I didn’t recognise the face of the man across the table. We were alone in an empty restaurant, where phantom plates, piled high with all manner of things, were passing us by. The man across from me is telling me a story of some kind.
“In the beginning, there was a word. A single word, floating out into the void where it began to fester and grow, forming sentences and paragraphs that conglomerated to become, well, everything. The paragraphs became stories and the stories grew and changed and got retold.” A plate was put in front of me, a silver platter that was completely empty. In front of him, between his liver spotted hands, was a blue willow china plate on which sat a single egg. He took a silver spoon and slammed it onto the top of the egg.
The restaurant shook, plates and food tumbling to the floor as cracks spread across the ceiling. Everything lay where it fell and silence spread through the place like treacle. The man across from me frowned, lines stamped into his forehead from a long life, full of hardship and pain and his hands shake as he plucks the egg from its cup. “The world is an egg and inside lies all possibility.” He took a shattered piece of shell that was clinging to the soft skin below, lifting it away gently. Above me, a piece of the ceiling lifted away to reveal a patch of blue sky. “Now, the only thing that can go wrong is the fact that this whole sorry mess lies in a loop. The words get erased, the stories no longer get told and the whole world tumbles down, leaving just a word. Then it all starts again.” He picked up the egg, holding it in the space between us, focusing on it with bright blue staring eyes. “Do you remember the last time we had this conversation?”
I shook my head. This place was alien and new to me, from its shifting scenery to this old man across the table. He sighed, then wrapped a fist around the egg. I could see it starting to bulge from the missing part of its shell, forcing its way out.
“There’s only one thing to do!” The old man had started shouting in response to the thundering that had begun. It was as if the restaurant were shaking itself apart. “You have to break the cycle! There’s only one way to do that!” The lights flickered on and off, plaster fell form the ceiling as the whole place trembled. I watched in horror as the man snapped his fist shut, pieces of egg and shell exploding in the sudden motion.
Then, there was silence. My companion and I were standing in an open field watching a sunrise. “You have to break the cycle.” He said again, holding an intact egg in the palm of his hand. Then he hurled it away and threw himself at me, ancient fists pummelling my face and my body, all while crying at me to fight back, calling me a coward. “Break the cycle! Close the loop! Coward! Bastard!” I was throwing my arms up to defend myself when I realised I was holding the knife. My knife. The knife that my Dad had given to me as a present on our first camping trip.
My companion was still attacking, oblivious to the knife in my hand. I had to make a choice. I could keep taking the beating, or I could fight back.
I chose to fight back. With a roar, I plunged the blade into the old man’s chest. He looked shocked, but satisfaction flowed into a smile as he fell backwards. He lay there, fighting for words amongst quickening breaths. “Remember. Break. The. Cycle.”
The heavens opened and everything was white.
I woke up as I fell from my bed. I’m not sure whose idea it was to go for hardwood in these flats, but I’m not a fan of them. I checked the alarm clock to see that, as usual, I was late for work. These nightmares were getting ridiculous. I’d slept through four alarms this week alone and if I was late much more, Johnson had said he was going to fire me.
I quickly threw on some clothes, completely ignoring the odd socks element to the outfit, then thundered down the stairs, barrelling past the old man who was waiting there. He frowned at me, lines stamped into his forehead from a long life full of hardship and pain. He shouts something as I go past, glaring at me with bright blue eyes. “Sorry Mr Williams” I call. I’m sure I know Mr Williams from somewhere before I moved into the building, but I just can’t place him…
Who is Mr Williams?
The Idiot in Tin Foil