This story was written for the Ragtag Daily Word prompt word – Unoccupied.
Join me for a weird tale …
Dinner and Disappearance
Bert turned into the gravel car park of the Checkmate Public House. The car park was uneven and potholed. Bert’s vintage Jaguar didn’t approve as it jostled him about. Still, he spun around and nursed the vehicle into a bay beside a beech tree. A glance about the dark car park revealed the cars of his friends already here. He knew they would beat him here, a car crash had made him twenty minutes late for his scrabble game at least.
Climbing from his car, Bert smoothed his shirt and tie and headed into the pub’s beer garden. It was a classic Tudor white-wall and black beam building with a wonderful thatched roof. The garden was illuminated by roses of many colours all looking beautiful in the garden lights around the picnic tables.
Bert entered the porch and pushed through the studded-oak door into the building. His shoes clicked on the flagstone floor as he stepped down into the main bar. The black beams continued in the ceiling here. Each adorned with corn dollies from the fields around the pub. The array of tables and the bar also picked up the black oak design.
The building was as silent as a morgue. Bert’s felt confusion furrowing his face. The bar was unoccupied, glasses of beer and plates of half-eaten food were on the tables. Yet nobody was to be seen or heard. The Checkmate Pub was completely devoid of souls.
“Guys! Are you hiding from me?” Bert’s voice faded back to silence. “It’s nice of you but come on out!”
Nobody answered and nothing moved in the eerie unoccupied building.
Bert stepped into the first of two side rooms. This front room had an inglenook fireplace. It was ablaze with a cosy crackling fire. “Ahh, they were in here,” Bert noted the Scrabble boards set up on the tables here. He approached and saw his friend Ruby was winning her game by over a hundred points. Clive was getting a hammering. Their glasses of beer and wine were freshly filled and cold. Keith, Amanda and Penelope were playing the other game before they vanished. It was evenly matched. Keith had ordered chips which were still warm enough to enjoy.
“So, wherever you guys went, you vanished in the last couple minutes.” Bert left the room and entered the other on the same side. The tables were bare here and so filled with trepidation he opened the kitchen door. At once his face was lit by a flickering orange glow.
“Shit!” he’d looked straight over the stainless steel work surfaces to the stove. An unattended frying pan on the top was ablaze. Bert saw no chefs, nobody – the kitchen too was unattended. He tore the fire blanket from the wall and dumped it over the pan. He hit the emergency stop button on the wall, knowing it would cut off the electricity and gas to the kitchen appliances. By then his heart was pounding in his chest.
“Well, the steak flambé is done. What the hell is going on in here?” he said while hugging himself with cold fear gripping him.
Leaving the kitchen, he returned to the bar. Walking along the front he checked the poured beers there. Again they were cold meaning they’d been freshly poured. Confusion clouded his mind as he noticed the door behind the bar swinging ajar.
“Hi, we’re Bella and Ethan. We’re booked in for dinner at eight-fifteen under my name, Crask.”
Bert flinched at the voice and turned to face a young smartly dressed couple in the entrance door.
“Hello, guys. I’m Bert. Erm … I don’t think you’ll be eating,” Bert said feeling more perplexed by the second.
“Why?” asked Bella.
“The staff, customers and my friends seem to have vanished.” Bert slapped his thighs.
“Seems they were here.” Ethan indicated the half-eaten dinners on the table.
“Sure, they were. There’s no sign of struggle and nobody is in this building.”
Bella looked scared. “I’ll call the police.”
“Thanks.” Bert stepped behind the bar and entered the back room. The cellar door was closed, he cracked it and peered in. Only the beer coolers, barrels and wine rack were in the steel-walled room.
“Anything?” Ethan called.
“No, I’m going out the back. The doors swinging open.”
“Okay, we’ll wait for the police,” Bella replied.
Bert took a breath and left the pub. He entered the fenced rear garden and used his phone torch to look about. It had an old barn running along the back. A look left confirmed the kitchens fridges to be in there. The area was unkept with weeds growing out of the concrete everywhere. A rotten horse trailer was collapsing in the middle of the space. Nobody was out here either.
“Hello!” Bert called as he peered into the barn and trailer. He noticed flattened grass heading to the right of the building. Following the trail, he arrived at a simple fence of posts and twin horizontal bars. A stack of broken benches lay here. Beside them, the fence had two of bars were missing.
Bert shook his head and gulped down a panic. He walked right into the oil-dark field beyond.
“Over here, Ethan. Everybody went into this field by the looks of it.” Bert stumbled through the long wild grasses which had been flattened by passing feet. He crossed a cut section which created a path and entered another area of tall grasses. A burning smell attacked his nose and made him sneeze as he followed the path of flattened stems. What he saw next had him stop dead.
“What have you got?” Ethan asked. “The police will be here —” Ethan arrived at his side and cut him off.
Bert moved his light over a large and perfect circle of scorched earth. Something had burned away all the grasses and wildflowers here. Three deep marks were spaced around it as if a heavy tripod shaped object had been sat there.
“What the hell!” Ethan spluttered his face pale and incredulous.
Bert looked into the starry sky. “I think they were all abducted by aliens.”
Have a great day!