David Purcell sipped at his tea gently. It wasn’t exactly the greatest cup of tea he’d ever had – “hot and tea-like” was all he could of think of, by way of description – but it kept the cold out, and that’s what he needed most. That, and a good old-fashioned bit of peace and quiet. He sat alone, a booth all to himself, the orange faux-leather upholstery holding him comfortably, returning some of his lost body heat to the small of his back. He stared over his mug, down the narrow diner-style cafe and out into the rain-soaked street. Traffic passed, impermeable to the penetrating moisture, while human shapes rushed along, their umbrellas and up-turned collars battling the elements. Despite this, he felt calm, the tensions of the day drifting away. Even the kitchen behind him had slowly fallen silent. He breathed in deeply through his nose, and exhaled through his mouth, closing his eyes. That was when he began to notice the droning – soft and gentle at first, like slightly over-zealous air conditioning. He tried to ignore it, put it out of his mind, but it changed in tone, becoming more like the first throes of an orchestra tuning. He thought of humming as an attempt to shut it out, but opted for squeezing his eyes more tightly shut. From there it quickly gained in volume and intensity, building and building to an almost deafening crescendo. He opened his eyes, and it stopped instantly. The sudden silence, though wished for, was confusing and his chair had become curiously hard and uncomfortable, but that wasn’t the only thing that had changed.
It wasn’t raining anymore, for one thing, which, given that he was no longer in the cafe on a rainy street, wasn’t that surprising. The woman with a shaved head and pointy teeth sat opposite him was surprising, however. That and his wrist restraints.
“er”, he said.
Everything in the room he found himself in was white, and the room itself was brightly lit, though from where he couldn’t tell. The woman sat on a lightweight chair with barely a few feet between them, her hands clasped in her lap. Her clothes reminded David of the uniform in Space 1999, only white.
“You’re probably wondering what happened to your tea”, she said. “It’s always about the tea. I really don’t get that. I mean, it’s just tea – hot water, crushed leaves, tasty. We can all understand tasty. Tasty is worth something. But to get all het up about when you have it, what you have it with, how you take it, and of course now you’ve had it taken away from you,” she shook her head, “that level of obsession – that, I just don’t get. I’d offer to get you a fresh one, but I probably wouldn’t make it the way you like it, and then you’d just get all huffy. Anyway, it’s over there.” She gestured limply with her left hand, “it’s probably cold by now, anyway.”
“er…”, David tugged at his wrist restraints.
“Ah yes, then there’s that of course. Sorry – policy, I’m afraid. We’ve had a few ‘incidents’, you see, and management have decided that all new …”, she pursed her lips as her eyes rolled, searching for a word, “… intakes ought to be restrained. Purely for their own safety, you understand. Well, and ours, I suppose. Poor Horace”, her eyes rolled again. They were pretty, David thought. Blue-grey, with a touch of sadness. Hang on, he thought, why aren’t I freaking out, screaming like a banshee?
“What? Wait, did you..”
“In your tea. After what happened to Horace, that’s policy as well, now. Sorry.” She seemed apologetic enough, and to be quite honest David could probably get past the teeth. As for the head, well, he’d sort of fancied Sinead O’Connor once. “Skinhead O’Connor” he’d called her, though not to her face, obviously. Yes, she really was quite pretty. Oh god, I fancy a kidnapping vampire!
“I’m not a vampire, actually”, she pouted. “But thank you – I’ve always thought my eyes were my nicest feature. Or maybe my bum. Anyway, it’s a side-effect of the anti-anxieties. I’m slightly empathic, and you’re thinking really loud. Freaking out, actually, but the anti-anxieties are keeping you mellow. You probably shouldn’t drive for another couple of hours though. Just to be safe.”
She leaned forward and gave his hand a gentle squeeze, “They don’t always work, but you seem nice.” For the briefest of moments, a nail clawed at his wrist, then was just as quickly gone.
“Where am I? Who are you? What am I doing here?” His teeth began to grind, and he pulled at his restraints, “What’s going on?”
She looked at him with her sad blue-grey eyes, “Hmm, yes. Well, you do seem nice. First there’s something I need from you”.
She stood up, and walked towards him. He blacked out.
His tea had gone cold, but it looked as though the rain had stopped, so that was something. A customer was leaving the cafe, and David watched her walk towards the door, his eyes focused on what he thought was a very pert bottom indeed. Her shaved head was quite sexy, too. She turned and smiled at him, her blue-grey eyes tinged with just a touch of sadness.