“So you,” The river began, standing idly with his fingers strumming along the counter-top. To the left of his hand was an unopened bottle of wine, some Australian brand that was cheap enough to do what was asked of it. Which was, funnily enough, to get him completely and utterly wasted. “Got any special powers, aye? Gonna turn my wine t’water?”
“I think if I could do that I wouldn’t have 364 days to live, don’t you?”
Abhainn pulled an exaggerated frown. “Fair enough.”
Silence enveloped them for a moment. Neither of them knew what to say, neither of them knew what they could say. Though it could be worse, Abhainn thought to himself, could be spending the next 364 days with the Tooth Fairy… Yuck. She always gave him the creeps. Herschel wasn’t so bad after all, stoic and way too composed, but not in a bad way. He uncorked the bottle, the short pop echoing throughout the small living area. It was a place he had called home for the last hundred years or so, a small crofters cottage with minimal storage and surrounded by acres of fields that he did next-to-nothing with. He was half tempted to sell most of it off now - though not that it would do him any good, there was no use for savings now.
“Eh, how full d’ya want it? Was gonnae pour half the fucking bottle ‘n mine but if ya wanna take it slow then am nae bothered.” His words came out as a garbled, strongly accented word vomit that, to those who weren’t used to it, would have sounded like garbage instead of English. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, Herschel had grown quite used to the Hebridean deities accents across the millenia. He supposed that Abhainn was one of the very few left. And he was always the hardest to understand. “Gonnae gee me an answer before ah choose for ya?”
Herschel waved his hand in Abhainn’s general direction. “Pour as much as you deem suitable.” The glare that Abhainn drilled into the back of Herschel’s head was one that could kill. Luckily for them he wasn’t powerful enough to genuinely act it out. The younger deity huffed and poured a relatively reasonable amount into Herschel’s glass before filling his to the brim, the dark liquid dribbling like a tear down and onto the slim neck. Abhainn thought that it was oddly comforting that the glass was crying for him.
He carried over Herschel’s glass, handing it to him, before taking his own. The wine was bitter, low-quality but still had that kick that Abhainn needed to get him through the next few hours until unconsciousness took him. The two armchairs that decorated the living area were almost polar opposites of each other. One was a horrific swirling beige fabric that was straight out of someone’s great-grandmother’s house, embroidered with reddish pink roses that glittered and glinted in the light of the floor lamp beside it. The other was a simple brown leather, wearing thin at the armrests but aside from that it was brand new. Abhainn had bought it from the reuse centre across the island especially for this event. He didn’t see the point in buying something brand new for it only to be used for a year.
A year. 365 days. That was all he had left.
He forced down a few gulps of his wine. “Why’d they sentence you, huh?” Abhainn asked after a few moments of silence. He watched as Herschel turned his head to face him, the corner of his eyes crinkling in a half-hearted smile that made his chest constrict. “I mean, didn’t them stags go extinct in like the Ice Age or somethin’? Why wait ‘til now to go on their shitty wee crusade?”
From the leather armchair, Herschel shrugged, his loose-fitting shirt bunching up around his collarbones. Herschel was a fair few millenia older than Abhainn and it showed. He knew the ways of the gods, the way they worked out who was important and who wasn’t, how to avoid their gaze for any length of time. That’s what Herschel did. He hid in the darkened corners of the realm until it got lonely enough for him to leave it, visit Abhainn every once in a while and get reckless. Then he was caught and they soon realised how useless he was to them now.
He never thought he’d ever be a finite God. “I was useful to them until I wasn’t.”
“I ain’t ever been useful.” Abhainn mumbled, causing a laugh to rumble through Herschel’s chest. The snow outside was slowly falling, sticking to the windows and beginning to lay on the sill. “But at least ya got good company, coulda been stuck with Eobard.”
“Don’t even joke about that, Abhainn, you’re not amusing nor do I wish to entertain such a thought.” Now it was Abhainn’s turn to laugh, giggling into his glass like a teenage schoolboy whose teacher just said ‘penis’ in front of the class. It was that childish but somehow more endearing that than. It was full of life, full of anticipation, full of… soul. “Where did the name Abhainn Mor come from anyway, I’m presuming you didn’t pick it yourself.”
“Nah.” Abhainn’s glass was almost empty, so he rose in order to grab some more. It would take more than an overflowing glass to get him wasted, so he idly wondered if rum and wine was a good mixture. It sure sounded it. A dash of Captain Morgan’s would do him just right. He hoped he had some left. “Wee river on Arran, got a waterfall ‘n’ everythin’, folk walk over it almost every day.”
That didn’t sound right. Hell, that sounded downright suspicious, but Abhainn couldn’t give less of a shit. Gods could do what they wanted with him, as long as he got wasted tonight they could kill him tomorrow and he wouldn’t give a shit. Now… Where was that rum? He couldn’t have finished it all already, could he? Abhainn was idly aware of the fact that Herschel was watching him, taking gentle sips from his glass as he followed the younger man’s movements with his gaze.
“I’ve never been to Arran… Perhaps I should.”
“Oh yeah? Well, we can go in the spring if ya want, rent a nice cottage, I’ll show ya where it is.” Abhainn grinned though that quickly melted away into something more tragic. He knew that it would be Herschel’s last spring - it would be his own too, but somehow that didn’t affect him as much as he thought. “Could spend a few weeks there just relaxin’, how ‘bout it?”
He gave a little ‘ah ha!’ upon finally resting his eyes on the bottle of Captain Morgans, fishing it out from behind a few larger bottles of distilled whiskey and gin that he’d been saving for a rainy day. He supposed they’d all need to be used up soon as well. At least Herschel would help him with the whiskey, he was always up for a little dram as a nightcap, whereas Abhainn would have to finish off the gin himself. It was ginger and elderflower, too fancy and youthful for Herschel to fully enjoy it. Ah well, more for him, he guessed!
“That sounds perfect.” Herschel mused as he watched Abhainn measure out a single shot of rum into his wine glass before filling it to the brim again with red wine. The river took a sip, wincing at the strength, and smiled at his companion.
“Aw’right. That’s settled then. Arran in the spring and you can decide what we do after that.”
Finlay J Beatson is an academic and aspiring fiction writer living in Dundee, Scotland. His work focuses on the LGBTQ+ experience, high fantasy, the supernatural, and paganism. Academically, he follows a similar vein with his work in Gothic Studies and heavy obsession with Dracula. He works as a Deputy Editor and is hoping to continue his Witchcraft and vampire obsession with his PhD proposals.