For this week's feeding we offer up "The Wrong Side of Town" by Steve Sibra,
STEVE SIBRA grew up in eastern Montana in the 1960s. Monsters roamed the barren plains which surrounded him so he spent his time writing stories to help ward them off. Steve now lives safely in Seattle. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Matador Review, Blue Mountain Review, Jersey Devil Press and elsewhere. You can follow him on Facebook at Steve Sibra, Author of Poems and Stories.
The Wrong Side of Town
By Steve Sibra
I was on the south side in an unfamiliar neighborhood after a client meeting was cancelled. I noticed a bar with a very odd name and decided to go in and kill some time.
I don’t know what came over me. Inexplicably a bottle of bourbon ate me alive. I was on the floor -- literally, on all fours, between two bar stools. The room was shaking and I knew either I had just vomited or I was just about to.
As I was reeling, a big hairy guy with a top hat and a worn leather coat grabbed me by the shoulders and picked me up. He held me off the ground, right in front of him. He shook my shoulders.
“I’m HUNGRY! I want BREAKFAST!” he roared. His breath was like a garbage dump in the mid-afternoon sunshine. I tried to turn my face away.
“I want breakfast!” he said again, giving me another shake. I raised my head slightly and my eyes met his.
“Comin’ right up,” I blurted, and then I vomited forcefully all over the front of him. My guts splattered on him from his chest down to his ankles. I tried my damnedest not to, but somehow, eyes mostly closed, I let a silly smile crawl across my face.
That was when this gigantic brute did some things to me. I didn’t really know what was happening but it was painful. It ended when he hurled me through the front window of the place.
I came to sitting propped against a brick wall which turned out to be in the alley just around the corner from the front of the bar. Every square inch ached – inside and out. Eventually I took inventory and discovered that my wallet was gone. There was a small scrap of paper in my pocket. It said, “You owe me for the window and general cleanup. Also for the bottle of bourbon. I have your wallet. See me inside.”
About ten or fifteen minutes later I managed to stumble through the front door of the bar. The window had been replaced temporarily with a large piece of cardboard, making it even darker inside. I spied a clock which said it was almost five p.m. I had been out cold for more than five hours.
The man behind the bar did not look familiar. The one that I remembered had been a regular human while this one had the head of a bright red cartoon devil. It was a mask, of course. I hoped.
But why? Why a devil mask? I asked but got no answer. Instead the barkeep reached under the bar and then tossed my wallet back to me.
All but six dollars of the cash was gone. I remembered having more like four hundred in it when I had come in that morning. I looked up at the man behind the bar.
“You’re lucky I left you six,” he said. “I like you.” His voice was quite muffled by the plastic mask.
I nodded. “Where’s the Mack truck that hit me?” I asked.
“Brick Head? He left right after he was done with you. Which took him about two minutes.”
My left ear was bleeding. I could feel a loose flap of flesh hanging from it. The bartender saw me messing with it and threw me a box of Band-aids.
“Do I owe you six dollars for those by any chance?” When I got the box open I promptly dropped half of the contents on the floor. I heard the barkeep chuckle a bit under the mask.
My eyes now accustomed to the darkness in the place, I looked around. There was not much for fellow clientele. I saw two men at a table; at least I thought they were men but they were also wearing Halloween type masks. One was a cartoon woodpecker with a broad, almost maniacal grin. The fellow across from him had on some mask that looked like some sort of cartoon gorilla with a derby on his head.
At another table was s middle-aged man, dressed like a business person (a bit threadbare), and he was not wearing any kind of a mask. He kept looking at his watch and seemed more than a little nervous.
As I was watching he wiped his heavy brow with a dirty handkerchief and retrieved his tattered hat from the chair next to him. He rose in a rush and headed towards the exit.
“Hey, Clem!” I called to him but he paid no attention. I was going to offer to buy him a drink (six dollars or less) if he would stick around and afford me some human companionship amongst the Saturday Morning Cartoon line-up. But just like that, he was gone.
I turned back to Devil Mask. He was washing out glasses. “What did you call that guy . . . Brick Shit House? Man, was he even human? He was the size of a long nightmare and he was hollering at me about breakfast, if I remember right.”
No answer for what seemed like two minutes. “Brick Head,” the bartender finally said. “Other than that, you remember correctly.”
I became aware of what felt like a small but growing earthquake. A glass on the bar was jiggling ever so slightly; the liquid inside displayed shock waves. As I watched the movement seemed to increase, and then I felt the entire room shaking. Whatever was happening, it was increasing.
“What the hell is that about?” I asked. The bartender stopped with his clean-up tasks and looked straight at me. I could almost see an expression on his red devil face. I was less than jovial.
“Rather than ask that,” he said, “You might want to get out in the street and use that six bucks to see how far some cabbie can get you from this neighborhood.”
“What? What does that mean? I don’t even know what neighborhood I’m in. I can’t even remember the name of this bar and that’s what brought me in here, I think.”
He shook his red devil head and returned to his task. I saw that the woodpecker and Magilla were now sitting straight up in their chairs and it looked like they were trying to hold their bodies as still as possible. The joint was really starting to rumble.
There was a rhythm to it. It was like footsteps. Like someone climbing some staircase. From way, way, way down deep below us.
The glass on the bar jumped off and smashed on the floor. My stool nearly fell over. The devil bartender stood completely still and I heard him mutter something that sounded like: “The demons don’t pay any attention to other demons. They only want humans.”
I was starting to ask him what the hell he was mumbling about when suddenly a huge stone door on the far wall of the bar slid open. I hadn’t even seen the door before but it looked like it weighed five hundred pounds. It was dark in the bar but I could see the gigantic forms of three figures who slowly stepped from behind the door and into the bar. Their footsteps were so heavy I thought my stool might unbolt itself from the floor.
My senses were struggling to figure out what I was looking at, but in just a few seconds I recognized the lead intruder as Brick Head. Only it wasn’t quite him. It looked like him, but now he seemed even bigger. He still had on the top hat and the leather. But his face was horribly contorted and – aloud I said, “Those look like –“
“Fangs,” I heard the man behind the bar say.
I realized that Brick Head was now looking straight at me. He was huffing as he exhaled each breath and the dust on the floor of the bar was swirling about his feet. It was like a bull in the ring somewhere in South America.
“Dinner! DINNER!” the monster’s voice roared through the barroom. The other two behind him were growling and wheezing. They all started to move forward.
“I am HUNGRY!” said Brick Head. He was drooling. “I missed breakfast and I want my DINNER!” I looked around but the other two masked patrons had disappeared, the bartender was nowhere to be seen, and the other two giants had moved out like wingmen, flanking me. I looked back at Brick Head. Slime was running from the corner of his mouth down his hairy chin. I could smell it. He smelled like whiskey and vomit.
I was frozen, my back against the bar. “What kind of place is this, anyway?” I screamed.
As the monstrous carnivore reached for me I felt my bladder release. Just before his gnarly hand gripped me by the throat and crushed my windpipe, I heard the voice of the bartender from over my shoulder.
“The name of this bar,” he said flatly, “is ‘Where Monsters Dwell.’”
We hope your monster is satisfied. Bring it again next week for another feeding.
*The Wrong Side of Town © Steve Sibre.