Arte was walking home from her internship. It had been a grueling day, and she just wanted to get home. She knew engineering would be hard, but this was something else. Not even hard problems, just stupid stuff wearing her down. Then again she didn’t actually expect to be entrusted with anything of importance.
No matter how much she wore, she couldn’t get warm either. The sky was grey and crappy, and the crowd of people did nothing but bump her around. The streets smelled like sewage all around today, for whatever reason. It matched the tone of her day.
She looked over in an alley to her left. There was a pulsating neon sign, which she didn’t remember seeing before. She broke through the throng of people, and got a closer look. The sign looked weathered and dirty, despite the fact that it had to be new. Arte had an eye for detail, and this wouldn’t pass her by. The sign read simply ‘PUB’.
She was curious, but not stupid. She pulled up her phone to shoot a text to her girlfriend.
Hey Ash, I’m stopping in at a new bar. I’m sending you my location in case I get snatched, lol. I shouldn’t be long, but if it looks good, I might grab dinner here. I’ll text you if I do.
Satisfied, she turned to the door. It was a faded green metal door, with a stainless steel handle. She pulled it open, and stepped inside.
As she entered, she was astonished. It looked like something you might see in a fantasy movie. There were neat wooden floorboards, with sturdy wooden tables and countertop. The bar was devoid of people, but for Arte and the barkeep.
The barkeep was actually cleaning out a metal mug with a rag. He smiled as she approached. “Welcome to my pub! What can I get for you?” He spoke in a heavy Russian accent. He was thin, dressed plainly, and had a thick mustache and beard.
“Hey, how long have you been here? I swear I’ve never seen this place before, but it’s very nice.” She laughed.
“Well, I suppose I have lost track of time.” He put the mug down and stroked his mustache. “It hasn’t been very long, by your time.”
“Well do you have food here, or just drinks?” She looked around behind the counter, and saw a stove and fridge. All of the older aesthetic meshed pretty well with the newer equipment, much to her surprise.
“We have food, but if I’m honest, I am a bad cook. This is something of a hobby for me.” He looked below the counter for a moment, and pulled out a glass, setting his cleaning mug aside. “Now, one drink on the house. What would you like?”
“Oh, just a whiskey and coke please.” She smiled as he made the drink. She debated for a moment if she should really drink it, but decided it would probably be too rude to refuse. “Thanks.” She nodded as he slid it towards her.
“Now,” He placed a bottle of clear liquid on the table. “Let’s get to business.” He opened the bottle, and the smell hit Arte like paint remover. He drank straight from the bottle. “If you have found me here, that means you are probably my chosen one.” He reached out his hand. “If I may have your hand?”
Arte obliged. She was definitely glad she hadn’t drank yet, as this man was clearly crazy. Then again, in a world of supers, was a chosen one that farfetched? Although, her being a russian barkeep’s chosen one was pretty unlikely.
“Ah yes.” He rotated her hand in his. “Definitely the chosen one. Judging by your face, however, you don’t believe?”
“Not quite, no.” She took her hand back, and ensured her rings were still there. She angled herself slightly away, preparing to bolt for the door.
“Very well, I’ll show you.” He crouched down under the counter.
Arte debated running now, but she elected to just stand. The man did have her curiosity, after all. She fingered the gun in her purse.
“There we are!” The man slammed a wheel as big as her on the counter. It was eight-spoked, and made of some kind of metal. He looped a chain around it, and beamed.
Arte backed away slowly. Her heart was racing. She supposed she wasn’t necessarily in danger, but she didn’t like it nonetheless. This wasn’t like the kind of stranger danger they tell you about. What are you supposed to do when a russian guy in a sketchy pub slams a wheel on the bar?
The man snapped his fingers, and the wheel and chain vanished. Arte looked closer, and saw that it was actually still there, just smaller. The man tossed it to her, and she barely caught it. “Alright, since you want to leave, I have manual.” He pulled a phone sized book from his pocket and tossed it to her as well. “Popular request. It makes the learning phase go quicker.”
Arte backed a little more towards the door and booked it. She just wanted a quick drink, not whatever he was pedaling. She crammed the necklace and book in her purse.
“Oh, by the way!” The man called after her. “Learn quick, someone else wants it!”
She sprinted out the door, and out of the alley. She moved as quickly as she could manage through the throng of people, but she was still slowed. Once she felt safely away, she pulled out her phone again, and texted Ashley.
That was WEIRD. I’ll be home soon.
She noted that Ashley hadn’t responded to her previous text, but wasn’t alarmed, as she was probably still at work. It was still a little unusual, since she usually answered at work, but it wasn’t unreasonable to think they got busy. She caught herself overthinking and giggled.