I sat in the hard chair, my eyes staring straight forward.
His nails tap, tap, tapped against the table. That's what I could focus on. The nails. Almond shaped and constantly
They were long and almost elegant. Almost, if he wasn't a terrifying skeleton of a man.
Sweat began to pool against my temple. Cool, sticky sweat that clung to your body and your soul. The room was growing hotter, I swore, but he seemed unphased as his beady eyes fluttered between my eyes and what was in front of me.
A platter was placed before me, a shiny metal cover hiding what was inside.
Finally, the man spoke.
"Well? Aren't you going to see what we're having for dinner?"
His voice was like silk, shocking me. It was deep and almost kind, if you weren't looking at his face. I almost wanted to open the platter. My mind drifted to what it could be… what could be here in front of me?
A dead rat, smothered in gravy? A fileted dog with mashed potatoes on the side? Or, perhaps, a human head with an apple in its mouth?
"No," I said, focusing hard on keeping my voice steady. It still came out like a pathetic mouse's squeak.
"Why's that?" He tilted his head gently to the side, the tapping coming to a halt. "I know you're hungry… you haven't eaten in days."
Had it been days? I couldn't remember. The last thing I could remember was going for a run Saturday morning. I laced my sneakers, I snacked on a protein bar, I threw on my hat.
What happened after I left the house?
"What day is it?" I asked, dragging my eyes to his.
"Why, it's Tuesday, of course. Silly thing, " he chuckled like I was a small child who had put his coat on backwards. "So, I think you should eat. I know you must be famished by now."
As if on cue, my stomach let out a low growl. I could feel the acid bubbling up my throat, the dryness of my mouth and tongue. I looked at the platter again, then back at the man.
"Where's your plate?" I questioned, noticing the only other thing on the table was a small vase filled with lovely red roses. They were so vibrant and mesmerizing. That was the only color in the room. The only form of life in the room, the petals glistening with water, the thorns sharp and threatening.
"Hm? Oh, mine will be coming shortly… I am more concerned about you, Harold," he replied.
Harold. That was my name. Harold Wells.
"Concerned about me? Why would you be concerned about me?"
The man hummed, the tapping gently resuming. "Because I like you, Harold. Now, eat. Your food will get cold."
The way he said eat sent shivers down my spine. He said it the same way you would say oh, there's a dead bug.
"I'm not hungry."
"Not hungry?" He slowly rose from his seat, my stomach dropping.
The sweat on my brow seemed to freeze, the pounding of my heart echoing in my ears. Thoughts raced through my brain of what could happen to me in these next few moments.
The long man strode over to me, my palms growing hot and sweaty. I gripped the armrests of my chair, my eyes never leaving him.
He finally stopped beside me, hand with the talon-like claws resting on the top of the lid of the platter. "Not hungry… but I made your favorite."
I clenched my eyes shut as he lifted the lid, fingers digging into the armrests. After a heartbeat, two, three… I opened them.
"See? Just like the one at your favorite little diner…" He nearly purred as he sat the lid down and stepped behind my chair. I felt his hands rest on the back of the chair. "Go on. Eat. It won't bite."
My stomach shouted at me again, angrier, as I stared at the beautiful creation in front of me. My brain battled, but my stomach won.
I reached out with trembling hands and grabbed the burger, bringing it to my mouth. I took a cautious bite, chewed, then I could no longer control myself.
A buttery, golden bun. Crisp lettuce. A sweet onion. Ketchup oozed out the sides, however I didn't care at that moment. Warm, melted cheese. Meat. A delicious cow, sacrificed for the greater good. No tomato, thankfully.
It tasted so magnificent, my entire body felt like it was on fire. I nearly forgot about the skeleton of a man behind me.
"That diner is rather nice, you know… quiet, slow…" His voice dragged. "And that pretty little waitress… Rachel."
I stopped. My blood ran cold.
"I saw why you liked her. Feisty little one, she was," he said with a laugh. I then felt breath against my ear as cold as the earth in the ground. "But in the end… it didn't really matter… did it?"
My eyes were trained straight forward. There was something in the meat.
A ring with a green gem on top. The ring I gave Rachel for our anniversary.
I screamed, throwing the food back. It splattered on the table with a wet smack. "What did you do? What did you do?!"
I really didn't have time to think. I didn't have time to feel it.
I suppose others would have described it as a "piercing bite that broke my flesh". I would have described it as a searing tear of my skin, the cold of his breath and the warmth of my blood tickling my nerves.
In my last few moments, I wondered why he didn't just kill me. Why he teased me, tortured me. Maybe it was fun for him. Maybe he liked destroying his meals first.
My poor Rachel.
I hope you didn't suffer too badly.
I hope you did not hear the tap, tap, tapping on the wood table, or see his beady black eyes staring into your soul. I hope you did not have to hear his voice.
I hope it was quick, unlike it was for me.
But at least my last meal was a good one.