I sat at the table opposite her.
The cup of coffee shook in my hands, spilling over. I had bought it to give myself something to hold on to, something nice and mundane and sensible, but it looked like muddy water and the thought of drinking it made me nauseous. I could not tell whether it was ceramic or plastic. It seemed part of an alien universe. I could not even remember if I had put sugar in it.

All around me people were talking loudly. It seemed exaggerated and false. Were they doing it because they were pretending they could not see him? Their voices seemed so loud, the words so sharp. Was this all a façade?

I was sick of it, sick of the unreality, of worlds peeling away like old damp wallpaper, faces dissolving while I was talking to them.
I was tired of overhearing police radios in my head, talking about me, making the fillings in my teeth hurt, filling my mouth with the taste of metal.
I did not want to spend half an hour every morning finding the piece of furniture that had been moved half an inch overnight, just so that I could find it. Most of all, I did not want to feel the people watching me, only for them to turn back and pretend they were not looking before I could catch them at it.

For a while, I was tempted to tear out my eyes.
Then I wouldn’t have to see the faces, the graffiti spelling out my name amid obscenities, the recorded scenes on the walls of lavatories and subway tunnels played out over and over again, just for me.

She’s interested in me, you see. You know what children are like. They break something and then they lose interest. When something does not break, when it keeps surprising you, then you become interested. And now here she was. Finally. Face to face.
I looked up at her. She seemed ordinary.
Then her arms came up from under the table and I wanted to start screaming and not stop.

If I started screaming, then everyone else in the café would turn and look, and suddenly there would be nothing wrong. I would look like a lunatic.
I could not look at her face, so I looked down. The fabric of her coat seemed to be made of spiders, an entangled mass of them, moving, struggling to pull themselves free. Little trapped legs waved feebly.

‘Why are you doing this?’ I asked.
‘Enough of Because,’ she responded, quoting Crowley. ‘Be he damned for a dog. Is it not enough that I choose you? Why are you not grateful?’

In defiance, I made myself drink some of the coffee.
It was stringy and tasted wrong. It wasn’t coffee . I looked. I spat it back out. It was mostly blood. But not just blood.
My stomach kicked up at my throat and I gagged. It was a reflex. I couldn’t help myself. I could hear her smiling as I clutched at my abdomen.

I looked up. The table was awash with my stomach contents and the chair opposite me was empty. People near me were gasping, muttering. I was the madman in the café. They had seen nothing. They knew nothing. I looked at them all, the wet still drooling from my mouth. It was too much.
‘What!’ I screamed. ‘What are you bastards looking at? Eh?’ I flailed my arms at them. ‘Stop staring at me! Just leave me alone! Just go away! Go away!’
I held my head in my hands and bent over the table.
That was when I knew she’d won. It was over.

Only one more thing to do, really.
My fingers closed on the metal of the coffee spoon.
I decided to do the left eye first.


Fear Itself

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