To everyone in the room, she seemed like just a normal girl wearing Vans, blue jeans, and a red hoodie. No one really paid her much attention as she walked to the back of the bar and settled into a booth.
Maureen did notice the girl as she came out of the kitchen. The server looked the girl over carefully. She decided that ID needed to be checked. This new patron did not look nineteen; more like fifteen or sixteen.
“What do you want?” Maureen asked the girl, taking out her notepad and pen.
“A pint of whatever is on tap and a plate of chips. With vinegar on the side.”
The girl had an accent that suggested she came from the British Isles. Maureen could not quite place it. It sounded a bit like a Welsh friend of hers.
“Of course. May I see some ID, miss? Have to do it, you know. Rules and all.”
The girl smiled and produced a card. It showed her to be twenty-one. Maureen studied it suspiciously, but for the life of her could not find fault with it. Smiling, she handed it back.
“Thanks, hon. I’ll be back with your beer.”
“Is this your open mike night?”
“It is, actually. Do you sing?”
“And play piano. Waiting for my guitar player to show up, though. He’s late. As usual.”
The girl rolled her eyes a little on the last words.
“What kind of music do you play?”
“Mostly the kind that keeps monsters away.”
The girl grinned and giggled. Maureen stared, not certain if this was a joke or if this girl was a bit weirder than her appearance suggested.
“That piano okay to use?” the girl asked.
She nodded to the keyboard next to the microphone on the bar’s little stage.
“That’s what it’s there for. It’s all plugged in and ready to go.”
“Perfect. Thanks, ma’am.”
Maureen smiled and headed for the bar. At least the girl was polite. Some of the ones who came just to perform were rather rude to the regulars.
As she pulled a pint for the girl, a man burst in the door. He was tall and dressed all in black. The man’s hair was in disarray, a shaggy black mop shot through with white. His beard was little better. On his back, the man carried a guitar case.
“Oh good, I’m in the right place,” he roared, almost singing the words.
He also had an accent, though this one sounded Scottish or maybe Irish. Maureen was never good with Celtic voices.
“Back here,” the girl called out.
The new arrival smiled and headed towards her booth. So did Maureen. As she set the girl’s beer down, she gave the man a critical look.
“You look like you’ve been running.”
“It’s a bad, bad night out there,” he said, “You might want to lock the door. Things might come in.”
From the look of the man, Maureen felt like a thing already had come in.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked the man.
His eyes rested on the girl’s pint.
“That pint looks quite nice. Please pull one for me.”
Maureen decided that no ID was needed for this man. He looked like he might be the girl’s father or some other older relative.
As the server drew another pint, the door burst open again. Old Jerry Crisp, a regular, pushed the door closed behind him and locked it.
“There’s something awful out there,” he yelled, “They were followin’ me.”
“Something awful?” Maureen asked, “What do you mean, Jerry? Muggers or something?”
There had been a street gang stirring up trouble in the neighbourhood of late.
“Not like that. These things were big and shaggy and had yellow eyes. Big wolves or bears or somethin’ like that.”
Maureen shook her head, chuckling softly.
“Bears and wolves in this neighbourhood? Honestly, Jerry, I’m not getting you anything to drink. You’ve clearly been hitting the bottle too hard already.”
“They could be goblins,” the man in black called out, “At least that’s what they sound like.”
Maureen glared at the stranger.
“Oh, yes. Nasty things from the Other World. Someone’s been messing about with spells and that always draws them.”
“We had best get started,” said the girl.
She rose and sat at the keyboard. The man opened his guitar case and took out a battered six-string acoustic guitar. He grabbed a stool, sat near the piano and began tuning.
“What nonsense!” Maureen snapped.
She marched to the door in a huff and unlocked it. Pulling it open, the server looked out into the night. And there, she saw strange yellow eyes looking back at her. A sound somewhere between a belch and a growl reached her ears. Teeth suddenly appeared, long and sharp like daggers.
“Dear Lord!” Maureen shrieked, slamming the door.
She put the lock on and stared across the room to the stage. The girl tapped out a note on the bar’s electric piano, the man replied by plucking a string. He looked up and smiled.
“I did warn you,” he said.
“Those are goblins?”
“As best I can tell. I can’t think of anything else that would manifest like that.”
He turned a tuning knob and played the note again.
“And you are just going to sing?”
“Music is a very powerful kind of magic,” the girl affirmed.
“So you’re … like, a singing witch or something?”
“I suppose that's a good word for it. I have been called a witch before, though not in a long time.”
She’s only twenty-one, thought Maureen, how long could it have been?
“Okay, let’s try this one out,” the man said.
The bright, chipper tone of his voice bothered Maureen. How could he sound like that when there were monsters, actual, literal monsters, outside the door?
And then the music began. The notes seemed normal, but the harmonies and melodies did not. Indeed, the sound did not seem to fit any kind of music Maureen was familiar with. It seemed closest to folk or maybe some kind of weird folk-rock.
“That sounds pretty good,” the man said to the girl.
“Yes. I think that one should do the trick,” the girl responded.
Something pounded on the door. The strange belch-growl could be faintly heard. A glowing yellow eye appeared in the frosted glass pane.
Maureen said nothing, just looked back and forth between the door and the stage. All of a sudden, her rather boring, normal evening had turned slightly insane. She hoped it was a bad dream, but that seemed less and less likely all the time.
The girl began to sing in a high, odd-sounding, soprano voice. It was singing such as Maureen had never heard before. The words were in some foreign language. They sounded beautiful, but were incomprehensible. Maureen knew that the Welsh had their own language besides English, so perhaps the girl was singing in Welsh.
There came another pounding on the door. It bulged in slightly.
“I don’t think it likes your singing,” Maureen said, her voice quivering with fear.
“It’s not supposed to,” the man said, sounding quite calm, “In fact, this song is very much not to its liking, or so we hope.”
He and the singer never missed a beat as he spoke.
The things beyond the door hammered it even harder. The growls became howls, though that might also have been the wind.
Maureen moved behind the bar and cowered. Other patrons were doing the same in their booths or under their tables. Only the girl and her guitar player remained unshaken.
The door finally burst open. Several pairs of yellow eyes glared in. A huge furry hand, or maybe paw, reached in past the broken door.
The girl’s song hit a climax, turning into a high-pitched chant. Maureen had never heard a human voice go so high before. Abruptly, both singing and music stopped. For a moment, a wind blew through the room. Then all was silent.
Maureen slowly stood and looked at the broken door. The things were gone. Only the night was beyond the doorway now.
“So that’s it? They’re gone?”
The man had started packing up his guitar.
“Oh, quite. I doubt you’ll be bothered by that lot again,” he replied, smiling at Maureen.
The girl stood, stretched, and yawned. She looked pale and drawn. After a second stretch and yawn, she wandered to her booth and took a long swig of her beer.
“Hey, where’s my chips?” she asked.
Maureen, suddenly feeling a wave of relief, smiled.
“They are probably up in the kitchen. I will go see.”
“Good. That made me hungry.”
When Maureen returned with a plate of chips and a little bottle of vinegar, the girl started wolfing them down. The man just sat and quietly sipped his beer.
“Anything more?” Maureen asked.
“Well, it would be nice if you would not talk too much about all this,” the man said.
“They’ll just think we are crazy anyhow,” she responded.
“Indeed,” said the girl, pausing from her eating.
She finished the chips, washed them down with the last of her beer, then stood.
“Time to go, I think.”
“Yes, I think it is,” her companion agreed.
The man rose and slung his guitar on his back.
“This should cover it,” he told Maureen, putting a sheaf of money on the table.
He and the girl started for the door, neatly stepping around the wreckage.
Maureen picked up the money and counted it.
“Jesus Christ,” she gasped.
It was not just enough to cover their beer and food, but would probably pay for the repairs as well.
The server dashed to the door and looked around the street. It was empty. There was no sign of the girl and the man. For a moment, though, Maureen thought she heard a strange high voice singing far off.