A series of clattering, clunking and banging rocked the kitchen. A lonely woman approaching middle age loaded her dishwasher from a rack bent out of shape from years of use. The sink was still full of culinary wares neglected from the last few nights. She began singing out of tune when she came across an odd receptacle. It had the shape of a human face whose craftsman made the common mistake of pushing realism into the netherworld of uncanny valley. It was an eyesore. The enlarged grin stared back at her, radiating its hideous configuration in its feeble attempt at caricature. She winced, casually shrugged and threw it into the wash, recalling her last boyfriend's poor taste in aesthetics. She began to load the silverware when someone cried out her name. More frantic than perplexed, she whipped her head around gazing about the kitchen. She lived by herself and prayed to the high heavens she was not about to come face to face with a home intruder. Then the voice shouted out again, “Right here! Right here!” The sound resonated as if only inches away, but no one else was in the kitchen besides herself. She ran through the apartment searching high and low, through every room and closet. Coming to a pause, she scratched her head. Then it came again.
“No. Over here!” it said, emanating from where she was earlier.
Who in the world was playing games like this? Her heart raced. Mustering as much courage as a frail-statured lonely heart could bear, she skulked back into the kitchen, grabbed the closest piece of cutlery from the wood block and, as she drew nearer, precariously held it out with both hands fixed in front.
“There you are!” the mysterious voice said again. She froze with the knife still held out at both arms' length. “I’ve been looking all over for you. Now if you will, get me out of here!” The nasal quality of the tone was irritating.
She was poised in a clumsy stance, attempting to be as threatening as her posture allowed. Instead, she looked ridiculous leering over into the dishwasher.
“Do we have to play this game again?” The words were chiding, alluding to past accusations that may or may not have happened.
She crept closer to the dishwasher, knife wielded, but quivering to the point where it would have been easier to drop it and run than engaging in self-defense.
“Okay,” it said, “now pull out the top rack and you’ll find me.”
Holding the knife in her left hand, she followed instruction.
“All I see are a bunch of glasses.”
She noticed there were three cups scattered about the rack. She picked one up; no dice. Then another; it said, 'I'm with stupid,' and plopped it back down.
“The obvious choice. The one with the face, dummy! Come on.”
She stood there stunned. Not the creepy ugly thing she noticed moments ago! Her shaky hand paused over the cup, afraid to touch it.
“I don't have all day, sister. Now take me out.”
“Uh…I was going to wash the dishes…”
“Do I look like a dish? Just pull me out already!”
She briefly hesitated, then seized the cup. Slowly, she turned it around in her hand, ready to drop it on a dime. The cup said nothing, and she thought herself crazy. She placed it on the counter above as though it was a bomb set to explode, took a step back and stared.
“There we go!”
She dropped the knife.
“And that explains why I kept my mouth shut when I was in your tender mercy," it flapped its doughy lips.
Every time it spoke, she wanted to faint. The ugliness of its forced realism would turn away the boldest of men. The toothy grimace and wide-open eyes that isolated each pupil would haunt her dreams for years to come.
She said with her heart aflutter, “Wh…who the hell are you?”
“I see you’re the brains of your own outfit. For your information, I’m a magical cup. See me talking?” She almost screamed when it exaggerated the movement of its lips. “Now what’s the matter?”
She dropped the hand from her mouth. “Oh…uuuhh…nothing! I mean—”
“Spit it out!”
"I think…I'm seeing things right now."
"So am I. You qualify as a 'thing' I'm seeing right now too!"
Now she was outright baffled, and asked, “But…but…where the hell did you come from? How are you able to…you know…” she uttered, waving her hands in circles trying to express unexplainable emotions.
“Does it matter?” The lips continued to flap stiffly, without change to the rest of the face.
“Well,” she said with a flustered smirk in attempting to mask her state of disarray, “you’re something…no one sees every day.”
“Sure I am! You’re just a spritely bachelorette cooped up in the house 'round the clock.”
The woman was at a loss for words, too addled with disbelief to have noticed the insult.
“See,” the cup continued, “I happen to be a seeker. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m a disembodied spirit using any physical means to get around this world!”
"A traveler…that turned into a mug?"
"That's one way of putting it."
"You look like something that belonged to one of my exes. I forget which one though."
"That's irrelevant." The cup quickly resolved itself. “I come from a magical kingdom from beyond—and don't bother looking for it, cuz you'll never find it. To jump the gun, we’ve got a problem. Our regnum is missing a queen."
She only furrowed her brow in confusion.
The cup resumed, "Someone who can step up to the plate?"
"Me?" She froze into an accusatory countenance.
"Yes. I mean you!"
"How? You're a talking cup, and I'm kind of freaked out right now!" She was looking directly into its unblinking dead-eyed stare, unable to help noticing its mouth was arched into a perpetual smile regardless of disposition.
"You’re not scared of a little hocus-pocus, are you? Magic’s your middle name. Just look at yourself."
"My mirror’s in the other room if you want me to get it." She casually pointed where her bedroom lied.
"Not necessary. Just you.”
“Me? In a place where everybody looks like you?” Her words came awkwardly.
“I suppose so, but let’s not digress. Do you know anything about prophecies? You know, preordained happenings before they happen?"
Her eyes darted back and forth. "Nooo? Except maybe on the stock market." She slowly raised her hands in a tentative shrug.
"Good grief! I mean legends that are foretold where something really big is supposed to happen, like a revelation."
"What does that have to do with being a queen?"
“Never mind. Stop with the dumb questions! What I'm trying to get at is that you’ve been chosen, yet here you are washing dishes!"
“Well, I can't just let them pile up in the sink—"
"Did you hear me?" The cup interrupted. "You can ditch a life of mediocrity and fall into the lap of luxury. You’ll be immortal!" Its expression remained static, but the words intensified.
"So, what happened to the last queen?”
“Oh, her. She got old and died.”
“Wait. Wasn’t she supposed to be immor––“
"Just think of it. You're going to be worshipped! You'll be straddled over the throne with every one of your subjects bowing at your whim! Hear that? Think Marie-Antoinette or Empress Sheba, and servants shoving grapes and boxed chocolates down your throat. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!”
She continued, "I still don't know, I think it's better if I—"
"Better if you what? Remain stuck in a rat-infested hellhole like this?"
"But I never saw any—"
"You're a tough nut to crack! But I'll tell you what, if I can get your attention for just a—wait, what are you doing?"
"I was just about to put the detergent in." She was holding a box of dried dishwasher soap.
"Are you paying any attention? Did you even know our kingdom’s in trouble?"
She stood there dumbfounded, still holding the detergent. She was saucer-eyed and her lip was curled around the top front teeth.
"Hellooooo? Knock. Knock. I said our kingdom will be doomed if no one fulfills the prophecy!"
She snapped out of her stupor with a mild head shake. "Oh…oh, my. That doesn't sound good."
“No it doesn’t. That’s why we need you. Get it? And it sure beats the hell out of binge-watching glorified soap operas!”
His flattery verged on the ridiculous, but she kept her focus, tilting her head back and forth taking in everything told to her.
“Well, uh, that sounds nice and all, and I’m no spring chicken, but…what’s it you want me to do exactly? You know, to save your kingdom or something.”
"If you accept my offer, everything will just fall into place. WHAMMO! The kingdom's saved and everyone's happy!"
"And you said I'll be worshipped?"
"Comes with the territory. Hand fans and all."
"Um…maybe not the hand fans so much. How about a few turbo air circulators, especially when it's hot out?"
"And grapes are nice, but I like fine chocolate—Make it truffles!"
"And I want full access to every streaming service, complete with a plasma screen!"
Her stipulations were a sign she was starting to capitulate and the cup, recognizing this, seized upon it. "You bet!"
"More real than this dump. You were made for this!"
“Okay, so…how do I go about this revelation thing? And how do I become a queen?" Her spasmodic hand gestures were involuntary. She was becoming more excited.
“Ah! Good. Now you need to listen to everything I say. Capiche?”
“I’m all ears!”
“Okay. First, take off all of your clothes and—!”
On that note, she swept up the cup and dashed it to bits on the floor.