Chapter Ten – Ink

19 Jul

There was nothing in it except a small note saying “Reserved. Find your own damn coffin!” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

Someone had set this up for a reason, or I’d have liked to think that there was a reason for this. That there was an actual person who had reserved the coffin and set up the wooden dummies in order to work out the seating arrangements for their own funeral. That there was an understandable, if slightly strange, explanation for all of this. Maybe it was an art installation or something like that?

I was so busy thinking about all of this and taking pictures of it with my phone that I almost didn’t hear the quiet creaking behind me. When I turned around, one of the models was holding a penknife in his wooden hand. The tip was blunt and the blade was covered with something that I hoped was ink. As I leant in to take a photo, his arm shot upwards with a loud whirring sound. There was no emotion behind his carved eyes.

All I could do was watch in disbelief as he tottered forwards to the open coffin and started stabbing it rhythmically. Black liquid spurted upwards with each squelching stab and spattered the floor by my feet, gleaming obsidian under the spotlights above. He kept stabbing. Gingerly, I moved closer to the coffin, keeping my arms raised in case he turned on me or the ink started spraying in my direction.

The coffin smelt like ten ballpoint pens that had been snapped in half and allowed to bleed out on a desk under the summer sun. It was the chemical smell of a frantically written exam paper and, for a second, I even felt nostalgic. By now, the coffin was awash with what I still hoped was just ink. A roiling, rippling dark mirror of the stuff splashed around in the bottom half of the coffin and started to trickle down the sides. I stepped back from it and decided to get out of the room before it overflowed.

When I’d got past the first row of mourners, the gramophone screeched to a halt and I could hear nothing but the wet splashing of a knife in a coffin. Then I heard the squawking of nails on a blackboard and sensed movement around me. It didn’t take me more than a second to notice that all of the models were staring at me with their dead wooden eyes.

I broke into a run as soon as I felt something on my shoulder. The door was only a few metres away. I could hear rustling and creaking behind me. It wouldn’t be long before they all converged on me. I ran harder as I felt hands swinging inches away from the back of my head. If I didn’t get out of here soon, they’d probably tear me limb from limb or throw me in coffin. I wasn’t sure whether the stabbing man would finish me off first or whether I’d be left to drown slowly. By now, my thighs were starting to burn but I kept pumping my legs. This wasn’t my funeral. I was sure of that.

When the door was within reaching distance, I dived through it – almost cracking my head in the process. I landed in a heap on the mottled green beer soaked carpet of the main bar and let out a sigh of relief. I was safe.

‘Oi, love. Where the ‘ell did you just come from?’ It was one of the regulars, an old guy in a leather jacket with a bushy grey beard and a pint of bitter. He was sitting at a table next to me with a thin dog sitting by his feet.

‘Huh?’ I said as I got to my feet and looked behind me. There was nothing but a plain green wall. Suddenly I understood what Rosie meant when she said that this town had a habit of moving around.

‘I mean, you just appeared out of thin air. People don’t just do that.’ He took a swig of beer and stared at me.

‘There… There was a room, just there. Oh, you know what? Fuck it. I appeared out of thin air. Happy?’ I sighed and glared at him.

He looked into his pint and muttered something as I limped over to the bar. I fumbled for my purse and clicked a couple of pound coins onto the warped wooden bar. The barmaid raised an eyebrow and I just said ‘Vokda and tonic please. In fact, make it a double.’

As she made it, I wrestled my hair back into a ponytail again and straightened out my jacket before looking around the bar. Apart from the barmaid and the guy next to the wall, there were only three other people in the bar. The clock on the wall read 10pm.

My drink arrived and I thanked the barmaid. She gave me a thin smile and asked: ‘Rough day?’

I thought about explaining everything, but it’d probably make me sound even stranger than this world. So, I just nodded before thanking her again and heading for a secluded table in the corner near the dartboard. For the first time today, everything felt right with the world.

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