by Dan L.
A Mare Inebrium Story
”When someone is driven by a need so intense that
their soul cries out for healing, and justice, the universe tends to
listen. And that can be very dangerous for us poor sods who might just
happen to get in the way…” -- Merlin Ambrosius, 733AD
It had been a quiet night at the Mare Inebrium—operative
words: “had been.” The bar wasn’t crowded, it was well after
midnight—not long before dawn, after all. Max was off doing inventory
in the bar’s storage warehouse level in sub-basement two. Kazsh-ak had
gone home hours ago, His niece Kazshthe’annie had been with him,
understudy for his position as the D’rrish Ambassador to other species,
learning how the old D’rrish interacted with other species. She has
learned a few of his skills as a storyteller, too. She’s inherited his
gift of gab, as well as his capacity for drink, so when the old bug
actually retires, she ought to be knowledgeable enough to serve her
people well. Bobby Blue the robot and Larrye were acting bartenders in
Max’s absence. I’d come by for a quiet drink or ten just because it was
so quiet. I rarely get a chance to relax in my job as Ambassador for
the Immortals and Chief Justice for the entire planet… Being the Reever
of the Immortals has never been an easy job. But it’s hereditary, so I
try and do my father and grandfathers proud. But I digress…
I’m sitting there at the bar drinking Dinkomet diluted with enough soda
water so that I got all the taste but only 10% of the intoxicating
effects, when I noticed the dark-haired human pop out of the damned
inconvenient nexus of potential realities the Mare Inebrium engenders
by its very existence. He wasn’t exactly disturbing the peace, but he
was disturbing a few of the 75-or-so customers who only wanted an
uneventful night to drink themselves into whatever level of stupor it
took for them to cope with their individual circumstances. He wandered
from table to table, evidentially asking a single question, then moving
on. I sighed, then activated a channel to my Staff of Office for a
translation of his question.
“Do you know the way to Shell Beach? I want to go to Shell Beach. I
need to go to Shell Beach…” I understood him to ask. Did I mention how
much I HATE the Nexus Of Potential Realities? Never
fails to generate mountains of paperwork. I damn well hate paperwork.
Larrye,” I said. “That guy is going to need a very stiff drink. Dial
him up a triple Scotch, on my tab,” I added. “Bobby Blue, perhaps you
should send a waiter or waitress over to invite him to have a seat at
“Input noted,” said Bobby Blue. “Staff alerted.”
“Triple Scotch, dash of soda, three small ice cubes,” said Larrye.
“I’ll have it ready when he gets here.”
“Thanks, boys,” I said. I could see Bruce the bouncer headed towards
the dark-haired human, then whisper to him. The man nodded, then began
to make his way through the scant crowd towards the bar. I put on my
least-threatening aspect as the human slowly approached. It’s one of my
talents. I can project a somewhat less-dangerous appearance when being
two meters tall and able to rip a sabertooth tiger in half with my bare
hands is somewhat slightly socially unacceptable. It’s just pheromones,
really. You smell harmless, they perceive you as harmless. Of course,
the reverse is also true. It’s a species thing. We immortals can do it,
if we paid attention in school. I paid attention in school.
The human slowly walked up and I turned to offer him the bar stool next
to me. Larrye put the Scotch and soda down in front of the human as he
sat down on the stool I’d offered. Larrye then wordlessly walked away
to see to another customer at the bar. Max has taught the boy well.
“You’re lost.” I said. ”Or so I heard you say. I’m the local Chief of
Police. You look like you could use a drink. And maybe a friend, too. I
bought you a drink. You’re trying to find Shell Beach?”
“I used to go there on vacations,” he said. “Back when I was a kid. My
family always had a good time there… Or at least, that’s what I
remember. I have a memento book, but I can’t find the way back…”
Have I mentioned that I hate metaphysical trans-substantiation even
more than I hate the Nexus? I don’t mind people having a purpose, but
when that purpose forces them to cross world-lines and time streams,
that gets right up my embuggerance threshold. But if this guy was a
criminal, I’d be willing to eat my metaphorical hat.
“The trains don’t seem to go there anymore,” he said. “My name’s John,
by the way,” he added.
“Call me Reever,” I said. “It’d take me twenty minutes to tell you my
real name in my language, and you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it
anyway. So, John, you need to get to Shell Beach?”
“Yeah, Shell Beach—I need to get to Shell Beach.” John said. “It’s
“Sounds like it,” I said. “I’ll help however I can. Tell me about Shell
“That’s the place over in the Elbow, isn’t it?” said Larrye as he
walked back up. “On the outside of the city wall? Over on the East
I frowned, then returned my attention to John.
“I’m not sure,” said John. “It’s outside the city, but I never learned
the direction. East sounds right. I remember the sunrises over the
ocean… The trains don’t run there any more…” John sipped his drink,
smiled slightly, and added “this is pretty good.”
“Um—yeah. We’ve been having some trouble with the uh, trains, for a
while now,” I said.
“I remember now,” said John. “Why I need to get to Shell Beach, I mean.
It’s where I first met my wife. We’re suppose to meet there for our
anniversary. When she gets off from work. She’s a singer at a bar—can’t
remember the name of the place.”
“Must be around here, somewhere,” said Bobby Blue. “All the best bars
“There’s a tune, in my head,” said John.
“Something your wife sings?” I asked. “While she’s working?”
“That must be it,” John replied. “Can’t quite remember… Getting closer
though. I need to go.”
“All right, John,” I said. “Finish your drink and I’ll get us a car.
I’ll get you to Shell Beach in time to meet your wife.”
“Thank you,” he said. “You’re going to Shell Beach too?”
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” I replied as I paged a vehicle to
meet us outside. I hoped that this was going to work. I believed I knew
what John needed—where he needed to go. I hoped I was right as we stood
to go out to the street. John didn’t even look at the city as we
reached the sidewalk and a transport pod settled down to meet us. He
didn’t seem to notice that there wasn’t a driver when we got in. I
typed a quick set of coordinates into the input keypad—street-level,
2200 block, East side, right up against the city walls--where the
Upper-Southeast and Lower-East walls met. I knew there were waves
crashing against the bottom of the low cliff face there, on the outside
of the walls, but I had a feeling. I hoped I was right. It felt right.
Our pod lifted up to the 500-foot level of traffic as soon as I
finished giving it the destination. We went North for a hundred blocks
or so, then East towards the edge of the city.
“Tell me about Shell Beach, John,” I said as we flew onwards.
“Not much to tell, really,” he said as he neglected to notice we were
airborne and in the middle of other flying traffic. The buildings flew
past. “The sand is kind of creamy-white, not yellow, and there are
seashells everywhere you walk. There’s a pier, near the amusement park.
My Uncle runs one of the rides in the park. The Funhouse Ride. I saw
him just a few days ago—or was it yesterday? I used to fish off the
pier. Never caught much, though. When I was a kid, I’d pick up
seashells and take them home to show my parents. There was a park bench
near the pier. That’s where I met my wife for the first time. You could
see the whole beach from there. At night the whole thing was lit up.
Looked like the whole beach was part of the amusement park. If you got
there before the sunrise, you could see the whole thing, like something
from out of a movie. The ocean would turn red, off on the horizon, then
the sun would begin to peek up over the water, and the whole world
turned to gold. The clouds would light up. The fog from the sea would
get brighter and brighter and then begin to burn off—until you could
see forever. And the stars at night, they went on forever, too…”
“Sounds wonderful,” I said. “We should be there soon. We’ll have to
unlock the door to go outside. But that’s all right—I have the key.”
“Why won’t the trains go there anymore?” John asked.
“I’ve got a feeling that they’ll start going there again,” I replied.
“I’ll have a quiet word with the stationmaster about changing the
routes back the way they were.” We landed. Getting out, John and I
faced a dimly-lit, practically dark, dead-end alley. We got out of the
pod and walked towards where I knew there needed to be a door. It had
to be there. John needed it to be there, so I was sure it wouldn’t be
long before we found it. At the end of the alley there was a recess in
the wall—just about doorway-sized. As we got closer, I could just make
out the shape of a set of double doors, set, sealed, into the shadowed
“I can feel the tune,” John said. “It’s stronger now. I can smell the
ocean—what time is it?”
“Almost dawn,” I said. The only thing I could smell was an alley—trash
that needed to be taken away, stale urine and impatience, blood dried
and never cleaned away from some long-ago crime, stale grease from some
“What if the door is locked?” John asked.
“I can open it, locked or not,” I replied. “There ought to be a light
over the doors,” I added. “And a sign. And one of these buildings ought
to be a parking tower, for people wanting to go to the beach.”
“There used to be,” John replied. “The doors were always open, and the
parking lot was over there,” he added as he waved vaguely over towards
the buildings to our left. “The train station was over there, too. Are
you sure you can unlock the door?”
“I’m sure,” I said as we reached the doors. I could see them clearly
now. I reached out and pushed one open. I could hear the waves crashing
against the seawall I knew was a hundred feet below
us. The sun was just beginning to rise in the distance. John walked
like a blind man, up to the guard rail keeping us from falling over the
cliff, gripped it with both hands, and stared into the slowly-rising
“I’m home,” he said in a whisper. “Shell Beach—I made it. I’m home. I
can feel the tune…”
There was a barely-perceptible rush of sound, and the world expanded
before us as the sun peeked up over the horizon. Cream-colored sands now
stretched outward towards the sun’s rays. A pier now stood away from
the beach, pointed directly at the sunrise. I could see the amusement
park John remembered from his childhood. It looked cleaner and brighter
than any amusement park I’d ever seen. Seabirds shrieked their
greetings to the new day. The waves crashing along the changed
shoreline took on a new note. As the light grew brighter, I could see a
nearby park bench, and a dark-haired woman sitting there as if
“That must be your wife,” I said to John.
“Yes, she waited. How can I ever thank you enough?”
“Just doing my job,” I said. “No thanks necessary. Go celebrate your
anniversary. Shouldn’t keep her waiting any longer,” I added, nodding
my head in the direction of the pretty girl on the bench. “I’ll see
what I can do about the lights and signs, and the trains, too. Go. Be
happy. You’re home.”
John smiled at me, as if he actually understood what he’d just done—or
was just happy to finally be home again. Then he turned away and walked
towards his wife and the bench where she sat. I turned and walked back
towards the alley. The doors were gone. They’d been replaced by a
clean, brick archway. The sign was just where he said it should be.
There was a subway station and a parking garage where the dilapidated
old building once stood. Everything was clean, well lit, and some sort
of happy-sounding music played quietly in the background. I walked to
the transport pod, got in, and told it to take me back to the Mare
Inebrium. I felt like I’d earned a drink for this night’s work. Max had
finished his inventory and was just starting another workday in the bar
as I walked back in. I told him my story. He didn’t want to believe it.
“We never had a beach next to the city,” said Max. “Not ever…”
“No, we didn’t. But we do now,” I said. “I guess we
needed it. John needed it badly enough to create it from his memories.”
“You took a huge risk, cousin,” Max said. “I suppose he’ll wind up
upstairs from now on, in the Pantheon. That kind of power could be
dangerous—out here in the normal world.”
“I seriously doubt he’ll ever leave the beach,” I said. “He’s home now.
He’s got everything he wants, everything he needs. He’ll live out the
rest of his life there. Just the way he wanted to back—wherever it was
he came here from.”
“Suppose he doesn’t?” Max asked. “What if he decides to change
something else in the city? Or somewhere else on the planet?”
“If he becomes dangerous, I’ll ask Polios to send that android, Maxwell, after
him. When Maxwell comes into the bar, here, even the Gods, upstairs, get
quiet—or go elsewhere. ‘Til then, I’ll keep an eye on him, myself. After all, I
have a few officers who’d love to be assigned to beach duty. It’s part
of the city now. It’ll have to be patrolled.”
“I could think of worse assignments,” said Max.
© 2019 Dan L. Hollifield
Bio: Dan L. Hollifield has been the Senior Editor and
Publisher of Aphelion Webzine since its inception in 1997. His short
story collection "Tales From The Mare Inebrium" was nominated for the
J.W. Campbell Award upon its release in 2014. His early online work has
appeared in several, now defunct, websites such as Dragon's Lair, Steel
Caves, Titanzine, and The Writer's Workshop. One of his steampunk short
stories, "Her Magesty's Gift" appears in the POD collection "Flash Of
Aphelion," and "The Dark Side of Diablo Canyon" appears in Horrified
Press' collection "Steam-Powered Dream Engines." He regularly attends
the Chattanooga TN convention LibertyCon and recently became the
Literary Track Director for the Atlanta GA convention AnachroCon. He is
currently 61 years old, married to his beloved Lindsey Burt-Hollifield,
and lives in the howling wastelands of Northeast Georgia, USA, outside
of Athens GA. They have seven children between their serial marriages
and more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than modern mathematics
is able to enumerate. They also are owned by a multitude of cats, and one
very spoiled dog...
E-mail: Dan L. Hollifield
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