The Place To Find Yourself

Luke Brockett fell to his knees onto the rough gravel road, watching with watery eyes as a group of blue-hatted movers carried numerous things— barstools, tables, even a refrigerator— out of the Second Wind bar.

What the hell? He thought, bringing his hands to his eyes as a one-sided conversation blared on in his mind. You're just gone? That's how you go out? No, no, no, you couldn't've…

He shook his head and rose, walking in front of one of the workers who quickly stopped, almost dropping the cardboard box in his hands. "W— Why are… What happened?"

"I don't think that I can—" The mover looked up, grimacing as he made eye contact with the quivering Luke. "The uh… Owner died suddenly, left everything to his sister. And she's sellin' the property, so…"

Luke simply stared for a moment before turning around, his fingers curling into fists. Every step he took felt fatally heavy as he walked for what seemed like hours, eventually arriving at his apartment. He flung the door open, leaving the lights off as he went directly to his bed, curling up under a heavy blanket.

I don't even get a warning. Just like that, huh?

You said you were gonna stay… I just wanted you to…

A soft giggle pried open his lips, and a tear leaked from his eye.

God, I—

Suddenly, a brisk chill swept through his body, causing his hair to stand on end. Then, he felt a familiar warmth from behind him, like a toasty fire— but it quickly faded.

He sat up, looking behind him to see a glimmering strip of gold paper resting on the brown hardwood floor. Luke wiped his eyes on his blanket before stepping out of bed, grabbing the paper.

Press here for one-time access to Stacker's Coffeehouse and Bar!

Suddenly, a red button popped out of the ticket, and Luke dropped it with a surprised gasp. What the… What is this thing? Stacker's? He backed away, his eyes drifting to his phone. I shouldn't mess with it, maybe I could…

His eyes were pulled back to the glistening ticket. Well, it's not like it'll actually do anything…

He crouched down, pressed the button, and then blacked out.

"But… why me?"

Seawind laughed. "Next time you're up there, look at the crowd." He showed his signature warm smile. "That's your answer."

"Hey, you up?"

Luke shot awake almost falling off of the barstool he was sat on. "Huh, what— What!?"

The bartender on the other side giggled. "First time, eh? Don't worry, you'll get the hang of
the transition eventually." she stretched her gloved hand over the bar, which Luke hesitantly shook. "Name's Lillian."

"And I'm Luke…" He pulled his hand away, instead using it to pivot the barstool's seat around as he inspected his surroundings. The room was giant— almost the size of a gymnasium— and it was filled with numerous shiny black tables surrounded by matching leather chairs, where dozens of people sat. Each individual was unique and distinctive, but something was different about some of them… They seemed a little… green?

He looked back to Lillian just in time to see her pull off her gloves with a rubbery snap. "I think I know what you're thinking…"

"What… What?"

She reached forward and put her arm straight through Luke's head.

"Augh!!!" Luke stumbled back in his chair, almost falling over as he felt another chill shiver throughout his body.

Lillian simply chuckled, pulling her hand back. "I always love doing that." She grinned as she snapped her gloves back on. "People are so surprised."

Luke gulped, his eyes wide as he questioned, "How…?"

"I'm a ghost, dummy!" She exclaimed. "I'm dead! Well, kind of."

Luke rubbed his eyes, looking back up to see a blue drink in front of him, topped with a mini-umbrella.

"It's on me," Lillian said. "Just give it a try, trust me."

Luke hesitated, but feeling how dry his mouth was due to his endless nervousness, he decided to take a short sip, and memories began to flash.

The audience before him cheered as he sang the last few notes of his song, finishing as they erupted with clapping. Luke panted, grinning as he looked down into the crowd, their faces all smiley and excited. A warm— yet somewhat weary— feeling grew in his heart as he walked backstage, where his manager sat, her legs crossed.

"You've got another performance tomorrow," she said. "Relax your voice a bit or else you'll lose it."

The weary feeling tugged at his heart once more.

His manager glared down at him, stating, "It's time to renew our contract, Luke."

Luke thought for a moment before staring into her eyes with a confident "No."

"Luke… You know that you won't—"

"I'm not renewing it."

"Why?" She asked, but it was more of a grumble.

Luke had to hold himself back from screaming. "I don't even know any of my fans. I don't have any friends either. And that's mostly because you're so controlling."

"I'm the reason you got so far!"

He took a deep breath before saying for the last time: "No."

Muttering something, his manager left, and it felt like a weight off of his shoulders, for the weary feeling was gone.

Luke looked up from his drink at the Second Wind bar to see a rather grey old man on the bar's tiny stage, speaking into a microphone.

"Are you folks ready for Karaoke Night!? Ready for some singin'!?"

The other bar-goers cheered, and Luke watched on curiously.

"Who's gonna be first tonight?"

Luke hesitated, but he raised his hand.

After Karaoke Night died down, Luke took his seat at the bar once more.

"You were pretty great up there," the old man said as he took a seat next to Luke. "Luke, right? People call me Seawind. Nice to meet'cha."

Luke took a sip of his water, thinking for a moment before setting his cup back down. "You're the owner of this place, right?"

"Yep! And I have a little proposition for you," Luke peeked over at Seawind. "I want to hire you. Just to clean a little, perhaps a bit of bartending… But most importantly, I wanna hear you sing some more, your voice is wondrous."

"Ah, thanks…" Luke's face grew red as he looked down, gripping his cup. "But… why me?"

Seawind laughed. "Next time you're up there, look at the crowd." He showed his signature warm smile. "That's your answer."

"What… What was that?" Luke said as the memories faded from his thoughts. "It was like…"

Lillian laughed, taking the blue drink away from him. "Like you were reliving the moment, right?"

"That was so strange… But also… Pretty nice…"

"It's one of our signature drinks. We call it the 'Remembrance Brew!' Kind of a dumb name, but it fits."

"Wait, why'd you take it away?"

"We only let people drink until it takes effect. Any more than that and your brain goes kaput."

"Oh… How does that work?"

"I dunno," she shrugged. "an overload of emotions or somethin'?"

"Huh. Fun."

"It really isn't," Lillian said, leaning forward. "So, you all good? A-okay?"

"Yeah, just um, a little confused, still. I mean, how are you a ghost!?"

"Some people are just too stubborn to die."

She smiled and walked further down the bar to help other customers as Luke groaned and sat in silence, thinking, when suddenly someone sat on the barstool next to him. "Hey there, Luke."

He looked over and swelled up with tears when he saw the old Seawind, even though he had a hue of green covering his skin. "Sorry, we can't hug. Ghost stuff, heh. I think there's some way we could, but…"

Luke padded at his eyes with his sleeve, sniffling. "You're here! Your sister closed the bar…"

"Ah, I knew that was gonna happen," Seawind shrugged. "That's why I brought you here."

"You gave me the ticket?"

"Yep. I passed straight through you, I'm surprised you didn't notice."

"Oh…" Luke fidgeted with a loose thread on his sweatshirt, nervously twirling it around his finger. "So, uh, what is this place?"

"Stacker's Coffeehouse and Bar, it's pretty neat, you'll like it. They've got… Wait—"

"Wait for wha—"

Suddenly a voice rang through the room, interrupting him as the lights dimmed, leaving the stage behind Luke illuminated. "It's time for Open Mic Night! Come on up, all voices are welcome!"

"I'd, uh, pat you on the back, but I don't have any of those gloves that let me touch things…" Seawind grinned, scratching his neck. "But… You should go on up. Offer them something, they'll accept it. Bring out your true voice— show them who you are. What makes you… Well, you."

Luke thought for a moment.

He stood, feeling a confident fire burning inside of his heart.

"Okay. I can do this."

Seawind simply looked on proudly as Luke marched up to the stage.

Open Mic Night at Stacker's THURSDAYS 10:00

Luke steps up onto the stage, breathing deeply in order to relax his pounding heart.

He takes the microphone off its stand, clearing his dry throat.

"I offer this tale in my own voice."

Years before now a man sang to the stars.
As he searched for a place he could fit in apart,
From all that was 'round him, he was overrun
So then he decided that he was just done

He considered the pathways that were all laid out
But all of his choices were clouded with doubt
A tug at his heart pulled him straight to a bar
Where he sat and he drank, camping under the stars

Until an event he could not understand
He was suddenly reminded of his old dear plan

"I wish I was a star," he thought, but then again, not really
Of course he'd already decided, he really seemed quite silly

Finally he made a choice, he found a place to stay
But suddenly his plan broke down, it all went astray
So he simply ran away…

With the help of a friend, he found his way here

I won't just disappear.

The audience bursts out into a brief applause.

The lost wanderer steps off the stage.

He smiles once again.

‘Til next week.

"That was wonderful, Luke," Seawind said.

Luke blushed. "Thank you… I have to leave though, so… How do I get out?"

"Ah!" Seawind made eye contact with Lillian and waved her over.

"What do'ya need?" She asked, pulling her gloves on.

"Luke's leaving."

"Alright, then here you go!" She passed over two tickets, one grey and one gold. "Just click the grey one to leave."

"A— alright…" His finger hovered over the grey ticket's 'exit' button, but was stopped by Seawind.

"And come back sometime, eh?"

Luke looked up with a sweet smile. "Of course I will," he said, and he clicked the grey button, disappearing to the real world as he watched Seawind and Lillian wave him goodbye.

When he opened his eyes, he was sprawled out on his bed, the golden ticket grasped in his hand. He looked down at it and held it close to his chest, the warm feeling filling his quivering heart once more.

I can go back tomorrow, he thought. I think… I think I'll be okay.

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