The Woman

As he opened the door and stepped into the pub, he was greeted by a thick cloud of smoke, rushing to escape the confines of the room. As the door swung back, the space left by the disappearing smoke, was replaced by a huge plume released by a big man in a three-piece suit, and a large, polished wooden pipe. He sat at the bar and ordered a whiskey. Neat. Downed it in one gulp, letting the honey-coloured liquid flow down his gullet, leaving behind a burning trail. It was satisfying in the January cold. He ordered another, and repeated his movements. And then another. After his third drink, he began to loosen up a little. This was a new town. He had moved here a few weeks back. His company had opened a new branch here and he was promoted to Branch Manager. Moving towns wasn’t an issue for him. No family. Barely any friends. No significant memories of a place holding him back. His parents had died when he was 17, and he has no siblings. Neither of his parents had siblings either. He was used to being alone. There were a few fleeting girlfriends, but none lasted more than a few months.

He asked for a fourth whiskey, and told the bartender he was simply going to the restroom, and “will be back in a flash.” As he urinated, he let out a gasp of satisfaction, one that comes from holding it in too long, paired with the level of intoxication. As he washed his hands, He noticed that he was rather drunk. Not too bad that he couldn’t handle himself, but fairly pissed. As he walked back to his stool at the counter, he vowed to drink the awaiting whiskey slowly.

When he returned, there was a woman sitting on the seat next to his. On the counter sat his glass, one-third filled, with the same golden liquid as before. In front of the woman, sat a glass of red wine. As he got closer, she turned towards him, and flashed a brilliant, white-toothed smile. He noticed her lipstick was the exact same shade of red as her wine. It was uncanny. He sat next to her and she introduced herself as Jean-Marie Bouvier. Although she pronounced it, “Juuhn-Mahie Boovee-eh.” French, obviously.

As their conversation continued, he began to notice just how beautiful this woman actually was. Her pale skin contrasted with the pitch black gown she wore. Her blonde hair flowed and tumbled down her shoulders like a golden-yellow waterfall. He had never seen anyone this stunning outside of a TV or movie screen. A strange feeling enveloped him, and he suddenly felt a little nervous. He snapped out of his thoughts when she gently placed her hand over his, and asked, “So?” Her hand was neither warm nor cold, and a peculiar sensation appeared when she touched him.

“Sorry, I kinda blanked out there, what were you asking?”

She giggled, before replying, “I asked, how such a handsome man could be single in this day and age” She did not seem embarassed to ask such a question, and leaned in to hear his answer. She smelt divine. Like roses, and rain. Something heavenly. She puckered her ruby red lips to take another sip of her wine. The man did the same.

Then he replied, “Well, I have a lot of demons, let’s just say that shall we?”

She smiled at this, and then responded, “Who doesn’t have demons?”

And in that moment, for less than a second, her eyes both went black. As though someone had poured ink into them. And when she blinked, her coral blue irises returned and the man, shocked by what he had just seen, turned and emptied his glass. Did that really happen? Maybe that glass of whiskey was one too many. Surely not. Here was an athiest. A man who never belived in any form of higher power. A man who faced obstacles and hurdled them without so much of a silent plea to any god to help him overcome. No. Such didn’t exist. Now here is a beautiful woman, and she could be a demon? No. Don’t be stupid.

She excused herself, and went to the restroom, at which point the man decided to survey his surroundings in more detail. The little town was one of Britain’s oldest, and most peaceful. There were barely any reports of violence or anything of that nature. It was rather odd, and the man found it rather suspicious when he was told about this fact before he moved. He hadn’t felt normal since arriving. Something was off about the place. He shrugged it off as the feeling that comes with relocating towns.

That was when he noticed the silence. No one was talking, or interacting, nothing. Just staring at him. All the people who were present when he walked in a few hours ago, were still there. Many still holding the drinks they had before. He began to think back, were they always this quiet? And what was so special about him? The bartender was nowhere to be seen. He felt uncomfortable and wanted to pay and leave. Forget the woman, its a small town, he would see her again for sure. Right now, he just wanted to leave. As he stood, the others around him stood. He left the money due, and a little extra on the counter and began to move towards the door. Two large men blocked his path. Now the man is not small, but these two hulking creatures dwarfed him.

He felt somebody take his hand, and as he turned to retaliate, he noticed it was the woman. As she guided him, the others moved aside, allowing her, and him, to pass into the cold night air, glaring at him all the while. As they walked down the empty streets, illuminated by alternate lightpoles and the moon, she turned to him and said, “Did you know this is the safest town in Britain, We average about one murder or disappearance a year. Do you know why? Because we have someone watching over us. And she keeps us safe.” He scoffed, before trying, and failing to diguise it as a cough.

“Oh. I see. You’re a non believer aren't you?”

“Well, I’m a realist, It’s just hard for me to accept, pardon my French, bullshit like that.” He retorted.

She stared at the frozen lake, ice scratched by the many children and adults who skated all winter. Then, after an extended silence, she said, “I’m not really French you know?”

“Oh? No?”

“Originally, I came from Greece. A bunch of my people came this side, and I just settled here. Not too many left now.”

He began to wonder about her, she was definitely different.

“Even this name, I gave it to myself.”

She gazed at him, “They loved me before, they even made sacrifices for me, and had festivals in my name. Now, nothing. I miss it all sometimes” She sighed. “But these people are good to me, Many still have some sort of belief, they accept me, and allow me to do what I must. In return, I provide safety.”

The man was confused. What did she mean?

She looked upwards, and said with another sigh, “The moon is beautiful tonight”

When the man followed her gaze upwards, there was a flash of metal, and quick movement. He felt something wet, and looked down, to see a gush of red flowing down the front of his shirt. Then he felt the sharp sensation of pain across his throat. By the time he realised his throat had been slit, he was dead.

She dipped her fingers in the puddle of blood around his collapsed body and drew symbols on her forehead and arms, as well as on his forehead and cheeks.

She looked at his dead body and said, “The thing I miss the most about the old days is my name.”

“Aphrodite.” she whispered, the name commanding so much power, it brought a short, sharp breeze.

Then, as if she was lifting a pillow, hurled the dead man over her shoulders. effortlessly, and walked home.

I took a lot of inspiration from Neil Gaiman’s book , “American Gods.” I hope you enjoyed my first short story in a very long time.

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