June 29, 2004

Breakfast in Oyama

The eatery was like most in Oyama prefecture—cold and dark, certainly not inviting. Though its four sides were almost fully open to the afternoon sun, the interior remained extremely poorly lit. Tasmin had ceased to be discomfited by such places, although it had taken almost a year of living in this town to reach that point. This establishment in particular was not one she’d visited before, but its gloomy atmosphere felt instantly familiar. Clammy notes of soy, spring onion, and musky beer hung in the air around her, advertising the day’s fare; there were no menus in a place like this. She realized that she had already forgotten its name.

“You were early.” A faint shiver ran down her spine at the disembodied voice, though she knew instantly that it was Yuri, arrived in characteristic silence. Tasmin did not turn to look at him, but nodded quietly. The fact that it was already three minutes past six did not put the lie to his statement.

“What made you choose this place?” she muttered. “I hate this darkness. It dulls my mind.”

“You should open your eyes a little. You’d be the better for it. I find this place, and these people… stimulating.” He sniffed; whether out of disdain or congestion, Tasmin wasn’t sure. She caught his form from the corner of her eye. He was stuffing a limp tissue into the pocket of his leather jacket. On the side of his face which was illuminated by outside light, Yuri’s eye was bloodshot and wet, the veins at his temple bulging.

She looked toward the nameless shapes shambling through the darkness. “These people are shadows. They might as well be the whispered dead.” And you, you are halfway there, she added in thought alone.

Yuri let out something like a nervous giggle—discomfort, or something… more? “I think… I think if you let the light in here… that you might be the one to disappear and they would remain.” Another sniff.

There was nothing to say to that, so she remained silent.

They still had not spoken again when a tiny, kimono-clad woman brought a tray to their table. Yuri suddenly made a grabbing motion at her arm, or the tray—what his goal was didn’t matter, as he missed both. Still, the tray completed the last centimeter of its journey without human aid, causing a great deal of noise but little damage. A few harsh, unintelligible whispers from Yuri and the newcomer was gone, scurrying back into the protection of shadow. Tasmin continued to ignore the proceedings, instead looking outwards, to the light.

“Well?” he asked. “This is it. Aren’t you the least curious?” She heard the scrape of varnish against rough wood as he pushed something—a dish? a cup?—toward her, across the table. Even without looking she knew his hand was shaking.

She sighed, looking back towards Yuri. “Very well, if I must.”

Tasmin glanced at the object below her, a plain, brown lacquer cup. Within it, a pool of viscous quicksilver reflected her gaze. She peered at her companion, who raised a newly-opened bottle of Asahi from the tray. A look of absolute glee had taken over his features, and silently, hands still uneasy, he poured the beer into the mercury. An identical vessel on his side required two attempts to fill, but no matter; there was plenty for their purposes.

Yuri had lost any semblance of control now, making no effort to suppress the fits of laughter firing from within his frail frame. Somehow, he managed to raise his cup to his face without any further spillage. Tasmin lifted her own to complete the toast.

“To new beginnings!” he cried, pounding his free hand on the table. If anyone else in the room heard his outburst there was no sign of it.

“To escape,” she said, solemnly, and they drank.

Posted by eden on 29 Jun 2004 | Comments (1)