Chapter Thirty – Reflection

8 Aug

‘Claura, I hate to say it, but you look like shit.’ Rosie muttered as I staggered back into the Caffe Noire. One of my hands was covered in deep ochre dried blood, my jacket was speckled with sawdust and my shoes were still sticky with ink.

I dropped my shoes by the door and walked over to her table. She’d already turned around and ordered coffee for me and called for another couple of plasters. The old man in the yellow suit by the mural in the corner just sipped his espresso and looked at us with a wry smile. Whilst I was waiting for the coffee to arrive, I got up went into the cafe’s parrot-infested bathroom and washed the blood from my hand. There were a couple of splinters which I’d have to pick out later but, all in all, it looked worse than it actually was. Even the parrots seemed to be keeping their distance from me.

When I came back, there was a cup of coffee sitting on the table and I heard the shopkeeper say that it was on the house. I thanked him and sat opposite Rosie again. She leaned close to me and said: ‘How bad is the street?’

‘Covered in ink, it’s spreading. But everyone seems to be ok. Oh, I found this.’ I reached into my pocket discreetly and showed her the marble, keeping it hidden in my palm the whole time.

‘Where the hell did you find this? Is that… blue ink?’

‘I got it from one of the models, hence all the sawdust.’ I said flatly.

‘Oh.’

‘Have you seen it before?’

She leant in even more closely and whispered: ‘Once.’

‘Where?’ I whispered.

‘We’ll talk about it later. In private.’ She leant back and sipped her rose tea. I sighed and started drinking my coffee, it was still reassuringly warm and it seemed to be a new blend of some kind or other. I looked over at the shopkeeper and smiled at him, he smiled back before returning to rearranging boxes of tea leaves.

The radio crackled again and the opening drum machine beats and distorted guitar howls of “Ribbons” by The Sisters Of Mercy started to echo through the cafe. I looked into the dark mirror of coffee which was still left in my mug. My face stared back at me and my hair still looked an absolute mess. Then, in the reflection, I noticed something pale moving slowly behind me.

When I looked over my shoulder, everything seemed normal. So, I went back to the cup and looked as closely as I could. Then, just for a second, I saw it again – it was a cloud. A cloud, an actual fluffy white cloud. I felt an ice dagger of fear in my chest and tried to keep looking normal. There was only one thing that produced those kinds of reflections and it wasn’t coffee. And I’d been drinking it.

Very slowly, and without trying to show any disgust, I sipped the rest of the coffee. It might have just been my mind, but it tasted more bitter than usual. When there was about a centimetre of it left in the bottom of the mug, I looked up at Rosie before glancing at the door. She just nodded and got up. I left a small tip on the table before I tried to smile at the shopkeeper again for the sake of appearances. He was looking the other way, so we just muttered goodbye and left.

Once we were a couple of streets away, Rosie muttered: ‘Claura, did you see your coffee? I was going to mention it, but..’

‘I know. It would be rude. God, I hope this stuff isn’t poisonous.’

‘I don’t think it is. I mean, if it’s the universe’s blood, then why would it be?’

‘I guess. Look, what do you know about the blue ink?’

‘In private.’ She muttered as my house came into view again.

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