Howling on the wind.
It blows right through me, the chill and the sound.
The chill of the sound.
In the dark of the dreams of my childhood, I know.
Behind me, beside me, because of me.
Always the howling.
The never ending howling.
The man barely glanced up at the waitress as she refilled his coffee. He stared past her instead, watching the windows by the door. Dark beyond the lit interior of the cafe, the swirling snow outside would rise up to caress the window, a chaotic white hypnotic massage upon the glass.
The waitress, lacking other patrons at her tables, had taken up a broom and pan. Flipping the unoccupied chairs onto their tables, she shuffled the evening grit from one dusty pile to another. Her machinations sent renegade dust motes parachuting away to hide in darker corners safe from bristles. Unnoticed by the girl and the man, one landed in his coffee cup. No hope of rescue.
Unnoticed by the man but not the girl, the man tapped his fingernails arrhythmically against the mug. He lifted the chipped cup to his lips and sipped the bitterness, then clicked the mug down against the faux wood finish of the table.
Lips, sips, clicks, taps. Again, again, again, again.
His eyes never left the windows.
Dark and darker, late and later, the cafe would close regardless of his wishes to remain within. To be without. To be without the black night shadows under every lamp post. Safe inside. Not safe outside. Never that. Little things casting giant shadows, little things not thought about in the day. But at night. At night when they become the other.
He didn’t want to go. She wouldn’t let him stay. He knew she felt the fear in him. It shed on her, that unwanted beast of burden. He could see it.
He saw the guilt in her as well.
The knowledge? Did she know what he faced night after night? A short walk across an empty street and yet so full of risk. Could she see it? The fear was palpable, but could she see the things he —
Wordlessly, the waitress flipped the window sign to “Closed” like every night.
He dropped his dollars and tip beside the unused cutlery like every night.
He walked to and through the doorway like every night.
The door closed behind him.
The cafe lights turned off behind him.
The darkness stood in front of him and waited for him to cross the empty street.
(note: underlined words are where I rolled Rory’s Story cubes for inspiration. I consider this one of the best stories I’ve ever written.)