On The Verge Of A Dream by Keith Kitchen

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SUMMARY: Rita's confused. She's been practically living in the lunchroom for a long time, watching weird occurences. But when after a stranger named Philip asks her to write down her thoughts, Loki shows up and things get really weird...

1.


It's just a lunchroom.

If you walk in off the street, looking for directions or a cup of joe, you probably won't notice anything out of the ordinary. Even most of the regulars, or at least those who think they're regulars don't quite notice the fact that it's not your everyday lunchroom.

It's dark, for one thing. Walk in at any time of day or night and you'll spend a couple of minutes letting your eyes adjust. The lights are dim because they can't burn through the gloom. It's not a tangible gloom, not something you can put your hands on and squeeze, but it's there nonetheless. The windows are dirty in such a way that you'd never know they're really dirty, but they're not shuttered, there are no curtains and damned little light gets in.

The place is always busy, but the clientele is indeterminate. Who are they? Doesn't matter.

Really. They don't matter.

They come and go, most of them pay their money for their food and never notice that the little lunchroom they walked into would have given Rod Serling wet dreams. The old counter, with an even dozen rotating seats on pedestals that were once a shining stainless steel but were now corroded and rusty would have undoubtedly given him inspiration for dozens more stories had he quit smoking his cancer sticks and maybe lived a few years longer.

An even dozen booths lined the walls, able to seat four each comfortably, six each in a pinch, and in the far back, there are two honest-to-God eight-seater tables with honest-to-God plaid tablecloths draped over them. These tables are mainly for show, or for the occasional family of tourists that get lost and straggle in, hungry, scared and unsure of where they are or how the Hell they got here.

The lunchroom is open all the time. Twenty-four seven is what they say these days. The sad excuses for waitresses walk through the door in a changing procession that amazes, with the exception of Ol' Sadie and Carla. Those two old bats have been working in the lunchroom for time out of mind. Some say they've been there since the early days of the Korean War, others say no, that can't be. They're old, but not that old.

The again, maybe they're older than that.

Doesn't matter.

They are scary when they smile. Ol' Sadie looks like a prune to begin with and when she smiles it's enough to curdle fresh milk. It's enough to make a dick shrivel up and try to hide inside. Carla's been known to make children break into hysterics when she smiles and there are rumors that several pregnant girls miscarried because she smiled at them. Their gray hair is always immaculate in that old lady way. You can almost envision that they spend whatever time they're not in the lunchroom wearing curlers so their hair is just perfect.

Sammie owns the lunchroom and if you go outside and look over the grimy windows, you'll see that is the place's only name. In lower case bold letters, it simply says the lunchroom. Nothing else. Nothing inviting. Nothing warm. It's as if Sammie didn't give a damn whether or not anybody came in and ever ordered anything.

Sammie probably wouldn't give a damn.

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