teeth

The Cafe Imposition

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?

“Anti-anxieties”

“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.

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A Reluctant Visitor

She eventually found out the man she was looking for. He was squatting tight-lipped in a high-backed wicker throne, his furtive eyes dancing, avoiding any direct contact with the eyes of those/others around him. His hairless arms dangled aimlessly between his knees, as he shifted the weight on his haunches over to one side. His olive skin and gaunt face with its strong aquiline nose gave him a vaguely aristocratic appearance, whilst his bright, but deeply set green eyes made him look quite alien somehow. At Louise’s approach, he arched his back slightly, his mouth widening as he bared his broken and darkened teeth in an obliging grin. Louise gently shuddered as she saw his tongue quickly flicker almost imperceptively across a second row of small and pointed, but perfect teeth behind. He slid from his chair and passed a knowing glance to the shadows behind his shoulder, as he ushered her into the back room, the room reserved for private audience.

Louise felt her body temperature drop dramatically as she entered and immediately moved to one side of the room; at the same time a feverish sweat broke suddenly on her brow as she trembled. Centred beneath an exposed light bulb stood a dirty, low crooked table with one short wooden stool on either side. The bulb swung gently, causing the whole room to sway as if at sea. Shadows from the peeling paint flickered and ran back and forth across the cold, dirty walls, making Louise nauseous. She crossed and sat down harshly on one of the stools – the jar to her spine sending splinters of pain up into the base of her skull. On the table sat a small rosewood bowl with two half-finished joss sticks. As they burned, they gave off a pungent, colourless no-smell of death, which served only to telegraph the way she felt.

The man quietly closed the door behind him and moved delicately across to the stool opposite Louise. He lowered himself onto it and manoeuvred his knees under the table, his eyes never once moving away from her. She could not find it within herself to return his stare.
“Look at me.” His tone was beautiful, it commanded and questioned at the same time. Her gaze travelled beyond the twin spirals of smoke from the joss sticks, where her eyes focused on another place, reluctant to comply. Suddenly a cacophonous dirge of cathedral music droned in Louise’s head; her throat seemed choked, her belly tight. She tried to cough, but found no air. Once seated, Louise had found herself totally paralysed, only her eyes in an almost surreally perfect focus, could move. They did so and travelled the room once more, coming to rest on the man’s chin. As her eyes moved upwards, they met his gaze, and Louise’s body was allowed to relax. She gasped. The realisation then came that, from the point of them both entering that room, He was in total control of all that was to follow. His will would be obeyed at all times, reluctantly or otherwise.