‘Alright, I’m closing up. Get out of here, ya bunch of losers.’ Ryan looked around at the band of people still finishing their drinks, counting them off in his head. There was a new guy, tall and mysterious, definitely one who’d be a hit with the ladies or that way inclined gents. ‘Oi! I said I’m closing up!’ The new guy stood up groggily and stepped into the harsh neon lights. A Fortune Towers logo shone on his jumpsuit. ‘Ahh, shit. I didn’t realise you were Fortune!’
Jumpsuit just stared at him blankly. ‘G’Night Ry.’ Mayhew said, stumbling through the door at the back of the crowd. It was just Ryan and the Jumpsuit left.
‘Look, the last air cabs from here finished a good half hour ago. Why are you even in Paragon Glade after dark?’ Ryan switched off the screens and cranked up the lights, bathing the dingy bar in a sickly yellow glow. ‘I need to get the sterilisers in…’ He limped around the room, collecting the filthy glasses from the tables.
‘I gotta go home.’ The Jumpsuit finally spoke, a deep rumble that echoed around the bar.
‘Tough titties. There’s only one safe way back from Paragon to Fortune and that’s the air cabs. Maybe next time you’ll find a watering hole closer to your own patch!’ Ryan sniffed, and spat onto the floor. ‘Damn tourists. What are you even doing here?’
Jumpsuit sat on the high stool by the bar, raising slender fingers to his temples. ‘I got a message from someone. Said he wanted to talk about Fortune but he was a bit persona non grata in those parts.’ He sighed, and lowered his head as Ryan slid a double across the bar to him.
‘Drink up. You’re gonna want some dutch courage if you’re gonna get home tonight.’
‘Guess the joke’s on me anyway. He never showed.’ Jumpsuit put his head in his hands. ‘Took the day off. Bloke said he’d pay for the air cab when he showed up.’
Ryan looked around the bar, making sure that there was nobody left hiding in the toilets or passed out under the tables. ‘Look, pal, I know how you can get back. It ain’t pretty though.’ He leaned on the bar, claws resting on the stained and pitted surface. ‘It’s gonna take you through The Scar.’ The Scar. That terrible rent across the face of the world, passing straight through the middle of the city. An abyss, that like all abysses, housed the monsters of the city.
Jumpsuit looked suitably worried. ‘The only way to view The Scar, is with binoculars from afar.’ He said those words while staring into his whiskey, swirling it around the tumbler before drinking it all in one. ‘You want me to go through it?’
‘Oh no, no. I can put you up here if I really have to. But you said you wanted to go home. I’ve got a camp bed I can set up in the office, but you don’t want to be leaving little ones alone in Fortune. I hear the monsters are spreading further from The Scar every day. So, I guess it’s up to you.’ Ryan cracked the joints in his fingers, then picked up a second tumbler. His companion raised his own and let Ryan fill it.
‘There’s only one option, isn’t there? I’m headed through the Scar.’
‘Fair enough pal. Rather you than me.’ Ryan drained his glass and turned to the cupboards behind him. ‘I’ve got a map in here somewhere, but it’s a fairly easy path to follow. Head down Hangman’s Hill, hang a right at the opera house and then you should be headed straight for The Scar. Then it’s just across Smuggler’s Bridge and a straight run along to Fortune. Sounds easy when you put it like that, don’t it?’
Jumpsuit shrugged. ‘Like I said, I’ve got no choice. I’ll take the map. And another whiskey.’ It appeared, then vanished into Jumpsuit’s gullet. ‘If I ever find out who called me here, I’ll kill him.’
The door opened, a portal to the monster-ridden darkness. Jumpsuit stood, illuminated by the flashes of lightning, pausing before coming to a final decision. The door closed.
Ryan started whistling as he moved through to the office. ‘Corrigan.’ He moved to a computer terminal, glowing green. ‘Corrigan, you there?’
A tinny voice came from an old set of speakers. ‘Ryan. You got something for me?’
‘He fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. He’s on his way to Smuggler’s Bridge now.’ He said with a chuckle, leaning back in his chair. He drew a cigarette from the jewelled case on the desk, took a deep drag, and let the smoke hang in the air. ‘Let’s hope the monsters don’t get him.’
Stay away from the Scar. Would you bring in real monsters? Or do you consider the real monsters to be the men? Comments, queries and those niggly mistakes, let me know below!
The Idiot in Tin Foil