Show me Those Electric Bones

three weeks.

That was how long Tara's dating app profile had been online before she finally found someone that wasn't just trying to get her Snapchat, her number, or whatever to send her dick picks. She'd ignored messages that said "big tiddied goth gf" and "do you like pegging" in favor of someone who actually seemed interesting, and who didn't come at her with some lame-ass message. Her inbox was so flooded...

She headed to Sassy's, opting for an uber since she was fairly sure she'd be too drunk to drive by the end of the night. She was feeling oddly optimistic about this date, despite the terrible ones she'd been on in the past. Generally she left her dating life in the hands of the app algorithm, and tonight was no different. She stepped inside the building, adjusting the leather skirt she'd put on at the waist. She didn't want to seem like she was trying too hard, though her makeup was still fairly bold.

She sat the the bar, shooting a message to her date.

At the bar. Red shirt, leather skirt, thick boots.

Not that there was really anyone there who looked like her. Most of the people here were dressed pretty comfortably, looser clothes, warmer tops. She ordered her first drink, a strawberry daquiri that she noticed, as the bartender made it, was fairly light on the daquiri bit.

I'm going to have to order more to get fucked up.

 In general, Rich thought dating apps were shit. They offered almost nothing for a dude—did the ladies know how many fucking bots were on there? It wasn’t even a fair fight. Too many assholes were shooting their shots and using the same line over and over to try to find an actual woman. Shit. They’d beat themselves off before they even got to talking with anyone.

 He’d done it. But whatever.

 Months ago, when he felt like there was nothing else to do but try his luck whenever he took a break or had a bout of insomnia, he’d made an account and uploaded some photos. Some were pretty old—the shots from his fitness competitions, especially. He mostly hated those—skin all oily with that weird orange spray tan. That was the expectation, though, so he’d done it. Most of the others were him behind a bar. The cover photo was a press shot from Helium House. Leon paid well for those, and Rich liked the shadows and the lights from the neons.

 In his ride to Sassy’s, he thumbed through her profile pics again, trying to memorize her face. Locking his phone, he tapped his foot nervously on the floorboard, watching the lights of East Portland come into view. They passed the entrance to Helium House, and Rich caught himself trying to see if there was a line. Damn. Too fast.

 The tiger sat on the bench seat beside him, spectral form curled in a ball. The cat’s tail phased in and out of the cab as he flicked it in irritation. Rich looked down and tried to impress ‘behave yourself’ on to the thing. He didn’t want to meet this chick and find another shifter. You couldn’t talk about that kind of stuff in a fucking Tinder bio or chat. ‘Hey, so, I turn into a cat during the full moon. Is that chill with you?’ Particularly after Halloween. Thankfully, Rich hadn’t seen much drama there. Overworking himself had its perks. And going far, FAR away from the city for the full moon had—so far—been fine.

 He bit his lip and covered the bottom half of his face with his hand as the driver slid to a stop in front of Sassy’s.

 Recovering, he unfolded himself from the car, and shook himself out. Dark jeans fell over practical boots, and his shoulders hitched until his brown jacket and weathered green t-shirt hung properly over his waistline. Hand over his hair—making sure it lay properly in its smooth style. Well. It’s fucking now or ghost and walk to work. A text came in.

 He read and walked, sending another one back.

 Just walked in. Brown jacket, green shirt.

 The place was pretty crowded already—the air warm and stuffy. He caught a glimpse of people he knew from Helium House but quickly navigated to the bar, catching sight of the woman she must be. She stood out in a sea of ordinary people—the hair was like a beacon.

 He slid into the stool beside her.

 “You must be Tara?” He hadn’t meant for it to be a question. “I’m Rich.”

 The tiger boosted himself up behind Rich, massive, incorporeal paws on the bar. Giant green eyes locked on the woman.

 “Whiskey, neat,” he told the bartender who came by, totally ignoring the cat.

Tara's phone buzzed, and she glanced at it. She read the message, mouth quirked to the side as she straightened up. She picked up her drink, putting the straw between her lips as he walked over. he was cute in person, though without the orange sheen, which was a relief. he looked like some dudebro in his pictures, but he also seemed like a bartender, which was cool.

Her eyes widened at the tiger walking through the door with him. She was about to get up and run, but it And she noticed no one else was reacting to it. Plenty of people were looking at him. Plenty of people were walking around him, but one walked through the tiger, and she blinked as he slid into the seat next to her.

"Yeah, Tara." I'm losing my fucking shit. The tiger was distracting, but if people were walking through it, then it was probably not real. She couldn't help but glance at it before looking at him.

"I didn't really get to ask you, but what kind of horror movies are you into?" Just jump right in.

Her own profile mentioned she liked stuff like that, but didn't list any movies. It was painfully obvious she liked that sort of thing. She took a sip of her drink again, trying as hard as she could to not look at the tiger. She wanted to be normal, get through this date and maybe drink the tiger away. She didn't want to ask what he wanted out of the dating app, or what he thought about his future, or anything like that. That's what people who were looking for relationships asked. He didn't look like the relationship type. And she sure wasn't the relationship type.

 Rich didn’t even notice Tara’s distraction, and leaned one arm on the bar, facing her, as he waited for his drink. Pretty. And...edgy? Rich didn’t even know the right for her style anymore. That sort of thing tended to change with the generations. Wonder what she’d call it. Maybe he’d ask her once they got through the niceties of a first meeting...but. She didn’t even waste any time, though, and he was taken aback by the question for a few seconds before answering.

 “I’ll watch pretty much anything,” he said, grabbing the warm glass of whiskey when it arrived. He took a sip, gimanced, and then downed the whole thing, throwing his head back to just get in liquor in his body. Unlike humans, he had to drink way more than the average person to get drunk. Apparently that was frowned upon, as he learned pretty young. Still, there didn’t appear to any more of his kind the bar tonight, so many it’d be okay.

 He stopped the bartertender again. “One more of these and…” he looked down at Tara’s drink, eyeing it like a professional. “Another daiquiri for the lady. And actually put rum in it this time.” He pulled a twenty from his pocket and slapped it on the bar, leveling deep-set blue eyes at the guy. “That’s for you.” A credit card appeared in Rich’s hand, and he placed it on top of the bill. “Keep the tab open.”

 As the bartender walked away, stuffing the twenty into his back pocket, Rich looked back at Tara. “Sorry,” he said, voice exasperated rather than apologetic. “Bars I don’t run don’t run well enough. But, yeah! Anything with the horror label slapped on there.” ‘Gore doesn’t really bother me...blah, blah, blah. I’ve killed some shit—no people, though. I think.’ “I like to be scared.” He shrugged. ‘Because I’m not afraid of a whole lot anymore.’ “Some really good stuff coming out these days.” Just wait until the producers get a hold of that shit that went down in Portland. He couldn’t wait for the studios to twist that all around—or worse, get it exactly fucking right.

Nobody was looking at the tiger still, and he wasn't talking about it. So it obviously was in her head. It was so distracting, though, watching its tail flick with...shit, why do cats move their tails? Does it even matter, if she's the one conjuring it somehow? Not that she thought she was legit conjuring it. Just seeing it.

Because she'd lost her fucking mind.

She took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly as she tried to steady her nerves. She almost missed the twenty dollar bill he slipped at the bartender. What the fuck? She'd never seen someone tip so much, especially at the beginning of the night. She worked hard to keep her expression placid as she nodded at him, taking another sip of her daquiri. She decided to not mention it. What was his answer before? Oh, he's still talking.

Tara would've spent more time getting through the small talk, but she wasn't sure how much more lucidity she had left, if she was seeing things. She continued to sip her daquiri, until it was gone. A sharp pain bloomed behind her eyes, but she barely twitched. [i8]Maybe it'll clear whatever's gunking up my head.[/i]

Nope, still there. She stared at it, looking it straight in the eyes before looking back at Rich.

"Yeah, there's some good shit coming out. Have you seen Hereditary? I barely slept that night." The bartender slid a new glass in front of her, and she stuck her straw in the new glass. She hoped the alcohol would help. And if not, well... Make a bunch of tiger-based puns.

It was nearly lost on her that he ran his own bar? She wanted to ask about that, but that seemed secondary with the tiger she saw. And the last thing she wanted to do was make him think she was after him because she could get free drinks. At least, until he acted like an asshole. Then she'd use him for whatever she could get.

She took a hefty gulp of the second drink before looking back up at him. "A lot of people like horror movies because of that. Controlled fear. All the fun, none of the drawbacks." She shrugged. "That's why I like them. Being scared is fun when there's not any actual danger."

 The tiger moved to sit under Rich’s feet, its ghostly form curled against the bar, looking out at the other patrons with a calm, observing expression. Rich only grabbed his new drink, sipping this one with care as Tara switched her straw from the empty daiquiri to the full.

 “Yeah, that one’s near the top of my list,” Rich told her, giving a slight shiver for effect. “It seems like they’re finally hittin’ their stride over the last few years. So far, the 2010s have been some of the best for horror since the classics.” He almost took his jacket off to show her the tattoos on his right arm, but he held back. Another whiskey and the damn thing would be off anyway; why rush? “I like that they’re pushing the limits of what’s, like, okay, and what’s not to show on film, you know?” He finished his second drink. Without having to ask, the bartender he’d bribed started to pour a new one.

 Even the top agreed-upon films in the genre didn’t give Rich more nightmares than usual—not prone to remembering his dreams more than a few times a year as it was—but they still provided a thrill that he was more than happy to pay for. “Don’t meet too many women who’re into being scared,” he told her, leaning back onto the bar, elbows propping him upright. Some would say they liked it, but shit always seemed to devolve once they got a good hour into most flicks—‘Oh, I don’t like this kind of horror movie!! Turn it off!’ He could hear their voices in his head, convincing him to sit through a boring comedy to get the taste out of their mouths.

So far, he hadn't seemed to notice Tara's distraction, which was great in Tara's book. She began to relax a bit, since the hallucination didn't seem to be trying to cause trouble. She took another sip of her daquiri, the warmth in her cheeks and gut hidden by the makeup on her face. She watched him closely, or as closely as she could, the warmth causing her to relax further.

"I think," she said before taking another sip of her drink, the final one. "That a lot of women say that because they want to impress their partners. And I think there's nothing wrong with that, you know? Trying to share an interest with someone you care about. But for me, personally, a horror movie or a horror game is great. Like I said, all the fun, none of the mess. And if something gets you really good, then you've hit a winner." She looked him up and down, remembering one of the points on his profile.

"You do horror games, too? Or just movies?"

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