It was a first for William. Being a barkeep wasn’t the best job and it definitely wasn’t one that he would have preferred, but the big guy had given him it to him. He had only been working the gig for about two or three hundred years. In his eyes, he was still new. His patrons would consider him ancient. Not that any of them knew or asked his age. To them, he was just a bystander. A simple member of the staff. He didn’t blame them. They were often reeling from a traumatic experience. His job was to help them get stable enough to move on to the next stage.
To put it simply, he was back to rookie status, and it was hard to swallow how far he had fallen. There was no one to blame but himself, so he did the job to the best of his abilities. He had almost forgotten how much he liked helping people. Even if they were often degenerates. The way he saw it, they could only go up from here. Many accepted their situations quickly. Some wallowed for a while before realizing things weren’t changing. The most anyone stayed was a week. A few patrons of the bar this evening were getting close to breaking that record, but the mood had shifted in the last half-hour.
The newest arrival wouldn’t shut up. Normally, William had no problem using force to quiet a customer, but this guy wasn’t causing trouble. There was actually laughter. A welcome change to the usual gloom. The guy flat-out refused to believe he was dead. The other patrons found him entertaining, so William just watched while wiping down a perfectly clear glass with a perfectly clean towel. He wasn’t really there to serve drinks. He just acted the part because it made the job easier for him and gave him something to do. There was no dirt in heaven and the glasses refilled themselves. This was the introduction to paradise that many people preferred, but they would learn. He found himself putting down the towel for the first time in decades as he watched the new guy ramble on. He even let the ghost of a smile cross his lips at the character before him.
“…and that’s not the half of it. I was driving along near the old Barlow place when I reached down for another one and BOOM! I find myself here with half a pint in my hand. Simple brown-out. Can’t convince me otherwise Carl.” The newcomer leaned back as if he had made the most sensible explanation that could not be challenged by any logic.
William guessed the newcomer was still inebriated. It happened from time-to-time. The man the newcomer addressed as Carl was actually named Alvaro and had died in Argentina three days ago. Alvaro had slowly grown more cheerful during his interaction with the newcomer and began instigating him.
“What makes you think we are in Sneeper’s?” the Argentinian said, his accent twisting the last word.
“How could it not be?” the newcomer asked, disbelief painted across his face, “Nothing’s changed. Jimmy’s at the tap, Mindy is hovering near the jukebox, and I’m drinking out of a glass with my name on it.” He hesitated and looked at the glass closely. “Well, that last one is new. Thanks Jimmy.” He raised his glass at William who remained behind the bar. William simply nodded and kept watching.
There was no name on the glass. The guy simply saw what he wanted. What his mind would let him without risking its sanity. It was a form of both protection and denial. The ignorance would wear off with the hangover tomorrow. Tonight, he was entertaining, so William just let him be.
Many of the patrons in the bar had gathered around him. Many of them were laughing. At this rate, most of them would be able to move into the city tomorrow. This newcomer was making it easier for the others to accept their own deaths, which gave William an idea.