The House of the Seventh Minuet XXIII

Arabic: bayt alminut alsaabie – بيت المينوت السابع

The dancing was fantastic. Stefan had put together a dark, powerful playlist, and the dance floor was full for most of the songs. There were some slower, more languid songs here and there, so I had time to get snacks and drinks, or to sit and chat. I saw one or two people I knew from college and the goth scene, and I was open to meeting new people, so it wasn’t like I was only talking to Killian and Larsa.

We were most of the way through a Joy Division song when the midnight bells chimed. Club Nightshade has their systems set up so that, when midnight came, the song playing faded out and was replaced by a track of huge, ancient bells ringing, followed by several spooky sounds. The Dj on duty was then expected to play a track somehow related to midnight; Stefan went with Johnny Goth’s song “Midnight.” The club got a lot darker– but there were plenty of runner LEDs and lots of glow-in-the-dark paint to keep things safe– and more artificial smoke was released.

Through the shadows and the haze, I scarcely managed to make out a door opening on the back wall of the lower level of the club. The light beyond the door was brilliantly golden, and I couldn’t see anything past it. I don’t remember what that door leads to– actually, I couldn’t remember that door at all, but it’s not like I know every detail about the ins and outs of the club, even if it is my favorite. Besides, I’d had a couple hard ciders, some kind of mixed drink, and a couple other drinks that Killian had recommended, so I wasn’t exactly an authority on anything at that moment.

What was really fascinating was the figure who stepped through the door. I remember thinking that it was a good thing he hadn’t added a hat to his ensemble, because he was already so tall that he had to bend over slightly in order to avoid bumping his head on the door frame. His outfit was strange– I know it’s the point of goth night to be dark and mysterious, but he seemed to have had a hard time deciding on which style to go with. He had on a mesh shirt that revealed most of his chest, but over it was a long jacket reminiscent of 18th or 19th century Europe. He had form-fitting pants made of black leather that looked buttery soft, with chains hanging around his waist, plus tall boots that matched best with his jacket.

Nobody else in the club seemed to notice him coming in. I probably almost missed him, too. I don’t think he was sneaking in or anything; maybe there was some sort of office back there. Anyway, he wandered around the lower level for a while, just taking things in and seeming to enjoy the music. I don’t know why I was even watching him; I guess him coming in through a doorway filled with golden light really drew my curiosity. He danced a little to the song, though it was barely perceptible; it was like he was trying to keep his presence really casual and low-key. Eventually, Larsa came over to chat with me, and by the time I glanced over to get one more look at the tall man, he was heading up the stairs.

I took a break with my friends and we agreed that none of us felt like leaving for food or anything. We could get a big meal together once the club closed, which was just under three hours away. Our VIP passes meant that we could have left and come back, but since Stefan couldn’t do that, neither would we. DJ Moonlight was available in case he needed a quick break, but he wasn’t supposed to leave the building. We were all friends, and the four of us would stick together.

After that, I headed upstairs to get another drink. We still had a lot of time before the club closed, and I felt that I could handle a little more alcohol before I had to start winding down. I was waiting beside the bar for my turn when I felt a figure walk up right beside me. A tall, lean figure. I could feel then why people think Slenderman is so creepy.

I didn’t look up at him right away; I figured– perhaps hoped— that he was focused only on ordering his drink. But he was standing so close to me. I could smell him; he was fresh and clean, not sweaty from dancing. He smelled of fine leather and rich cloves and– and– I should be better at describing his scent. I’m a writer, after all. It feels ridiculous to just say that he smelled of all the good aspects of cologne, but none of the overbearing aspects. There was a faint undertone of musk, but also… something old. I don’t know why I sensed that as a scent. At first, I thought it was just the alcohol and all the hours I’d spent at the club. But with what happened later, I’m not quite so sure.

“Do you suppose the phrase, ‘what does it take to get a drink in this place’ should apply here?” He asked. His voice was low and smooth, and he spoke as though he had all the time in the world, which was weird, since that phrase was one of impatience.

It took him leaning down slightly and fixing his eyes on me for me to realize he was talking to me. I blinked and looked up at him. “Well, uh…” I glanced back towards the bartender, who was finishing up with someone else. “The wait isn’t all that bad, actually,” I told the tall man.

Up close, I saw even more details than I had before. The necklaces I’d overlooked, the myriad of rings. His misty gray eyes were outlined in silver, and he had in contacts that made it look like each eye had two pupils. As much as he’d been unable to stick with just one style of gothic, he was definitely dedicated to the look. He even had on a pair of plastic horns that curled around each side of his head; dark gray, and painted with such meticulous detail that they looked incredibly realistic. He hadn’t dyed his hair, leaving it a natural, rich brown. It was incredibly well cared-for, silky smooth and pulled back neatly and tightly.

“That is good to hear,” he said, seeming to shift to musing to himself as he looked across the back of the bar to see what was on offer.

The bartender came over to me, and I asked for my last apple cider for the night. Then he looked up at the tall man.

“And what for you?” the bartender asked, probably thinking that he could get both our drinks at once.

The tall man seemed to be thinking deeply. “I was so hoping to be able to have some absinthe tonight,” he said languidly.

The bartender shook his head. “Not here, I’m afraid. I have a dark rum and good vermouth, if that’ll do.”

The bartender grabbed my cider and opened it while the tall man thought again. We shared that look we always did when people felt the need to request absinthe. Even though it was legalized, it’s still hard to get, and Club Nightshade wasn’t ready to make that leap just yet. It was requested far less these days, but every now and then, someone had to ask…

“I’ll try what she’s having,” he finally said.

The bartender wasn’t one to judge; I know some people do, but as long as the money is good and the age is right, he’ll sell whatever he has available. He popped open another cider and let each of us know the price.

The tall man put his hand on my arm when I reached into my purse for my cash. “Please, do allow me,” he said. His other hand was in his left pocket.

“I– ah…” I’d had enough alcohol that night to make it hard to reply right away, I just shook my head. “It’s okay, really,” I insisted. “We haven’t even properly–“

“I would most appreciate it if you would allow me to do you this small favor,” he said.

With my free hand, I handed the bartender my payment– tip included– and walked away. Just before I was out of earshot, I heard several heavy coins being placed on the counter, and the bartender commenting on the tall man’s desire to pay in gold and silver coins. I know there are plenty of dollar coins out there, so it was probably legal tender, but he was just… just so over-the-top.

This guy was starting to seem more and more like the pretentious type who acted generous, but later expected favors in return. And he was foolish enough to make that play in front of the bartender, who could see clearly that I wasn’t interested. The tall man was beautiful, and his scent was intoxicating, and that was exactly why I didn’t want to get caught in his web. There was something about him… something almost unreal, and I didn’t want him to try making whatever fantasies were in his head a reality.

“Midnight” by Johnny Goth

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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