John pushed open the door to the bar and expected it to be empty.  As he walked towards it with Mystery, he didn’t hear a sound.  No music.  No rumbling of voices.  And certainly no smell of food.  But when John opened the door, it was full.  The bar was jammed.  People were standing because it was so full.  The tables were full.  The booths were full.  There was a thick cloud of smoke that hung around the ceiling of the place.  Twangy country-rock music blared from a red-green-yellow jukebox in the corner.  
The place was alive.
Understanding what he could so far about what was happening, John took no chances.  
“Hello?” he called out.
He wan’st sure if anyone would move.  Perhaps he was a ghost traveling worlds…
“Yea?” a man called out from the bar.  He threw a dirty dish rag over his shoulder.  “What can I do for ya?”
“I was just checking,” John said.  “Making sure I’m alive.”
The bar erupted in laughter.  
“Alive or not, the beer tastes great!” a man yelled.
“And it never runs dry!” another chimed in.
“Try the whiskey.  Smooth but hits like a punch!”
“Calm down!” the bartender yelled.  
Silence followed.
The bartender jumped up on the bar in a motion so fast John decided the man couldn’t be human.
“How do we know this fella here ain’t one of them scums coming from the ground?  He’s filthy.  He’s confused.”
“But he’s talking straight,” a man said.
“Someone knock Smithy the hell out,” the bartender called.
Before John could absorb the words, a man slammed his beer mug to the bar and swung and hit the man named Smithy with a right hook.  Blood splattered into the air and Smithy fell to the ground.  Without care, two men then wrestled for a few seconds to overtake Smithy’s chair.
“I’m sick of ya’ll comin’ into my bar and causin’ problems,” the bartender said.
“I’m not one of the things,” John said.  “I’m not a zombie.  I’m a person.”
“He’s a person!” cried the bartender.  He jumped from the bar and walked up to John.  “Prove it.”
“Yea!” the rest of the bar started to chant.  “Prove it!”
“Listen, all I wanted was a bite to eat,” John pleaded.
“I’ll give ya a bite!” a man yelled.  He stood up and cracked his knuckles.
The bartender put his hand out.  “Settle down, Rocky.  Let’s see what we’ve got here first.”
The bartender leaned into John and sniffed him. 
“You smell like dirt.  And death.”
“I just got done fighting one of those zombie things,” John replied.  “Listen, can we just talk.  I’m not here to hurt anyone.  I don’t even know where I am.”
“You don’t know where you are?” the bartender asked.  “Why?  Because you’re not rotting in hell with the rest of the zombies?”
The bartender slapped John in the face with the dirty dish towel.
“Come on,” the baretnder called out, “come on, attack me.  I dare you!”
John wiped his face.
“I’m not going to attack anyone,” he spoke softly, “I’m a human.  I’m alive.”
Or I think I am, he thought to himself.
“Human?” the bartender screamed.  “Nobody’s human anymore!  You keep lying to me and we’re just gonna have to torture the truth out of you.”
“Listen,” John pleaded one last time, “I’m hungry.  I came with my horse.  He’s out front.  I just wanted a burger.  Maybe a drink.”
“Did you say horse?” the bartender questioned.
“Yes, my horse.  He’s right outside.”
The bartender smiled.  “Good eating tonight!”
The entire bar went into a frenzy of celebration.
“There’s nothing like a treat,” the bartender said.  “Nothing like a good treat to cook up and eat.  I thought we were going to cook you but I prefer the horse…”
The bartender tried to push through John.  John wrapped his arm around the bartender and threw him into the crowd of partrons that had gathered, ready to kill Mystery.
“Get him!” the bartender cried.  “And get that horse!”
John bolted out of the bar.  He could hear the rumble of the crowd behind him.  He even felt a hand or two grab at his shirt collar.  
He dove off the steps of the bar into the sand.
“Get ready Mystery!” he called out.  “They’re coming to gets us.  Keep your ground.  I’ll shoot until there’s none left!”
Mystery looked at John confused.  John turned, drawing both his pistols.  There was nothing there.  Everything was gone.  The crowd, the bartender, the noise, the smells… even the bar.  It was just the open, hot desert.
“Was that… a mirage?” John asked.
Mystery nodded.
“That was so real though…”
Mystery nodded again.
John stuck his guns in their holster and sighed.  His stomach rumbled.  He turned and smiled at Mystery.  Then something caught the corner of his eye.  Something far out.  It seemed like it was resting against the horizon.  This time John didn’t get his hopes up when he saw the object… not because of his previous couple experiences but because it once again looked like a hand sticking out of the ground.

About Jim Bronyaur

Jim Bronyaur writes mystery, thriller, and horror books. Grab a book at www.JimBronyaur.com Tweet him @JimBronyaur And for those who have Kindles and Prime, you may be able to get some of Jim's books for FREE!
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8 Responses to -VII-

  1. this is raucous! really kinda campy and fun!

  2. A mirage of the undead, but for awhile, John had hope. He thought he would have that cheeseburger and beer. That would really disappoint me.
    I love the music. I can see me sitting next to someone in a theater and hanging on to their arm for dear life. You rock!

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  4. “Nobody’s human anymore…”

    Ohhh dear.

    Walking into the bar reminded me of that old Star Trek: NG episode where they found the bar playing out the old novel again and again… can’t remember the ep. But this has great atmosphere. Very surreal!

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  7. Poor guy. Things go from bad to worse.

  8. That made me hungry reading it.

    Feel sorry for the guy, alone but for his horse, and where people are zombies or inhuman. He’s taking the lone cowboy bit a long, long way.

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