inches from his face. His eyes weren't nearly as green as they'd been twenty minutes ago.

"No, I gave the Prices one of the gems I'd brought with me in exchange for this cloth paper you call money here. I doubt I got anything near the value, but I was allowed to leave without damage," I was happy to hear that he'd thought to tuck some gems somewhere on him or the cat to carry with him, and oddly amused by his panicked story. He wasn't looking anywhere like a deity now, and I found that to be comforting. He wasn't as all in control as he had projected.

"Let me see what the Prices gave you," I pulled him into one of the many alleys littering the landscape. I didn't find any humans in the corners, but I felt the flicker of a pixie and a small brownie. They were keeping to themselves and found Eddie to be scary. I didn't blame them.

Eddie pulled out a fistful of bills and I saw that he'd been given a sheath of hundreds and a few fifties. Without a word I counted to myself the bills. He'd been given over five thousand dollars.

"Did Mrs. Price have to open her purse for this?" I was curious.

"No, actually the man had it all in his pocket and wallet. I didn't see how much it was but he had plenty more." Eddie looked anxiously in to my eyes as if seeking my approval. Obviously he hadn't been here for a long time. He was more than likely cheated by the couple, but then it was more than I had in my wallet, so I nodded and tucked the money in my bag. I wasn't stupid after all, and he seemed to have enough gems to fuel the quest he'd set me on ... and I wasn't going to worry about it for now.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-08-17
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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