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Two bars, one magical and one human, lie in the exact same space. That should work. It’d better; I run those joints and we’re under attack.
I live a pretty weird life—as in gods in speedos, powerful witches with little patience for mere humans, and shifters whose vibrations make my guts quake. Plus, an oceanside bar and a magical book run my existence.
Beach life and eccentric are besties. The record picked me, Cleopatra O’Keefe, to be the next Keeper. I took over the book and started chronicling the intersection and occasional asininity of the human and magical worlds. That’s when eccentric plunked its butt on the deck next to mine and we careened into the world of funky oddities seasoned with occasional mayhem.
I’ve juggled the two worlds for almost twenty years, but my pier is under attack from the one entity feared by gods and magicals alike. Between slinging drinks, writing the history, and trying to keep the worlds in balance, I’m discovering that the Keeper’s job has way more depth than the magicals told me. Who’s lying? Which bits are truth?
I’m at a crossroads and it’s time to make a choice. Toe the line and live, or save the world and die?
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“A humorous fresh read taking fantasy to the next level. Greek god in a speedo, witches with snark, pelican shapeshifters and at the center is Patra just trying to manage two bars and stay alive as Keeper. A fun read that kept me wanting more!” – Jennie of jenniereads.com
The tide formed the familiar cross-hatch patterns, signaling a rip current to everyone, well, everybody but me. I knew better, but wished I wasn’t the sole human with this grand understanding. Most of the time seeing both sides had its perks, but when it didn’t… let’s go with Suckfest-9000.
The swells resembled ordinary waves nearing their crest, tops churning to a white froth, so I hung out on the tall pier, holding the space over the sand, watching a full, gorgeous moonrise over a close to high tide.
Moon shifts, both the full and the new, were the busiest and often the best nights, but it’s October, so I wasn’t taking any bets. The black waves grew shoulders, then bodies, and my guests moved onto shore, covered by the shadows of the pier. Faint pops, depending on their magic, sent them into my pub, while others took wing or climbed the steps; I continued to greet the arrivals for the other side of my business.
I owned and managed the Sun Dance Pier. Locals called it “The Boogie” but on the license it’s ‘Boogie Beach Crab Shack.’ At sixteen, I started waiting tables, then moved to the bar. Now, I was way past that, but I looked hot and saw the whole situation, so I’ve been the owner/manager for the last ten years. People with the sight, the true sight, were hard to find. To be fair, I could have made a good living in Cassadaga, a town an hour away that catered to psychics and healers, the edge eyes and the full seers, but I enjoyed the sea, even the darker sides, so I played this hand. The longevity wasn’t promising, the last manager didn’t make it to fifty-five, but who knew. Well, somebody in Cassadaga did, but I didn’t plan to ask.
Heavy steps struck the pier, announcing Poseidon, who sported a long white-blond mane, a speedo, and my resultant inner wince. God complex, personified. Why he wouldn’t wear board shorts was beyond me.
“Patra! Still seeking Cleo?” His roar of laughter foretold of a lengthy night of mismanaged alchemy.
“Welcome back, Sea King, looking for your usual?”
“Indeed I am, and a side of beauties,” his wink made me smile.
“Just because we painted the town before doesn’t mean I’m on the menu tonight, but several merwomen are here. Go charm them; they’re in the mood to party.”
“On it.” With a squelch he walked toward the door and it shimmered, letting him access the magic pub.
I suppose the backstory would help. Boogie Beach was the lost soul of Florida’s beaches. Decent surf without the draw of Daytona, although we got their overflow, nor the intellectual panache of Cocoa and the Space Coast. Boogie, or Boogey as my magical patrons called it, had the distinction of being on, as in right the exact hell ON, the line between reality and extraordinary. I ran a pub on the doorway to everything. Shifters, witches, merpeople, the Greek contingent, you name it. If it drank, it showed up and I could see it. That’s my entire skill set. Finite. I couldn’t magic my way out of a tough spot. Wits and crossed fingers were my complete arsenal. For the most part, it’s an honor to be seen as belonging to both worlds, but magic was both light and dark. Someday, I’ll run into the wrong entity, and that’ll be it. In a nutshell, that’s why I didn’t have a kid. It’s not a risk I’d run, because darkness seized opportunities, had no boundaries, or gave any fucks, flying or otherwise. The sight was mutual; I saw them, they saw me. Ergo, running this life solo. Fewer people got hurt and I’m screwed no matter what.
C’est la vie.
“Patra! Ever find Cleo?” Pook’s giggle lapsed into a snort.
“Jeez, Pook, you need new material,” Bingo flapped his wings and leaned his beak forward to touch my cheek in what passed for a pelican kiss.
“Are you joining us tonight?” I grinned, winking at Bingo.
Pook and Bingo were pelican shifters, and often stayed past closing’s edge, therefore stuck in the real world until the next new or full moon. Beach bums at heart, they rolled in both spaces with ease, just letting things flow.
“Hoo-man, we can’t miss October, Patra. It’s the frigging best!” Pook flapped and shifted into a scruffy longhair with a missing tooth.
Bingo jumped from the railing, shifting into a tall skinny guy with a growing pot belly. I gave him a look.
“Are there fish left in the sea? I’d guess you’re not missing many.”
“This?” Long thin fingers patted his protruding gut. “Your beer. Fish is clean eating, Patra.”
The pair walked along the dock and the door shimmered again. Show time. The magicals crossed throughout the night, but I was sole proprietor of the magical side of the bar. On the ordinary side, my staff kept the tourists, locals, and the lost ones fed and watered, the rest was on me.
Two-thirds of the way along the pier the building stood, with two doorways. One was the cat-three rated glass hurricane double door, and the other could have originated on an ornate ship from 300 years ago. It’s grimy with the salt of centuries and won’t open unless the palm placed against it held a magical signature. I found it by accident at sixteen. Curious, I walked through and damn near pissed my shorts. Billy, the previous manager, glared and crooked his finger.
Panicked, I nodded, backing out the way I came, sure he’d fire me, and why not, I was hallucinating.
Billy gave me a long, considering look. “Can you see the door?”
“The wooden one?” I squeaked.
He sighed and leaned back. “I’m sorry, kiddo. I truly am.”
That began the job training to end all training. Until I turned eighteen, I worked in the non-magical dining room, but spent an hour before or after each shift studying with Billy. He kept a book in his office that smelled of the bottom of the sea. My assignment was to read it and answer Billy’s queries. It took two years before I never missed a question.
“You forget anything, you could perish,” he said, eyes serious and sad. “But, you will lead a life denied most, and make excellent money. Just expect to die young. Live in the moment, Cleopatra. You’ll have fewer of them.”
On the day I passed his test, he plunked me into the real bar and coached me on mixing drinks, watching for theft, and running a tight, stocked pub. I was eighteen, the whole thing was illegal as hell, but the authorities never asked questions.
“Oh, I know a witch or seven,” Billy said, when I questioned the illegality.
At twenty-one he shifted me to the magic side and taught me alchemy, how to make cocktails that would kill me if I drank them, and toughened up my thin skin. Magical drunk people tended toward loud and bawdy, and their idea of anything goes was not for the faint of heart. I learned, and in time, got good. For four years, Billy and I ran a secret bar, and it was orgasmic fun.
The ‘October of The Vapors’ changed everything. A late season hurricane coincided with a full moon. It was the damned trifecta of dark. Humanity experienced catastrophic damage, the winds destroyed buildings and landmarks; the sea flowed across the beach to the road, and the fury loosened the Vapors into the human world.
Vapors dwelled in the space between the planes and crossed under specific circumstances. They were dark. As in profound misery dark. Plus, they were hard as hell to vanquish once they showed up and started ruining everything.
The pier withstood the storm, thanks to the witches, but appeared damaged enough to not call attention to that fact. Billy ran the magic pub and made money, which I spent repairing the human side, prepping to re-open. Busy days, full of contractors and vendors, got the kitchen back in action and the roof restored.
“The Boogie is ready,” Billy told me that night as we reviewed the work, signed occupancy permit in hand. “You can open tomorrow.”
That conversation will stay with me until I die. Being young, I assumed he meant the restaurant. Busy with the human piece I never considered the Vapors, but Billy was under siege to keep the magic bar from blowing out with darkness. He never said it, but I believe, out of love, he kept them from me. They murdered him in the baneful middle of the night, threading their blackness through his pores as his shrieks covered the beach. A witch stopped his heart in mercy. She told me the story long after the shock faded and the resultant war pushed the damned Vapors back across the line. But that night, oblivious, I slept in my little house a few blocks away, the last innocent sleep.