A Safe, Public Place (Campaign for Real Fear rejected submission)

Upon entering the pub Jane knew she’d made a mistake. The outside had been off-putting, ramshackle, with opaque windows, and certainly not her idea of a first date venue, but inside it was clearly an old men’s boozer, small and dingy, with sticky carpets that hadn’t been cleaned since the smoking ban. The punters fell silent and stared as though she were naked. At least it was a public place, and she could always use the ’emergency call’ in half an hour if it didn’t work out.

The barmaid, a slovenly girl, served her, then jerked her head to indicate the barman, who told her the cost. When he turned his back to fetch her change, the woman grabbed Jane’s wrist and rolled her eyes at her, making desperate grunting sounds. Jane realised the woman must be a local charity case, noticing the badly applied makeup struggling to cover an ugly scar across her mouth. She snatched her hand back, picked up her drink and turned to scan the room. There was only one man under fifty drinking on his own, so she concluded that had to be Seth.

She introduced herself with a handshake, and sat down. He was pale and heavyset, with a shock of thick dark hair in a ponytail, and she thought that he hadn’t made much of an effort, even if he’d used a doctored photo on the website. She attempted small-talk, about her journey there, how she was new to the city and hadn’t been to this area before, but he was clearly uninterested, mumbling and glancing behind her.

She gave up trying and looked around the pub. From their resemblance, Seth was clearly related to most of the other locals. One of the men, probably a cousin or uncle, had an ugly bull terrier lying at his feet, and was playing with the dog’s erect penis. She looked away, horrified, and caught Seth leering at her.

‘You said you wanted kiddies. We want lots of kiddies.’

‘Um, eventually, yes, but I’m still rather focused on my career.’ She might as well be polite, even if he had no chance.

‘We need more kiddies around here. That’s more important than some career.’ He spat out the word with disgust.

She pulled her phone out of her bag, wondering why she hadn’t had the call yet. No signal.

‘You won’t get good reception around here, somebody didn’t like the mast.’ He seemed unusually pleased at this.

Nausea rising in her throat, she looked wildly around the room, but there was no help, only their dirty eyes on her, hungry and victorious.

‘You’d do well not to talk too much, we don’t like that. Stacy behind the bar was a terrible chatty thing till we got the bridle on her. Of course, Clem got a bit overexcited and ruined her for kids that night, so we make her pour the drinks now, but you’re a clever girl, you’ll give us what we need.’


6 Responses to “A Safe, Public Place (Campaign for Real Fear rejected submission)”

  1. Creepy! I’ve stumbled into a pub or two that felt like this…

    It’s a challenging length to work with. I wasn’t able to come up with anything I was happy enough with to submit, but I can’t wait to read the winners.

    • alessadark Says:

      Thanks for reading! I suppose it was a bit ‘Slaughtered Lamb’… I’m really looking forward to reading the winners also.

  2. Great story – the mention of the bridle was genuinely shocking. I’ll keep an eye open for more stories on your blog.


    • Esther Sherman Says:

      Thanks, James, that’s very kind! Well done to you, again, I’m looking forward to reading yours. I probably won’t put any stories up here for a while, I’m working on one at the moment, but will probably try submitting it to a few places before I post it up here. We’ll see…

  3. Ian Howard Says:

    this both groovy and awesome, which combined makes ‘Gruesome’ which is also true…

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