This is technically a Birthday Note, as I wrote it for my best dude friend’s birthday, but I’m planning on doing more with it, so I’ve categorized it as its own thing. It’s not a finished work but the first part in a story. Hope you enjoy:
The second hand dragged itself around the clock. It was methodical. Unwavering. Still entirely too slow.
Brandyn stared at it from his stool, perched impatiently behind the register, surrounded by unopened bottles of liquor and beer. He had two hours to go before the store closed and he could go home. Two hours before he could kiss his beautiful wife and son and kick back on the couch for a red-eye movie.
The evening had been slow. A handful of regulars. A couple drunks he had refused service to, despite their compelling arguments that just because their license was expired didn’t mean they were. One kid looked like he was shoplifting but upon closer review, he was just really fucking weird.
The bell above the front door jingled and Brandyn let out a long breath. He stood and greeted the customer, a middle-aged man with a red baseball cap seated on the back half of his head.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
“Eh, could be better. Wife’s on a fucking tirade so I thought I might step out for a bit. You got any Durelli’s Orchard Ale?”
“Uh, yeah. I should. I’ll walk you over there.”
Brandyn hopped down from behind the counter and led the other man towards the back of the store. He stepped lightly over a warm 30-pack of “light” beer. He maneuvered between the tall racks of wine. Together, they stopped in front of the freezer doors near the back; the frosted glass provided the only barrier between dozens of exlcusive brewed beers and them.
Two bottles of Durelli’s Orchard Ale were sitting on the top row. Brandyn pointed them out and then pulled the door open to grab one. He paused for a minute, leaned forward slightly and then slowly shut the door again.
“What?” the customer asked.
“What is it? Why didn’t you grab one?”
He stepped to the side and pulled the door open again. He looked through the glass from the outside and could see the store as clear as day. He moved back around so that he was facing the interior of the freezer and stiffened.
“Whaaat the hell…”
“Come on, man. Quit dicking around.”
The customer moved around Brandyn to grab the bottle himself and stopped dead. Instead of racks full of beers, there was nothing. The floor turned into a white marble staircase that weaved back and forth. There were no railings and the space around and below the stairs was a black so deep that it was impossible to make out any details. The staircase descended what seemed to be an impossible distance and ended in a a rectangle of orange light far below.
“What is this?” the customer asked.
“I have no idea. This wasn’t here yesterday. How far down do you think that goes?”
“Pretty fucking far, it looks like.”
Brandyn looked at the other man. “What’s your name?”
“How pissed at you is your wife?”
“Pretty pissed. Why?”
Brandyn turned back to the staircase. “I’m thinking about checking that out, but I don’t want to go by myself.”
Clarence let out a low breath in a hiss and chewed at his lip. He took his hat off with one hand and brushed the other through thinning hair.
“You gotta lock up or something?”
“Yeah, I’d better.”
“Hell with it. Last crazy thing I did was get married.”
Brandyn grinned and shut the freezer door. He practically ran for his keys.
There will be more parts to this, but like the trilogy of short fictions I wrote before, there isn’t a set schedule. So hopefully this will pique your interest for now and carry you through to the next one.