Entering the bar, a microbrewery but for fiction, where only the finest, artisanal literature is said to be on tap, I am surprised by how bright the lighting is. Unlike most craft breweries, where one comes to drink something locally sourced and expensive in the dark and in silence. People come here to read, not any old words they can find in a library or bookstore, but to taste fiction unlike any other. These places are legendary and hard to find, but if one approaches the right alleyway at just the right angle, one can find a door, a gateway to a bevy of brand new worlds.
In one such place, I sidle up to the bar, tended by a man with beefy forearms covered in coarse hair. Winding their way up his arms, gently caressing his biceps, are tattoos. Words in a language I do not know and cannot recognize. Yet they seem… familiar somehow. Like I know the story they tell, like they seep deep into my memory and there are understood. He looks me once over as I sit. A judging stare. He knows me for the neophyte I am.
“What’ll it be?”
A virgin to these affairs, I look over at the taps and find no help. None of them are labeled, no clue to what novels, what poetry they might contain. I hesitate, afraid to say the wrong thing, then ask:
“Do-do you have any Austen?”
He sneers condescendingly, knowing grin framed by an immaculately manicured goatee.
“You’re new here, ain’t ya?”
I gulp and nod. Standing above me, casting a tall shadow in the light, he continues, staring at me, through horn-rimmed sunglasses.
“Want Austen or Brontë? I can point you to a bookstore. Looking for Ulysses? Seeking Shakespeare? I know a few libraries you might try. This here’s not a place for name brands or light fiction. Words served here are fresh, their books remain unwritten.”
He grabs a cold glass from the mug chiller beneath the bar and pours me a drink from a nameless tap. A drink of foamless gilt, letters suspended in ambrosia. He slides it to me and smirks.
“Here are words that have never been read. Every drink served here is made new, just for the reader.”
Hand trembling I take a sip, and the glass in my hands becomes a book. If this is an illusion or true metamorphosis I cannot say. Perhaps this is irrelevant in the face of what I perceive. I open this book, this never before beheld work of art, and gold embossed words scribble themselves onto the page. They are created as I read them.
I gasp, for I know this tale.
“A man enters a bar, blinded by its light. Where instead of beer, words are served. Where one can imbibe new worlds. Where one disappears…
…into one’s own story.”