The Great Gwathbey

It was two in the morning, and Gwathbey was in a state about halfway between nicely drunk and vomiting. He squinted at his phone keypad. He'd stepped on his glasses while he was stumbling out of the last club, and now he was feeling morose and needed someone to call.

Jennifer's phone only rang twice before the answer phone took over. "This is Jennifer's phone," it said tinnily. "I'm not here at the moment, so please leave a message and I'll get back to you. If that's you, Gwathbey, you can piss off."

He left a message just in case. Somehow the phone managed to escape from his fingers while he was putting it back in his pocket. However, his feet didn't seem to want to do what he told them to— he slipped over while trying to avoid stepping on it. Unfortunately, this meant he fell on his backside and sat heavily on his phone. There was an audible crack.

When he rolled himself off it, it was lying in three bits on the pavement. He reached out to scoop the bits up, then stopped.

He'd never noticed that club just across the street. Now he thought about it, he couldn't remember ever having seen anything there. It had to be brand new, he decided. But the good thing was that it probably stocked booze, and booze was definitely what he needed right now.

He used the nearest lamppost to hoick himself vertical again and set off across the street. A car hooted and swerved around him. What on earth was the driver doing right in the road? Didn't they know people walked there?

The bouncers looked at him rather suspiciously when he got to the door. He smiled disarmingly at them and waved his ID. He only just avoided hitting the nearest one in the face with it.

"We don't serve drunks," the one on the left said. He was a funny-looking man— there was something a bit odd about him, definitely, but Gwathbey couldn't place it.

"I most certainly am not drunk, my good sir," Gwathbey said, drawing himself up in his most indignant way. "I am perfectly sh— sober, and most willing to prove it to you."

Leftie glanced at the one on the right, a pinched-up little man who— there was something strange about him too, but damned if Gwathbey knew what it was. He squinted harder. If only he had his glasses, he'd be able to see what was bothering him.

"I have a rare and inaushpicious curse laid upon me by a great wishard," Gwathbey said. "I cannot help myself from stumbling at any time that I walk. Or shlurring upon occasion. Or stepping on your foot, as I see I am doing, sorry, sir, sorry about that. To bar me from your establishment would be entirely conte— con— contempotush— not very nice, my good men."

"He's got to be one of them, way he talks," Righty muttered to Leftie. "Well, okay, we believe you."

"You do?" said Gwathbey, so surprised that he forgot to keep his balance.

"No," said Righty. "But go on in."

Vastly confused, Gwathbey handed over his money and stumbled in past the bouncers. The music sounded like 80s pop, if that pop had been thrown in an industrial blender and set to a steady pulse of wub-wub-wub. The walls were black matte, and the floor was silver polished to a mirror shine. That gave him some confusion at first as he tried to work out which set of feet were his.

More saliently, he couldn't remember having seen any of this clientele around the typical goth hangouts in the neighbourhood. They didn't seem quite the same. Those people were usually teenagers and twenty-somethings trying hard to look like tragic ghosts and spiky monsters. These people— well—

He blinked hard. Without his glasses, he was seeing some very bizarre tricks of the light. He could have sworn that a woman with three eyes, wearing a rather trendy black lace dress— no, no, it was just a spot of double vision. And that hulking young man in the Ramones t-shirt must be standing in a disco light that he couldn't see, because it was perfectly good common knowledge that human beings were not blue.

Eventually he reached the bar. With some work, he managed to seat himself nearly upright on a bar stool and flag down the bartender.

"What'll it be?" the bartender asked him. He was a tall man with a grotty bleached mohawk, a rather large nose, and a lot of spiky metal in his face.

Gwathbey swayed over to look at the cocktails menu and squinted. The bartender narrowed his eyes.

"To be honest, handsome, you look like you've overdone it a bit. Maybe you should ease off."

"Nonsense," Gwathbey said. "I'm fine and not pished at all. I think one of your delightful almond concoctions would be delightful, for a start."

"Sure," the bartender said, raising a pierced eyebrow. "Delightful, that's a new one." He was good at his job, apparently— he had the cocktail on the bar in front of Gwathbey faster than anyone Gwathbey had ever seen.

Gwathbey took a sip. He frowned and took another. "Unique flavour, my good man."

"That'd be the selkie milk." The bartender shrugged. "Wouldn't have pinned you for it, but each to their own, I guess."

"I didn't say it was good," Gwathbey declared. "Shelkie milk. Really."

"Freshly milked." The bartender shrugged. "All the rage these days, one of those postmodern things, I guess."

"So what's that one?" Gwathbey asked, flailing at a thick red drink that a rather pale lady on the other side of the bar was sipping.

"O negative," the bartender said. "I don't think you'd like it though, handsome." He looked a bit confused now. "Are you from around here?"

"Absolutely! Not half an hour away, my man," said Gwathbey. "Why, did you want to see?"

"Hah. Well. Play your cards right," the bartender said. "I was just thinking, you don't seem like, uh, the usual clientele."

"No? And h'why would that be?"

"You're a bit. You know. You smell a bit human now I think about it."

Gwathbey laughed. "Why, what else am I supposed to smell of?"

The bartender coughed. "Well, this isn't really a place for humans, you know?"

"What is it then?" Gwathbey looked around. "Looks pretty human to me."

The person sitting next to him gave him an angry look. The bartender winced.

"Maybe you should stop drinking and think about getting back wherever you need to be," he said. Gwathbey was sure he heard the bartender mumble to himself, "Before everyone in here tries to kill you."

The bartender waited a few seconds, while Gwathbey looked at him blankly, and added, "I'll take care of that drink for you."

"That's fighting talk," Gwathbey said, clutching at his cocktail. "So what are you shupposed to be? An ogre? You're certainly very tall." He chuckled to himself.

"A werewolf, actually," the bartender said.

Gwathbey squinted at him. Then he squinted at the person next to him (who seemed to have an awful lot of scales, now he thought about it), and at the lady sipping her O negative, and at the young blue man in the Ramones T-shirt, who was leaning against the bar and huffing impatiently, clearly waiting for the bartender to serve him.

"My deepest apologies, my good man," he said. "My mishtake." Then he frowned. "What happensh to that moaha— mahoaw— thing on your head when you're a wolf?" he asked carefully. He took another sip of his cocktail. It really was dreadful.

"Turns into a mohawk on my back," the bartender said. "Look, I don't know how you got past the bouncers, handsome, but I don't want you to get roughed up for nothing, so I'm not going to call them over. But, you know, this isn't a human bar."

"I shuppose I know when I'm not wanted," Gwathbey said despondently. Then he glanced up and added, "But, my good man, what time do you get off work?" before any part of his brain that was not alcohol-soaked could step in to intervene.

The bartender raised both metal-filled eyebrows at him. Then he frowned, looked Gwathbey up and down, looked a bit thoughtful, shrugged, and grinned.

"Half one."

"I shuppose it's nearly gom— gone— one now," Gwathbey said. "Maybe I'll wait a little while, sshhall I?"

"Five past," the bartender agreed. "Okay. Hey, look, I'm just going over here, okay? I'll be back." He wandered off to serve the now very impatient Ramones T-shirt man.

And that was the story of how Gwathbey woke up with a werewolf in his bed and a terrible headache. Jennifer never contacted him back, but his life did get an awful lot more interesting after that.

-fin