14 min read

The Pub of the Yellow Sign

The Pub of the Yellow Sign serves all, just follow the rules. No preaching, no invocations, and no talking to normies. Jake bartends and keeps the peace, but tonight the cultist in the corner and the smart-stupid professors from the college are giving him cause to question his career choices.
The Pub of the Yellow Sign
Photo by Gustavo Sánchez / Unsplash

February Brief

The new year has kicked off to a fantastic start. We're writing more than ever and are excited to share more stories with you!

Here are just a few things that we have been working on this month:

  • Cody and Andrew both have stories in the newly-released anthology Incongruent Flamingo. Incongruent Flamingo is the fifth volume of the Space Cocaine anthology series that is neither themed, nor literary, but pure rocket fuel fun.

  • Our first year collection is cominging together, and I'm planning on the cover reveal in next month's Newsletter. The anthology will contain all the stories we released in 2023 as well as two more never-before-published short stories.

  • Portland is the beneficiary of a fantastic, super-supportive writer community. Local author and organizer Jessie Kwack has put together what looks to be a challenging but exciting professional development conference for indie authors, the Author Alchemy Summit. Cody and Andrew are both attending. We hope to see you there!

  • Our podcast continues to drop new episodes, from story readings by Cody to in-depth interviews of authors Jamie Yourdon, Erik Grove, and Lara Messersmith-Glavin.

Writing Naked
We’re two writers who have decided to put our writing life online to help other writers, and because we like talking about writing.Each week we dig into our writing process, what is working and what is not, our wins and failures, and share them wi…


Vote on the March Story Prompt!

Every month we ask you to vote on what content prompt and genre we should write for the next month. This month, select from three prompts in either Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror genre and put us to work.

March Story Prompt

February Story

This month Andrew presents a horror story from the prompt, "The first song, the last song, the silence between", this month's prompt winner. Andrew leaned into a few cosmic horror tropes and pulled together this somewhat disturbing tale of two professors that perhaps should not have opened the Black Book or travelled to Carcosa, after all.

The Pub of the Yellow Sign

A.W. McCollough

Dr. Wilson slammed his beer onto the bar top, causing an eruption of suds to spill over his hand and puddle on the polished oak. "Not just a hypothesis, damn it Jubal, I have data, lots of it!" He started rummaging in the black leather satchel on the bar but only managed to smear the pale lager spill wider. From the waist up, projecting over the edge of the bar, he looked remarkably like a pencil topped with a well-used eraser.

Jake slid a cloth down the length of the bar, but stayed far away from the two men arguing over the bar's crooked elbow. They'd been there since 9 PM. Getting drunk, poorly. They'd start on a beer but fall to verbal sparring and forget to drink. Despite this, the two of them had put down three beers each in an hour. Not exactly swinging for the fences, but for two emeritus academics, the both of them were heading for a bad morning. Of more concern to Jake, though, was the mid-twenties hoodie in the corner booth that had been nursing the same pint for an hour. Slow drinking hardly inculcated a good mood on the part of any bartender. Worse, though was the muttering. Well, that and the odd diagrams sketched with beer on the tabletop. One more thing to keep an eye on, as if Jake wasn't busy enough, these days, what with the conjunction and the visitor in the basement. Who was almost certainly hungry by now, and Jake had had no time to go find an appropriate sacrifice.

The academic pair came in like clockwork every Tuesday, had their two pints, a lager and a stout respectively, then vanished back through the wet dark of the cobblestone streets to their warm beds near the college. Tonight, though, they'd been different. Jake finished polishing a stein and set it down behind the bar. Angry. No, not angry. Afraid.

The round prof, Jubal, shook his head, white hair flying like a mop, and stabbed a sausage-round finger at Clifford. "You're wrong, Clifford. The luminiferous aether went the way of the Dodo in 1905." Jubal tipped the last of his stout over his mouth, wiped drips from his beard, and wiggled crooked fingers at Jake in the universal gesture for another round. "And your half-baked quantum theories aren't changing that."

Jake frowned, four doubled their usual tipple, but of itself was not excessive. And they had rooms just down from the University, south a few blocks on Worthon Street. So, at worst a stumble home. He shrugged and drew two more, skating them down the long bar to smooth stops in front of Jubal Merrifield the stout, and Clifford Wilson, the lager. The hoodie in the corner leaned lower over his beer, mouthing strange syllables over the suds. Jake doubted he knew any actual incantations, but interfaith courtesy did have its limits.

Clifford dabbed his satchel, removing the most visible foam, then dropped the cloth on the lake. "Not just my idea, Jubal." He poured a swallow from the fresh pint down his throat and mopped the resulting mustache off with the corner of his sleeve. He turned the pint in his hands, then finally set it down. "Do you remember Dr. Atwood?"

"Atwood? No. Never heard of him." Jubal took a sip, then coughed. "Wait, surely you don't mean Robert Atwood, the physicist at Miskatonic?"

"The same."

Jake picked up another pint glass and resumed his polishing. He remembered Atwood; a bit of a prick, arrogant. Someone who knew too much about too little and thought that gave him insight into everything. Likely the Antarctic Elders had taught him otherwise. But that anything of Dr. Atwood's papers had survived the cleaning was concerning.

Jubal set down his pint. "He died in the 30s! Along with everyone else on that expedition. Mad, the lot of them." Jubal shivered, "Though I suppose hypothermia is not the most unpleasant way to die."

"Atwood never came back, and would be lucky if he froze to death, given what I know now." Clifford shivered. "He had no family, no one heirs, so the department held on to his papers. I came across his dissertation and lab books doing some research of my own."

"So? And what would a physicist from 1930 have to contribute to modern theory? Much less the biophysics of music, as I understand was your early work."

"I never took you for a temporal bigot, Jubal. Dirac, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, or Curie herself might take exception to that remark. But yes, the physics of music."

Jake slung his white polishing rag over his shoulder, ambled down the bar, and began refilling the peanut dishes. A task that required more attention than usual on professor Tuesdays. Jubal's love of peanuts in particular brought to mind a corvid's obsession. Splitting them open with a thick thumbnail, then picking out the nutmeat with precise pinches of thumb and forefinger. The shells ended up on the floor or used as props in scientific argumentation on the bar top.

"None of whom died on insane excursion to the Antarctic, being busy about the creation of modern physics. But point made. Antiquity itself has no bearing on the truth or beauty of the mathematics." Jubal took a swig, confirming the rightness of his statement. He raised his eyebrows at Jake in appreciation at the peanut resupply, and scooped a handful onto his bar napkin.

Clifford stared into the mirror behind the bar obscured behind multi-colored liquors from around the world. "Not all maths are beautiful, Jubal." He trailed off into silence, gazing blankly into the air in front of him. Tears welled in his eyes.

This post is for subscribers only