Nicholas shook and poured a mojito into a tall glass filled with mint and had a sugar-coated rim. He slid the glass a few inches down the bar to a well-groomed woman in a tailored suit.
“Here you go, mate.”
They gave each other a friendly nod and parted ways.
The young bartender dug through his back pocket to find his phone as he had done after each customer. He held all his eagerness in his fingertips and all his hope in a locked screen. Yet there were no messages waiting for him.
Time at Nox did not move fast enough for Nicholas. He had plans to meet up with a woman he’d met a couple of weeks ago. She was adventurous, outside and inside the bedroom. This was one of the other reasons he kept looking at his phone. Her messages were sporadic, but highly desirable.
“Hello?” A woman waved with irritation. She stood with a sparkling dress and enough make-up to hide her vulnerabilities.
She ordered a cranberry and vodka. She left without even a head nod.
Nox had an interesting population of characters, including the entitled and wealthy. The dynamic to have money but spend less was something many of the bartenders griped about. Then Nox was also filled with gods and goddesses who were often followed by significant chaos. Theatrics would be an understatement. However, despite their otherworldly ways, they would typically drop enormous amounts of wealth. Even if they did invite supernatural creatures who relentlessly trash the place, the gods always left monetary compensation for the staff.
The bartenders at Nox had an uncanny ability to handle any possible situation which landed on their bar stool. Which at Nox could literally mean anything. Nox was a one-of-a-kind bar. The only bartending job in town that came with hazard pay.
So when the door for Nox did not open for Nyx and Janie but rather disintegrated in their presence, Nicholas and the rest of the staff held their composure. However, it was not the oddity of what was happening but rather who it was that caused slight jolts throughout the staff. Much of the crowd took several steps away from the door. There was a symphony of gasps followed by the breaking of glass.
The heat from Janie’s coal-like skin could have singed off body hair in the right proximity. The temperature of the room rose in her presence, and the ambiguity of Nyx could have made souls vanish without a trace. They were an odd match because as little as they seemed to have in common on the surface, they in fact had many similarities within. Fire had bubbled inside both of their throats in a non-literal fashion. They harnessed plenty of built-up energy powerful enough to burn down the city, and it was apparent in their stride.
Together they entered Nox in darkness and flames. Underneath Janie’s feet, fire shot out in coils, and under Nyx’s feet, spirals of darkness. The Nox crowds silenced and shuddered backward as Nyx and Janie moved forward. They all stared as Nyx smiled in the familiar space. She had owned Nox some mortal amount of time ago. She had admired having the place as a center of congregation for both mortals and gods.
Now, years later, resurfacing with great intention to ironically bring light to many dark places. Places that held secrets and spaces that caused great pain. Being trapped in her own spirals of darkness in the Underworld uncovered the fact that her descent was caused by someone. Someone she had full intentions of finding, even if that meant starting mortal tensions.
Janie’s boyfriend, Todd, shook as if he knew who glowed. He stared intently and tried to shuffle backward. He ended up hitting a chair and falling down on his behind. With the noise he caused, the crowd shifted its attention to him, as did Nyx and Janie.
“I need the fire,” Janie said to Nyx.
Nyx snapped her fingers, and Janie lit up in flames. Revenge in an inferno.
Janie continued her stride toward Todd while he remained trembling on the floor. Even though Janie hardly resembled a human with a face, it was as though you could tell she was smiling. She was about to do something dreadful.
Todd reached out for her slightly with panicked fingers. His hand was greeted by the scorn of her flames, and he was quick to take his hand back. He held himself. Sweat dripped down his face, and he scooted on the floor, struggling to balance himself.
“Look, I am sorry. I didn’t mean for tonight to go the way it did. I was drinking and got lost in the moment. Janie, please. What happened to you? You gotta calm down, please.”
Janie did not calm down. Her flames grew. Some touched the ceiling and left burn marks. Janie did not slow her approach. She continued with fervor in each footstep. She raised her hand and shot out an inferno. And unlike Janie, Todd could not handle the fire. His skin burned, his muscles and organs melted. Howls of pain echoed throughout the nightclub. Screeches of regret gone in a matter of minutes. Only bones and ash and the frightened eyes of the crowd lingered in Nox.
A mixture of sympathetic nervous system responses occurred. Some people stood frozen. Some people began to scream and seek cover. Some people began to run for the door. The room lit up in hysteria.
“Enough,” Nyx shouted. She sent off a sheet of darkness to control Janie’s blaze and another to engulf the room. The room became a dark orb, all the exits blocked. Crowd control.
The crowd held their breath. One of the reasons mortals came to Nox was to be in the presence of a goddess or god, but watching a man burn alive was not what many had bargained for. Even many of the well-adapted bartenders quivered. Horrors of this kind were not typical. Nicholas stopped checking his phone and watched with full attention.
Nyx commanded attention and rose above the crowd.
“I need to speak to who is in charge.”
A man raised his hand from behind the bar, and his voice wavered as he said, “That would be me.”
Nyx dropped the darkness, allowing the crowd to escape before she approached the quivering voice from behind the bar.