Saturday Short: The Bottles

photograph of glass bottles filled with green liquidFor the last four days Devin sat in the bar trying not to stick their forearms permanently to the sticky top of the table. The beer was flat and tasteless as the decor that looked like it had been dredged from the river and flung careless on the walls. The only thing going for the place was the watered down beer. Most times this would make Devin leave and never come back. But now, it allowed them to keep their senses sharp so they didn’t stare too long at the woven garland of glass bottles hung behind the main bar. The green liquid inside the bottles seemed to glow of their own accord. No one had touched them in the days Devin sat, nursing a beer and eating soggy fries, trying not to worry about their dwindling funds. One bottle would cure all their problems. One bottle would trade for a year’s worth of wages.

They drained their glass. Tonight was the night or nerves would shatter. Devin left and returned when the moon was full and even the screech owls were asleep. Devin picked the lock and snuck like a wayward shadow across the floor. They snipped a bottle from the bunch and slipped it into their pocket. Devin paused, but heard nothing. They slipped back across the room and touched the doorknob as someone knocked their feet out from under them.

“You need to give that back.

Devin looked up into the face of a woman whose hair formed a moonlit halo around her head, but features were obscured by shadows. It was her staff she held against their sternum with increasing pressure, though, that held Devin’s attention.

“I said, give it back.” The woman twisted the tip of her staff harder into their chest.

Devin considered their options. None were good. The woman had gotten a jump on them without a sound so fighting their way out was not a sure thing. Giving up the bottle wasn’t good either, but at least they could try for something else in some other windswept town. Devin fished the bottle out of their pocket and turned it over with a sign. The woman slipped it into her pocket and removed her staff from their chest.

“Get on with you, then,” she said.

Devin stood up and backed up, wary of another attack, but none came. They stopped before opening a door and asked a question, “Why do you keep them out like that? You know how much they’re worth.”

The woman smiled. “In case someone needs one. It’s easier that way.”

Devin frowned. “I need one.”

The woman nodded. “All you had to do was ask.”

Devin’s brown wrinkled, but the woman said no more as she stood as still as the flotsam hung on the walls.

“Could I have one?” Devin asked, feeling the question was ridiculous, but there was nothing to lose. “Please?”

The woman tossed the bottle over without hesitation. One smooth movement created an arch of green light that landed in Devin’s hand.

“Of course,” she said. “May it bring you good fortune.” She turned and melted into the shadows before Devin could call out thank you, but they double-checked that the door was locked behind them when they left and left a mark outside saying the bar was protected to warn the next potential thief to go elsewhere.