(Genre: dark comedy)

Jen clutched the kitchen knife so tightly that his knuckles went white. He had been hiding behind the counter for the past fifteen minutes, trying to hear what the dubious group was planning to do next.

“How about we bomb them? We can drop five bombs and finish the rest off with our guns.” Said the guy with the fruit soda.

“I think it’s doable, that way, we won’t have to face the army either as none will be left.” The beer drinker added.

“I don’t know man, think about all the innocent lives lost.” The man with the water said.

“Innocent lives? Are you listening to yourself? It’s just a game man.” Said the one with the whiskey “I say we drop ten bombs.”

“Yeah, yeah” the others agreed.

Jen, who had been patiently eavesdropping on the entire conversation had all the proof he needed; all the proof to attack these terrorists. No, Jen is no undercover agent or F.B.I. official; he is just a bartender who works the night shift at the Moonlight Pub. Tonight was just like any other night, except for the fact that it was Christmas Eve and that he wasn’t even supposed to be working tonight. Jen cursed his luck and thought back on how it got to this point.

It all started at around nine ‘o'clock.

Jen’s partner got a call from home and left him alone at the counter. The only customers without a drink were the five men who had just walked into the pub. They were sitting beside each other at the counter and by their body language, it was obvious that they were discussing something important. Jen walked up to them to take their orders.

“One bloody Marry with some real blood please.” Said one of them and Jen looked up at the guy, startled. This man had dead-fish eyes, pale skin, and cherry red lips; he looked like a vampire.

“We don’t serve blood” Jen said as calmly as possible, he didn’t want any holiday trouble.

“Then a whiskey will do, give me the cheapest one.” And Jen fixed him one.

The second guy had blade earrings dangling down to his neck. They looked so sharp that Jen could feel his neck tickle. “Do you have anything fruity?”

“We have fruit soda” Jen said, staring at the sharp blades.

“Cool, give me that.” And Jen fixed him one, too.

The third guy simply picked up a used glass from the counter and held it in front of Jen’s face “Water” he demanded blankly.

“That glass was just used by someone else. I will give you a new one-”

“No! Water, in this one.” The guy’s voice was slightly high-pitched and he was drunk. So, Jen sprayed water into the glass and turned to the last two people.

“You have draft beer?” Asked the fourth one. He looked somewhat normal except for a red line, emerging from the bottom lid of his left eye going down his neck and disappearing behind the shirt. Jen nodded and fixed him one as well.

The last man dismissed Jen with a flick of his hands. He didn’t want anything and looked completely normal.

The five men started talking and Jen turned his back on them. He was about to leave when he heard the word “genocide” and almost froze in place. He listened in for a few more seconds and couldn’t believe what he heard.

“It’s easier than you think, all we need is to gather bombs.”

“Yeah, like how we did before, remember? We can blow up an entire town if we want.”

Jen wanted to turn around but he couldn’t. Was this real? Or was it a joke? Why were they talking about bombs and blowing up towns? Sure there were loads of weirdos that pub crawled during Christmas, but this?! 

There was a sink near the side of the counter where the five men were sitting and Jen started cleaning glasses to clarify his confusion. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t hear them properly. He could only hear solitary words like ‘guns’, ‘bombs’, ‘blood’ and ‘kill’. Jen was freaking out! If this was what he thought it was then every second was precious; he should notify the authorities ASAP. But if he turned out to be wrong, then he could lose his job.

God help me… what should I do? Jen squeezed his eyes shut as he prayed for a sign. When he opened them, his eyes fell on the book cover of a detective novel. There were two men on the cover, talking to each other in a shady manner, and a spy hiding behind a wall, listening.

That’s right! Jen thought. What I should be doing right now is gathering evidence. As soon as I am sure of what’s going on, I’ll report them.

And that is why Jen clutched the kitchen knife and hid behind the counter and the more he heard, the more he got freaked. At last, he decided that he had heard enough and if he didn’t act soon, things could get ugly.

Jen took the phone out of his pocket and started typing the emergency number-

“Hey!” A sound from above startled Jen and he looked up, deleting the number by default. It was the whiskey man.

“What are you doing down there?” The man asked, clearly suspicious.

“No-nothing I-”

“Were you spying on us?” The fruit soda man also got up from his seat and peered over the counter.

“I think he was- no, I’m sure he was.” Said the man with the whiskey. He was drunk and his voice was husky.

“This is troublesome, what should we do with him?” The man with the beer joined the other two. Jen started sweating in his pants. There were so many ways they could shut him up; the blade earrings, the drinking glasses, and maybe they were carrying guns.

The man with the water also got up and stared at Jen but he didn’t look much threatening. And then, the man with no drink also stood up with an exhausted expression.

“Guys, can we stop now? I am getting tired of this. You can get up man, sorry for that.” He said to Jen who was already on his feet.

“Don’t spoil the mood man!” The guy with the fruit soda exclaimed. Jen looked at the men in amazement. They were acting completely different from how they were before.

“What is going on with you guys?” He finally asked.

“We were larping dude. But I guess it got too far.” Said the guy with no drink “I think we should head home now.” He said, eyeing his friends for affirmation.

“Larping? What’s that?” Jen asked, confused.

“We were role-playing to our favourite characters from a war game. It won’t make any sense to you.” Said the guy with water. They were pretty convincing too. It was like the men had just swapped themselves with someone else.

The guy with the fruit soda took off his earrings and placed them in a plastic case before putting them in his bag “Yeah I guess this is it for today. Those blades were tickling me the entire time.”

“Fine, let’s head back.” Said the man with the whiskey. He wasn’t too thrilled about leaving. Before Jen could take in the entire thing, the men had already left the bar and his life. Jen shook off the bizarre evening and went back to his work. Maybe he was way too cautious. He decided to loosen up; after all, it's almost Christmas so what could go wrong?!

After a few minutes, a tall man clad in a black coat walked up to the counter and asked for a beer. His voice was gruff and it looked like he had just come out of a fight. Jen noticed that the grey shirt inside his jacket had a huge black patch as if oil had spilled on it.

“Tough night, huh?” Jen said casually and the man locked eyes with him.

“You don’t say…” the man gulped down a mouthful of beer before speaking again “It always is when you play with blood.” The man growled. He then smiled and asked, “Have you seen the blue star in the sky?” And waited for Jen’s reaction but he wasn’t that into the conversation.

“Oh, I know what you are doing!” Jen smiled comically at the man “You are role-playing, what was it again, yes, larping!” He shook his head laughing “I think I’ve had enough of that for one night. You have a good time and Merry Christmas!” He left the man on his own.

The next morning, Jen switched on the T.V. after coming back from his shift and turned to the news channel. There had been a murder a block away from the Moonlight Pub. As per witness accounts, the man suspected of murder was wearing a black coat and had a mole on his left pinky. The news said that the man was a serial killer and his favourite question was to ask people about a blue star in the night sky.

Jen switched off the T.V. and stared at his reflexion in shock; then he realised something even more stunning. Had he not been careless last night, this would’ve been his last Christmas. Sometimes, paying less attention can save the day.

December 27, 2019 21:04

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