I wrote this at work, while super bored, inspired by the cover of Sabriel, which I have beside me.
She sits at the coffee shop, typing. She’s tucked away in the corner, right next to the window on one side. She can see everyone on the street. She looks up often, distracted by the pedestrians. She’s not getting any work done.
You can hear the hiss of the steam, the drip of the coffee, the spray of whipped cream, over and over again, enough so that it barely makes an impact. It is not an annoyance, it is not popping out of the norm, it is background noise, it is fading into the environment, it is normal, plain, everyday, as if you couldn’t imagine the world sounding like anything else, just the fizz, pop, squeeze, and sizzle.
She looks up again, seeing the people walk by, not recognizing anyone, even though she normally does. Her fingers are cold, typing enough to feel the exposure, but not enough to be warmed by the activity of it. She can’t decide whether to just pack up and leave, either move tables, or get back home, go back to her little closet and type there.
There’s a slight rattle in the table.
She looks at the open word document. She sees her work. She doesn’t want to look too hard, because then she’ll feel bad about the work she’s done.
He slams into the glass. It cracks but doesn’t break. You can see the star pattern cutting into his cheek.
She snaps the laptop shut, shoves it into her bag and backs up, as the monster takes another step, and the man is forced through the shattering glass. The baristas duck behind their counter. The man slams into her table, somehow still awake and conscious. He lifts his head, just barely. Marisa stares at the thing behind him. The black cloud, an absence of space and light but for menacing pieces of light for eyes, fixed to what could be described as the head.
The man moves his fingers. Marisa goes for the iron table beside her, somehow lifting it up, and pushing the feet towards the cloud, as a lion tamer holds a stool to the beast, warding him off. She decides to move forward, straddling the man, holding the table out, pushing into the being. It almost seems to laugh, a dark chuckle, a rumble she feels in her bones, in her being, if not heard. The eyes flicker red as it seems to bend, grabbing the ankle of the man. Marisa’s heel crunches in the glass as she steps closer, pushing the point of the iron into the midst of the cloud.
She coughs and speaks, “Get off him.” It slides away, but doesn’t leave. “Fight someone who will fight back.”
It whispers in her mind, “But what if he deserves it.” The slithery voice reverberates, it won’t leave her head.
A brave barista finally stands, throwing boiling coffee towards the cloud, it reforms around the splatter, and the barista ducks down again. “Sorry!” He shouts weakly, from behind the half-barrier. Marisa puts down the table, the cloud glides towards her. She can feel the cold roll of it, she has goosebumps.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.” She says.
“Who’ll stop me?” it asks, then puffs away. She feels the laughter in her bones.