Flash fiction: fewer than 500 words
They came at night. Soft-soled shoes whispered down dark alleys. Undisturbed by moonlight, or cloud-stifled starlight, no flicker of their passing in unwashed windows. Seeking the shelter of dark corners, deep shadows, their numbers grew until the close-knit walls rustled with their presence.
Deep inside a building seeking crooked support from its neighbors, a glimmer flickered briefly. Tension trembled through the cobbled square. Far away, a clock chimed once.
Breathless watchers quivered as the glimmer returned, wavered, steadied, strengthened, revealing many-paned windows above and below, a staircase; gleaming chairs and tables.
An oil lamp, held aloft by a twisted figure, moved uncertainly around the rooms, lighting other lamps until brightness shone onto damp cobbles. Tension in the square was high as, finally, the door was flung open.
“Welcome to The Dark Spot, friends. The bar is open”.
Grotesque shadows parodied his movements behind the bar. Flicker of white linen, gleam of lamp-lit crystal until, magically, a glass stood on the countertop, amber bubbles rising slowly to the creamy head. The watchers in the shadows released their breath and sidled to the doorway. Soon the house was thronged with silent silhouettes, up and down the stairs, passing the windows, crowding the bar.
Outside, one shadow remained. Motionless. A darker shade of black against the night. Waiting. A clock struck twice. Dawn began to push the night away. Clouds released white moonlight, deepening the shadows, highlighting the cobbles, dispersing the lamplight. Still the watcher waited.
Activity within The Dark Spot slowed. One-by-one the customers left, hugging the old walls, hurrying to avoid the light.
The watcher waited until the square was empty then flowed noiselessly over the cobbles. The crooked figure behind the bar looked up.
“I’m sorry friend, we’re closed”.
Sharp, swift, movement flashed through the shadows. The bar appeared deserted. A half-full tumbler stood on the counter, amber bubbles struggling to rise through flat beer. The watcher left without a sound.
Lamps flickered as their oil ran low.
The sun rose over the rooftops, pushed its way through the half-opened door. Light glistened red on the silent cobblestones.
© Ann Forrester 2016