Friday, February 3, 2017

The Drinking Partner

The Drinking Partner
Bobby Derie

Chalk scratched on the stone floor of the basement. The hour came, the incense burned, the terrible names echoed off the bare brick walls. Homemade candles of human tallow sputtered as the flames tinged green. In the shadows was a presence; of them, draped by them, small and dark yet regal as a fallen empress; she did not come from anywhere, but might have stood there for all this time, waiting for the words to be spoken.

The demon stalked forward, touched the sacrifice.

"You have called me in the old ways, according to the proper rites and formula. Who then dares summon..."

A hand broke the circle, holding a bottle of Johnny Walker black label.

"I want you to have a drink with me." The sorcerer said. She pointed to the bar, which filled a half-finished corner of the basement, warm brown wood and brass. There were glasses and stools, cocktail napkins and pickled onions, stirrers and shakers and a block of ice in the chest.

The demon hesitated, then shrugged.

Despite keeping the Johnny Walker close at hand, the sorcerer actually started them off with beer cocktails. She mixed them carefully - the base was some local craftbrew Pilsner - and the demon took the opportunity to examine her erstwhile summoner.

Hair that was just a said too brown to be pure black, tied back at the moment. Eyes as warm as a wounded puppy's. A hard line to the mouth, with the hint of sagging laugh lines in the decades to come, if she had decades. The arms and fingers were thin, but strong, callused. Beneath the ritual robe there were hints of workout clothes, and the sweat made it cling to her in all the right places. No shoes, and the feet were dirty as a hobbit's. No makeup, no painted nails. No amulets or charms, either. A woman who presented as she was, no more or less.

The demon sipped her drink, and surprisingly, found it was good. The sorcerer, for her part, drank hers smoothly but evenly. Her eyes played over the demon once or twice, careful not to be caught staring, but the demon smiled and caught her eyes anyway.

"You want an Old Fashioned?" the summoner said.

The demon made a face. "Yes," she said. "But let me. Mortals never do it right."

Hands with fingers just a little too long wove their simple magic with bourbon and sugar, soda and bitters. She ended with a simple flourish - a snap of her fingers that briefly limned the drinks in flame, then blew them out. The resulting cocktail was warm to the tongue, though not quite as hot as fresh blood from the tap.

"Is it about a man?" the demon asked.

"A woman," the sorcerer replied, savoring her drink.

"Ah. Yes, I know about women. So you called me for...companionship?" She traced one nail down the center of her chest, letting the shadows fall away to reveal the line of breasts on her left-hand side.

"Not that kind." The sorcerer speared a pickled onion from the jar.

"I just...needed somebody to drink with. I didn't want to go out, to a bar. Out on the market again. I didn't want to drink alone. Do you understand that?"

The demon sighed, though she did not cover up. "Yes, I know about being alone. Only too well. Did you want to talk about it?"

"Sure. But how about some sangria? I've been dying for a sangria all day, but I wanted to do the ritual sober."

"Yes, that was wise. I do not believe I have had a...sangria."

As she fetched the fruit and cutting board, the demon watched her.

"I do not wish to spoil the mood, but you know how this ends?" The demon said. "If you called me, you know my price in all things."

The sorcerer's hands did not shake as she chopped the fruit. "I knew how this would end long before I called you. I knew it when I first took her hands and let her drag me onto the dance floor. When we fell into bed at the end of the night, dizzy and drunk and sticky. When...when she left, for first time and for the last time." She poured the wine into the mason jars. "I was gifted with the knowledge of how and when I would die, and I knew it wouldn't be with her. I knew it would be with you, and I knew it would be tonight."

She slid the drink toward the demon.

"So, drink up. Because it's my party, and I can die how I want to."

The demon smiled and raised her jar in toast. The glass clinked, the pact sealed.


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