My Deadtown urban fantasy series features Victory Vaughn, a shapeshifter who kills other people’s personal demons for a living—while fighting bigger, nastier, more dangerous demons of her own. Vicky lives in Deadtown, Boston’s paranormal-only district. One of her favorite haunts (so to speak haha) is Creature Comforts, a bar where humans and paranormals meet and mingle. Creature Comforts is owned and managed by Axel, a bartender of few words but giant stature—and attitude. Here, Axel takes over to share his thoughts on running a monster bar in Boston’s New Combat Zone.
You can learn a lot about people in a bar.
Of course, if you happen to wander into my bar and spend some time there, you’ll learn a lot about a lot more than just people. That’s because humans make up maybe a quarter of my customers. The rest are vampires, werewolves—you know, so-called creatures of the night. Creature Comforts (that’s my bar) also gets quite a few zombies, when the cops let them past the Deadtown barriers.
My name is Axel, and I’m a jötunn. You’d probably say “troll.” Either one works. I’ll admit I look like something out one of those fairy tales meant to scare children into behaving—I’m seven feet tall (plus or minus a couple of centimeters), with a hookish nose, small dark eyes, and a long beard that tends toward shagginess. You might expect to find me living under a bridge, demanding money to let travelers cross—and threatening to eat anyone who won’t pay up. Not much call for that line of work anymore. The government’s taken over. Take the Tobin Bridge, for example. Seventy-five thousand cars drive across it from Chelsea into Boston every day, and the state collects three dollars from each of them. How am I supposed to compete with that?
So if you look under bridges, you won’t find me there. I live in an apartment in the basement under my bar. Behind a triple-locked door. It’s my realm, and no one gets in without my say-so.
Anyway, that whole pay-up-or-get-eaten thing is a lousy deal. For me, I mean. Look around at the characters in this place—that table of business-suited werewolves sharing a bottle of Scotch; the three vampires sitting at the bar, pretending they’re not eyeing the nervous-looking human college girls sitting in the booth by the door. And let’s not even mention the zombies. Anything in here look like dinner to you? Me, neither. Don’t get me wrong; I like money. But I prefer to get mine by selling good beer and spirits at a fair price.
I opened this place three years ago, just a couple of days after the plague hit. Like other paranormals, I was immune to the virus that was fatal (or so we thought at first) to every human it touched. And the way all kinds of creatures came out of the woodwork to help, it was downright touching. I saw feared monsters who’d done their share of dark-alley hunting weep with grief at the scale of the carnage. I saw vampires who’d never in their undeath spared a thought for anyone else roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help. Later, after the zombies rose, I saw too many powerful creatures crammed in too close together try to figure out how to get along without tearing each other to pieces. One way they did
that was coming to my place. Still do, too.
Now, monster bars like mine provide neutral ground for humans and paranormals to mingle—or just to eye each other warily. Creature Comforts is one of a handful of such bars in the New Combat Zone, the unregulated no-man’s land between the checkpoints into Deadtown at one end and human-controlled Boston at the other. For humans, coming here is sort of like sticking your big toe into a shark tank so you can run home and tell your friends how brave you were to go swimming with the sharks. For paranormals, it’s a place where you can relax—go on the prowl or out for a howl and not worry what anyone
else thinks of you.
That’s where I come in. I keep order—silver stakes behind the bar help keep both vampires and werewolves in line—but more than that I make Creature Comforts a place where anyone can come in, get comfortable, and knock back a few cold ones. Sure, I might have to break up a couple of werewolf brawls each month when the moon is waxing. And I have to toss the vampire junkies out onto the pavement when they’ve donated blood past the legal limit. And sometimes I have to step in and save some dumb norm who drinks enough to get brave and mouth off to the monsters. But mostly, this is a live-and-let-live kind of place.
So don’t be shy. Come on in and take a seat at the bar. Let me pour you a pint. Tell me your story. I might not say much, but that doesn’t mean I’m not listening. After all, you can learn a lot about people—and others—in a bar.
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