All is changed. A family sits around a beat up table impatiently waiting for food to be brought to them. Their faces are unclear to us; I have never clearly seen their faces. I believe this is because if we do our lives will be done.
The small children scurry to their occupation and begin their strenuous work throughout the kitchen. I do not see them until the day is over. The blurry shadow’s heads turn to me and David, the darkest one slurs her words, “Start cooking or you will not get to feed your little helpers.” This is always her punishment for my reluctances to work; which always succeeds, because if I don’t work those starving children will die from hunger.
I take up my apron and David turns to the grill. I believe we work in a store or diner, but the faces of the customers are blurry as well, and I am the only one who gets to venture out into the masses. I wonder why this is, even though I already know the answer, it is because if I screw up they will cancel all of us and start over. I will be the cause to the obliteration of these children. I know this, because this is not the first group of children depending on me.
I wish I could just see one of the customers I am serving. I constantly bring coffee to them, hoping my eye sight will give me a clear view of one of them. But that never seems to happen.
Back to David, he is the only older boy I have met, usually the children are Danny’s age and I am their keeper. David, I think, was brought into the mix to be the professional cook. We seemed to be losing customers when I was cooking, but then the next day David was here and he does his job well. I come to his side as he finishes his next order…a six stack high pancake tower with sausages and eggs. This plate of food would feed all of the kids’ one delicious bite that they would savor, because they have never had this type of food. I gaze at the plate feeling my insides lunging at the food wanting to devour it. I know I cannot, but the thought of my animalistic side exposed for a plate of food is severe.
“Which table?” still gazing at the plate, but needing David to answer me so I don’t divulge into my desires.
“Table two, take a cup of coffee, they always ask you for a refill when they are brought their food.”
How does David know it is the same customer, he like me, cannot see anything? Even though we are not technically related we confide in one another like siblings, and he was the first to express his lack of sight in the kitchen. But he seems to know the person at the table is the same as every day. Which would not be unfamiliar, I have regulars, but I tell them apart because of their voices. The funny sounding man, with the wicked strong breath always sits at table four. The woman and her three crazy kids, who tend to always pour syrup in each other’s hair, sit at table 6. The customer at table two never says a word, never moves in a way I can tell their gestures from anyone else’s.
Still pondering this strange feeling I make my way over to the almost frozen dark blue figure sitting at table two. I try to recognize something familiar about this character, but nothing does.
“Your pancakes, sausages, eggs and a fresh cup of coffee.” I place the meal in front of the figure and take away the cold old cup.
The figure does not say or do anything different. I realize now David must have known it was the same person because he must have experienced their silence as well. “Would you like anything else?” No answer. “Okay,” I pull away and hope for something to stop me, but nothing happens. My fantasies never seem to happen. That moment which someone stops you dead in your tracks and enters your world does not happen in reality.
However, the figure again left about half a cup of coffee in his mug, which is the best part of my morning. In my early days of working, I would pick a customer and I would finish their coffee if they would leave a small amount in their cup. Even though this is technically breaking the rules, what the owners don’t know will not hurt them. Also this small amount helps keep my hunger at bay. However, since David joined the group I had to share my secret with him, and why wouldn’t I? He told me that he sneaks bits of the burnt food that the customers don’t get. To survive we decided to share our secrets and trade off on days to survive and have enough food to give to the little ones.
Today was his day of coffee and my day of food. I prefer the coffee, but I cannot break our deal. “David,” whispering because the owners sit just beyond the doors, “I have your coffee.” I turn the corner and there is David stuffing his face full of the burnt clippings from the morning’s food. He stops dead in his bite and stares back at me.
“Jane, I am sorry. I couldn’t help it today. I almost ate off my hand because the hunger.”
All I did was stare at him. How could I have known this was the first day this had happen? His amounts of food had been slowly diminishing after our deal was struck. “You liar. How can I ever believe you again? We had to be a team in this, I cannot survive another change of people.” I didn’t mean to start yelling at him, but the words just kept pouring out of my mouth.
“Quiet Jane! They will hear you.” As sounds of screeching chairs scraped across the ground, and boots began to make their way to our place.
David turns back to his work and ignores the noises coming closer to us. I run to the opposite side of the kitchen still holding my cup of precious coffee. However, not thinking it through the liquid sloshes back and forth spilling over the edges.
A head peaks through the opening revealing a dark red figure with enormous hands grasping the doors. I stand tall and begin sorting the kitchen ware which I do every day at this point. David continues to cook, but his shoulders are so ridged that he looks suspicious and the figure hovers behind him. It looks as if this is the end of David, but the figure slips back through the opening and back to their darkness, just a customer comes up to me to pay. The morning is dying down and I remember my cup of coffee. I hide away for a minute taking my now cold mug with me. Staring down into the bottom I see only a small amount of coffee in the cup. Sadly I remember my running was not the best thing to have done, but it did save my skin. I cannot risk heating it to be seen by the owners or by David. I devour every last drop as the cold and bitter liquid runs down my throat. Wishing there was more I sink to the ground savoring the taste of that coffee.
I stand up with a new found amount of energy and a loss of hunger. The morning is over and all the customers have gone. I stand at table six trying to clean up the syrup with strands of hair mixed in. Those kids did more damage today. I feel a weird sensation and turn to see the dark blue figure from table two standing in a way so still and casual, but almost as if it is not there. Feeling uneasy I turn away to retrieve a knife and as I whip around the shadow is gone. I feel strange for believing a figure was there. But as I turn back to the table there stands the dark red figure from earlier.
“So, you decided to… some of our property… did you….” which is all I could make out that this figure was saying, but realizing I have been caught. “And you have decided to defend yourself against me.” Realizing I still had the knife in my hand, I drop it instantly and shut my eyes preparing for the worst.
Instead a child name Leslie is pull out by her hair and is held in the air by the dark green figure. David is also standing beside the figure, but he has no wounds or fear in his eyes. He seems to be smiling or enjoying himself.
“What…what is going on? David? What’s happening? PUT HER DOWN!” the words came lashing out of my mouth and the dark red figure closed his hand over my throat stopping my screams. “Da..vid…? What…happ..ing…?” is all I could muster.
“Isn’t it obvious Jane, I turned you in for your crimes against our powerful owners. They have decided to spare me for my honesty and commitment to their power.” He said with no emotion what so ever. He seems brainwashed and dead. Also his face was beginning to blur.
The dark red figure’s grasp squeezed me throat a bit harder constraining my airway to a small pathway. Leslie hanging by her hair does not muffle a sound because she has no more energy to fight back.
“It is your decision. You choose, the girl to be eradicated by you or us?” He ends that sentence with such glee, churning my stomach. I puke all over the floor under me. Surprised the figures grip did not lessen but tighten hoping to kill me by having me drown in my own vomit.
I look at Leslie as she hangs there almost lifeless, with small clumps of hair already removed from her scalp from being hung in the air. She looks almost dead herself. If I end her she will die peacefully, but my life will again be a living hell. But if these goons end her she will suffer and I will live with the guilt. “I…will…” I sputter spitting a few drips of vomit onto the figure’s hand.
He drops me and I gasp for air hoping to wake up from this dream. David just stands by Leslie watching me cower beneath her. How can he do this to me, there is nothing left of him standing there. He is just an empty void…I crawl towards Leslie and she is lowered to the ground. She whimpers slightly loud enough for me to hear. She cradles herself into my embrace. She whispers, “I understand…thank you for ending me in a peaceful way…I forgive you.” My heart is breaking as I hold this child who is not old enough to know her own words.
I begin to shake as I place my hands almost touching her head. I must engulf her essence into myself. She will live on inside me, but just as a whisper. David sinks down to my level, “You should have been a good girl and been smarter and turned me…”
I suddenly shift and grasp his head to mine and I end him instead. He is captured inside of me and can never harm the kids again. His body crumples to the ground and lays lifeless, because there is no longer a presence inside him. Leslie crumples into my lap and squeezes the air out of my lungs. Unlike the times before I feel the presence of David inside me. He is lingering and not disappearing.
The dark figures stand motionless hopefully stunned by my actions. However, the dark green one again hulls Leslie into the air by her hair. The dark red one looms over me. Bending down so that his clouded mouth breaths freezing air at me. “You should not have done that. Now Leslie will die by my hands.” As he pulled me up to watch as Leslie would end before me. Leslie pleads with her still beautiful eyes at me to end it first.
Strangely the grip loosens on my throat and I shove the figure back and clasps my hands on Leslies head and she is gone. Her essence enters me and I feel her wander to the back of my mind. Leslies’ body crumples to the floor and she lays lifeless and forever dead.
Then all is black…
I wake with the worst headache and a groggy memory of what had happened. But the voices of David and Leslie woke me and I remember what had happened. Again my insides felt as if they would sallow me whole and I would die from agony and despair. I remember Leslie’s form dropping to the floor and then the smack on my head sending me shooting to the floor with great force. I open my eyes and I am again in my room, however, it seems colder and the walls are gloomier. I hear nothing except my breath which is more of a wincing in and out. I lay there trying to push back my memories and the voices stirring inside my already full head. David is there making enough noise to drive a sane person insane. But he is just one of the many voices trying to escape their confines.
I try to raise, but the pounding of my head surges to my forehead and slams me back down onto the bed. Causing my head to spin not planning on stopping soon. The only way to end the motions is to sleep. I drift back into dreamless sleep, knowing that these next few nights will be twice as bad, because there are new additions to my already counted number of voices at two hundred and forty-three; which now is two hundred and forty-five.
Darkness consumes my body, leaving my mind to float in the borderlines of sane and insane.