Friday, January 15, 2016

Witching Hour

Witch Hour
Dec. 12, 2015

Sid flipped the switch on the neon sign, after a few flickers and hummed to life, spilling pale green light on the slick damp pavement outside of the bar. Hardly a breadth of a second had passed when the bell over the door chimed: once, twice, thrice.

The women who entered seemed to be dressed in neatly pressed power suits. The first wore a wine-colored blouse with a high collar and pearl buttons that climbed all the way up her neck, ending primly in a fringe of lace; over it was a black, fitted blazer. She had close-cropped white hair, crows feet crinkling around her eyes and a nose that was slightly too long to be conventionally attractive. Her eyes were a blue so pale they almost looked white, like milk glass, framed with dark glasses that she peered over like a disapproving school teacher.

The second let her blazing red hair that spilled over her shoulders be her most striking fashion statement, burning brightly against her coal gray outfit. She grinned at Sid, and winked, and he felt his heart flutter in his chest and dropped his eyes, polishing his spotless bar.

The last had her black hair pulled into a braid that was coiled into a snaky crown atop her head. Her skin was paler than any human skin should be, and seemed to cast off its own light in the dim atmosphere of the bar. She was dressed in a blood red pencil skirt, and a white silk blouse that looked dingy against her opal skin. As she stepped across the threshold her brown eyes seemed to fill up with inky blackness.

They sat down at the bar with a sigh, and the glamours all fell away by the time their butts touched the stools - suits and skirts replaced with flowing robes, wide-brimmed hats, pouches of spell components. Sid began pouring, knowing their drinks without being asked. An Old Fashioned for White, Hot Toddy for Red, and a neat Macallan Rare for Black with just a drop of water to wake it up.

"Missed you, ladies," said Sid as he clinked the glasses, crushed bitters, and poured spirits.

"I haven't been able to get the equinox off in ages," groaned Red. She wrapped her fingers around the mug of her toddy and breathed in the vapors steaming off the drink.

"No one recognizes them as holy days anymore. I had to hex the CEO of my company just to maneuver some vacation time," said White. She stirred her drink with her her fingertip, reached into a pouch with her free hand and sprinkled an unidentifiable substance into the cocktail - there was a flash of light and a puff of sweet-smelling pink smoke that wafted from the mouth of the glass. "How goes your business, Black?"

She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her scotch, licking her lips with a tongue that was as pale as her skin.

"Always good, but no where near as challenging as it once was. I'm thinking of getting out of the funerary business entirely," she said. The other two looked at her, Red's mouth hung open a little.

"But you've been doing that for ages - the access to bodies, the blood!" said White.

"I know, it used to be a thrill. But my incantations are such that it's no chance of failure. It's utterly dull," she said. "I hear there is a big doings in midwifery."

"With babies?" asked Red, her lip curling. "I'll stick aphrodisiacs, thank you."

"Oh, come now," said White, giving her scarlet sister a friendly elbow. "We didn't pick on you when you went through the curse phase. Remember when it rained frogs in your bedroom?"

"Shut up!" said Red, her eyes going wide and a blush creeping up her neck to match her hair. But soon all three burst out laughing.

One round became two, then three and soon the bells were chiming that the hour - which is longer than most hours Sid was used to - was over.

"Oh, dear," said Black, finishing the last drop of scotch. "These never seem to last long enough."

"Agreed," said White, standing and leaning over to kiss her sister's pale cheek. "I hope you find a new challenge with your squirming babies."

Black smiled and hugged her younger sister. "Thank you, White. Keep up the good work in agriculture - who knew they'd let you into the cloning sector. That was wonderful news."

Red pulled out her purse and emptied the contents onto the bar. Amidst the crawling spiders, and half-eaten sparrow, was a small pile of gold coins and a few sparkling gems.

"Keep the change, Sid. We'll see you in the next Era," she said.

Sid scooped up the whole pile, dead sparrow and all, and tipped his hat.

"It's always a pleasure to see you ladies. Don't be strangers," he said.

As they filed out the door, the glamours wrapped them in their professional gear that made them seem at once powerful and unobtrusive. Once they had all gone, Sid flicked the switch on his neon sign and the hum died with the odd green light.

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