Something’s wrong in Club Blaze tonight. I can’t put my finger on it, but the heaviness of the air is pushing on my lungs, and I can hardly breathe. The metal band playing their rolling, heavy rifts would normally have me sky-high by now, but I’m anything but.
“Come on, Zack Kullis,” I say to myself, “get it under control. The bar is hopping. If you want the big tips that come with Friday nights like this, you better keep your ass moving.”
The fucking Blazing Skull fresco plastered on the wall behind the performers appears to be smiling, leering even, and I swear it’s staring at me. Shit! It’s not just staring at me, it’s trying to get into my head. It wants my thoughts known to it.
Wow! What’s come over me? I’ve worked here a long time, and I’ve seen some strange things go down but I’ve always been able to look the other way and not worry about them. But the very atmosphere tonight is a choking, threatening force, an entity even, one intent on wreaking havoc on me.
The mere scent of beer coming from the bottles as I open them causes my stomach to retch, and as for pouring one on tap, it’s nausea city. I can hardly stand, doubled over the way I am from the pain deep within my gut, forcing its way up my esophagus, and lingering in the space between the back of my throat and my trembling lips.
Sweating like I’ve just stepped out of a sauna, my fancy bartender’s garb – black tuxedo pants, cumberbund, long sleeved white shirt, and a hideous black bow-tie – is drenched and trapping the heat against my body. Steam! My God, I feel like steam is pouring out from within and frying my skin. Boils pop up before my eyes, and I rush to run cold water over my hands to keep the burns down, knocking Joe, the other bartender, to the side.
“What’s wrong with you, mother-fucker?!” he shouts.
Pointing to my blistered hands, I say, “I have to get water on these burns now!”
“What burns? You’re one crazy fuck tonight!”
What the . . . ?
There are no burns! How can this be? Just moments ago they were all over my hands.
The fresco laughs at me, the fleshless skull opening its mouth wide, flashing those perfect white teeth in my direction. The flames go wild, and within seconds the back drop to the stage ignites and the band is engulfed in a deluge of red, orange, and yellow. The dancing armada of heat demons sets the leather jackets of the band members on fire, and soon their faces match that of my nemesis, as peeling flesh falls from their faces to the floor. Five flaming musicians cavort on stage as if possessed, the intensity of their music reaching a crescendo unlike anything I have ever heard before.
Wild, burning banshees sing of a place much like the stage is now, one filled with torture and pain. But . . . but the band doesn’t appear to be in distress. Can it be? Is this their normal state of being?
Before I can react to the fire, to get to an extinguisher at the side of the bar, the flames reverse themselves and traipse back to the fresco, where they once more become mere paint and fabric. And the band . . . the band and all that was once consumed by the fire is now back to the way it was.
My head! What is going on? This can’t be happening? The painting is causing this. I know it is.
“Damn you!” I shout, staring at the painting. “Stop this shit!”
Joe pulls me back from the edge of the bar. “Zack! Calm down. Go outside and get some air. Pull yourself together.”
Yeah, that’s what I need. This place is closing in on me tonight. That’s all. A little air and I’ll be just fine.
It’s no easy task working my way through the patrons. The joint is getting more packed with every minute. But I have to get through. Even the participants in this crazy drinking, dancing, and orgasmic frenzy of emotions coming from I don’t know where are looking non-human. Their outward personas vanish beneath their false veneers and I see them for who and what they really are.
Putting my hands over my eyes, I force myself through the gathering of miscreants and, after what seems to be an eternity, I find myself in the parking lot. Oh, shit! The parking lot is empty. These people inside; where did they come from? How did they get here?
“A little confused, are you?”
I turn and see Mr. McRob leaning up against one of the porch supports, striking his match against the timber and lighting up a cigar. Cuban. Damn, I remember the aroma from the pre-embargo days.
“Remember these, Zack? Ah, you do, don’t you?”
Before I can answer him, a lit cigar is in my hand.
“Go ahead, my friend. Indulge. I have plenty.”
Standing a few feet apart, puffing on the best of the best, and wondering how he got to me so fast, I simply say, “Thank you, sir.”
He laughs. “Call me Blaze. Everyone else does. Well, almost everyone else. Sometimes I get called rather vile names. People can be rather crude, you know.”
I’m not sure what’s going down, but I haven’t physically laid eyes on Mr. McRob since the day I was hired. And that’s been a long time. Why now?
“Why now? I’ll tell you why now,” he says.
How does the bastard know what I’m thinking?
“Let me explain what’s happening here, Zack. Club Blaze is a little more than a gin mill with heavy metal music. Well, that’s a bit of a lie. Damn me. Truth be told: it’s a lot more. See, we cater to some pretty special people.
“Alas. The special people are pretty much gone. You know the back room where you thought the high stakes poker games were going on?”
“The games were going on, but other things were happening as well.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“Please, call me Blaze, Zack. Deals were being made. Special deals; deals with a purpose, a special meaning.”
I’m still confused. What does all this have to do with a full joint, an empty parking lot, a wall painting becoming alive, and non-humans hiding inside the bodies of what appear to be humans?
A sarcastic laugh reverberates around me from all sides of the parking lot. “Oh, Zack, you are such a virgin when it comes to the ways of the world. My world, anyway.”
He walks to the road and beckons for me to join him. Gingerly, I walk to where he waits for me.
“What we have here is a crossroads, Zack. Two paths intersecting; two choices to be made. And for me, deals to be made. Some people are rather unhappy with their lot in life and work out a deal with me to gain riches, a longer life, or maybe some guy wants a hot floozy to scratch his scrotum for awhile. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I totally understand what he’s saying, but I don’t know if I can believe it or not. This is too far over the top. It just flies against logic.
“Fuck logic, Zack. You’re working for a bit of a bastard. Sorry you have to find that out, but better now than later, huh?”
“Yes, Blaze. Better now than later.”
“Great! We have some common ground. Now we go back to choices and deals. What do you want from life?”
“Nothing much. I have a job, make some decent money, and my wants are really not that exorbitant. I’m pretty content with things the way they are.”
“Oh, Zack, come on now. Surely you would enjoy riches and all that comes with it.”
“Not really. I live alone, and my salary here is quite good. I enjoy my job, for the most part, anyway – tonight was wonky – but there’s not anything else I need.”
“I’ve been burned too often. I need a break there. When the time is right, things will gel. Until then, I’ll just wait.”
Blaze is pissed. He wants to make a deal, and I’m not amenable to his little game.
“Let’s up the ante, Zack. What would happen if you were fired from this job, you searched high and low to find another one, only to find out you’re too fucking old to be considered? What then?”
“Social Security, maybe?”
“I don’t think so, Zack. It’s not very secure anymore, is it?”
This isn’t sounding too reassuring. I’m thinking my job is heading south, and my options are not too high in the sky.
“So what are you suggesting, Blaze?”
“There we go, Zack. I’m just suggesting we make a deal. As you can see, I’ve tapped into everyone else around here. My present clientele is waiting for their time to pay up or shut up.”
“So I’m fresh meat?”
“Interesting way to put it, but it’s true.”
Blaze is really pissed now. “You don’t have a choice in the matter.”
The final ashes fall from the exquisite cigar, and as I stomp the butt out in the lot, I stare into the faces of everyone from inside the club.
“Well, Zack, it seems to me that keeping your job is pretty high on your list of wants. If you don’t deal, that job is gone. What do you say?”
Fuck, he has me. I need a job. “So what’s the deal?”
“Usually, I would love to play some poker, but we have an audience. How about we flip a coin? You call it. If you win, you not only keep your job, but you’ll own the club. What a deal, huh?”
“My coin, and it’s heads.”
I take a quarter out of my pocket, stare at the entourage around me, and flip it high into the air. There is electricity in the air as everyone waits to see which way the coin lands.
“Hey, Blaze” I say, “it’s heads. Heh, heh. Looks like I win.”
The assemblage murmurs in shock. This is not what anyone expected.
A rumbling comes from deep beneath, its intensity building the closer it gets to me. The ground opens under the club and swallows it up. My parking lot companions, other than Blaze, turn into so many variants of wispy personas and vanish into the night.
“Blaze,” I say, “I thought the club was mine.”
“Oh. It is. We just never discussed where the club would be when you owned it.”
A sinister laugh taunts me before I stand alone at the crossroads.
I turn my coin over in my hands. Go figure. This quarter has two heads . . .
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2013 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.
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31 thoughts on “BACK ROOM DEALS”
Being a fan of horror and rock music (what a surprise) this appealed to me. Enjoyed the ‘devil at the crossroads’ reference… 😉
I’m glad you liked my tale of Devilish Rock&Roll mayhem, Karen. I loved making myself fit into the role of Satan, although Zack weaseled out of true condemnation. Damn him!
Didn’t you already Damn me? \m/
What a wicked club. Those were some smoking hot guitar riffs! 😉 I really loved the premise for this story. Crossroads are always a tricky situation, and as you so masterfully proved here, sometimes there are no right choices!
I enjoyed writing this tale, Adriana. Zack mentioned Club Blaze a while back and the rest is history: of the Damned variety. Is there any better than that?
Great story Blaze! I love the twist that comes with a crossroads deal… Can’t avoid them, too bad poor Zack didn’t know enough to read the fine print! Great stuff! I love the casual tone. Very nicely spun. So, where can we get our tickets to Club Blaze now? LOL 😉
I’ll have plenty of time to read the fine print as I’m pimping cocktails in hell. 😉
I’ll have a Brave Bull, and save me a seat. 😉
To pimp or not to pimp, Zack! at least you have a Damned job! And job security.
I lost the Club. Zack is the sole proprietor now. The word on the street is that he’s shoveling as fast as his little hands can go to get it up and running. Zack is determined to win at all costs.
Thank you for your kind words, Nina!
LOL – I think you’re far to wily to let it (and him) get away that quick, digging or not! Mr. McRob always has a little extra trick up his sleeve. Zack, abandon ship! It’s the safest move right now! Again – great piece!
The Devil went down to Blaze’s, looking for a fan to steal; Fire grew from his fingertips, as he lit up his cigar… (that song will be in my head for days!)
Very characterful, Blaze! An enthralling little fable. I especially enjoyed the description of the flames becoming real and engulfing the musicians. Poor Zack, though! At least he has a steady job (in Hell) and some prospects ahead of him!
You know, Thomas, I think I have the single best and most coveted job in hell; barkeep. Nothing like having some captive customers!
Gotta love captive customers, Zack. would that work for selling books?
So right about the steady job and the prospects, Thomas. The flame idea came from my blog picture, and everything else just morphed out from the warp that is my mind. I’m glad you like my little tale.
Hell yeah! Owner of the best Damned club in the Abyss. Was it worth my soul? Yes.
Blaze, I’m honoroed to be included in one of your stories. Some of my favorite parts of this story included the hellish fresco and the demonic band as they rock in tortured flames.
Thank you, Zack. You are the man! I think stories like this can be a lot of fun. You came up with the club idea. How could I resist the rest. I happen to love Metal bands, and after all, the Devil comes in many forms. Why not a fresco? I also loved writing the flaming band scene and the reversal back to base one to add to your mental anguish. Bad Blaze!
I’m glad you like the story, Zack!
Ahhh, FINALLY a place where I can belly up to the bar and feel right at home. *Hell-Sweet-Hell smile* Blaze, your much-anticipated tale did not fail to delight…and defile… *toothy grin* I very much enjoyed this read and will visit Club Blaze anytime, day or night. Well, as long as new bartender Zack Kullis is there. If not simply so that I can watch his damned soul burn. *roll-out-the-barrel grin*
Zack will be there for sure, Wulfy! He owns the joint. This was a super fun write and just rolled out of my devilishly Damned mind. I sure hope he keeps my Blazing Skull on the wall!
Thank you, good sir!
from the fresco to the double headed quarter – magnifico
flames and cross roads and all
great names for your characters also
you Rock Blaze, Sir
Thank you, moondustwriter! I couldn’t resist the flaming fresco, burning stage and band members, or the trickery on both parts at the end. Ah, the joys of being a Damned writer!
This tale was a lot of fun to read and experience! The tone and atmosphere was fantastic, reminding me of one of my favorite flicks, From Dusk Till Dawn, and like the Titty Twister, Club Blaze is a place full of danger but you just can’t stay away. You gotta admire Zack! He stood up and held his ground against the wiles and threats of a powerful antagonist. I’d be honored to share a drink with him any day!
Thanks for a good one, Brother Blaze.
And keep on rocking, Zack!
Thank you, Tyr! I’m chartering a bus to get all of us together so we can share some drinks with Zack. So far, the only charter has a black bus with red, orange, and yellow flames on it. That should be okay, shouldn’t it?
I’ll have the drinks ready!
(bring your own ice, it doesn’t last long once you get across the River Styx)
Club Blaze is ready. Muddlers made from femurs – check. Jiggers made from skulls – check. Vermouth, Triple Sec, some Czech absinthe…
Yeah, we’re ready. By bus or train you’ll travel well, but every path leads straight to hell.
Hey Blaze! First, my apologies for being late to your party; my virus knocked me out for several days. But on to Back Room Deals:
I loved this story!! I think Tyr brought up the imagery I had as well…the Titty Twister loomed predominantly in my head. I smiled nearly the entire time reading this; the enjoyment you had writing this is clearly tangible! And poor Zack…little did he know that by becoming a fan of the Damned…well, he truly is frigging Damned now! lol
All I know is that if Club Blaze ever moves down the street from me, & Zack is serving up some frost ones..don’t wake me! lol I’ll be a customer for life!!
Great story, Blaze!! Thank you!!
You are most welcome, Joe. Thank you for your kind statements. Yes, this was a fun piece: my buddy Zack being the hero, me-sweet lamb that I am-being Satan, the burning stage and band members; oh be still my beating heart. Maybe we haven’t heard the end of Club Blaze or the wily Zack. Hmmn.
Nice one! Loved the dialogue. Crisp, sharp with a hint of ‘oh shit’. I do believe I’ve been to that place before. Luckily, I blacked out.
Blacking out will no longer be an option, Hunter! Thank you for your kind words. Oh shit is on my tongue a lot, by the way. I need some breath mints, I think.
Nice job, Blaze!
Thank you, Monica! I’m glad you like my fiery tale!