Burning Bright

A World of Darkness short story

By Jay Osako

Part 1 : Roadhouse Blues

It was about an hour before opening, and I was hooking up a fresh keg of Anchor Steam for the evening’s customers when I heard a knocking at the door. Probably some early customer, I thought, or else a band showing up to set up – it was Walk-Up Night, after all. I let’em wait. If the were in such a fucking rush, they wouldn’t stay here anyway, as either customers or entertainment.

Once I was done, I walked down to the front to let them in. I was figuring it was Mickey and Mallory, a local duo whose music sounds like tortured elephants and who I’d warned not to bother coming ‘round anymore. Not to sound biased, but they’re no good for this place; they piss off the regulars, who are mostly looking for jazz or covers of older rock, and they ripped us off more than once, too.

More to the point, there’s no Glamour, no real inspiration, in the sounds they make. And without that, they might as well be bystanders. That’s the point of owning this dive, after all.

But instead, when I opened the door I was looking down at this fucking kid. I mean, she wasn’t more than 14 or 15, at most. She came up to about my shoulders on tiptoes, I figured, and that wierd axe she had slung over her back musta wieghted about half what she did. She was decked out in Goth style, pale white skin and jet black everything else, with long, kinky hair cascading down one side. She even did the Eye of Horus eyeshadow bit.

I was about to tell her to get lost; the last thing I needed was a citation for serving minors. But before I could she, swung a matte black box in my direction.

"Take this for me, Harry," she said, in a contralto voice three sizes too big for her, "Its got my sound settings all preloaded, so don’t dick around with it. Don’t worry about the amps, it should match yours OK."

I was speechless, completely stunned. The balls on this little bitch, thinking she can come in here like it was nothing...

Then I did something strange. I took the equalizer, and without a word, brought it back to the stage and hooked it up. Yep, no problem; it was as if she’d known what equipment I had already.

"Listen," she said, as I worked on the sound system, " I’m not gonna give you any grief. I’ll stick to club soda, and I’ll stay in back till my set’s up."

I grunted noncommitally. I knew damn well that it wasn’t good enough; her just being here alone was enough to get me shut down. But for some reason I couldn’t say no; it was as if it was already decided, by her, and I hadda go along. In fact, I guessed that that was exactly what was happening; that she had laid some kind of Wyrd on poor ol’ me, and I was gonna have to ride it out.

Bad fucking manners, I’d say, especially for a guest in my own fucking freehold. But what could I do?

After that, she ducked in back, and I immediately forgot about her completely; it was as if she’d never been here, except for the sound gear on the stage. I went back to getting the Mariner Bar & Grill open for the night.