's 2019 Horror Write-off:

A Glass of your Finest Fear

Submitted by D-Pad

The bar was dimly lit and slightly damp, as if it had been built inside a cavern. Nothing but a glass door with a heavy, old-fashioned wooden frame connected it to the world outside, and the glass itself was so stained by the passage of time (and some really poor hygiene) that barely a ray of moonlight, which that night bathed the countryside with rarely seen intensity, managed to pass through. Usually, under such circumstances, the place did not get many clients. Nonetheless, a few minutes past midnight, the creaky old door made way for a visitor.

"Hiya Slim, how's it going? Nice night for a walk in the woods, isn't it?" the newcomer said loudly, as if to get everyone in the place to listen, though perhaps he wouldn't have been so enthusiastic if there had actually been any people in there other than the bartender.

Despite the flashy display, the lanky barkeep didn't move an inch when the new patron greeted him; he simply pulled a dark tentacle out of his back and extended it towards the spirits rack. It grabbed the vodka as another tentacle poured tomato juice into a glass and a third one added some spices. In an instant, the client's bloody mary was ready.

The regular sat on a stool, grabbed the glass and inspected it with a huge smile on his burnt face, one of the very few expressions he could manage. "Oh, Slim, this is simply beautiful," he said, "it looks exactly like the blood of the guy I sent to sleep tonight. I don't know how you do it." He guzzled the drink and let out a loud burp. If the bartender was disgusted by the belch or flattered by the compliments, neither emotion registered in his pale, featureless face. Regardless, the smiley killer kept talking to him.

"Slow night, uh? I was expecting to meet Mr. Gardening Implement here, at the very least. Don't tell him I called him that, though. I really admire his work. Yours too, of course, don't get me wrong. Even your heavenly bloody maries pale in comparison to what you do with those abilities of yours, and... Oh! 'Pale,' hehe. Look what I did there. Am I a riot or what?"

"Right, don't answer," the patron said after a brief moment of silence. He laughed, and then kept chattering in front of his captive audience of one.

An hour and three bloody maries later, the door begun to creak once again, easily heard above the almost nonexistent background music. A gust of cold air made its way into the bar; either the night had grown colder, the killer thought, or the gate had opened from another place altogether. Then the door opened fully, and someone stepped inside.

The new client was difficult to describe, not because of any peculiarity of their appearance, but because of the complete absence of any instead. It was, essentially, just a normal person, someone you would glimpse across a street without sparing a thought. Their presence there, of all places, was a mystery for the young murderer; he had never seen such a mundane individual at the bar before.

"Good morning," the stranger said with a deep, raspy voice that betrayed something sinister behind their innocuous looks, even though no malicious intent could be gathered from it. The bartender's head twisted a little in their direction, the first time it had moved in any way for quite some time.

"So, this is a big shot, uh?" the killer guessed. "Doesn't look like much to me."

"I'll assume the alcohol is speaking for you, son," the new guest replied, though their tone was more amused than angry. They sat on the stool beside the killer and tapped their fingers playfully on the counter. They pretended to hesitate for a second and made their order.

"I'll have a stage fright on the rocks, with a twist of lime, please."

"What kind of a request is that?" The murderer asked, but the bartender had already set things in motion. He vanished into thin air, and soon reappeared holding a glass of brown tinged liquid. As instructed, a few ice cubes were diving inside and a lime peel decorated the rim. However, an extra little detail didn't escape the killer's eyes...

"Hey, dude! Why does the newbie get served with your hand and not one of your tentacle thingies?"

As always, the dapper figure offered no answers. Meanwhile, the stranger took their glass and held it up, shaking it a bit as if to make music with the ice. Remarkably, the clash of the cubes with the crystal was reminiscent of the laughter of an audience heckling their unfortunate host. The client sipped some of their drink and put the glass back on the counter with an echoing knock.

"He wasn't here before, you know," they said suddenly.


"The bartender. Didn't you notice? He was somewhere else. The tendrils are a projection of his true self, a way to manipulate matter in distant places, among other things. He didn't fully manifest himself in here until he brought my order; that's why he couldn't use his arms earlier."

The killer stood still for a second with a puzzled smile on his face, unable to reply until he finished processing the stranger's words.

"Oh. Got it. Thanks, I guess. But enough with the mystery, please! I'd like to know who the hell you are already."

"Fair enough. I'm that which humans most fear: the Other; the Unknown. If you want to put a specific name on me, perhaps it would be best to use that of a usual manifestation of mine. You may call me... The Bogeyman."

Those two words hung in the air for a while before falling with full force on top of the incredulous killer. This was someone he had never expected to meet in person, a legend among legends. The Bogeyman... the source of countless stories. The precursor to both himself, Slim, and who knows how many others: the Original One. Boundless joy invaded his black heart.

"Holy shit! Holy crap. It really is you, isn't it? Of course, it's you. I don't know how I didn't figure it out earlier. You'll have to excuse me, sir... or madam, perhaps... it's difficult to tell, sorry."

"Meh, don't worry. It happens. In fact, that changes with the circumstances. Bogey 'man' is just a name, after all. I am a concept, an archetype; most of us are either agender or, in my case, genderfluid. They/them pronouns. You know how that goes, yes?"

"Uh, yes, I think so. Kinda... Maybe."

"Well, no matter. You may address me as a man if you want; right now, I don't mind. One of my youngest relatives, Bathroom Panic, is quite rude and does it all the time, even when I don't feel like it. I'm guessing you're not like that, are you?"

"No; of course not. I don't give a fuck! I'm an equal opportunity assassin, ha ha. By the way, my name is Jeffrey, but my friends call me Jay, and my victims... well, you know."

"Oh, I certainly do, Jay. That's one fine job you do, if by 'fine' we mean 'gruesome.' You're quite popular with the young ones, I hear. Good for you, keeping the spirit alive!"

"Thanks! Uh... that doesn't make you uncomfortable, does it?"

"We do what we have to do. After all, without a healthy amount of fear, people get reckless," the Bogeyman replied, and drank the rest of their beverage. The cackling of hecklers was more audible than ever as the liquid went down.

"I didn't even know that kind of drink existed," the killer confessed.

"Of course not. You're barely of drinking age!" the concept laughed.

"I've been drinking here for a long time, though," the smiling man said, and extended a hand towards the counter. "Look at all the empty glasses I left just today."

"Yeah, shouldn't you clean them already, Slim?" the Bogeyman replied, and then returned to the topic. "Anyway, that's just alcohol, Jay. For us, that's nothing. Look at yourself: after all those, you're not even tipsy. Pure fear, though... That's on another level entirely. I'd like to know how you'd handle that."

"Well, let's find out!" the young one replied with enthusiasm. "Come on, Slim, pour me a glass of your finest fear! Or, at least, the finest I can afford."

"Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Hold on just a sec," the Bogeyman warned. "Trust me; you don't want to jump into these waters without a lifeguard. Luckily for you, though, I'm just the person you're looking for; please allow a true connoisseur to guide you."

"Sure thing, thanks," the new pupil replied. "What would you recommend?"

"Well, perhaps it would be better for you to start with something mild; something sweet and innocent, like the fear of a child that can't find their teddy bear. You certainly don't want to try something bitter at first, like a jealous lover's fear of betrayal."

"How about claustrophobia or something like that?" Jeffrey suggested. "I'm curious about what could that taste like, now that I know that it tastes like something."

"Oh, phobias!" the Bogeyman complained. "Don't get me started on those. Anyway, it's too late, here I go. Phobias are a mixed bag, Jay. As a rule, they tend to have quite intense flavors, not very suitable for beginners. You must also be careful, as some of them contain a certain amount of hatred, which is what you get when you let fear ferment for too long. Some, like homophobia, are pretty much nothing –but– hatred, and that shit tastes like, well, shit. Which doesn't mean that some people don't love them, of course. I've already mentioned Bathroom Panic, who drinks transphobia like there's no tomorrow, but I have other relatives like that too. Take, for example, my siblings Red Scare and Yellow Peril, who got drunk on xenophobia almost every night back in the twentieth century. Nowadays they're just a shadow of their former selves, but they're still around and scavenge their favorite booze at every opportunity they get. I would feel pity for them, if they weren't so evil."

"Man, that's harsh," Jay commiserated. "Those relatives of yours sure sound like a bunch of right assholes. I had a good family myself, but I killed them all. I couldn't help it, that's how I was written."

"Ouch! You've made me feel old," the Bogeyman said. "Now I remember that you and Slim were born in the Information Age. Your origins can be traced; your authors have names we can read, or at least I'm sure Slim does. Eric something, wasn't it?"

The bartender nodded ever so slightly, but didn't complete the name. It was Knudsen, if you're curious.

"Anyway, I'm older than the written word, so I don't have such a luxury. I barely even remember my childhood, back in the days of the early hominins, when human culture was beginning to take shape. Those were chaotic times; I was quite animalistic. Though, in a way, I almost miss it."

An awkward silence followed. Both patrons stared at their empty glasses, and a mellow song became audible again in the background; some sort of ballad. The Bogeyman shook their head and hit the counter with their palm.

"Enough with the reminiscing already! I'm in the mood for one more drink. Jay, you wanted to try some of the finest fear. What do you say; may I treat you to the real good stuff, something you couldn't afford otherwise? You just have to promise me something beforehand."


"If you're going to keep drinking fear in the future, please do so with moderation. Don't be like Bath, Red and Yellow... I'd hate to know that I set you on the path towards such a nasty fate."

"Oh, don't worry about that," the killer guaranteed. "Tonight I was just celebrating something. I'm not a heavy drinker at all!"

The Bogeyman looked at the bartender, searching for a confirmation. Again, the slightest of nods.

"I'm glad to hear that," they said. "Then, tonight, I'll celebrate with you. Slim! Get us a powerful man's fear of losing his clout. Neat, please."

The barkeep reached the top shelf for a bottle that had some dust on top. He cleaned it a bit and prepared not two, but three shots of the liquor. This time he served the killer with his hand.

"This round is on the house," he said. It was the first, and perhaps the last time that the murderer would listen to him talk. Jeffrey wondered where the voice came from, and how would someone without a mouth drink, but he guessed he was about to find out.

The three companions clinked their glasses in a toast, and my, what a wonderful music that made.