By Oscar Broadway
It was a dark and quiet night.
For lack of a better plan, Vince had propped himself up at the sole tavern on the edge of the common. A night like this, in a village such as this…there was little else to do. He swished the remains of his pint around, watching the dregs carve fleeting curves across the glass.
The tavern was for the most part empty, aside a handful of locals keeping very much to themselves, as well as a disinterested landlord polishing glassware. A quiet, dark night.
“Most everyone round ‘ere afraid of the Dark,” an accented, gravelly voice cut in. “An’ those that aren’t, well…they bloody well should be.”
Vince turned slowly, one eyebrow raised, to the bearded old man who had found his way to Vince’s end of the saloon. “I’m sorry?”
“Not a man you want anythin’ to do with, mark me. Somethin’…somethin’ aint right about ‘im. He don’t move right.” The old man turned and signalled to the landlord, who nodded and set about pulling a pint of Best.
“Who don’t…doesn’t move right?” Vince half-chuckled his words out, supported by a smile the old man didn’t return.
“Comes with the storms, he does. Don’t know why. Don’t care. Alls I know is, in this town, you see lightnin’, feel thunder…just keep well outta sight. Ain’t worth the risk.” The old man plucked his pint as it arrived and drew deeply, leaving a fine line of froth over his lip.
“I’ll…take that on board. Thank you.”
The old man drew himself up and continued. “Knew a bloke once…came breezin’ on through town, act like he own the place. Cocky fucker.”
“Look, I think there might be a mistake here, I—”
“The Dark don’t ask for much shy of respect,” the old man hammered a fist on the bar, spraying a fine ale mist as he hit the “p” in “respect.”
Vince blinked, unsure of how to deal with his new associate. Just his luck to find the village nutcase. The drab nothingness of the earlier evening suddenly held a lustrous appeal.
“You listenin’ to me lad?”
“Yes, yes I…absolutely. Comes with the storms. Respect.”
“…and the cocky chap?”
“Yes!” The old man bellowed, eyes wide, “Yes…the cocky chap from out where…passin’ through, he says…no care for the folk round ‘ere, just takes what he wants and he’s on ‘is way.”
Vince wrinkled his brow as he leaned slightly back. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“…Or so he fuckin’ thought,” the old man burst into fits of choking laughter, like the sound of an old engine dying, then grizzled his way back into a slow drawl, “…he didn’t get far, mark me.”
Vince paused. “What happened?”
“The Dark…it took ‘im.”
“What? The hell do you mean, it took him?”
“Comes for the soul. With a nasty old hook…a fuckin’ hook! Scratch, scratch. Didn’t leave much behind but gravy meat. Right mess. Folk don’t speak much o’ that night, but it were a stormy night, I can tell you that for free.”
The old man took another draw from his pint and locked eyes with Vince, waiting for some response. Unsettled, Vince broke his gaze, looking down at his feet then out the window. Finally, he looked back at the old man.
“Look, if it’s all the same to you I’d prefer to finish my drink in peace. I don’t want to listen to your stories. Frankly I find it disturbing. I’ve one night in your sleepy little village, and so far it’s been tremendously bleak.”
The old man’s face screwed up as he stepped back and gestured widely to the bar. “She’s all yours then. Don’t say I didn’t warn you of nothin’.” With that, the old man shuffled back, pint in hand.
Vince watched the old man move away, then downed the rest of his pint in one hit. He grimaced, grabbed his coat, and walked out of the tavern.
A flash of lightning briefly lit the room. The old man straightened up and strode after him, catching the closing tavern door with the hook on his left hand.