“When did our lives get so surreal? I feel like I was a very normal human being for a good proportion of my life, I don’t understand how I ended up here. What the hell do I know about running a cafe? Or defeating evil? I haven’t even had time to properly mourn my brother and my friends and I feel like it’s all starting again. But it’s worse this time because it’s not just an asshole with a knife and boobs in the woods, it’s eldritch horror and the apocalypse.”

“And ghosts. Don’t forget about the ghosts.”

“And of course ghosts. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink.”

“Cheers to that.” Herb topped up his glass and then tipped the bottle until it was on the verge of pouring another measure into Alex’s. He gestured with it to get her attention.

“More, m’dear? Nothing like high end bourbon to make the apocalypse feel manageable.”

“Ohmygoshno. Not until I have a glass of water to balance it out. Or maybe a cup of coffee. Or a pot. I don’t drink that often.”

“Yeah, I can tell by the fact that this is the same bottle I left here last fall and it’s not been touched. It’s a waste of fine alcohol if you ask me.”

“Well, lucky for you I didn’t. Or what would we be drinking now that you’re here to share all this good news with me?”

Herb ducked his head a bit.
“Yeah, I am sorry about that. You never asked for any of this. You deserve to have a normal human life and instead you’re here with me, taking direction from an eggwitch horror and its little dog too.”

“Did you say eggwitch?”

“Only because you did.”

“I said eldritch.”

“What the hell is eldritch?”

“An actual thing. What the hell is eggwitch?”

“I don’t know, you said it first. I was just following your lead.”

“I think we both need a glass of water. Or maybe a pot of coffee.”

“I think maybe we need to finish this bottle and get so blotto that the past 10 daysmonthsyears feels like some weird fever dream.”

“Herb, it was no dream. And us getting wasted is only going to numb pain that’s never going away, while adding new levels of hangover pain to contend with.”

“Forfucksnakes, CassAlex, are you always so pragmactical?”

“Between my brother and I, someone had to be. Honestly, Tommy was a better voice of reason than both of us combined though. Everyone saw her as this blonde extra in a workout video type, but she really saw things as they were and wasn’t afraid to speak up. I miss her so much. Casey too. Even Kirk, though I didn’t really know him that well.” Herb could see tears welling up in her eyes and grabbed a napkin from the chrome dispenser under the window.

“Don’t go getting maudlin on me now, or you’ll have me going too.” He tried to sound flippant, but Alex knew of the layers of hurt he felt too. She picked up the bottle and poured them both another glass, then raised it.

“Well I suppose that if the world is going to end, there is little point in saving this bourbon for a special occasion. Who knows how many special occasions we have left?”

Herb looked perplexed for a moment, peering at the lights of the restaurant. He swiveled on the bench seat, looking behind him and then over Alex’s shoulder. Alex followed his gaze, wondering what he was looking for.

“What is it?”

“Did the lights just flicker?”

“Um, no. I didn’t notice anything.”

“It seemed as though the lights at the far end of the restaurant flickered for a sec. But not flickered so much as swirled.”

“Should I make that coffee?”

“No, no, I’m not as drunk as you seem. Just for a second, when the lights swirled, it almost seemed as though there was someone sitting over there. But not in a scary way. I was strangely comforted by the thought of it.”

“Well, if you were told there were more ghosts about, it stands to reason that you’d be more prone to seeing one. Or imagining you saw one.”

“We’ve seen some strange things Cass-Alex. Ghosts might fall into a category of the least weird. I play fetch with a hellhound on a quasi regular basis. I live in a cabin on the edge of a forest where a being older than hobbits hangs out. You run both a cafe and interference on ghoulists who would willingly seek out their own death and somehow be surprised when they find it. Doris told me you’re really good at it too.”

“Herb-Stef, have you enlisted Doris to spy on my comings and goings?”

Herb groaned.
“Oh fuck, don’t call me that. I’m not Stef anymore.”

“And I’m not Cass anymore.”

Herb nodded.
“Point taken, Alex. Have I ever told you about the night Alex found me wandering in the woods and brought me out of the cold and into the light?”

“Only about 100 times. I’ll make some tea and you can tell me again though. Do you know how long Alex lived and worked here before you came along?”

“I’m not sure. You know who would know? Lydia, over at the museum. You’ve surely met her. Her memory is phenomenal.”

“I have met her, she’s the one who helped me furnish the back office. She also loaned me a binder full of documents and clippings about the cafe. Did you know that there has been a restaurant on this spot for as far back as anyone can remember?”

“Well now that’s interesting. I’m curious about the original name…” he paused to put his fingers to his temples. “And I want to hear all about it, just as soon as I come back from falling down and passing out. I very suddenly have a headache and the lights are moving again, but they’re spinning this time.”

“That sounds like a cry for bed if I ever heard one. Alright Herb, we can continue this tomorrow, it’s been a pretty intense day. It’s not every day you find out the world is about to be destroyed by an eggwitch horror.”

“Haha, you’re hilarious. It really did sound like that’s what you said.” Herb laugh groaned as Alex helped him toward the apartment at the back of the restaurant. Just as they were about to pass through the doors, Alex thought she spotted something in her periphery, as though there was someone sitting in one of the far booths. When she swiveled her head, there was nothing there.

“What is it?” Herb asked, alerted by her movement.

“Nothing, just a ghost.”

Photo by Ilya Melnichenko on Unsplash[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]