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December 11, 2019

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One Page Worlds - The Warden's Bourbon

January 23, 2019

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!

 

* * * * *

 

“Addiction will save us all,” I tell the woman in the pant suit. “It keeps both of us in business. You didn’t barge into my distillery to complain about your fortune.”

 

Elise The Medium draws symbols on the wood of my Prohibition-era roll-top desk. Two ellipses. Four markings in Craft shorthand where the lines touch. They remind me of stick figures I drew as a child who fancied magic-one head above and one below the curved limbs.

 

Producing a minute corked bottle from her pocket, she places it in the symbol’s center. Her voice is vanilla. “Make your case to those you kill, Lawrence, not to me.”

 

The wine-from Elise’s private cellar-is from the same batch as the two half-empty bordeaux glasses on the desk.

 

She drinks.

 

I sip the deep red fluid. Sour grapes and honeyed flavors slide along my tongue.

 

The tiny bottle judders the desk. Along with every cask on the racks in my distillery. Overhead Edison bulbs flicker and bounce in their fixtures the way everything does in an earthquake.

 

A pop and the cork bursts from the bottle, followed by a pretty brunette spirit with blame in its eyes. The dead woman utters, “You cultist. Murderer. Look what you did, Warden. I died from your—”

 

“From your choices,” I say, whipcrack sharp. “Poor impulse control falls on you to reign in. I recognize you. Hannah Clayten. Booze Warden Pilgrimage Winner last year. National television and a ten-bar-tour. I’d’ve picked your brother as the weak one and not you.”

 

The spirit shrieks her rage to the high ceiling and flies at my face. She never crosses the perimeter of the Craft symbol on the table. Face-planting against it can’t be comfortable even for a spirit.

 

“You preyed on a grad student last year,” Elise hisses. She pierces the barrier with the tip of her charcoal pencil and Hannah’s remnant vanishes into the bottle. “What did you give her, Lawrence? The Rictus? Overjoy? Some other lost alchemy?”

 

I spit on the desk and rub against the woodgrain, scrubbing her symbol away. “Bourbon is my Craft. Addiction is my American Dream. It’s been coming true since Prohibition.”

 

“Profit in apathy,” Elise hisses, re-corking the bottle and slipping it into an inside pocket. “Ask any one of us a century ago and they’d say you were a Craftsman.”

 

“What is that without something to shape?”

 

“Corpses are your creation with every bar brawl and college party your liquor fuels.”

 

Hair on my neck prickles as she goes for the pocket again. I deepen my voice. “Addiction devours the weak and empowers us. We make our fortunes by trimming dead weight.”

 

“People deserve an escape. A way to connect when reality grinds them down.”

 

I slip a drawer open and reach inside, fingers touching a cold revolver grip. “Escape is a fantasy. If we are to continue, we must prey on those who choose weakness.”

 

Elise’s anger could well be mixing with Hannah’s spirit. Her chocolate-black hair swings in its tail with each shuddering breath she takes. “Many do not choose alcoholism. They have disease or deformity shoved at them by trash parents or worse genetics.”

 

“A future is better than no future. Our alchemy must weed out all who are weak. You want a better world? Force me into irrelevance.” Letting go the revolver, I point to the rocks glass full of amber fluid on my desk and add, “Or drink my Bourbon.”

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