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Yasmin knew she was going to be working at an odd pub, but she didn’t understand just how odd it could really be. The Drowned Maid stood awkwardly near the cliff’s edge, overlooking the sea confidently whilst straddling the thankfully-solid ground that had recently been declared safe from coastal erosion. Still, it was a weird place to choose to drink at, with it’s creaky bar stools and thick, musty curtains draped all over the place. I felt like it could have once been a fancy house, at least it could’ve 500 years ago. It served the oddballs of Pennie-upon-Sea, from the town drunks to the strangely-active goth scene. And then there were to nighttime drinkers. The Midnight Lot, Yasmin’s new manager had offhandedly called them, who trickled in after dark and stayed until just before sunrise. Yasmin had joked that they sounded like vampires after she heard about them. Oh boy.
Her first shift had been a midday one, simple enough with no trouble, and her second shift was to be the late night shift. Why the Drowned Maid bothered to stay open until 5 in the morning was beyond her; it just seemed so unnecessary. She learnt soon enough that the late shift was the busy one, however, with a couple of dozen people happy to sit in and drink until just before closing time. These were the Midnight Lot, a bunch of seemingly-random people who would meet most nights for a few drinks and joke about old times and recent happenings. They ranged from an old man with a monk’s bowl cut to a girl no older than eighteen dressed like a French fashionista. The only thing they all seemed to have in common was a sort of glow. Not like a light bulb glow or a tanned glow, but a sort of luminescence that clung to their skins. Yasmin suspected the lights did that at night, but it still felt somewhat off. Throughout her shift, the occasional head would turn to look her way, someone’s eyes would stare at her back, and she got a sense of being preyed on by the drinkers in the large group. By closing time, however, the only thing they had said to her was drink orders.
She began to reflect on the nature of the Midnight Lot whilst she wiped down the bar top with the standard-issue wet cloth. Some of them looked normal enough, if a little broody or secretive-looking, but others appeared to have plucked from different points of history, especially that one with the monk’s haircut. It made no sense to her; why would such a random group of people come here most nights? Were they a cult or something? A wiccan coven? She knew there was a coven in the area because of the fliers seen posted on the town’s community board, but they never met here - they were based in the leisure centre on early evenings, not a pub at nighttime. The cult idea seemed nonsensical too; cults were supposed to spend their time praying to unknown gods and doing other weird things, not drinking and chatting like old friends. The more Yasmin tried to explain the Midnight Lot, the more her head hurt. It just made no damn sense to her.
Resigned, she finished cleaning the bar and closed up the pub. Sleep would help, it always did when these moments of confusion took her. The walk home wasn’t the longest one, but it was one that took her past the graveyard and old church, which frankly disturbed her. The graveyard was rarely used anymore, it was that full up with centuries-old pots and crypts, and the only people who ever went there were goths, tourists, and history buffs. For a barmaid on the late shift, it was nothing short of scary, even with the first rays of the sun casting the entire place in a soft orange glow. Some of the graves were said to be from the witch hunts, something long-forgotten by the town and its coven, but the rumour was there, spread by the Pennie-upon-Sea Historical Society (who were no doubt desperate to make their home more interesting). Another rumour, more mysterious in its source, was that the ghosts of the witches would stalk the place on a full moon, forming magick circles and casting spells on anyone who disturbed them at their sorcery. It was a dumb story to Yasmin, probably made to hide a secret drug ring or something, or perhaps just the tales children made up to make their time in the town more fun. In the end, though, nobody dared to expose the truth of the graveyard, often scared off by stray dogs or loud wind. But here, after her strange shift, Yasmin began to feel like there was something wrong with the place, and it didn’t take the fresh handprints on the dusty crypt door by the edge of the graveyard to tell her that. Something was here with her now, and it was probably angry.