She stood in the dusty parking lot, the peeling wooden door before her. The warm glow coming through the bar windows seemed to beckon, a welcoming yellow that spoke of candlelight and the hearth. Behind her, the unlit road stretched, featureless, into the dark. She couldn’t remember how she had gotten there. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
She pulled the door open. The bar was empty but for the man behind the counter, and instead of stale beer, there was a faint whiff of incense. She sighed.
“Is this another one of those damn allegorical bars?”
The bartender looked up from wiping a pint glass with a striped bar towel –when did real bartenders ever do that? — and nodded. “You got yourself into a pretty bad accident,” he said with a lift of the eyebrow. “What did you expect?”
Irritated, she pulled out a corner stool with a screech and threw herself onto it. “Unconsciousness and a hospital bed?”
He put the glass down at the end of a neat row on the back of the bar. “You could take this opportunity to reflect on your life. It’s traditional.” His voice was dry but he seemed unsurprised by her resistance.
She gritted her teeth. “I don’t have anything to reflect on. You people never seem to understand that this is my choice, even if you disagree with it.”
“The consequences to your soul –”
“Spare me. I don’t know if I even have a soul. Maybe I do and maybe I don’t. But I’m damn sure that if I do, you people aren’t the ones in control of what happens to it. You just think you’ve got the direct line on how it all works, and can’t stand to have anyone stepping away from the plan.”
The bartender’s gaze was unwavering. “You’re walking a dangerous path. We just don’t want you to get lost on it.”
“I know what I’m doing.” Seeing his expression, she rolled her eyes. “Yeah, it’s a gray area. I knew that when I started. It’s a dangerous art, and I’ve done some questionable things, but Dani and his people are alive because of it. That may not matter to you, but it does to me. It’s worth it.” She stood up. “You can drag me into as many metaphysical bars and diners as you like, but that’s not going to change.”
She turned sharply and strode to the door.
“Where are you going?” All pretense of humanity had fallen away from his voice, and she didn’t know what she’d see if she looked back.
“My hospital bed. Or the side of the road.” She tossed the words over her shoulder. “I’ve got some healing or some bleeding to do, and I guess we’ll find out which. I’ll be seeing you next time.” She threw open the door, and the bar dissolved behind her as she left.
This is what this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt from Write On Edge suggested to me; this week’s inspiration was a photo and a song. Thanks for reading!