Deal 1263: Mastery

The scene laid out before me was a rush of sound, colors, flavors, and smells.

At the center of the storm was a man dressed in crisp chef whites. He hardly needed to speak as his kitchen operated like a well-oiled machine around him. As he reached for each part of the elaborate dishes he assembled, they were always at hand. The choreography perfect, the timing impeccable, and the finished presentations works of art. At the outer fringes, interns worked frantically, hoping one day to be noticed and brought into the inner circle.

Almost as an afterthought, the finished works of art were whisked away by the perfectly attired staff for delivery to the patrons.

No movements were wasted. Each player knew their part in the larger dance, and each arrived on their marks exactly on cue.

And yet, somehow, each managed to make room for the kitten that wandered from station to station as if inspecting everyone’s work, and who seemed to be giving the final approval to each dish served.

I knew without asking that no one would admit the kitten was there, that the kitten was the real master of this kitchen.

But of course, she was.


Deal 1175: Hot.

The three foot square slab of stainless steel was hot, and stayed hot from opening at dawn until we decided to close sometime after lunch. It was hot and heavy, and was always the perfect temperature for a pancake or fried egg. It was decided not a good place to sit.

Unless you weren’t quite mortal, I suppose.

The kitchen was in a brief lull when she appeared, sitting on the flattop and looking like she belonged there. I just stood there for a moment, staring. I suppose I was waiting for the inevitable scream. It never came.

I gestured with my spatula, but she declined to be turned.

I looked around. My prep cook was in the other room, chasing after something in the walk-in. The wait staff were all out on the floor. In short, I was the only witness to her impossible comfort in the very spot that a full stack of cakes had occupied just moments before her arrival.

This was going to be a very interesting conversation.


Deal 1144

The mirror stares back at me, accusing in its silence.

I would threaten it again, but it would do no good. Last time it ended up cracked. And yet, it persists in staring at me.

As I sit here and it sits there, I get occasional glimpses into the mirror world. But picture only, never sound. But picture is enough to make it clear the glimpses are not of the here and now.

The deceased may appear from time to time, but their actions are relevant in the here and now.

And then the cloud. The visions clouded over, the proper future replaced by a growing darkness. Almost as if the mirror itself was warning me of something. But what?

The mirror stares back at me, accusing in its silence.


Deal 1141: Ritual witness

For the hundredth time, I wondered why I had agreed to this. But it was far too late to back out now.

In the darkness, I could just barely see the old woman working her rituals. Her circle, however, was positively glowing with an eldritch light that somehow managed to attract attention without also illuminating anything around it.

Behind her, the rest of her shop was indistinct but looming with a presence that kept raising the hairs on the back of my neck.

Outside the window it was full daylight. And yet none of the sunlight on the streets managed to find its way inside despite the generous, and surprisingly clean, shop windows. The darkness was simply unwilling to be overpowered by something as ordinary as daylight. It couldn’t prevent the daylight from falling outside, but inside. Inside was its domain.

Why had I agreed? I was no longer sure.

I already had seen more than enough to convince me that her place as village witch was well and truly earned.

Now I remained caught as a fly on flypaper. Caught and hoping very much that I was not more akin to a moth and a flame.

Next to the circle, a cauldron bubbled with something simmering away. Its fumes were cloying. Each time they died down to an almost bearable level, she gave it another stir with the large ladle. I think it was the fumes that kept me still.

It certainly wasn’t loyalty to her, the town council, or my agency.

I was well past ready to flee into the daylight and attempt to erase the memories of what I had witnessed flickering in the unlight above circle. At times, it seemed as if the very fabric of reality had become worn thin and something was trying to reach through.

Reach through and steal my soul.

I could wish it luck then. Even I wasn’t so sure if I had one or not. As I stirred, I could hear my mechanisms humming with power, and ready to turn and run, carrying my metal limbs and body back to my maker. And yet. There was something fascinating about this whole situation that kept my attention and refused to allow me to leave.

Why was I here again?

I suppose that is the one hundred second time I’ve asked myself that question.

And it was clear that I was not going to answer.