• Jabe Stafford

One Page Worlds - The Conjurer's Moonshine

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Please tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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“Choice is only a prison if you make the wrong ones,” Savana says, her flapper dress swaying. “Summer Fridays here are never the wrong choice, Lawrence. You’ve put such spirit into your pubs.”

“They call me Warden while I’m tending the bar.” I raise a rocks glass of my own Craft bourbon high. Deep amber fluid, ice, and alchemy distilled so smoothly I can’t perceive it. “To putting the spirit first.”

Savana The Conjurer smirks and downs a swig from a flask, which she tucks inside a clutch that goes with her dress. The faux gaslights above the cherrywood bar shine on her blonde curls and upon dozens and dozens of Friday night patrons. People of all walks chatter and cheer, sip and swig from Booze Warden glassware. My cursive lime-and-gold logo stands prominent on each. The matching sign out front flares through the smoke-thin curtains over the booths near the front windows.

I set the drink on the wood, slide it past Savana and her dinner-jacketed companion to a tattooed regular. She catches it and nods to me. “Thanks Warden. See? This is why I come here.”

Smiling, I reply, “Not just for the atmosphere. Enjoy your evening.”

Savana shimmies in her maroon dress. She brushes my tux sleeve with a gloved hand the way innuendo touches a flirt. “Generosity and class. You make everyone feel so welcome. Lawrence Grant, this is Ryne Clayten. My student of the Craft.”

A frisson along my skin beneath the tuxedo. Intrigue.

Ryne’s coffee-brown hair and downturned nose remind me of a woman’s ghost I spoke with recently.

I reach across the bar and shake the familiar boy’s clammy hand. “It’s been four years since any of us took an apprentice. You must be honored.”

Ryne squeezes tighter than I expected, a sneer curling his thin lips. “My sisters couldn’t make it tonight. One’s too far and one’s too dead.”

“Ah,” I mutter to conceal the heat rising to my neck. “So sorry to hear of your loss, Master Clayten. I did meet her. The dead one, I mean. Once on each side of the coil.”

Ryne’s eyes whip like blown candle-flames. “Sociopath. Hannah was my sister.”

I drop the handshake and hiss, “You both share poor impulse control.”

The tattooed woman cheers farther down the bar along with those in her party. They each slap twenties into a bartender’s hand. My waitstaff brings out shots of bourbon and a clear moonshine I recognize as Savana’s Craft. An enrichment of colors and voices for yards around gives it away. Tank tops brighten. Laughs cut through complaints and anger.

A lazy grin slides between my lips and I meet Savana’s tan eyes. “Clever of you to use the alchemy’s effects to enhance your moonshine. Good choice.”

Savana shrugs, the picture of attention-getting modesty. “All for good fun. It’s about the history and the spirit. The Twenties were so alluring, and people don’t get to feel that anymore.”

Ryne pounds the bar with both fists and glares at his master. “You’re helping this man? He didn’t give Hannah a choice. She died of alcohol poisoning before her sophomore year. He sold bourbon to college freshmen. Craft bourbon. More addictive. We should be getting rid of him.”

“They couldn’t prove that,” The Conjurer says, gloved hands indicating the happy customers. “Probably a frame job. And look at all the positive vibes he’s spreading.”

His unfocused rage and her rationalization cool me down. It seems my image and reputation will trump any future court cases. I lean in. “Freedom to choose puts a fall among the choices. That burden is on her and on you. The best you can hope for is to get rid of me on the surface. Seize my factories. Close my chains of award winning pubs.”

“You’re damn right I will, and that’s before my lawyers and I get you thrown in prison.”

I chuckle, adjust my dark suit coat. “If you can afford lawyers, do it. You will cheer your victory to the people, then go home and have a drink. Because you earned it. Some other brand will rise. The same old—” I wink at Savana “—me will be here when I’m needed again.”

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