New horror for your Friday the 13th.
“Johnnie Walker Black. Rocks,” Carolyn said to the bartender. She sat at the bar and waited. She didn’t know where to look. It had been years since she had been anywhere alone without her phone. She saw an ancient and possibly apocryphal black phone on a lower shelf by the bartender with the long braids. Who would she call? She didn’t know anyone’s number. And she was too stunned to do anything but look straight ahead, seeing her pale reflection in the mirror behind the bar. The woman she saw looked like a ghost.
The word sounded ridiculous. Ghost? Is that why her doors slammed and a make-believe girl hijacked her phone? She stared past the bottles to the mirror behind the bar. Her face. Her short hair. No crazy horror movie blood streaks. No absent reflection. No forced reflection of a goblin or bewitched little girl scout with poisoned Samoas. Just her and her drink. And the woman who was now sitting next to her.
“Johnnie Walker. Neat. You got blue label?” the woman asked. The bartender raised his eyebrow.
“I know,” she said. The bartender shrugged and walked to the back of the bar, reaching on tiptoes for the blue-labeled bottle on the highest shelf. “Every time,” she said. “You think they’d start keeping it lower.”
“Maybe they don’t want it to get broken,” Carolyn said.
“Then they should tread more carefully,” the woman said. “It’s really fucking good scotch.”
“Yeah it is,” Carolyn said. And she didn’t know why she said that. Or why she had even ordered it. She never drank scotch. But she was now.
The bartender placed the really fucking good scotch in front of the woman. And not gently. The liquid tilted and swayed in the glass.
“He’s a shitty actor. I saw him in Medea in some trash theater in DUMBO. He was a lousy Jason. No wonder she killed his kids.”
Carolyn was quiet.
“That I can forgive. Not everyone has talent just because they want it. But not taking care of good scotch? That’s inexcusable.”
Carolyn smiled, still not wanting to talk.
“You’re not an actor, are you?” the woman asked.
“No,” Carolyn said.
“Pam,” the woman said, holding out her hand. “I know. Nun’s name.”
“Are you a nun?” Carolyn asked.
“Yes,” Pam said. Carolyn stared at her.
“Get out of here,” Carolyn said.
“Sacred sisters of booze and tobacco,” Pam said. “So, not an actor. Are you a nun?”
“Not yet,” Carolyn said. She rubbed her shin it was still sore from the crack it took earlier.
“You from the neighborhood?” Pam asked. Carolyn nodded, not giving anymore. Creeped out or not, she was still a minimal-information New Yorker. “Me too. Haven’t seen you here.”
“Look. Before you…I’m not interested.”
“I’m not asking,” Pam said. “But I’m interested.”
“Okay,” Carolyn said.
“Okay,” Pam said. She nodded to Carolyn’s drink. “Phone’s ringing.”
“No, it not mine. I forgot mine-“ Carolyn stopped. Her phone was on the bar, next to her drink. She knew she hadn’t brought it with her. She knew it. But there it was. And it was ringing. A standard old-fashioned phone ring.
“That’s not my fucking phone, “Carolyn said.
“Nope. Not a nun,” Pam said. “Well, honey, it ain’t mine.”
“I could have sworn that I left it-“ She stared at the phone. It stopped ringing. Carolyn took a swig of her drink, draining half of the glass.
“I like you. Too bad you’re not interested,” Pam said. She slowly sipped her own drink. A drop lingered at the corner of her mouth. Pam licked it away with a tongue so dark it looked purple.
Carolyn held her glass in two hands. Gripping the glass helped steady the shaking. She raised it to her mouth, then stopped. The phone next to her started ringing again, but not the old-fashioned ring. Now it was the tinkling, pecking music she had heard before at home.
“You should answer it,“ Pam said. “They really want to talk to you.” The music continued playing.
Carolyn stood. “What are you doing?” she asked.
Pam took another deep drink from her glass. But this time, she didn’t raise the glass to her mouth. She held it in her hand by her chin. From there, she stretched out her long tongue, definitely a deep purple, and dipped it into the amber whisky. She held it there for moment, then curled it back to her mouth, bringing a splash of the drink with the long, spiny tongue.
“They want to talk to you,” Pam said. “They’re going to talk to you. Now answer the fucking phone.”
Carolyn was terrified. She knew that if she tried to run, tried to even move, this woman would hurt her. That tongue, with its points and barbs would be down her throat, ripping the soft tissue and filling her mouth and lungs with her own blood. The plunking of the far away piano continued.
“Answer your phone, Carolyn” Pam said. She put down her drink and turned, facing Carolyn directly.
Carolyn had no choice. She put down her drink and picked up the phone. It looked exactly like hers. The chip out of the top right edge. The rainbow crack curving over the left lower corner. Pam stared at her.
“Hello?” Carolyn rasped.
“Mummy!” the young voice called to her. “Mummy, are you coming to get us? It’s so dark in here. We miss you so much.”
“Who is this?” Carolyn said through chattering teeth.
“You have to go home. You have to take care of Daddy,” the child’s voice said again. “We’ll see you there later.”
“WHO IS THIS! What are you doing?” Carolyn yelled into the phone. The bartender with the braids looked up at her. Just as quickly, he looked back down at the pile of pages he was reading. The voice in the phone was gone. She could only hear darkness.
“You’d better get home then,” Pam said. She reached past Carolyn and took her drink. She downed the rest of it in one swallow. She licked her lips. “Don’t worry. I’ll get your drink.”
Carolyn looked at her hand. The phone was gone. She looked at the bar. It was barren except for her empty glass.
“I’ll keep this. Don’t worry. You’ll see me again when we need you,” Pam said, smiling. “Kiss that handsome man goodnight for me.”
Carolyn didn’t think. She just ran out of the bar. She looked back as she passed through the door. The woman was gone.