The street churned in a confusion of colours. Children darted amidst the thoroughfare like suddenly released kites, as mouths churned over the almost indecipherable masses of words – wait, stop, move. So many exclamations of attempted control, Elsa thought. Her hands hurt with the familiar dull ache of carrying the great weights somehow acquired in these urban sprawls, and she headed towards the weeping mouth of an emptier side street in the hope of a moment of seclusion.
But there was still the familiar tramp, tramp, tramp of human traffic. Feet floundered in the dusty gutters and paper bags billowed in the wind as if ejecting their own kind of language. She felt like the city rush seemed illustrative of the hurrying pain through her head, through her face.
‘I just need to stop,” she spoke to herself as if trying to ground herself in some kind of reality. People seemed to stare round at this odd honesty of human language. Some drew on cigarettes as if attempting to contain a second tongue. Ash flickered and smoked on the walkways like half-open, badly bruised eyes.
She crossed hurriedly into a coffee shop, it’s covered, almost dark countenance seeming to offer some kind of hope. The candles anointing the tables seemed somehow choked, as if the flame was fighting some great resistance in the air – the whole room pulled tense as if on a pendulum. Elsa concluded it was better to watch a fight of nature than fight humanity. She sat sedately, the room eventually seeming to settle in its shadows around her. Through the thick, cottage-like windows, the street seemed somehow distorted – human feet and hands were bloated beyond usual proportions.
Elsa drummed her fingers uncertainly over the old oak table, letting her thumb fall first and watching her other fingers close down in unison, as if suddenly killed. Her whole body felt strangely restrained as if by some immeasurable weight, sinews stalling beneath. She put she had put down all the weight she could, but her palms still ached.
There was the telling noise of ice on glass just behind.
“Why don’t you sing?”
A waiter was poised almost ornately with a tray upon which stood a single full pint glass; water licked at the edge of the container like blood utterly immerses a wound – the whole body of the object was tense, as tense as the almost overflowing eye. In contrast, the waiter seemed almost elasticised, over-eager, his body flowed with a seeping energy on front of her. She gazed at him questioning, gazed as if immersed in that over-ripe mouth, the slight shuddering of his cheeks as he spoke beneath a single strip of moustache. His teeth seemed to bloom like lilies beneath the lips.
“Why don’t you sing?”
The question fazed her. Breath seemed to travel oddly through her mouth as if she could not draw her lips together, wondering whether his statement was a question or a challenge. For she wondered – should she respond that she could not sing, or did he want her just to begin? Her body seemed weighted to the bent chair, as if her skin, inch by inch, had been slowly submerged beneath a crushing hand of water. The lights lapped anxiously at the darkness, the staircase in the corner apparently ascending into nothing, the meticulously polished bar counter swallowing every reflection. Sing, sing, sing. She began to cry.
Hot resent swelled in her throat in its silent melody. She hated him, she hated his questioning, hated how his buggy eyes wheeled to and fro – from her to the bar and back again. In a few sluggish seconds he seemed to marvel how he could see both the bar and Elsa’s tear stained face reflected in the shock of skin of a fat red apple, resting on the surface.
He handed the it to her with a frown of sincerity, his fingers flexing against the fruit as if it was an organ – still dripping.
“You might feel better for this,” He muttered, brushing his dark hair from his eye with his free hand – a hand which almost seemed powder-paled. His eyes were dark, almost pitted.
He looked at her, wonderingly – watching the strange, stunted, half-clockwork movements of her hands as she put her fingers to the apple attempted to twist, backed away, slid the fruit around between two palms, gazed at it, looked upwards. She seemed to weep as the horrible precursor to piercing flesh.
“Do you need a knife?” He asked, thinking that she may be struggling with cutting the apple into pieces.
Her stare shot him still. To his horror she smiled at him.
“No,” She shrilled, the hysteric tears finally tripping down her face, and her hand firm in her pocket “I have one right here.”
Her voice spilled loudly and horribly from her open mouth, as she mouthed her hand. Her mouth bloomed wider.
“Why don’t you sing?”