Chapter 1:

The Night in a Bottle

The Night in a Bottle

I’m sorry. I love you, and you’re absolutely right, I think but… I’m sorry.

I received the text two days ago, and we found her yesterday. The tide had carried her body to the coast where it caught against a sea stack. Her face had been banged up pretty badly, but she was identifiable by the chain mail bracelet that she wore - the one I had given to her last Christmas.

Bathed in the bright lights of the big city, I wandered from street to street while rereading her final text. We had seemingly been happy, but the mind inclined to Thanatos was rarely rational. We had planned to move in together in the spring, the season of renewal, but now I found myself planning her funeral.

And it was almost Christmas again.

I made a mental note to myself to cancel the reservations I had made for Christmas Eve. Suddenly, I felt a tug on my shirt sleeve and I turned around to find a girl, just slightly over five feet in height and with long black hair, looking up at me. She was dressed just like Santa Claus, sans the beard, and not in a particularly sexy way.

“You look lonely, mister. How about a drink?”

She was standing outside a girls’ bar, and did not let go of my sleeve as she spoke; in actual fact, she seemed to be pulling me in. I had never been one to frequent such places, but against my better judgment, and the protests of my wallet, I let her lead me inside.

I had expected to find a crowd of drunkards being egged on by pretty young things to buy more drinks at predatory prices, but the bar was completely devoid of life except me and this girl, whose build was more like an elf than Santa Claus.

She slid behind the counter and set two glasses on the table, beckoning me to join her. I walked over, examining my surroundings as I did so.

Given the seedy nature of this neighborhood, the interior was incongruously stylish and I was immediately reminded of the bar in The Shining. The fact that the place was empty solidified that image in my head.

“Try this single malt scotch whisky,” the girl poured an amber liquid into my glass. “It’s pretty cold outside, isn’t it? This will warm you right up.”

She served it to me straight, and I took a sip.  My body warmed up immediately, and I felt just a little bit braver.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“SantaTho,” she replied, quickly.

“Santa though?”


She produced a piece of paper and a marker from behind the counter and scribbled her name. She held it up for me to see.

“SantaTho,” I read aloud. “Is that Indonesian? Some kind of stage name, maybe?”

She considered my question for a moment.

“It’s just my name. The letters that make up my name, anyways.”

“Why did you capitalize the ‘T’ in the middle?”

“Ah, that’s a hint.”

“Oh, it's trivia night, is it? I’m very good at trivia, you know.”

An Olympic-sized swimming pool is 50 meters.

Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.

Miyamoto Musashi spent the last two years of his life in Reigando Cave.

Reigando Cave is in Kumamoto.

This was the kind of useless knowledge that I carried around with me everyday. Setsuna had found it to be charming, however, and at some point I must have been memorizing random facts simply for her amusement. It seemed to be the only thing that kept her from the clutches of Thanatos.

“Here’s a trivia question,” SantaTho played along, “you were walking around in circles and staring at your phone just now. What were you looking at?”

“A text message from my girlfriend,” I stated matter-of-factly. “She died recently, and this message is the last one she sent me.”

As though she regretted broaching the topic, SantaTho asked another question, this time one that actually qualified as trivia.

“Who has the most home runs in the history of professional baseball?”

“Oh Sadaharu.”

“And who has the most hits?”


“What if you only count Major League Baseball?”

“Then it’s…”


“Pete Rose.”

“You tease,” she laughed. “You knew the answer, so why did you pause like you didn’t? For dramatic effect?”

“I just wanted to get a rise out of you.”

“Well, you certainly did that.”

She poured herself a drink, and refilled my glass.

“I think I'll pass on another drink. I can’t… I mean I'm not very good at controlling myself, you see.”

“Oh?” She seemed intrigued. “Why don’t you tell me about that?”

“What’s so interesting about alcoholism? If I hadn’t met Setsuna - that’s my girlfriend, well, ex-girlfriend - I would have drank myself to death years ago. I guess that makes the story just a little bit romantic, hey?”

She gazed expectantly at me, but I made no move for my glass. It took a lot less willpower than I thought; after all, this was a vice that I had conquered long ago.

“Who was the leader of the Free French during the Second World War?” she asked, without missing a beat.

“Charles de Gaulle.”

“What year did the Berlin Wall come down?”


“What was the name of Taylor Swift’s first album?”

“Not 1989. That was her fourth or fifth. Her first album was just called Taylor Swift.”

“You’re very good at this.”

“It made Setsuna happy when I told her useless facts, so I learned a whole bunch.”

“You really won’t drink with me?”

She said while staring into her glass and sipping on her whisky.

“Setsuna told me not to overdo it. That I’d be crazy to keep drinking because my liver wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

“I see,” she raised her eyes from the glass. “Have you managed to figure out my name yet?”

“Didn’t you say it was SantaTho? Fitting, since you’re dressed up as Santa Claus.”

“I said it contains all the letters to spell my name,” she gulped down the remnants of her drink and refilled it. “It’s an anagram.”

“An anagram,” I repeated.

“Have you finally realized?”

She was grinning broadly at me.

An anagram of SatanTho? Ah, I see… it’s Thanatos…

“Yeah, I get it now.”

“I see… that’s really wonderful,” she seemed to be genuinely moved, and I wondered if a tear hadn’t begun to form in her eye. “Drink up.”

I took out my phone and revisited our final conversation. I could imagine the Setsuna of four years ago looking disapprovingly at me and saying in her usual voice, stern yet full of warmth.

You’re going to drink yourself to death!

And then I would reply.

I’m sorry. I love you, and you’re absolutely right, I think but… I’m sorry.

The God of Death cast her anticipatory gaze on me once again, and nudged the glass a couple of centimeters closer. Setsuna’s warnings continued to sound in my head, but the mind inclined to Thanatos is rarely rational.

I downed my drink, slammed the glass onto the table and asked for another.

The God of Death complied and began to pour.


The Night in a Bottle

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