Chapter 2 – The Faerie Bar

The day after I found the diary, the stories it contained were always on my mind.

After getting off work, my curiosity got the better of me, as usual, and I decided to visit a place called Faerie Bar in the book, which wasn’t too far from my office. According to what I had read, it was located near the Arco da Porta Nova, in Braga, under a shop that had already been home to several businesses and which was now a pastry shop.

At first glance, it looked like any other businesses of its kind, with a small terrace on the street, a front window full of cakes and other confectionery, and a counter with a coffee machine and other coffee shop paraphernalia.

I went in, sat down at one of the tables, among three other customers, and ordered tea and cake. I wanted to buy some time to study the place more closely and see if there was any truth in what I had read in the diary. Actually, the door that supposedly gave access to the Faerie Bar was in the expected place, but it could have been just a coincidence or an inspiration.

During the time I sat there, nothing extraordinary happened. It seemed, in every respect, an ordinary pastry shop. Finally, impatient, I paid and went to the bathroom, which was just after the mysterious door. But as I passed the later, I ignored the red sign that said “Restricted Access” and opened it. On the other side, I found a staircase that descended into darkness.

I didn’t go in right away. I was waiting for someone to scold me, to tell me that I couldn’t be there. But no one did, and I started descending.

About ten steps later, the door closed behind me, leaving me in the dark. I hadn’t planned that visit, so I didn’t have my faithful flashlight with me. I had to make do with my cell phone.

I went down for what seemed several minutes. Finally, I reached the bottom, where I found a second door. It was little different from the first. It even had a red sign saying “Restricted Access.” Again, I ignored it and opened the door. That was the most important moment of my life. At the time I didn’t know it, but my world, my all universe, would never be the same again, for it was then that I realized that everything written in the notebook I had found was true.

On the other side of the door was a bar, as I had read. The decor was modern with metal and glass chairs and tables and white, smooth and clean walls. However, that’s where the similarities with surface bars ended.

Its clientele was wholly formed by strange beings, some of whom I hadn’t imagined even in my weirdest dreams.

Many were humanoids, though the smaller ones didn’t even reach my knees, and the taller ones had twice my height, with skin tones that ranged from pale white to dark black, through gray and purple. Claws, horns, and spikes were also common.

Then there were those that were almost impossible to describe. Masses of tentacles with small spherical bodies amongst them; hybrids of various animals; long bodies with multiple legs.

In groups, the patrons chatted and drank the contents of teardrop shaped cups, which consisted exclusively of a clear liquid that looked like water.

The name Faerie Bar has been probably created by the author of the diary since most of these creatures didn’t fit the popular image of fairies (though there were some tiny humanoid beings with insect-like wings in the bar).

From what I had read, my predecessor didn’t stay in the bar long or tried to talk with the patrons. But my curiosity was stronger than his.

Fearfully, I went to the counter. Like the other furniture, it was made of metal and glass, but behind it, there were no shelves with rows of bottles, as I was accustomed to seeing in bars. In fact, the drinks seemed to have only one origin: from the ceiling, water trickled down to a stone pipe on the counter, which carried it to the barista.

I sat down on a high bench and looked around again. No one seemed to have noticed me, or at least they didn’t care.

The clerk put a glass in front of me, filled with the strange water. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t even ask what I wanted. Not that there was much of a choice.

Although he was an intimidating creature, with small horns crowning his head and incisors that didn’t quite fit in his mouth, I tried to chat with him:

“Is the bar always this full?”

He didn’t answer me. He simply turned his back and went to another customer.

“Miguel isn’t very talkative,” said a female voice beside me.

I turned and saw a very pale woman with white hair and several silver rings on her ears and face. She had a long neck, double or triple the size of a human, decorated with a golden torc. Her eyes were big and feline, but she had a small, discreet nose.

“Miguel?” I asked. “Is that his name?”

“What were you expecting?” She replied. “Gorash, or some other of those ridiculous names you give us in your stories?”

I confess I didn’t know how to answer. I even felt a little embarrassed. Fortunately, she changed the subject.

“I don’t see many of your race around here.”

“I didn’t know. This is my first time here.”

She placed a hand on my forearm.

“You know, I’ve always been curious about your race.”

“And I’m curious about yours.”

“I can answer any question you have,” she purred in my ear.

Her intentions were clear, yet I didn’t want to squander that opportunity to learn about the world I had just discovered.

“My name’s Alice, by the way.”

I told her my name.

“I find it curious that no one has made a big deal of my presence here. If my race is so rare around here…”

She smiled.

“Not many of you come here, but some do. At least we see more of you than you see of us.”

“Why? For what reason do you hide? Why don’t you live openly with us?”

“To be honest, I have no idea. I think it’s a cultural thing. We have always kept away from humans. And that Organization of yours doesn’t help either.”

“Organization?”

“Yes. Whenever one of us shows up in your world, by accident or not, or whenever a human who knows about us tries to reveal our existence, the Organization covers everything up. I swear that sometimes it seems they are more afraid that humans find out about us than we do.”

It was an interesting revelation. There was an organization dedicated to keeping the general public from becoming aware of the world I had just discovered. However, its existence also revealed that there were more intersections between the two worlds and more human beings that knew of these creatures than I had at first imagined.

“Don’t you drink?” She asked, pointing to the glass filled with the strange water in front of me.

Distracted by the conversation, I had completely forgotten my drink. Carefully, I took a sip. It didn’t taste particularly good. It tasted like water, lighter than the one I was accustomed to drinking, but still just water. Fearing that I was missing something, I drank the rest of the glass, but the taste remained the same, and I felt no further effects.

Alice noticed my disappointment.

“I think you have to be one of us to feel the effects of the water. It comes from a timeworn spring with special properties. A sip is enough to make us feel calmer and uninhibited. That’s why you can find me here every day. If you want.”

Once more, she touched my arm.

“How about if we went to a more private place to clarify my curiosities about your race? I don’t live very far.”

I confess that I felt tempted, but not for the most obvious reasons. I wanted to know more about those beings and the society in which they lived. Besides, during the conversation, I noticed several other doors beside the one I had used, each of which seemed to give access to a tunnel. It must be in them that those creatures lived, and the urban explorer in me desperately wanted to explore them.

Yet, I had to think that I was a married man with a daughter. It was better not to put myself in the way of temptation. Besides, I had already discovered much that day and I didn’t know if I could handle any more. Letting my feelings about the discovery of that world settle and then coming back seemed a better idea. After all, the mere fact that I was surrounded by beings that shouldn’t exist was enough to make me question everything I believed and knew about the World and life.

To Alice’s surprise, I excused myself saying that it was getting late and that my wife was waiting. At first, she insisted that I went with her, but she eventually let me go. I went back to the pastry shop and to the streets of Braga.

I didn’t go home immediately. I was too enthused about what I had just discovered. For more than an hour, I wandered around the city thinking about that new world, all the questions that its existence raised, and of future explorations to other places mentioned in the notebook. Today, I regret that I wasn’t able to control myself, to simply forget what I had seen and just stuck with my normal life.

Chapter 1 – The Book

The story of how I met the Witches of the Night is long and complex. To tell it in a way that everyone understands, I must explain the world that exists parallel to ours, which most people don’t know exists. As such, I will start with what, for me, was the beginning: the event that made me aware of this world.

From a young age, I have been interested in urban exploration. At the age of thirteen, I joined the Braga urban explorers group and, over the years that followed, I explored the ruins of warehouses, factories, monasteries, and many other interesting buildings. But it was only in my thirties that I dared to do a solo exploration.

It was of a house in the parish of Palmeira, on the outskirts of Braga, that I had discovered during one of the many visits to the Dona Chica Palace that the group had organized. Although I drew attention to the house, no one else showed interest in exploring it. It was a small home, with just a ground floor, and with nothing to distinguish it from those that surrounded it. But something about it drew my interest. Perhaps because it reminded me of my great-grandmother’s house, or because it was old enough to contain artifacts of the life of yore, not found in any modern house.

Whatever the reason, on a morose Sunday afternoon, when my wife went to visit her parents with our daughter, I drove to the old house. Taking care that the neighbors did not see me, I entered through a window whose glass and shutters had been broken by vandals.

On the other side, I found what was to be expected: a room full of broken glass, syringes and destroyed furniture. Anything of value had long been plundered. Still, I didn’t give up. Carefully, fearing to find some squatter, I continued exploring the house.

I entered the corridor, which gave access to two more rooms. Passing over the remains of broken doors, I entered the bedroom, which didn’t look any better than the living room. In the window, agitated by the wind, danced the remaining rags of crochet curtains. Clothes, from black dresses to felt hats, covered almost all the floor, clearly torn from the rotting closet and discarded for being worthless. Oddly enough, and despite the interest that antiquaries nowadays have in such furniture, an iron bed, with its white paint almost entirely replaced by rust, was still in the room, but upside down and tossed into a corner. The mattress had been removed and laid flat against the wall. It was covered in red, yellow, and white stains, and a shiver went up my spine as I thought of all that could have happened on it.

Then I went into the last room, the kitchen. The floor was littered with smashed crockery, and the cabinets were broken into and emptied. Everything else had been taken away.

Discouraged, I prepared to go back home. Unfortunately, there was nothing of interest in that house. The other urban explorers were right.

I was about to leave the kitchen when a metallic glow in the tiny pantry caught my eye. There, between broken shelves and nauseous remnants of rotten food, I found a door. The glow belonged to a primitive latch, which I opened immediately. On the other side, I found a stone staircase that descended into darkness. As I did when I explored a structure, I had a flashlight with me. Its light revealed a basement at the bottom of the stairs, apparently untouched by the vandals. Maybe the lack of daylight in there had kept them away.

Step by step, since I didn’t know what awaited for me down there nor how robust were the stairs, I descended. At the bottom, I found a veritable time capsule from mid-century Portugal.

In one corner, I saw an old manual sewing machine, still with the cast iron pedal and the belt that transmitted the movement to the needle. In a table next to it, there was a charcoal iron. I could almost see smoke coming out of his little chimney.

On the other side of the basement, next to a rotting fabric sofa, I found a cabinet containing a tube radio, its yellowish plastic testament of its antiquity.

On top of all surfaces, there were testimonies of past times: oil lamps, slabs of slate, jars of ink, ink pens, etc. However, my gaze fell mainly on a wooden chest that lay on the floor beside the stairs. Curious, I opened it. It wasn’t locked. Inside, I found albums with photographs, some of them certainly more than a hundred years old. It was sad to see those pictures of lively groups, couples dancing and dinner parties and thinking that most, if not all, of those people were gone.

Among the albums, however, I found a small notebook. I opened it and found that it was a diary. Normally, I never take anything from the places I explore, nor do I think that any urban explorer should do it, but having an account of the life of yesteryear was too tempting, and my curiosity got the better of me, as usual.

I left the house with the book in my pocket. I wanted to read it right there in the car, but dinner time was approaching.

When I got home, I put the book down and went to prepare the meal with the rest of my family. Despite being somewhat curious about its content, I dined calmly and even helped my daughter with her homework.

At last, I sat down at my desk and started reading. The stories in the diary were, in fact, interesting, fantastic, even, but in a way I didn’t expect. They mentioned hidden places in cities, mountains, and even the sea, and encounters with fairies, vampires, witches, goblins and innumerable other mythological and imaginary beings.

Was it a work of fiction, or the reverie of a madman? At the time, I couldn’t consider another hypothesis. But I also couldn’t stop reading, because many of the stories were in or near places I knew.

When I finally went to bed, it was almost two in the morning, and I only did it because I had to work the next day. Still, with much effort, I was able to push the book away from my mind long enough to fall asleep.