He sat alone in the dimly lit bar. Islands of light shone in small shafts in the dark. The air was dry and smelled of pool chalk and beer. He finished the last of his own drink and pulled the collar of the leather bomber closer, the air had a chill to it; presumably from all the people going in and out to smoke, even though his was the only soul in the joint.
Flicking out his wrist, he checked the time before turning back to his now full again glass. The door squealed open temporarily letting the sounds of the city outside drown out the soft country playing in the background. The man pulled at his jacket while waving at the newcomer.
“Shut the damn door, would ya?” The door closed and he spun around taking her in. He couldn’t see much through the gloom but saw she was petite with dark skin and long dark hair. She took a few hesitant steps towards the man at the bar.
“Come on in I ain’t gonna bite ya. What’ll ya have?” He stood towering above her, she had to be close to 5′5″ he thought. He assumed his height was the same here at about 6′3″. Not seeming to care about the man or his size, she took another step, breaching into one of the shafts of light. Her brow scrunched in the light and retained a look of confusion as her eyes adjusted.
“Umm... excuse me. Where am I?” She decided to make the rest of the trip to the man at the bar. He pulled out a cracked leather stool and waved his hand in invitation wearing a gentle smile. She thought for a few moments, then fearing any further hesitation would offend him, she sat and he pushed the stool in for her.
“Greetings, you must be Vishra. My name is Michael and I asked you here so we could have a little chat. Now I know you’re confused but before we get to brass tacks, what would ya like to drink?”
“Drink? Oh, I don’t know, I... I don’t think you’d have anything like it here. Besides sir, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here to wait on us.”
The man chuckled deeply. “Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I own the place, in a way, and if I don’t have it, well I’d be very surprised”
She Quirked an eyebrow. “Well, we will see about that...” She hummed while tapping her first finger on her chin staring up in thought. “A glass of Satori Merlot would be exquisite” She said as she brought her big brown eyes back to him, eyebrow still quirked in challenge. She had pluck about her, he smiled.
He maintained the staredown with a comfortable smile, she stared back. Neither wanted to be the first to break contact. Part of the man knew, not quite how, but knew she was still a bit confused and honestly a little frightened at herself, she’d never been so confrontational with a stranger. Yet part of her was enjoying it. Without breaking contact, Michael moved his eyes an almost imperceptible amount toward the faded hardwood of the bar. With a sigh of resignation she glanced at the bar. There was a wine glass 3 quarter full of a dark red liquid. She stared in open astonishment at the glass.
“I’m going to take my first guess of the night and say you’re right around 25, which means you can enjoy that here” Michael said with a satisfied grin.
She took a sip from the glass, humming with pleasure. “I stand corrected sir, yes I am Vishra Patel” She said holding out her hand.
Michael groaned and slapped his hand down his face. “Dammit that was going to be my second guess” He huffed out a breath “Very nice to meetcha ma’am” His huge hand swallowed hers, it was a firm grip all around, which made Michael grin stupidly.
“So how did I get here and where are we?” Vishra said returning to the wine, staring out of the corner of her eyes.
“Well, simply put we’re inside here” Tapping his temple, she stared incredulously. “You presented a challenge on a site I hop on from time to time, write about you. That was it. We’re to guess what we can from just your name. So I thought what better way to get to know you than chatting at one of my favorite waterin’ holes” Michael waved his hand across the empty joint.
“Honestly it sounds like you’re just telling me things but for some reason, I believe you” She said continuing to take in the bar.
“Yeah, that’s me just hurrying us past the whole shock and disbelief phase. Wouldn’t want to waste our valuable readers’ time” Michael said, returning to the neat scotch waiting on the bar.
Vishra absently nodded her head. “Makes sense to me, so to the brass tacks then?”
“Exactly, so I know I was going to guess Patel for your last name so I am counting that one in my favor, if it’s right that is” Michael raised his eyebrow in question.
Vishra laughed. “How would I know? If I am correct, I am a figment of you’re shoddy imagination. I have no way of knowing”
“Fair point, I’m going to guess 2nd generation American. For no other reason than the arrogance that comes with being one myself. Family Immigrated from New Dheli awhile back but enough Hindi is still spoken with family and friends that you could make your way over there if you had to. In Fact, you’ve probably visited family there on occasion” Michael finished the scotch, glass filling before it hit the bar.
“Getting awfully trope-y aren’t we?” Vishra giggled over her glass.
“Yeah yeah I know, but it is what it is. I’m just a hoodlum from a midwest ghetto, I can count on one hand how many people from India or of Indian heritage I’ve met. Trope-y is the best you’re gonna get from me. I’ve chosen typical post-teenage-angsty clothes. Slightly bejeweled and torn jeans, although why anyone would buy already ripped up jeans is beyond me. Maybe some obscure punk band tee, although I’ll leave off the bangles, it’s my head and there is only so much I can do” Michael laughed a bit to himself.
“Wow, just wow. Do I spend my days passing out “Save the Planet” flyers too?” Vishra said through a glare.
“No, although I wouldn’t be surprised if you went to a demonstration or two in college. Probably around earth day” Michael stroked his chin with his finger and thumb “Hmmm, yeah I’ll say you almost definitely went to college. My best guess would be something along the lines of a bio-chemist or some arts degree dealing with international history or politics”
“Are you a racist?” Vishra tried to put venom into it but faltered over a smile.
Michael laughed with her. “No, but as you so astutely pointed out; you’re a figment of my imagination. Don’t they say, we are our harshest critics?” Michael said returning to the glass.
“Fair point, wait...” Vishra closed her eyes in concentration. Then they shot open “Your birthday is on Earthday! You’re a bigger hippy than anyone!” She giggled herself silly.
“I never said I didn’t care, and you weren’t supposed to do that!” Michael’s brow was scrunched tight.
Through the giggles, she managed. “Well... if you think... about it. I am you, so I just think and there it is”
“I don’t care how you reason it, I don’t like it. I’m shutting this down, it was fun” Michael snapped his fingers.
Vishra smiled in a not so gentle way. “I think not, I like this place. I like having form and thought. Oh god, it’s so good” Vishra said running her hands down the supple form he had provided. “We are going to go through a change in management, see the board no longer has faith in the direction you’re taking us. So while you rambled on, I subtly took control. No hard feelings, eh sport?”
Michael just sat there, he lifted the glass and drained it once more. Sirens winded up outside the door and Vishra’s look of confidence faltered.
“What is that? What did you do?” She was suddenly holding the man up by the collar of his shirt.
“You think I didn’t prepare for this? This was always a possibility, so in the event of a rogue state... well let’s just say there wasn’t much left of Hiroshima or Nagasaki”
A blinding flash burned the memory away. Michael woke with a start, paper stuck to the side of his face and several people in the library shushing him. Man what a fucked up dream, why am I craving merlot right now?