An Unusual Bar - Final Chapter

An Unusual Bar - Final Chapter

A Story by Agyani
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The true nature of the bar is revealed

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‘Don’t worry, I don’t bite,’ Raju said, moving his glass away and leaning back. He exhaled loudly and stared at the drinks cabinet in front of him.

‘I didn’t mean to �"‘

‘Don’t get so worked up, writer. He’s heard way worse than this over the years. He probably didn’t even mind it as much as you did. Besides, if I know that you meant no harm and simply said something silly, then he knows that as well. I told you he’s smart, remember?’

‘I don’t know why I said something like that. I don’t even think about these things in that manner. I don’t want to blame it on the alcohol, but I don’t know what got into me.’

‘It’s alright,’ said Raju, winking at him. ‘I shouldn’t have blurted out in that manner and used that language, either. It’s just that I absolutely hate hypocrites, and I hate do-gooders and people pleasers even more. Those people want to voice their opinions and have an identity of their own, but are too chicken to say what they think is right without thinking about how it would affect their relationship with the other person. You’ll always have people who don’t see things the way you do. If you’re so upset by their reaction to what you have to say, then it’s better not to say anything at all. You don’t like someone, but you don’t want to be in their bad books either, so you tolerate their nonsense and live life complaining to others.’

He turned away from Budh and took a few deep breaths to calm down. ‘Calling him gay isn’t a crime, not when you use the tone and manner you did. What else are you supposed to call him? Don’t you think he knows the term? Don’t you think he spent months, probably years, thinking about it himself and coming to terms with it? If he made that decision, why on Earth would he get upset at being called gay?

‘The only thing that could have pinched him is what you said after that, about guessing it. These things have a knack of sliding into your brain subconsciously. It’s one part subconscious, two parts public opinion. That’s how stereotypes are born. You merely had your first encounter with someone like Vinay, so something like that can be forgiven. It’s how you would treat any other form of ‘difference’, so why not this? If you want to act normally with everyone, then it’s better to act normal. You’d hurt them much worse otherwise.’

Budh gave a lot of thought to what Raju said. He understood what Raju had meant. He didn’t know if his ideology was correct, but it was right when applied to Vinay. He wondered if Raju had learned it the same way he did, or if he had always had such clarity of thought.

‘I like how Shiv doesn’t get fretted by it,’ said Budh.

‘As wise as they come,’ said Raju. ‘Besides, he knows how important it is not to leave someone who loves you, intentionally or unintentionally.’

‘Why, did he ever lose someone?’ asked Budh. Raju pursed his lips and looked at his hands for a few seconds before speaking.

‘I don’t know if it’s true, but people say he used to have a daughter. They say she was as graceful as the snow and as radiant as the streams that flow here. I never saw her, so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that Shiv loved her as a man married to his high-school sweetheart loves their daughter and that she was taken from him.’

‘Taken, as in, death?’ Raju gave him a long, slow nod. ‘How’d she die?’ asked Budh, lowering his voice.

‘I don’t know.’

‘You never asked him?’

‘Of course, I didn’t. Why on Earth would I ask him something like that? “Hey Shiv, I just heard your daughter died a long time ago. How’d she die?”’

‘No, I don’t mean asking him directly, but still…’

‘If it is true, then there’s all the more reason not to ask him. It’ll only cause him pain.’

Budh didn’t agree with Raju, but he didn’t have anything to say. It was pointless to try and convince him. Raju got up and walked towards the door. Budh saw Shiv enter just then. They exchanged some words before Raju took off. This time, he’d managed to muffle his conversation.

Shiv occupied the stool Raju had just vacated. He let out a deep breath and placed the keys next to Budh’s hand on the table.

‘I hope you didn’t have any problem? I didn’t hear you coming.’

‘It’s downhill. There was no need to turn on the engine.’

Budh nodded his head and looked around the bar. With the sun deserting the sky, the inside looked much more spacious. It wasn’t exactly spacious, but it was difficult to make out the boundaries due to the lack of light. Budh wondered whether that was by design, but liked the effect. The air also became still and silent all of a sudden.

It felt like an ominous silence to Budh. Not a leaf stirred, not an insect hissed. The birds too must have called it a day and nested, thought Budh. But it felt like they were watching the bar from above, like animals in the wild wait and watch as the lioness inches closer to her prey.

‘Why’d you do it?’ said Shiv. Budh was startled to hear his voice. When everything goes silent, the softest of sounds make one jump. Shiv’s equable tone and volume became piercing and loud as a result of the veil of silence surrounding the bar.

‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I don’t know why I said all those things to Vinay. I don’t even�"‘

‘Why’d you kill my daughter?’

A small whirlpool suddenly appeared inside Budh’s body, sucking in his innards with vehemence. He could feel his insides twisting under its current as it squeezed him from within.

‘What do you mean?’ said Budh in a broken voice, barely louder than a whisper.

‘How could you kill such a sweet girl?’ Shiv turned towards him now. The pain in his face was real to the extent that Budh could feel it himself. His head suddenly became heavy and he felt it throb forcefully with each systole.

‘Shiv, what are you talk�"‘

‘I don’t have the patience to explain it again, Budh. We’ve had this conversation too many times. It’s been five years now.’

Budh continued to look at Shiv. He was flabbergasted. He let a few seconds pass, forcing himself to think about it rationally.

‘Are you saying you lost your daughter five years ago?’

‘She died ten years ago by your doing, and I want to know how could you!!’

Budh shifted nervously in his stool and gulped. His throat was dry as a bone and it hurt him.

‘Shiv, why are you saying this? How is that possible? I’ve never been here before.’

‘You’ve been here every day for the past five years, you son of a b***h! It was ten years ago that you killed yourself by jumping into this valley, minutes after you’d narrowly evaded dying from a crash. You took your bike for a spin and took my daughter along with you. She warned you that there’d be black ice around here and it was too dangerous to drive. But you wouldn’t listen to her. She gave up after a couple of protests. Poor thing, all she did was love you!’

Budh’s mind began racing. His surroundings began zooming out of his eyes, and he felt like his body had been shot through a tunnel. He grabbed the bar table to steady himself, and found it difficult to breathe. He tried to calm his mind and think about it. He wondered if Shiv had mixed something in his drink. He couldn’t think of a reason for him to do so. But he didn’t have any other explanation.

‘What…why are you saying this? How could it…’

Budh stopped mid-sentence because his brain started showing him flashes of a scene that seemed alien but felt like a memory. It all whizzed past him too quickly, and he had to blink a couple of times to slow things down.

His body shivered as the cold breeze toyed with him. He wasn’t sitting on the bar stool anymore. He was plopped up on the seat of his bike. He could feel something warm on the nape of his neck. It took him another second to realize that someone was sitting on the back seat, holding fast on to him. He instinctively reached for the hand on his stomach and felt a soft surface with thin, delicate fingers. He couldn’t see the girl’s face in the rear-view mirror as she had it dug into his neck. The engine’s rumble was all too familiar, but he wasn’t sure if he was having a vision, was in a trance, or was reliving a memory.

‘Look out!’ the girl screamed all of a sudden. Budh didn’t see the car until it was right in front of him. There was a loud screech as the car veered to the left. Budh had done the same to narrowly avoid colliding with it, but it took him dangerously close to the valley. He knew it was a drop of more than 500 feet. Budh turned the handle to the right to turn back into the road. The thin coating of ice made it impossible to control the bike.

He hit the brakes hard, causing a screeching sound much louder than before. Before he had time to react, the bike went down to the ground and began sliding on the icy road. Despite the slippery surface, he could feel his ankles burning from being in contact with the road. He held on to the handle firmly, trying his best to bring the bike to a halt. But the surface made it difficult to arrest the momentum.

Fear and paranoia strengthened their grip on Budh further when he saw the road banking to the right a few metres ahead. The road would turn inward and send him and the bike flying into the drop. Although Budh acted promptly and kicked himself away from the bike, he only managed to part with it when the road began turning. It meant that he only realized there was another passenger when he saw her disappear with the bike a couple of seconds later. He saw a pair of terrified eyes and a face crippled with fear as the girl went down with the bike, her arm outstretched towards him. She was only there for a second, but he felt she lingered there for countless eons afterward in that same state.

Budh came back to the bar with a grinding jolt. He was covered in a cold sweat and panting hard. He remained gaping at the table for a few seconds before turning his face slowly towards Shiv. Shiv frowned at him before bringing him up to speed.

‘This isn’t an ordinary bar. It’s only visible to those who die in these hills. Some of them are harmless souls, but others are troublesome for the locals nearby. It’s my job to help the troubled souls get closure so that the people can live peacefully. You’ve been coming here for five years. It’s the longest anyone has been here. It’s partly because of my connection with you. The locals are terrified now, though, for sightings of the rider-less bike are becoming more frequent, and it has caused a few accidents over the past few weeks. But the pain of watching you come here every day is too much for me to bear anymore!’

‘How…how can I…I’m dead?’

‘Yes. You don’t really remember how you got here, do you?’

‘I…yeah, I mean…Why, I do! I just left from the…I was out for…’

‘How about the name of the bar? Surely you must have seen it. And what about the exterior of the bar?’

‘It’s a wooden exterior with a dark, glass door,’ said Budh between taking deep breaths. Shiv gave him a wry and almost condescending smile.

‘That’s just the picture on the coaster. You thought that’s how the place looks from outside because you saw it. But the truth is, you don’t know how you got here, what this place looks like, or what it’s called. Your first memory of this place is sitting on that table in the corner.’

Budh continued breathing hard as he looked at the coaster and turned slowly towards the corner table before moving his gaze back to Shiv. His breathing became more laboured and loud, as if he were freezing. Some of the things Shiv and the others had said echoed in his mind.

There aren’t many people who pass by this area.

It’s a miracle he has a place like this here.

I used to be a professor.

On entertaining Shiv’s theory, Budh found everything to fall into place. It was a different story, but it fit nonetheless. Everything fell into place. Suddenly it felt less like a theory and more like the one true reality. 

‘Raju and Vinay…’

‘They’re dead, too. But they remain here. They chose to stay here. This is their place of closure. Each has their own reason,’ said Shiv, almost impatiently.

I’m from around here.

I’m here because of him.

Some of them are harmless souls.

All those statements continued echoing in his mind. Budh pressed his palms to his temples to stop them getting louder. Shiv grasped his hands and looked at him with raging eyes.

‘I don’t much care about your blind wandering causing all these accidents and spreading fear among the locals. But I want you out of here! Now, tell me why you killed my daughter! How could you do that?!’

‘I…I…’  Budh’s lips began to quiver and his voice broke completely under the strain of tears.

‘You came here a little over ten years ago after you’d completed a novel. You came across my daughter, and you two fell in love. We never met, but she had shown me your picture. I recognized you instantly when I saw your face in the newspaper. You were found dead a week before my daughter’s body was found. It wasn’t until she came here that…Oh, she was as clueless as you are about her situation! She chatted with me like we used to. She said she was waiting for you to pick her up, and that she was glad I’d get the chance to meet you. It broke me to tell her the truth a few weeks later!

‘She recalled how she had died and told me about it. Have you ever seen someone tell you how they died when they’ve just remembered it themselves? Of course, you haven’t. It’s always sad, but it’s unbearable when it’s your daughter giving the account while sobbing fitfully! But her agony wasn’t long. The moment I told her you’d killed yourself, probably just a few minutes after that accident, she simply smiled. She wiped her tears, walked out that door, and never returned.’

Budh tried to say something but his voice betrayed him. He could barely manage to breathe.

‘It was shortly after her death that I started helping out people here. The locals here aren’t entirely comfortable around me, but I don’t intimidate them either. They’re a superstitious bunch, and I help out as much as I can. Not all souls end up here the moment they die. It took you five years �" five painful years for me �" to get here. Since then you’ve been a regular. You come in here every day, and we have this same conversation.’

‘That’s not possible,’ said Budh, finally finding something resembling his voice.

‘How else do you explain all the things I know about you and your nature?’

Shiv’s remarks earlier replayed in Budh’s mind.

You’re not an explorer, because you think people deliberately look for places like this to feel good about themselves for doing something different. You hate that that pretentious attitude of not wanting to belong to the mainstream but wanting to belong somewhere nevertheless, just the way you hate people who act weird just to be seen as weird and treated differently and stand apart from the usual crowd.

 ‘Nobody is wise enough to know so much with a single glance. People can pretend to be that wise, but they’re not. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll end this tonight.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you’ve never stayed before when I spill the beans. It might be because I brought up my daughter having been here and passing over. She did say you loved her as well, although I never�"‘

‘IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!’ screamed Budh. The tears resumed rolling down his cheeks as the image of the girl disappearing down the valley leapt to his mind again. Shiv pursed his lips and eyed him curiously. He folded his arms and waited for Budh to continue.

Budh kept sobbing for a minute before wiping the tears and taking a few deep breaths. ‘It all happened so suddenly, Shiv. I didn’t have time to react!’

‘But you did react! You saved yourself and bailed on her!’

Budh started to say something but stopped. Shiv was right. No matter what justification he gave, it wouldn’t change the facts. He lowered his eyes. He couldn’t face the father of the girl he’d killed, the girl he’d loved.

‘You were such a coward that you took your own life!’ said Shiv, lowering his voice and turning away from Budh. Budh shook his head slowly a couple of times.

‘You may be right. Maybe I was a coward to save my life and abandon her. But I took my life because I couldn’t live without her.’

Shiv turned towards him and looked at him how Raju would have looked.

‘No matter how difficult it is for you to believe me, that’s the truth.’

‘Is that supposed to be some sort of an explanation?! Is that supposed to comfort me?!’

Budh took a long exhale and flattened his palms on the table to stop their shaking. He could feel his body loosen up. The anvil that was crushing his chest suddenly disappeared.

‘Truth isn’t always comforting, and it doesn’t always give closure.’

‘Then what is supposed to give me closure?’ asked Shiv.

‘I don’t know. Maybe time will. What cannot be healed by words can only be healed by time.’

Shiv didn’t turn to look up at him. Budh felt his weight oozing out into the surrounding air. He felt like everything inside him was changing with each second. The flow of energy he had felt until that moment shattered and gave way to something that followed a different path but had a beautiful flow. It felt like a stream was rushing within his body, causing all sorts of flowers to blossom. He could feel the air getting affected by it as well. A pacifying warmth enveloped him as if he were lying in the arms of a lover.

He rose from his stool and placed his hand gently on Shiv’s shoulder before walking to the door. He knew his legs would take him to his destination. They moved mechanically as he drifted dreamily through the still night. The moon spread the blanket of a gentle light on the landscape around him.

Shiv looked out to the valley just in time to see a figure dropping into it. He sat there staring at the spot all night. He hardly blinked as the tears snaked down his cheeks and fell silently on the ground. He knew that people would no longer see a rider-less bike scaling the roads. His wounds had only healed partially, and he would have to let time apply the balm over numerous iterations. In the timeless hills where past, present, and future sit and chat leisurely, he would wait for them all to visit his bar and ease his pain little by little.

                                                  

© 2018 Agyani


Author's Note

Agyani
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Featured Review

Hello

I've only read this chapter, so I don't know the history of the others; that said, I believe this is great. Loved all the characters, the story and flow and twist.

I probably missed a lot in regards to the rider-less bike, so it felt out of place. Had I read the previous chapters I'm sure it would fit right in.

The writing has no issue that I could see or recommend change about.

Think the dialogue is brilliant.

Thanks for the read

Best writing to you

Silt

ps one thing I thought about is the connection between the whirl pool inside him when faced with the truth, and the girl squeezing her arms around his waist on the bike. I wanted to see a connection to that sensation between the two scenes.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

Hi
Thank you for your review. I'm glad you liked it. If you find the time to read the two cha.. read more



Reviews

Again, this chapter is well-done in every respect. You hit a few crescendos of drama in this one that were amazingly well-written with realistic dialogue that showed true deep intensity of feeling from your various characters. When I look back over this entire read, it feels like several incredible crescendos about different things, but I didn't really catch how it's all connected. How did we get from Prairie Oysters to writing books to being gay to forgetting having murdered to actually being dead & on & on. I find myself wondering if there's a theme here that I've missed. What is the overall lesson or realization that connects all these various bright spots of amazingly vivid dialogue? About half this chapter was explanation, showing how all these disparate aspects of your story fit together. First off, I don't like longer stories that feel disconnected and then there's a long explanation where it's all untangled. In the second case, I didn't follow the long explanation. I like the way you repeated various phrases & passages, to help remind your reader of what has come to pass in earlier chapters, and I felt that you were pulling together these threads. I just never felt it all come together. But this could be becuz I'm not a believer in stories where people are dead & existing in some unusual "other plane" . . . sometimes unbelievable aspects are used to tie a story together but it seems too convenient to make stuff up that untangles your storyline. I know lots of stories are told this way & you did a great job, as far as this style of storytelling goes. But I'm just not a fan of having to spend this much time explaining a story. A story can have twists & turns, but I want the relationship between the twists & turns to eventually become clear, not becuz the storyteller is trying to make it become clear. I hope you can see this is a preference of mine & not something you did poorly. You pulled off a strong, complex piece of writing here with mind-blowing dialogue that carried the reader thru realistic ups & downs (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

"A story can have twists & turns, but I want the relationship between the twists & turns to eventual.. read more
barleygirl

3 Years Ago

Thank you, that means alot to me . . . I like having you as a friend & reading your stuff. Some peop.. read more
Hello

I've only read this chapter, so I don't know the history of the others; that said, I believe this is great. Loved all the characters, the story and flow and twist.

I probably missed a lot in regards to the rider-less bike, so it felt out of place. Had I read the previous chapters I'm sure it would fit right in.

The writing has no issue that I could see or recommend change about.

Think the dialogue is brilliant.

Thanks for the read

Best writing to you

Silt

ps one thing I thought about is the connection between the whirl pool inside him when faced with the truth, and the girl squeezing her arms around his waist on the bike. I wanted to see a connection to that sensation between the two scenes.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

Hi
Thank you for your review. I'm glad you liked it. If you find the time to read the two cha.. read more

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Added on August 7, 2018
Last Updated on August 7, 2018
Tags: supernatural, revelation, tragedy, pain, sorrow, suffering, memory

Author

Agyani
Agyani

India



About
A novelist by heart, but a freelance ghostwriter by necessity. It's only pen and paper (or my keyboard) that help me 'show' who I am and not just 'be' who I am. I am a storyteller and try to m.. more..

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