This is part 1 of a two part short story. Part 2 will be posted next Monday, Nov. 13.
Maeve walked through the door of Fado’s. What appeared to be a small Irish pub on the outside morphed into a three story wonder of wood, stone, and sails. She especially liked the second floor where the pictures of the saints in stain-glass style looked down benevolently on the crowd of revelers. Maeve was sure that the icons of Patrick and Brigid would join them in celebration if they were able. After all they were celebrating St. Patrick’s feast day.
Maeve was a regular at Fado’s. It was on her way to the Grand Red Line stop from work. She often stopped in for a drink on the way home. The last couple of months saw her stay longer and drink more than usual, but she supposed that was to be expected after losing Matthew. She pushed her way to the bar, and was surprised to see an empty stool. The bar circled around the entire first floor with nooks and crannies for tables splintering off of its circumference. She pulled herself onto the stool, caught the bartender’s eye, and ordered Irish Cream and milk.
She took a sip of her drink, and leaned back in her chair watching the bartenders and other patrons around her. She let all the conversation and music drift around her like water flowing over her in the shower. Every now and then a cold gust of air tickled her legs. She must be sitting by a vent, although she couldn’t figure out why the air would be cold. It was March, and in Chicago that meant it was still winter with more snow in the near future. One would think the air would still be heated.
It had been a long day at work. Even with the huge, very loud crowd yelling over the very loud band, it was good to be here. The last thing she wanted to do was sit in her apartment alone. She’d only think about Matthew. If she was going to do that anyway, she might as well be here where at least she could pretend not to be so alone. Who knew? Maybe she’d get hit on. She might even say yes. Stranger things have happened.
The cold air hit her legs again, but this time it kept blowing. The gust grew into a breeze, coming from under the bar. Why the hell would anyone put a vent there? How much did it cost to ventilate under a bar? Someone had left part of today’s paper on the counter. She grabbed it and dropped to her knees. May be she could block part of the air flow. As she groped along the bar, her hand suddenly slipped through a hole. A really big hole. What in the world? It was pitch black–why couldn’t she see inside the bar area? The partition wasn’t that thick. She should see the legs and feet of the bartenders who were trying to keep up with all the orders.
There was nothing but darkness.
The cold breeze was blowing her hair off of her face. She started to crawl forward under the bar.
Maeve didn’t know where she was, but she knew it wasn’t the bar. She remembered her grandmother telling her about the “spaces between places”: spaces where ghosts, spirits, sprites, and all sorts of “the otherworldly kind” lived. She also remembered that Fado’s had its own ghosts. She remembered hearing about the woman in a nightgown on the third floor who was blamed for flickering lights and slamming doors. Some of the servers swore she’d touched them, and that part of their body went numb from the cold. There were also two male ghosts on the first floor dressed up in 1950s suits. She overheard servers talking about odd noises and the alarm going off when no one was here.
The blackness ahead of her was turning into a shimmering green. As she entered the green light, she saw a beautiful redheaded woman lying on the floor of the bar, her throat slit, a large pool of blood under her. Her robe was partially opened and Maeve saw part of a bra, and her stockings and garters. Her hair and make-up placed her in the 1950s. It was empty, dark, and cold. She and the dead woman were the only two here. Apparently, Fado’s had one more ghost. She swallowed and began to crawl back out.
The green went back to darkness then her feet hit her bar chair. She slowly stood up and perched back on the tall chair. She polished off the rest of her drink in one gulp.
If she were honest, her plan was to get drunk.
It kept the memories at bay, dulled the pain. But her plan had been to ease into it. Of course, she hadn’t planned on finding out a woman had been murdered here by finding a space between the places either. She waved her hand and caught the attention of one of the bartenders, “An Irish whiskey, please.”
Maeve gently held her head after throwing up. She hadn’t been this hung over since the weekend after Matthew’s funeral. She leaned back against the tub and gently massaged her temples. Her stomach wasn’t turning end-over-end any more, so she took a couple of deep, slow breaths and using the edge of the tub slowly rose to her feet. She shuffled to the kitchen to make the strongest pot of coffee she’d had in the last six months.
By Palm Sunday Maeve was sure she was going crazy. She saw ghosts everywhere she went. Apparently once you experienced the spaces between the places all sorts of things popped out of the woodwork. It didn’t help that Chicago was one big freaking haunted city. She thought it was cool when she was a kid: all of the ghost stories that resulted from the really weird shit that the city seemed to attract. Now it was just infuriating.
It wouldn’t be so bad if she could see the one ghost she wanted to see: Matthew. He must’ve been the only ghost in Chicago she didn’t see.
It appeared the ghosts stayed close to the places they died: soaking wet victims of the Eastland disaster wandering around the river, the victims of the Iroquios Theater fire haunting the alley behind The Delaware Building, and of course the woman who started it all—the women murdered at Fado’s.
Matthew died in his apartment. She highly doubted the current tenants would let her in to see if she could commune with her dead twin’s ghost. They probably didn’t know anyone had died in the condo, not that it was violent or gruesome. Matthew had had an aneurysm in his brain. The doctors said he didn’t feel anything. Maeve wasn’t sure that made her feel any better. But still whoever lived there now probably didn’t want to know someone died in their home.
Anyway the ghosts Maeve saw were mobile: they didn’t stay in the exact spot they’d died in. May be she could see him if she was by the building. It was worth a shot.
The End….for now.
©2013 S. R. Atteberry