The gay bar that I found myself in that evening was really more of a gay café that just happened to serve liquor.
I sat at the bar killing time, eying the fancy cocktail the lesbian couple next to me were sipping on and wondering if I should order one myself from the handsome barman, But I knew I would never do it, It would be a faux pas somehow.
I was due to attend what I was sure would be a wonderful dinner with an old friend of mine who had decided to eschew his long term moral opposition to monogamy and marry a beautiful woman in a delightful little chapel outside of Rome that dated back to the late empire.
Then, with a sense of intense dread, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Someone was staring at me.
I turned my head and confirmed my intuition. There sitting on the once vacant stool was a man who was indeed staring intently at me.
"Welcome back to Rome"
I gave a him a weak smile. It is quite common for me to forget people, my old Aunt Helen was the biggest victim of this habit; but she was a lush so it never mattered if I remembered her or not as she didn't remember me either.
I extended my hand.
"Pleasure. Do I know you?" I asked.
He smiled and shook his head.
Obviously, I thought, I had met this man before at a party or something and now he was going to make me work to figure out who he was.
"Have we spoken somewhere before then? I think you look familiar"
I completely pulled that part out of my ass; to be totally honest with you I hadn't even given him a proper look over at that point.
"Really? We could have met before. But only in your dreams. I guess you must have wished very hard for me"
He chuckled a little at his own joke.
I put my bottle of beer down onto the solid bar; turned and gave this man my full attention.
"Maybe. But somehow you know that I am not from Rome and that I have returned to the city. So clearly you must know who I am or at least we must have a mutual friend or something."
He had been leaning forward on the bar slightly but at my words his back went rigid, as if an extremely tight corset had materialized around his torso.
"Absolutely not!" he spat with feminine venom. "I am not into any, and I underline any! Gay merry-go-round! So be sure of that. I am not a part of your homo-normative, shallow, materialistic world. You don't know me and I have no relation to any of your so-called friends. And I am very glad of that."
I leaned back slightly. Measuring up how this was going to go.
I immediately decided to go nuclear. If I had not made this snap decision I probably would have noticed the signs earlier that would have helped me avoid the disaster that occurred that day. However I am only human and I was at the time ignorant of the imminent threat I faced.
I immediately remembered my college days when my fag hag at the time summed up the type of person I believed I was speaking to in such marvelous prose.
"They are" as she had so eloquently said "Velvet queers. The kind of gay man whose dick smells of lavender. The kind who have to remove about fifty fancy duvets from their bed before they fuck. The kind of person who is looking for 'an emotional experience' rather than a quick handjob like the rest of us lowly peasants. The kind of gay that even Elton John would roll his eyes at"
I had to resist the temptation to grin at the thought of the phrase "velvet queer" and had to resist the temptation again when I finally surveyed this man properly.
This man, who had just called me materialistic, sat before me sporting a manicured hipster beard with horn rimmed glasses with gold frames surrounding the lenses. He wore a three-figure cashmere sweater with an ascot tied inside the crest along with tight red chinos and a positively ghastly pair of loafers with tassels. He also had a waxed mustache that made me think he had gone to the barbers with a photograph of Dick Dastardly
I hated him.
Already I hated him
I didn't know anything extra about this man and yet I hated him more than anyone else in my life.
He seemed to me a freakish combination of the worst stereotypes as if he were some kind of alien with no concept of normalcy attempting to blend into gay society.
I returned to reality and made an obvious forced smile.
"Why did you want to talk to me?"
He relaxed again and started swirling his drink, the same kind that the lesbian couple had been drinking earlier.
"Because I am a gentleman under the sadness." He said adding an ironic sigh for whimsical flair.
"The sadness?" I asked, "Do you mean you suffer from depression?"
He burst out laughing. Loud, raucous, and entirely condescending.
"Depressed? Darling why should I be? The sadness has a different meaning here sweetie but forget about it. It isn't on your level"
I wanted to say I would sell him to satan for a grain of rice.
But instead I said "You know, Not to be rude or anything but you are kind of a pretentious cunt. Tell me do you prefer the standard hipster 'everything you like is shit' kind of pretentiousness or are you more of a 'tortured artist' kind of asshole?"
He sniffed and stuck his nose in the air.
"Why don't you tell me? You seem to be the perfect judge of us all"
It was now my turn to laugh.
"What are you a teenage girl?" I chuckled. I then mimicked a little girl squealing "YOU DON'T KNOW THE REAL ME!" at him all the while chuckling at his ever-reddening face.
We didn't speak for a few seconds but the malicious instinct inside goaded me on to further war.
"You know I would have liked talking to you," Said I, an absolute lie.
"If only you hadn't insulted me," I continued.
"Insult you?" He repeated incredulously "I have never said anything rude to you. It was you who have insulted me. Your parents did a bad job raising you."
I laughed softly in his face, infuriating him.
"Have I offended you somehow?" I asked.
"No!" he snapped " You have no power over anyone. And I don't appreciate your girlish behavior. You really have no value"
God I hated him. As he spoke a vision of me rage fucking him until I cracked his skull against my headboard and gave him permanent brain damage crossed my mind.
I still did not see the obvious signs. I still could have escaped at this point.
He continued to berate me.
"You are stupid. Shallow! You are less than zero. You are…"
I cut him off by raising my hand.
"You have my sympathy." I condescended.
I got up and went to the bathroom, I didn't need to piss or anything but I just felt it would be the rude thing to do.
I returned to the bar a minute or so later. Sat down. Drained the last of the beer and ordered a new one. There was still two hours to go until I would head off to my pre-arranged dinner with my old friend and his lovely bride to be.
The man was gone, his stool once more vacant; I much preferred it that way.
The barman returned with a glass of beer for me. He would not however take his hand off of it.
I looked up at him.
"Is there a problem?"
The barman gave me a stern look.
"The man who was sitting beside you earlier sir."
"Yes. What about him?"
"You must leave sir."
I laughed and waved away his concerns.
"That was nothing just some crazy…"
The barman forcefully grabbed my forearm and leaned in.
"Sir I am warning you. Please! You must leave at once"
There was panic in his eyes, sheer terrified panic.
"What are you talking about?"
"It came here. It learns from us. I have seen the things it does. You must leave at once sir. For your own safety. To warn people!"
I had never seen such fear before as I saw now in the barman's dark expressive eyes, he was on the verge of tears.
"Please sir" he loosened his grip on my arm.
I placed my hand on top of his.
"What do you mean 'seen things'?" I asked, concerned.
The barman's eyes flitted nervously around the room. I looked around; the place was emptier than I had remembered, colder too.
In fact now that I thought of it the lesbian couple were gone along with a few other patrons.
It was much quieter in the bar. Noticeably darker. Even the noise of outside traffic had diminished.
I turned back to the bar. The barman had somehow moved to the far end in the time it took for me to look around.
I looked to my side and withheld a groan. Him again.
The man was sitting beside me. Happily sipping on a different drink.
I said nothing and continued drinking my own beer. I pulled out my phone to check the time but it had run out of power.
I heard a clicking of fingers to my right and looked up to see a rather sophisticated looking businesswoman snapping her fingers for the barman to pay attention.
"Two glasses of the Chianti dear"
The barman nodded and retreated to the back room only to return seconds later with a corkscrew and a dusty bottle.
There was a satisfying pop as the barman ripped the cork from the bottle.
I returned to my beer. Closed my eyes and tipped the last of it down my throat. And in that space of time everything went silent.
I looked to my right. The sophisticated businesswoman had vanished, only a corkscrew and the wine bottle remained. The people at the tables behind me were all gone.
The room had turned almost completely dark. It was as if time had instantaneously advanced several hours.
All that remained was the terrified barman; cowering in the corner.
And then there was him.
The other man.
I turned to my left.
He was staring at me hungrily. An ominous shadow veiled his face revealing only the triangular whites of his eyes.
"Who are you?" I demanded, unnerved.
The man didn't respond. The only noise came from the helpless barman hyperventilating in the corner, abject horror contorting his face.
I stood up and took a step back. The man stood as well. Deepening the darkness. Shutting out the sparse light from the outside.
"W-who are you!?" I shouted in a higher pitch than normal.
The man said nothing but took a step forward.
I scrambled back from him quickly and stumbled over some unseen barstools.
The barman gave an incoherent shriek of primal fear.
The man was silhouetted against the light of the outside. The silhouette began to change. First became formless. Grew larger. Towered over me. The triangular white eyes still glaring evilly.
Any words I had died in my throat. I froze in fright as the demon thing slowly moved towards me.
The barman began screaming.
His screams woke me from my revere and I stumbled backwards towards the end of the bar. I threw my arms back behind me to knock any obstacles out of my way when suddenly I felt something hit my arm and fall to the floor with a clatter of breaking glass. The bottle of Chianti. Instinctually I felt the bar for the corkscrew and grabbed it in my shaking, shuddering hand.
The beast. This creature. Whatever it was. Still approached. The barman's cries had not diminished.
Then with a sickening wet noise a massive conglomeration of circular rows of razored teeth opened up in the center of the mass of darkness advancing towards me, scraps of hair and gore caught between the pulsating rows. Its hateful triangular eyes still glared at me.
"KILL IT. JUST FUCKING KILL IT!" Screamed the barman.
In a panic I grabbed a barstool and flung it as hard as I could at the monster.
The beast stumbled.
I don't know how I did what I did next. I suppose I was possessed by the adrenaline coursing through me. But at the sudden display of mortality by the monster my hands became rock steady and with a finesse that I did not know I had I grabbed another stool and hurled it at the thing with more might than I could ever have imagined myself possessing. It batted the stool out of the way effortlessly and closed the distance between us. I was knocked to the floor.
The beast was upon me now. Its gleaming mouth open wide. The smell of rotting corpses on its breath was horrendous.
The primal hunter-gatherer part of me wrested control of my brain and ordered me to plunge the corkscrew directly into one of the beady eyes of the monster.
It let out an earthshaking roar of pain.
The beast fell to the floor screaming and writhing in an undulating heap.
Immediately I leapt up over the bar and pulled the barman up.
We ran. Screaming, towards the door. We burst outside into the warm, alive Roman evening.
Cars thundered past and pedestrians went about their business. Street lamps hummed with an assuring energy. The barman collapsed against me. Passersby gave us odd looks.
I hauled the poor man across the pavilion and lay him down at the foot of a statue.
"Hey. Hey wake up" I whispered.
His eyes flickered open.
"It killed them. It killed them all!" he whimpered.
I shushed him but he sat up. Tears in his eyes.
"They're all dead! It killed them all! It killed them all!"
He burst into a hysterial fit of sobbing and broke free from my arms. He ran across the street, holding up traffic and screaming about death and demon beasts from beyond the eighth dimension.
I stood up and watched him for a while.
Then I turned towards the bar.
It was gone. The building itself remained but the sign outside was gone. The windows were frosted over with window paint and a 'for rent' sign hung over the door.
I stood there at the foot of the statue for a long time. Pedestrians went about their way. Went about their lives.
Nobody knew what had happened here.