You know that feeling you get when everything is going great?
I wish I did.
I took off down the concrete steps and into the night. I hung a quick right down the sidewalk and into the mess of tall buildings, loud noises, and people everywhere. The game must have just finished as the streets were a sea of hometown jerseys. From the look of the crowd, the good guys must have won. I had bet on them to lose.
I really needed to get out of here.
I walked at a good pace for a few blocks until I couldn’t handle it any longer. The weather was the last thing I should be worried about right now, but tonight it was inconceivable. The winters in this place were ungodly cold, full of wind, snow, and ice. Tonight was the worst I’ve ever felt, and I wasn’t dressed for it at all, even if I had remembered my jacket.
I couldn’t feel my face and I needed to get inside fast — to get warm and to get a drink.
The flickering neon sign said Molly’s Place. It had a brick exterior with a couple of apartments up top. There were two Harley's parked alongside the building in the alley and a working girl out front on the sidewalk. Not my usual place, but it should do the trick. It was far enough away from the upscale joints and cop bars that I wanted to avoid. I wasn't in the mood for company. Molly’s looked like somewhere I could just be alone and hide. I’d been living in this God-forsaken city for years, but it felt like I just got here. I had never even seen this place before. So much left to explore.
I went inside and the warmth hit my face hard. I could feel my ears and cheeks burn. I don’t know what the temperature was outside but it was absolutely perfect in here. I stood at the door for a few seconds, caught my breath and looked around. It was an older place. Only a few people were inside. Most were sitting alone. None of them even looked up from their phones when I walked in.
Molly’s had wooden-backed chairs that just might be originals with red leather cushions for seats. A gold and red entrance carpet led to dark hardwood floors that seemed to extend up the walls. Vintage alcohol signs from around the world surrounded the interior and gave off a ‘hard drinkers are welcome here’ vibe.
The bar was off to the left side and had a decent amount of liquor bottles behind it. The bartender, who looked like he might be an original himself, sized me up to see if I was a worthy patron as he methodically polished some glasses.
“You might want to clean the blood off your hands.” He said calmly.
He looked 20 years my senior, and even if he was sixty he was also twice my size — and he looked damn sure like he knew how to take care of himself. He had steely blue eyes with a closely cropped haircut and a well manicured medium length grey beard. He was even wearing a white shirt with a black vest and looked very much like a classic bartender. Maybe he was Molly?
I probably wasn't the first person to walk in here with blood on him, so I didn’t bother to ask. Instead, I went straight to the washroom to go clean myself up.
When I returned, I ordered a whiskey neat and thanked Molly with a $10 tip and took a seat near the back. I pulled out my phone and noticed I had a few text messages. I didn't feel like reading them. Not right now. I turned my notifications off and scrolled through the news instead.
"Chimerical City's Homeless Crisis Deepens: Calls for Urgent Action."
"Scandalous Revelations in Chimerical City's Elite Circles: Corruption Exposed."
"Chimerical City Social Media Celebrities Parade is on Saturday."
"Thousands attend Ted Rally to protest the Faang Government."
"Local family is upset over police inaction in missing person case."
"City Council to vote on banning personal gardens as a health precaution after someone dies from homegrown food."
As usual, the news was depressing.
As I looked out the windows of the bar, I couldn't help but feel disgusted by the world around me. Everywhere I looked, people were desperate to be famous, to be seen, to be known. But I knew the reality was that most of them would never make it. They would just end up as another forgotten face, another forgotten dream. The streets of Chimerical City were littered with them.
I was just getting up to leave, and she walked in…