No Consequences

Submitted into Contest #233 in response to: Set your story in a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol.... view prompt


Suspense Speculative Drama

Terrance stopped cold in the middle of the street, staring at his phone. A Subaru honked at him and he shuffled the last few steps on leaden feet to the sidewalk, still not looking up from his phone. He felt the familiar tightening in his chest and the accelerated heartbeat that meant the onset of another panic attack.

There she was, just flaunting it all over insta for the whole world to see, smiling next to her new beau with the cliche waterfall backdrop, as if their four year marriage and subsequent divorce had never happened. He went to swipe off the app and accidentally hit the like button. 

“Shit!” he shouted and then screamed up into the inattentive sky. 

He thought about smashing his phone, just throwing it to the ground and having a real fit, stomping and cursing and raging, but what was the point? 

Instead, Terrance looked around the street, not surprised to find it mostly deserted. It was a Sunday afternoon on a long holiday weekend. Everyone who was going somewhere was already there and those that weren’t were probably holed up enjoying time with their family, the kind of family he had been hoping to have someday.

He didn’t know what he was looking for until he found it…a lifeline.

Even though he had just crossed the street, Terrance retraced his steps until he stood above the awning of a business crammed between a closed comic book shop and a craft store. He puzzled over the name for a moment.

“No Consequences”, and then below it, as if there really needed to be clarification, another sign almost as large declaring it a “Pub”. 

“Screw Dry January,” Terrance said with true loathing. 

A small bell heralded his entrance. It was dank and dark within, taking his eyes nearly a minute to adjust. There was some soft blues music playing somewhere in the corner with the clinking of ice in glasses as accompaniment. 

Terrance was startled to see that not only was the bar half packed, but that all eyes had turned to him, frozen in a picturesque moment. He nodded once, and the spell was broken. People went back to their pool and dart games, others to their quiet conversations. There was even a few older couples swaying in front of an ancient jukebox. 

The bartender met him at the counter, an older lady who had probably once been glamorous and was now just trying to keep the crow’s feet from spreading too fast. 

“What’ll you have?” she asked, giving the spot in front of him a wipe with the bar rag.

“Whiskey,” Terrance replied. “A double, straight up.”

“Sorry, Sweetie.” She gave him a shrug and a frown. “We’re fresh out.”

“Tequila then.”

“No can do,” was her prompt reply.

“Vodka?” he ventured even as she began to shake her head.

Terrance was starting to get annoyed.

“Beer? You still have beer, don’t you?”

“Fraid not.”

“What kind of pub is this?” Terrance seethed.

The bartender walked away, throwing a last comment over her shoulder.

“Not that kind of pub.”

“This is ridiculous,” he said, hopping off his stool and stepping away from the counter. He was halfway to the door when an old man popped up out of nowhere, blocking his path.

“Hey, Pal, how you doing?” he queried, his face a mass of wrinkles with two beady little eyes set deep within. It was impossible to gauge his age besides ancient. 

“Sorry, old timer, it’s not a good day, and I need to go find a bar that sells actual booze.”

“Hey, I hear ya,” the guy countered. “Name’s Clark, and believe it or not, once upon a time I was looking for the same thing as you.”

This made Terrance pause. He cocked his head to the side.

“Wait what?”

The old guy shuffled off a few steps to the side to a two seater table with high backed stools.

“C’mon, have a seat with me for a minute,” he motioned with his hand, smiling.

Terrance was about to politely beg off, but something about that mischievous smile piqued his curiosity. 

“I can spare a minute,” he conceded, taking a seat, “All right, tell me the story.”

“How do you know I have a story?” Clark countered, still with that smile of mischief.

“Cause you started with ‘once upon a time’.”

The old man chuckled, setting all those wrinkles to jiggling slightly. 

“Okay, you got me.”

He leaned back against his stool and put a hand to his chest, right above his heart.

“So, as I was saying, I was having a pretty bad day too, once upon a time, and that’s when I happened on this place.”

“This pub with no booze.”

Clark nodded.

“What the hell is everyone doing here if not for the liquor?” Terrance asked, looking around at all the people doing all the bar things that normal bar people do, with the exception of drinks in their hands. A couple of tables had some water glasses but that was about it.

“Ah, well that’s the rub. This place sells you something way better than cheap drinks.”

“I’m listening,” Terrance replied, now more than a little curious.

“Wishes,” Clark intoned with the presence of a movie trailer voice over, his hands doing a magician’s wave in front of his face as if to accentuate the reveal.

Terrance waited a moment then nodded.

“Right. Look, I gotta run. I appreciate the chat.”

He stood as if to go and the old man reached out and grabbed his forearm, his vice like grip belying his advanced years. His face had lost its smile and was replaced with an intense seriousness.

“Not the wishes you wish in your little one bedroom apartment as you sleep past the alarm clock and your chance to do something meaningful that day.”

Terrance tried not to look shocked at the too accurate depiction.

“No,” Clark continued, his voice low and rumbling. “I’m talking about the wishes you wish when your heart is in pain, the wistful desires of your deepest want, the secret wish you carry with you wherever you go and can’t shake…those are the wishes this bar sells, wishes to soothe the spirits and not the other way around.”

Terrance yanked his arm out of the old man’s grip. He rubbed it with his free hand, not because there was pain, but because he felt as if somehow his skin had been stained. 

“I’m gonna go,” he said at length, all curiosity gone now, his voice serious.

“I won’t stop you,” the old man said, holding up his hands. “But if you step out that door, you lose your chance to get that girl back.”

Terrance froze.

“What the hell did you just say?” he snapped, all pretense of politeness gone. 

“Whoa, calm down, and before you ask, no, I’m not a mind reader, but what I do know is that I’ve been here long enough to know heartbreak when I see it.”

“I’m leaving…now,” Terrance emphasized, but for some reason he didn’t take another step.

“Ah, got your attention,” Clark continued, and the smile was back as if it’d never left. “Sit down, that’s right, get comfortable.”

Terrance felt in a trance, complying when it was the opposite of what he wanted…or was it?

“Now, slowly, naturally,” Clark went on. “Look far to your left to the end of the bar. See that fella there, the one in the newsboy hat?”

Terrance nodded. He saw the man, older like most of the patrons of this establishment, pushing so many years you couldn’t put a finger on the age, back hunched and wearing a once white t-shirt and suspenders holding pleated slacks. The man looked like he’d stepped out of a black and white film set during the 40’s. He was leaning against the edge of the bar, staring at something in his hands, a square note or photograph, Terrance couldn’t quite tell.

“I see him.”

“That there is Blake. One of the first customers in this joint. He walked in around, oh, I’d say about 1930. He bought a wish. Care to guess what it was?”

Terrance smirked, playing along partly because this seemed like a fun game, and the other part because there was something going on here he couldn’t quite get a handle on. 

“Hm,” he though for a moment then nodded. “Yeah, not to lose everything in the stock market crash.”

Clark winked and pantomimed pulling the trigger on his finger gun. 


“Then what’s he still doing here after all this time?” Terrance asked, knowing he was being prodded in that direction.

“Well, unlike the name of this pub, there are consequences for almost any decision you make.”


The old man waved it away. “We’ll get to that later. C’mon, Terrance, follow me.”

Terrance did, wondering if he’d actually given his name before. He could have sworn he didn’t.

Clark meandered his way around tables and people. Each person gave him wide berth, barely glancing at him. For Terrance, however, they were all eyes, hungry eyes, if he were to label the looks.

They came to a stop on the far wall, completely barren except for a faded red tapestry covering…well, something.

Clark stepped up to the wall and grabbed a corner of the tapestry, yanking it down to the floor. An old yellow bulb lit up the object, revealed to be a prize wheel of some sorts with about two dozen labeled sections.

Terrance stepped closer, squinting.

“Tit for tat, love for a love, life for a life…what does any of that mean?”

“Why, this is the Wheel of Consequences,” Clark said with a flourish of one hand. “Purchase your wish at the bar and then come and spin the wheel. There’s a different consequence for each wish and each consequence means something different for every person.”

“And these consequences…when do they happen?”

“Who knows? But the clock starts the moment you set foot out the door.”

Terrance looked around the room, just now realizing that not only were the patrons much older upon closer inspection, but that they also looked tired, worn down, and except for the occasional hungry glance sent his way, defeated. 

“And why hasn’t any of them left,” he asked, gesturing to the others. 

The old man shrugged.

“Eh, guess they didn’t really like their consequence. You see, nothing happens till you step out the door. Until then, well, let’s just say the tab is in limbo.”

Terrance felt his gaze drawn back to the wheel. He noticed out of his peripheral that Clark was smiling again but he ignored it.

“This section,” he walked to the wheel, pointing to one particular slice of the pie that was colored black, just a fraction of the size of the others. “It’s not labeled.”

“Ah, noticed that did ya?” Clark whispered. 

“What is it?”

“That’s just so things stay fair. That particular slice stands for “No Consequences”, just like its keepsake.”

“Any wish?” Terrance asked, almost whispering. 

Beyond all that he knew of reality, there lay a place where instinct took over, a place where sensibility ended and gut took over, and his gut was telling him that everything he’d heard was true. He couldn’t explain it, and perhaps if he’d never stepped foot in this place he never would have experienced this feeling of surety without evidence.

Terrance turned back to the old man.

“This is your place, isn’t it?”

Clark took a step back and bowed deeply at the waist. 

“That obvious, huh?” he asked when he straightened.

“Tell me how it works again?”

“It’s as easy as pie. You go up to the bar and you order your wish. Then you come and spin the wheel. One wish, one spin. Now tell me, how bad do you want that girl back?”

Terrance looked around the room again. Everyone had stopped their activities, the pool playing, darts, dancing, even the conversations, which he’d assumed had been for his benefit. By the looks of them, they’d long since played every game and had every conversation. He thought about Ellen and about the life they had been building together until she’d found something better. What would have been had she never gone to that symposium that weekend? She had wanted to stay in, do something fun, but he had been adamant that she go. Networking, except what she had networked was a new life with a new somebody. 

“Any wish?” Terrance repeated.

The old man leaned closer eagerly.

“Whatever you want, it’s yours for a small price.”

Terrance walked slowly towards the bar, leaving Clark behind. As he passed the other patrons, he noticed the hungry looks had been replaced with the blank stares of zoo animals caged too long. Maybe the hunger had been the longing for what he represented, a glimpse of the world they were too afraid to face again. When he came up even with Blake, the depression era man with the suspenders, he caught a glimpse of the photograph the old man held tightly in his hands. The faded picture was of a tall thin woman and a young boy with a crutch tucked under one arm. 

What had been his consequence? Life for a life? Tit for tat? Love for a love?

He came to a stop at the counter. The bartender leaned forward and planted her hands on the bar top. 

“So…what’ll it be?”

Terrance leaned forward as close as he could and started to whisper. When he was finished, the bartender stood back and stared at him, her eyebrows drawn close together. He left her like that, making his way back to the wheel.

“Ah, then” Clark said, unable to prevent his hands from rubbing greedily together. “Step right up and take a spin.”

Terrance reached out and grasped the wheel firmly with one hand. He gave it a hearty tug and watched as it went round and round, every eye in the room locked on the wheel. After an eternity, it finally slowed and came to a rest, the arrow pointing firmly at “Bite the Bullet”. 

There was no sound from the other patrons, but the old man started to clap excitedly. 

“Oh, bravo my boy, bravo,” he said jovially. “I hope it’s a good wish, cause someday soon you’ll be paying the piper, and by the way, most of these are quite literal.”

Clark gave a wink, “If you know what I mean.”

Terrance nodded. 

“So, what’ll it be, Son? Care to take a seat for a spell and mull it all over?”

Terrance shrugged off the old man’s hand that had found its way to his shoulder. 

“I know what I want, and I’m not going to wait for it.”

Clark gestured with an open hand.

“Hey, its your funeral.”

Terrance walked to the front door and pulled it open. He was stopped by Clark’s parting words.

“Good luck, my boy.”

He turned around and surveyed the patrons, shaking his head.

“I won’t need it.”

Terrance spared a last glance for the bartender, who was smiling even as the tears cascaded down her cheeks. He gave her a parting nod, and leaving the old man wearing a puzzled expression, Terrance took two steps out of the bar, letting the door swing closed behind him. He turned and watched as the sign reading “No Consequences” started to fade and crumble into dust. Faintly, through the door, he could hear the old man’s screams and curses, drowned out by the cries of the patrons, a cacophony of relief and joy. Within a few seconds, the whole entrance had collapsed upon itself, leaving an empty alley in its place, not a trace of the pub left. 

The sun was shining. Terrence looked up at it and smiled. He started to whistle as he walked away, already forgetting that the bar had ever existed. He just knew that it was going to be a fine day. 

January 18, 2024 00:41

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Crystal Farmer
16:35 Jan 31, 2024

So did he get his wish?


HC Edwards
21:11 Jan 31, 2024

Yes…he wished the bar had never existed…or something just as similar ;)


Crystal Farmer
21:54 Jan 31, 2024

I see!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kate Winchester
14:37 Jan 28, 2024

You are very talented! I loved this story too. You had a lot of great lines, but this one stood out to me, “wishes to soothe the spirits and not the other way around.” Great concept! I Hope Terrance gets what he’s looking for!


Show 0 replies
Wendy M
23:29 Jan 27, 2024

Another great story, are you making a collection of these for publication?


HC Edwards
07:16 Jan 28, 2024

That’s very astute…yes, I actually have about 20 of these compiled as well as some that come with illustrations (more coming too) from an artist friend of mine. We’re planning on doing a play on Arabian Nights…


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kevin Lawrence
03:47 Jan 26, 2024

Hey awesome story. I love the whole. Where do we get it. We need bars like this for real. Amazing job


Show 0 replies
Stephanie Badejo
22:27 Jan 25, 2024

This is mind blowing


Show 0 replies
Lori Graf
04:19 Jan 24, 2024

Cute story! Love that the bar only has wishes to sell and you have e to step outside...


Show 0 replies
Mr M
01:39 Jan 24, 2024

I love the ending. Terrence, is certainly a relatable character, given his present anguish. However, I feel he is not a selfish man, and deserves much more; however he seems to draw strength from an unexpected place here. I enjoy believing that he finds a balance through his selflessness thanks to the passing existence of this timeless pub, No Consequences. It gives pause, No? Well written, sir. Cheers to Terrence!


HC Edwards
04:37 Jan 24, 2024

I agree…I believe he draws that strength from the bond that people share…the one that means we all have the ability for inherit goodness and well being for our brethren.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
HC Edwards
01:19 Jan 18, 2024

Please feel free to post questions or comments…I always love to discuss stories.


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.