Alcoholic Anthologies from the Club Invertebrate #1

the Skinny

Imagine a large dance club in what looks like the basement of not one, but several buildings. Under each building, along the walls, you can see a bar being maintained, some having more conventional looking drinks and some having... stranger ones. At each bar, you can see the same guy with short light brown hair and the same jeans and short sleeved, collared shirt, and all five of them are waving you over for a drink.

(That should do for a 'cover', shouldn't it?)

Notice: for those of you that are faint of heart, the following tale is not at all G-rated.

It may include foul language, excessive violence, sexual innuendo, and other things that would get this story burned, were it in a printed form, by the more fanatical elements of every religion on earth. In other words, if these things offend you, you may want to stop reading now.

(That should do for a 'disclaimer', shouldn't it?)

***

Morris relaxed, leaning against the bar, his back currently turned to the three people hanging out within. Legally speaking the place was closed, what with it being past 1 A.M. in the morning, but that was merely a technicality. Morris did his real business all the time - he was always in the Club, and the Club was always open. After all, you can't operate under draconian local statutes when your clientèle come from everywhere in the known multiverse.

As the owners and operators of Club Invertebrate, Morris Inglebert had his hands full, but he makes such a staggering amount of money that he doesn't really mind; his natural, lazy inclination was beaten down and buried by the riches he could make on a daily basis just by being here... and tending bar. And he was good at it; after serving drinks to sentient beings from everywhere and... everywhen for the last ten years, he could make a drink that just about anything could love.

With only three people here, he was able to take it easy though, even if one of the patrons were already quite drunk and slowly getting belligerent. Mind you she was a regular, so Morris was more than inclined to give her a little bit of leeway, and not just because she had giant, razor-sharp pincers instead of hands. No, he let her attitude slide because he knew as she did how rough the Life could be, of wandering about in different dimensions for fun and/or profit. It takes a toll.

"Anything I can get you, Penny?"

Pincer Penny stopped stumbling to the high-velocity techno music upon hearing her name, and attempted to spin around, a maneuver that caused her to spill onto the dance floor. "Naah, 'm fine. My friend with the smoking head could probably use something, he's always wound a bit tight." Motioning at him with her oversized pincers, Penny indicated a large, hulking robot who's head was, in fact, ablaze. That seemed ill advised for a mechanical entity, but who was he to judge?

"How about it, Machine, you want some?"

The Infernal Machine shrugged, its large exposed gears rotating to accommodate the motion. "I SUPPOSE SO. YOU WOULDN'T HAPPEN TO HAVE ANY MILK HANDY, WOULD YOU?"

Grinning at the strange robot and its loud, tinny voice, Morris held up the carton of 2% milk he had handy for just such an occasion, and poured the Machine a glass. "Here you go, tough guy - been saving this up just for you!" Taking a long, cool sip from the glass, the Infernal Machine sighed happily.

Which left his third patron, the last member of Pincer Penny's crew of bizarre headhunters. The fellow always made Morris a bit uncomfortable, since he never talked, simply sitting with his back to the bar and watching all the potential entrances, as if someone were going to jump him any moment now. Sure, it was possible, what with the nature of the place, but Morris was thinking this might be something to do with the fellow's past. Or occupation. Who knows?

"Hey, chum, you want a drink?"

This didn't get a reaction at all, so Morris simply shrugged and got about cleaning his glasses, as bar tenders tend to do in those uncomfortable silences. The silence was broken about a minute and a half later, by Penny. "Yo. Devil. Blasted. Mother." After a few seconds of surly staring, she continued. "Do. You. Want. A. Drink. Or. Not." Not that he intended to put the fellow on the spot, but at least Morris finally got a name to attach to the face. He thought, anyway.

The apparent Devil-blasted Mother then turned towards Morris, and our ersatz hero took in all the details of the silent man. He had strange red skin, with what looked like large blisters or boils on it, as if he'd been recently burned. But that was just on his face. The rest of his body was covered up by a large, black trench coat and a large, black fedora, which cast his face in shadow. The rest of him was covered by clothes that appeared similar to his own.

"Sure," the Devil-Blasted fellow shrugged, and pointed at a bottle of imported Mexican beer.

Fetching it, Morris handed it to the charred looking guy and grinned. "On the house, since it's the first you've ordered, er, Devil-Blasted Mother-"

Morris stopped as the fellow snatched the beer out of his hand and said "Man. Devil-blasted Man. Don't mind Penny there, she just likes to ... have fun with people's names when she's drunk. Which is her usual state."

Morris nodded at that, knowing Penny all too well. "As long as you can work together, I suppose that's okay. Wouldn't want you guys taking each other's heads off or anything..." Morris then resumed cleaning his glass, which was positively sparkling at this point, though he worked on it some more anyway. After a few seconds he noticed that the Devil-blasted Man was staring at him, so he naturally bit. "Anything else I can get you, partner?"

Smirking, the Devil-blasted Man nodded. "Actually, yeah... you could tell me why all the other bartenders look just like you. I mean, surely you're not really quintuplet bartenders, right?"

To this Morris just smiled and nodded. Ah, this fellow wanted a story. The Club was famous for stories, but people usually didn't ask him for one. Most just sort of went with the flow since it was a great place to get laid by an alien or whatever. "Well yes... and no, my friend.

"Let me explain."

***

It all started about ten years ago, when I was digging around in the basement. I was broke and out of a job at the time, so I figured I'd see if I could find anything to sell to feed my incredible donut habit. I didn't actually know what was in the basement at the time, you see, 'cause I bought the house a couple years back and never really bothered to go through all the junk in there - was an old lady that lived here before me, and I didn't want to mess with granny panties.

Or whatever terrors I'd find down there.

But being broke, there I was, so I started going through all that garbage, finding a metric butt load of weird bits and pieces. I didn't know it at the time but it was all apparently magic. I guess the house went to an estate sale after its owner, some old sorceress, got herself killed fighting aliens. I only found that out a bit after I found the portal; buried under a lot of boxes, it's the shimmering blue ball you see floating over there in the middle of the Club.

So yeah, I didn't know what it was and almost called in an electrician, but thought better of it. And then started experimenting, you know, throwing some of the old junk there into the ball of light, and noticing it not coming back out. So then I did it again, with a rope tied on, and found I could pull it back out. So here I am, figuring out I have a weird hole to... somewhere in my basement, like out of some kind of cheesy fantasy novel series - but without the wardrobe.

So I jump in.

And all I have to say about that is 'wow'. I saw all kinds of places, people... and things I never thought possible. And they all kept changing. I found out when you hop into something like this portal here, you know without knowing where you're going, you wind up everywhere at once. Everywhere that ever was, is, will be, and can be. You know, everywhere! It really blew my mind, and I sort of lost myself for a bit, but when I came back through the door, there wasn't just one of me any more.

There was five!

So once I adjusted to the idea of having five bodies, I thought hey, I could get a job and just work one day a week... but you know, that was small time. I eventually got it through my head that I'd tripped over something Awesome - at least, when Things kept coming through the portal while I was trying to watch the television or the like. I got to thinking, hey, this is a door to anywhere - I bet I could make a whole lot of money off of the things that were now wandering through.

Teach me to unblock the thing. But yeah, with five of me, I could send me all over to learn what I'd need, 'cause I'd decided to make a bar. A bar for the people of Everywhere! One of me I sent to bartender school here on earth, and then another through the portal to the best school I could find... elsewhere. A third I had just sort of start roaming the various places the portal could get to (everywhere) to spread the word. Of course he got smooshed and then I learned another secret.

Apparently, when one of me eats it, another one will just sort of 'pop up' here in no time flat. Not that I'm in a hurry to die, because I remember it each time it happens (and it's happened more often than I'd like, sort of a job hazard). So keeping that in mind, I got a business loan and had all five of us build up the bar here in the basement. And soon enough I was rolling in the money. Rolling! I had a Scrooge McDuck ™ pool full of gold and baubles to enjoy!

So I paid off the loan and then I started expanding, buying up the surrounding buildings and opening a few other enterprises. Like a hotel for people from elsewhere, because really, what other place around HERE is going to put up with scaly weirdos, or robots, or anything else that just needs a room for the night? Oh, and then there's the Steakhouse, which my good buddy Kwan is running for me. He always wanted to run a restaurant instead of wait tables, so I gave him the job.

He totally loves me now!

And now that I have this place running, I get to send my 'spares' out for vacations now and then, and hardly anyone notices that there's only three or four of us here most of the time. But you know, we're all here tonight because it just lined up perfect... which is why you see quintuplet bartenders tonight. Can I get you another beer, Devil-blasted Man, or were you good for the time being?

***

Tune in next time as Pincer Penny takes a night off, and goes into fine details about a weird job that she and her Triumvirate of Tribulation (that's the trio above, in case you weren't sure) had to hunt down some sort of mutant terrorist - one who turned out to be a bit more dangerous than the Triumvirate initially thought. Sure they survived, but did they manage to do so unscathed? Check us out in thirty or so to find out!

(That should do for a 'preview', shouldn't it?)

***

Alcoholic Anthologies from the Club Invertebrate #1: the Skinny
© 2009, 2012 Denny Hill 2, All rights reserved and so forth.

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