Limited Dining - September Short Stories
Nathan looked out of the cafe with a feeling of discontent.
In the street people were moving back and forth trying to catch an evening mode of transport. One lady in a brown over coat was holding her hat and waving furiously at a taxi that had just sped past her.
He looked back at his mug, which was now cool to the touch, and contemplated his day.
The Morgan account had taken five weeks to close, but today had been the day that finally saw a signature on the contract. It was a major win for his practice, and with it they could keep a float with the small fry stuff that had helped pay the bills so far.
The Morgan account meant they could expand, or at the very least afford to move into a building that could actually support their 12 person team.
“Need a top up, there?”
A cute waitress approached Nathan carrying a fresh pot of coffee. She sported blue jeans, a plaid shirt, and had her hair held back in a bun. Her restaurant standard hairnet was absent, but Nathan didn’t feel obligated to mention it.
Best to leave that to her supervisor
“Yeah, I suppose I could.” Nathan held out his mug expectantly for the server.
Above her breast pocket was a name tag that read: Marcy
“Marcy, do you suppose there’s a reason those folks outside are in such a rush? I mean the people out there.” Nathan pointed his finger towards the busy street. “I’ve been here for half an hour, and I’ll be damned if I can’t figure out where they’re all going.”
Smiling, Marcy finished filling his cup then turned her big brown eyes in his direction. Nathan suddenly had a feeling of kicking himself for not noticing the attractive lady when he had first walked in. Undoubtedly he had been too preoccupied in his own head to pay attention.
Or perhaps she had just started her shift. He couldn’t actually recall if she had been his sever upon walking in.
“Hard to say, I suppose they all have their own homes.” She paused, looked around the cafe, and then returned to their conversation. “I used to like to pretend that they were all performing a play. But, that’s just a way to pass the time around here.”
She winked at Nathan and then left him to his thoughts, walking back to the kitchen.
He smiled at her comment and went back to sipping his coffee.
Suppose it is all just a play?
He managed to gulp down a few more sips before deciding he was done for the day. Reaching into his wallet, he pulled out a couple of notes and left them under his mug. Originally he had planned on having a meal there, but instead had been content sipping his coffee.
While turning towards the counter he caught something out of the corner of his eye.
There had been a man seated in the corner booth, three away from Nathan, but when he turned his head, he was certain that the man had disappeared momentarily.
It was a brief moment of recognition, something that he would most times assume was a trick of the eye, and yet Nathan was certain that the man had simply not been there.
He paused and looked directly at the man this time.
He was a portly gentleman, wearing a dress shirt that was obstructed by ribbon suspenders. On his face he held the look of a man that hadn’t heard a joke in quite some time. Upon noticing Nathan’s gaze he looked up and stared back.
Catching himself in the embarrassing moment, Nathan disregarded the thought, and looked away hastily. He almost reached the door when he heard a gruff voice behind him calling out.
“Hey, what’s it to ya?”
It was the man in the corner booth.
Marcy, who had been chatting with the cook behind the grill, looked back at the dining area absently.
“Oh nothing, I just thought-” Nathan sighed, turning to apologize for staring at the man. “You looked like someon-“
Nathan’s voice stuck in his throat, where the man had been seated now sat something beyond anything he had seen in his life.
Sitting in the corner booth, was what appeared to be a shapeless mass of grey. There was no way to describe it other than shapeless. Blob wasn’t the appropriate description- and should he ever get a chance to relay the experience to someone he would be sure to clarify- but shapeless seemed to fit.
“Don’t try leaving. We’ve taken care of that.” The shapeless mass spoke out to him.
Suddenly, he felt a pressure against his back. It was pushing him in the direction of the grey mass, not enough to tip him over, but enough to give him the urge to walk forward.
“I said: what’s it to ya?” The shapeless mass spoke out to him from a flap in the area one would picture a face to be. “See anything you like?”
It became apparent to Nathan that the mass was toying with him, merely trying to get a response out of him.
Panic and senses were slowly overtaking the initial shock of the sight he was witnessing. Several, what felt like minutes, seconds had passed. Realizing that he was in fact slowly being propelled towards the mass Nathan became aware of his senses and managed to speak aloud.
“What the hell is happening to me?” Seemed to be all he could muster at that moment.
“Look, you’re going to have to sit down babe, Frank doesn’t stop many people, but trust me it’s much more painless than trying to fight him.” Marcy, the server, spoke up from the right of Nathan.
Except, it wasn’t Marcy, she had also been replaced by a shapeless mass. What appeared to be a hand had groped out of the former server and weaved its way across the counter to rest on Nathan’s shoulder.
With the fight lost from his limbs he made his way to the booth. Careful not to look into what he presumed was the things eyes.
Sitting across from the mass, he noticed that it was actually a translucent skin that hung over gelatin like insides. Before, Nathan had assumed the grey mass was a growth on the booth, but now it was clear that this was a physical creature.
“Well, what do you think your options are?” The mass asked him.
A translucent arm reached across the table between them, and blocked the booth’s exit.
“I...” Nathan hesitated, and then gathered the remaining saliva in his throat to finish his thought. “…I couldn’t begin to fucking guess.”
A strange clicking sound came from the shape. It was possible-Nathan thought- the mass found what he said to be humorous.
“Well, it’s not often a sonika will look upon us, or see the void. But congratulations, it’s your lucky day ringo. You see, well now you obviously can, there are many things around you that are ready to jump out-”
“-And say hi.” Marcy- rather what had formally been the server Marcy-had silently stepped up to the booth.
Nathan had no words. I’ve lost it. He thought. They’ve already found me dead on the street and these are hallucinations brought on by being close to death.
“It’s okay.” The mass across from him spoke up. “It’s quite jarring for everyone, which is why we tend to keep our true selves hidden. It’s funny though, we always give them a chance to try listing options, yet, they can never speak.
You see, sonika’s like you, well you never look past your own damn nose anyways. So it’s not that hard to hide.”
Nathan, while trying to believe what was unfolding around him, began to notice a light headed feeling. He was becoming dizzy, which was making sentence formation quite the difficult task.
“Look, I don’t…” He couldn’t finish his sentence. It felt like it had winded him.
He looked down at the table. It was hard to look at the mass. Something about it just felt, unnatural.
While trying to tilt his head, he could feel a stretching sensation around the skin on his neck. Reaching up, and to his horror, he discovered that a slick tube had latched on, and was connected to him.
Before he could try to pull at it, the Marcy-mass grabbed his hands and pinned them to the table.
“Look, we don’t get fresh juice all that often, so you’re best to hold still. Like I said, it’s painless that way.”
Strength now all but a dream to him, Nathan could simply look up at Marcy with tired, fearful eyes.
His vision was going dark around the edges, and there was a distinct metallic taste in his mouth. He was beginning to feel cold, the heat and life within him was being leeched out. Nathan used the last of his strength to rest his head. Just need a nap.