For Chuck Wendig’s 1,000 word story in five parts, I continued Urban Spaceman‘s and Infinite Skies‘ tale about Joe’s Bar and the man who broke the world. Check out the challenge here–it’s not too late to join!
“Buy me a drink,” he said, bloodshot eyes meeting mine from further down the bar, “and I’ll tell you how I broke the world.”
I gave a snort, took a long swig of my G&T, and turned my attention back to the game being shown on Joe’s decrepit TV.
“Go on,” he insisted, in a voice ravaged by years of strong alcohol. “It’ll be worth it.”
Glancing around, I looked for help, but none of the other patrons of the grotty bar were paying attention to me being pestered by the old loon, and the bartender was very focused on cleaning a glass. The old man’s eyes bored into me from beneath his dirty mop of hair, and in the dim light of Joe’s Bar I saw the dark red stains on his grey trenchcoat.
“Alright.” The game was dull anyway. “What’s your poison?”
“Scotch on the rocks.”
I nodded at the barkeep, and the old man watched hungrily as the amber nectar was poured.
“Go on then,” I prompted him. “Tell me how you broke the world.”
He took a sip of his drink, gave a happy sigh, and looked up at me with those bloodshot eyes.
“It all started in 1939…”
“Wait,” I said. “1939? That was over two hundred years ago!”
“This is the story you paid for,” the old man grumbled. “Let me tell it.”
I nodded for him to continue.
“I could see what was coming,” he said after another sip of his scotch. “It was obvious. So I did what I did to cut it short.” He shuddered. “I forgot about consequences. No, that’s not right; I thought about consequences, I just didn’t think they’d be this.” He waved behind us.
I glanced at the only unique feature of Joe’s–the window–and jerked my head back. Everyone looks out that window, and no one can stand the sight of the shattered planet hanging above the lunar surface for more than an instant.
I drained my drink desperately and waved at the bartender for a refill. He cocked his head at the old man and I nodded for his refill too.
“Do you believe in magic?” the old man said quietly.
“No, of course not,” I said.
He jerked his head at the window.
“That’s not magic,” I said, “that’s just physics we haven’t discovered yet.”
He snorted his derision. “That’s what everyone says, but no one has yet explained the physics.”
“You’re saying magic broke the world?” I wondered how long the old guy had been drinking before I started buying.
“It sure as hell wasn’t science.” His voice was filled with rancor.
The bartender looked over and I saw his hand drift under the bar for the old baseball bat he kept there. I shook my head slightly.
“Anyway, I knew how to read the signs. The Second World War was brewing and that was all anyone was paying attention to. They didn’t know that all that mess was just the bigger stuff bubbling up. They used to say where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
I gave him a blank look and he shook his head.
“Forget the metaphors—what I’m saying is that there was something big going on and the war was just a side effect— a symptom, if you will,” he said.
“World War II was a symptom of whatever you say broke the world?” This was getting out of hand, I thought.
“That much evil—that much raw darkness—it spills over. One man can’t hold onto it, can’t contain it.”
I leaned closer to hear his next words and they sent a chill up my spine.