Hi there! Please enjoy this little short story.
The sign outside calls it the ‘Travellers Rest’, and it is unusual, to say the least. It is well-known that taverns and inns are passing points, gateways, places where the boundaries are blurred, thin. Most, however, have strict policies on other-worldlies, or ‘monsters’, ‘demons’, as they are often called by large men standing behind damp bars, wiping glasses with a greasy cloth and excusing the behaviour of sleazy men, because hey, they’re regular customers so if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.
Not here though.
This inn has corners where the lines don’t quite match, where you’ll only give yourself a headache trying to work out how all the angles work. You swear the music is always the same, yet it’s always so very different, rolling from rock to pop to classical, then a couple of tracks that sound like nothing that you’ve ever heard on earth, and get you far more drunk than the liquor in your glass. You swear that the lady sitting next to you has red eyes, but she flutters her eyelashes and you forget to care. The barman gives her a stern look and she sighs, wandering over to the pool tables and taking a piece of your heart along with her. Pixies take shots of starlight out of dolls-house cups, and drink their beer in thimbles, falling about laughing on the counter tops.
There are dangerous creatures here too.
The banshee requests her drink in sign language, careful not to get too drunk. She respects the barman, and his customers, and knows better than to make a sound. A Werewolf staggers in early, the night the full moon starts to wane, and the barman passes him a drink without a word, not asking questions about the stains on his hands, and he takes it gratefully. He knows he is always welcome here. The barman refuses to serve magic-wielders, the journeymen, crossing between worlds, when sparks start flicking from their fingertips with every hiccough. And he accepts coins from things that have no shape, wisps of shadow offering him currency made of metals never found on earth, and he passes them a goblet of something that glows like wildfire.
And he protects them all, here, in this corner between worlds.
Sometimes they walk through the door; yet more commonly they just appear, crossing where the boundary point is thinnest, seeping through the cracks in the mirror in the gender-neutral bathroom; how does one assign gender to a shadow, a demon, a flicker of light? They try to assume their most friendly form – they respect the bar has other customers – but sometimes they don’t quite manage it. Some of the humans leave with an angry stare towards the bar when a goblin arrives, but the barman just gives him a drink, on the house of course, for his inconvenience. He knows that the snarling leer he receives in return is really a smile.
The bar is always open, and all creatures are welcome.
But tonight – tonight something is wrong. The door is closed. No flickering light spills out onto the courtyard, no music comes from inside. The shadow that filters through the mirror is confused as to why the lights are off. What has happened here? It floats through to the bar, and sees that all is not well. Glasses lie shattered on the ground, a black drink like oil spilling off the end of the bar. The barman lies face down on the floor.
The shadow sends off a wail that rattles the worlds, and forth they come, the monsters, the demons, the creatures, and there is rage. Two witches carry away the barman, who is soon revived. The vampires pick up all the pieces of shattered glass – they do not bleed – and the pixies flutter round and light the lamps. The sirens fix the jukebox in the corner, the goblin cleans the counter-top, and then they all gather around, concerned, and ask what happened.
The barman is unhappy – he doesn’t want to tell them. Doesn’t want them to know that some people don’t approve of them being here, some people think that they shouldn’t be allowed. But the Werewolf works it out from his troubled stares.
“We can stop coming – it’s only going to happen again.” The others start to nod. They don’t want their human getting hurt. But the barman smiles.
He looks around at the assembled mass of monsters, and says,
“I think I’ve got enough protection – don’t you?”
And the sign outside, the one that labels it the Travellers Rest, is updated to say,
“All Creatures Welcome”.