Chapter Nineteen

October, again.

Time for spirits to be wandering in and out of the Zodiac Bistro Bar. For some reason, this year there seems to be a lot of faces BarCat has not seen in a long time.

Every night an old familiar face or two would arrive. This is common enough in the lead up to Halloween. But there are more of them this year, and many have not been seen in quite a long time.

This evening, several tables have been reserved. The tables are grouped together and are set with beer, wine, and other drinks of varying degrees of hardness. The expectations are such that the bar has been closed for this particular private gathering of party goers.

Edgar Allen Poe enters with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. They are having a marvelous conversation, discussing some adlibs from a movie, and it made Edgar laugh.  It is rare that he laughs, but it appears the two actors know how to extract a grand belly laugh from him.

They sit down at a table, pour wine and beer, and continue their discussion about high jinks on the set while filming The Raven.

The group is then joined by Jules Verne and Orson Welles, who are deep in conversation about the technology in Verne’s books, and how it was so advanced for its time. In particular, Wells is discussing the submarine and diving equipment. They are shortly joined by H. G. Wells, and the dialogue turns to space travel and invaders from other planets. Verne and Wells get into a discussion about life on other planets, and there is a brief debate about people being able to live on the moon, where everyone listening agrees that without air, the only inhabitants would be spirits. This brought up another point about how no man had died on the moon yet, so it’s debatable if a spirit would want to stay there.  After all, there are no good bars to be had.

BarCat is sitting on the bar, as usual, listening to the discussions and finding it amusing that even as spirits, there is a tendency for men to debate even the most obscure point of fiction vs. fact, even when it seems so absurd.

The bar continues to fill with authors and actors. Boris Karloff sits with Mary Shelly and discusses the terrible way the character from her book was originally presented to the public in the movie. This prompted her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, into a philosophical monologue about victims and how this perspective has changed over the decades. Karloff disagrees, saying it is Hollywood who butchered and continues to destroy the story. Mary is just glad that some remakes did try to present her character as the intelligent philosopher he was intended to be, which caused Percy to raise an eyebrow. Karloff laughs.

In another corner there are a few unsavory characters hanging about with some very interesting authors and characters. Houdini sits with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle discussing mediums, while his character Sherlock Holmes, being portrayed by Basil Rathbone, is discussing with Jack the Ripper how the police of that era were lacking in experience, intelligence and wit. Ripper insists he is just smarter than everyone, including Holmes. Jekyll/Hyde, sitting across from them with Robert Lewis Stevenson, laughs.

BarCat takes it all in, as usual. He doesn’t mind; the spirits in the room remember their hosts and BarCat’s glass is never empty. And as long as the crowd stays rather peaceable, the banter is amusing for the evening. It’s a good substitute for his regular TV show Hidden in the Dark.

How alike some of the characters are to their creators is questionable. But from somewhere in the depths of the authors imagination something crawled out of the abyss of their ids and was given life by written word or by film.

In some cases, an actual slime of a human was enhanced by either book or movie, as in the case of The Ripper, feeding the ego of the long dead murders and keeping them alive way beyond the point where they should have been forgotten. Sitting at the same table as the Ripper is the slayer of the Black Dahlia, as well as Lizzie Borden and Henry H. Holmes. BarCat wonders who drew them up from the abyss of hell where they usually reside. Maybe they are key to the conversations going on, maybe they just snuck out for the evening. Either way, their being at the tables this evening only adds to the creepiness of some of the conversations being had. But they keep their place, and are tolerated for the chill they bring to the room.

BarCat looks around at the assembled crowd. Bram Stoker sits at a table with H. P. Lovecraft and Bella Lugosi, discussing visual horror vs. the horror that is conjured up by the imagination.  As a smaller version of Cthulhu sits stroking his tentacle beard, Dracula sips a cup which no one questions, knowing the contents within.

Pete knew to stay behind the bar for the night. The only person fit to be barmaid that evening was Eliza Orme, the lawyer who championed the roll of the barmaid in the late 1800s. No one gave her any back talk or dared to touch her. Pays to have a lawyer on staff.

The evening plays on, spirits come and go. The Bronte sisters sit with Jane Austin and Ann Radcliffe discussing the advancement of women’s rights with Mother Jones and Elizabeth Stanton. The women’s table expands as Regina Marie Roche and Mary Wollstonecraft arrive to add their ideas to the discussions.

Overall, while there are discussions where tempers run hot, violence doesn’t break out and no one has to be ejected from the bar. For some reason, while there are elements that could have ignited an all-out riot, the line is never crossed, like something worse than the ideas and elements had control of the situation.

Pete is busy handing out bottles and glasses to Ms. Orme, all the while keeping a running tab while BarCat is kept amused. They both enjoy and respect the presence of the spirits. It is part of what the Zodiac Bistro is all about.

When the crowd finally empties out onto the predawn street, it was Terrence Fisher who walks up to the bar to settle the bill. Pete presents the bill, and Mr. Fisher produces gold coins enough to cover the tab and then some. He then nods to Pete, and points to BarCat, while dropping another gold coin on the table.

“Keep his glass filled. This cat is the only one who can keep this crowd in check, because what he can do is much scarier than anything the guests here tonight could conjure. See you next year.” He then tips his hat to them both and leaves.

Pete smiles and scratches BarCat on the head as he fills the shot glass yet again. He then put on his coat and hat and leaves. Ghosts are easy to clean up after.

BarCat settles in for a nap. With the energies left behind by the crowd this evening, there would be no one daring to break in this night.

Copyright 2022 Boudica Foster and Tales from the Zodiac Bistro
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