Somewhere Along the Way, I Found an Inter-dimensional Restaurant

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A quick trip to a favorite noodle shop turns into a strange otherworldly conversation.

Fantasy / Drama
A.D. Wills
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Everyday, I come to this little place in the city I live in—well, first of all, that probably goes without saying that I go here in the city that I live in. Or maybe it doesn’t go without saying, plenty of normal people commute after all to different cities everyday, but I’m not someone who needs to commute, but then again, I’m also not someone so important or relevant that this should be all that well known, and go without saying. The point is, in this pretty small and peaceful city, of which I do in fact live in, I come here everyday.

That leaves me with another question to answer though, what is this place I go to everyday? Well, it’s kind of a mixed bag. That might sound vague, or even that I’m lying and trying to come up with something good enough to say—a story worth telling that anyone might be interested in. I’m not here to promise any captivating story or anything though, so it’s not exactly on my agenda to lie and spice things up with vague sweet nothings. If I was, I could really embellish it and no one would be able to know whether I’m lying or not anyway. So I guess you could say I’m already showing I’m in fact an ally in this telling of a story. That, and this place doesn’t really need any vague outlandish lies to embellish it any. Nope, this little restaurant is plenty weird enough as is.

Not only the restaurant, but this little place I’m about to enter, as I walk along the downtown streets that are mostly filled with day shoppers, people heading to the park just down the street, or even the awkward look art center that no one actually enjoys going to other than when we would go there on field trips as kids. It’s not the usual packed downtown of a big city. All this one has, and preferably so if I’m being honest, is some shops on a strip, and some complex at the end of it with a big grocery store. Oh, and that big park I mentioned at the end of the street where annoying things like fireworks are shot off every major and minor holiday that most haven’t even heard of. You know the type, those people who shoot off fireworks for something like labor day. Go nuts for Canada day, and whatever else, but I still even cut fireworks off at Victoria day. Not like the Queen can see them anyway.

All in all, it’s a pretty peaceful afternoon is what I’m getting at, as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary out here.

You might be wondering why am I not doing some day shopping, or if this is me going out to lunch on my break from work. You’d be wrong on both. It’s a pretty easy answer though, I’m doing nothing. Seriously, I’m just doing this as some kind of way to hold onto a routine, probably. I mean, I say probably because the food is good, but I also don’t need to be coming here every single day. Then again, I’d only just be sitting at home finding some other way to waste time. May as well waste it here, is what I figure at least.

Just real quick though, if you’re thinking that this is starting to sound pretty pathetic or sad, or that I’m even trying to so miserably collect pity points, I’m not. I’m not down on myself, not because of any of this at least. And don’t go parsing what I just said either into some kind of unintended meaning. Sure, maybe what I do, or lack thereof is looked down upon by the majority of society, but I look down on a fair bit of society myself, so I see us as even. No point in squabbling and making each other any more miserable than we already are. No need to make it pathetic or sad, it just is what it is. Let me do my things, and I’ll let you do yours, with minor silent judgement we both enjoy to take part in as some kind of catharsis.

And as per usual, these droning thoughts have taken my body somewhere before I even knew it, to the place I go to every single day. It’s just this circular archway that’s sandwiched in between a couple of normal looking shops. One sells comics, and the other is for some kind of interior design or something like that. I don’t really know, but it sells lamps, so there’s that. But this little stone archway between them looks like it’s something stuck in the past. It honestly looks so different than anything else on the street, and anything else I’ve seen in the city I live in that I’ve barely explored at all, so maybe don’t take my word on that latter part, but it definitely looks different. The weird thing though, is that no one even notices. Every day, people just walk by it as if it doesn’t exist, but I know it does. There isn’t some twist of me being able to see or interact with some kind of alternate dimension here. It’s as real as can be, yet when you walk through, it’s like you enter another world.

There’s this quaint courtyard with a garden in the middle of it, and a little fountain. The best part, no people there. Every day, not a single person is ever here, just me and this peaceful well maintained garden, but funny enough, I’ve never seen this garden being tended to. It’s like there are some gnomes or something that takes care of it, like that one story about that one lazy cobbler letting some elves make the shoes for him.

I didn’t even mention that you can’t even see the backs of the shops when you enter this place. It’s like everything is constructed in some kind of ancient way. It’s not some cheap display either, these little shops are all made like old pagodas, and even one little medieval looking shop as well. Thing is, I only ever go to the one restaurant here in the corner of it all. A pink looking building with the top of a pagoda like some of the others. I wouldn’t be opposed to checking these other shops out, but they’re always all closed except for this tiny restaurant that’s really more of a cool looking hole in the wall.

It’s honestly a little eerie too when you think about it. A few old looking, yet well tended too shops that barely poke out of the walls, but are always closed, other than this restaurant. I always do this though, stare and take it in for a few minutes. It really is a cool place, and it feels like I’m totally sectioned off from the rest of society in here, even when I can turn around and see people walking by on the streets. Not a single one of them peering in even out of a shred of curiosity.

It’s about time I finally go inside to get something to eat with my paltry daily budget that’s just barely enough to get my usual, a big bowl of noodles and one very thin slice of beef, you know, to give it some class after all.

There’s no one to greet you though on the way in like in other places. No butler or whatever they’re called, you know, the one person everyone else working in the restaurant is jealous of because all they need to do is greet people, and seat them. They don’t serve them or take orders, they just greet. I mean, I guess that’s pretty monotonous and boring, but it’s easy, and you can’t mess easy up very easily, so you more often than not look good because you don’t make trouble for anyone else. But ya, no one like that. Nope, just an old menu posted on the front pink wall of the restaurant that looks dried up and stained by the constant sunlight punishing it every single day. The menu is simple too, just variations of noodles, that’s it. Well, I shouldn’t say that’s it. There’s a reason I come here every day. It’s not like I have some world class palette, but I know this stuff is amazing. How dare I belittle the succulent savory goodness I’ve been so lucky to sample every day. I deserve a hair in my bowl for that little slight.

It’s weird too, the entrance is really low, and even if I’m a little tall, I have to lean pretty far down under to open the door up, as if they’re doing everything they can to hide the entrance, or at least make newcomers wonder if this really is the way they’re supposed to be entering, second guess themselves, and just leave instead so as to not disturb anyone.

Inside is mostly empty as it usually is, except for the one silent chef that always looks like he’s been on one or two hours of sleep at the most. He didn’t greet me either, not yet at least, not from that far away on the other end of the restaurant. My appearance doesn’t warrant the level of excitable welcome of an across-the-room-greeting. Very few do warrant that though, so I shouldn’t feel all that mildly upset about it.

Once I took my seat though, he turned his sights to me, the chef. I actually don’t know his name, nor will I ever ask. For some reason that’s a weird question to me, ‘what’s your name’? It feels like a question better reserved for grade-schoolers doing show and tell, or trying to make your first friend ever. They’ll tell me if they want me to know, I figure.

“J,” was all the chef said, staring still at the food he was preparing for precisely no one in the restaurant, or at least that’s what it looked like.

I just did the usual casual silent nod to acknowledge I heard him, and I do in fact recognize his presence. In hindsight, asking what his name is might be even less awkward than the daily ritualistic greeting I seem to always nervously cave to. I could always just ask ‘how’s it going?’ but I don’t really care, and I know he doesn’t care. He’d definitely bring it up or something to be, or say more than just ‘J’ every day I come in here. Besides, that question always leads to the same boring reply of ‘not too bad, same old, pretty good’ or if you really want to get spicy ‘just trying to get by’. If anyone replies otherwise, they’re breaking the social binding contract of not replying with one of those pointless platitude. No one actually wants to hear how it’s going.

And yea, J is my name. Not Jay, or any other variation, nope, just the letter. And no, this isn’t my sad attempt at trying to provide myself with my very own nickname. It’s just that my parents were creative like that I guess.

Just like usual, I don’t even need to ask for the usual. The chef, as much of a pro as he is, already started putting my bowl of noodles together just how I like them, lukewarm. I mean, why would I want hot noodles? I have to wait for them to cool off, and I have no one to talk to here, or anything I would like to talk to. I just want to taste the chef’s supreme expertise that he no doubt has been honing in years of intensive training, learning the ancient secrets of this recipe passed down to him through the generations, probably.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem. The big bowl of noodles slid under the little glass separator between customer and chef at the bar-like area I sat at eager to eat, when someone walked into the restaurant. Looks like he’s not worthy of a shouting greeting either, so I’m on a social level with him, or so it seems.

In a hurry, I take one large slurp of the noodles before this person can sit next to me. I have to be sure I can at least get something in before I might be rudely interrupted, and I’m glad I did, because this person of course sits right next to me in a place full of empty nice cozy seats. I just sit at the bar because I don’t see a point in making the chef walk around to serve it to me anywhere else after he just cooked for me. But that excuse is forfeit for this person since I’m already here. They’re free to make him serve as needed, if it means not awkwardly sitting next to a stranger in an open restaurant. It’s like when on a train, or a bus, and some maniac sits next to you when there are open seats. It immediately gives off kidnapping and murdery vibes, to me at least.

I guess I should back up. This guy who walked into the restaurant doesn’t look like he’s just some regular weirdo. He’s wearing a full suit of armor, and a helmet with one of those little caged flaps that jousting knights wore—or maybe other knights wore them too, what do I know. He’s walking in here like it’s a normal thing though, so I admire the confidence to not change after whatever festival, fair or role-playing game he just came from. Not that I’m judging, I’m just stating the fact he’s weird. That doesn’t mean it’s a disparaging comment or anything, it’s just what he is. No one ever said being weird had to be a bad thing, other than—ironically–people who think they’re not weird, but are really the weirdest of them all. Those people want to so badly be normal, trying hard to be something they’re not to fit into what they think that normal is. Sounds pretty weird to me.

“Hello good sir,” the knight turned to me with a big smile—looking like he was pretty hot in that suit of armor on this summer day, naturally.

“How’s it going?” I hate myself for saying that, and immediately regret it.

“Well, it has been quite the arduous day today,” the Knight regrettably chose the most undesirable option.

He’s one of those people then.

“That so...” I nodded and muttered something I don’t even know why I said it. It’s better to just stay silent there without a proper reply.

“Between losing my trusty steed, and the love of my life abandoning me for who I thought was a close friend, yes, it’s been most tragic,” the Knight added.

Well, he’s committed to the bit if nothing else, but I thought he said arduously. You can’t just change it to tragic on the fly like that, at least I thought while trying to guzzle down as much of my food as possible before I get trapped in this conversation that’s being forced upon me.

“But how rude of me, to rant on about matters you couldn’t possibly care about matters that have very little to do with you,” he replied. “How are you doing?”

It has nothing to do with me, very different from very little. Very little implies there’s an inkling somewhere in there—however small—that might force me into having to care or do something about whatever it is, or it might turn into something that has a lot to do with me.

“Fine I guess, same old,” see, that’s how you fulfill your end of the contract, and I did it all while mostly finishing these noodles, but the chef suddenly handed me another fresh bowl that was pretty surprising to be honest. He’s never done this, nor did I ask or hint for it. At least I don’t think I hinted at it. I hope I didn’t inadvertently give him some kind of secretly known signal between chef and patrons that gives me another bowl that I definitely can’t afford. Oh well, too late now I guess.

“That’s good...” the Knight let out with a more than obvious sigh as if he really wanted someone to talk to.

“ did you lose your horse?” I’ll bite a bit, but I don’t want to dive into that stuff about his lover. Seems kind of complicated, and what do I know about that? Very little.

“It’s a long story,” the knight began with an annoying amount of glee.

Not what I wanted to hear.

“But I will keep it short,” he continued.

I won’t take this mercy shown to me lightly.

“The one who I gave my heart to—the one who I thought I would be spending the rest of my life with, up and stole my horse so that she could run away with my friend to god only knows where...” the Knight lowered his head, looked as if he was about to start sobbing, but drowned himself in his noodles as well for a minute.

Great, so it has to do with the lover. Well, I’m too deep now. I’m not interested, but I’m not going to just up and leave as if he’s pitching some kind of movie story to me, and I just don’t have the time of day for this. Unfortunately, I have all the time in the world right now.

“So you don’t know where they went? She didn’t leave a note or anything?”

“For all I know, she could be in the farthest reaches of the realm, of which I dare not travel to cross into unfamiliar borders—in turn abandoning the throne I so loyally serve, and plan to for the rest of my hopefully honorable days.”

“Right...” he’s still just really committed to it huh. “So, there’s no way you can send a pigeon out or something to track her?”

I actually want to take that back. Regardless of the time period, that’s just pretty creepy, tracking someone down like that. I mean, they left for a reason, as much as that’s got to suck.

“I’ve tried to track down just where she might have gone, but it seems not meant to be...” the knight conceded, and looked to be getting even more upset with himself.

Guess he’s not someone who thinks it’s all that creepy.

“But you can just get a new horse at least, right?” I asked.

The knight buried himself in his noodles again, finishing the rest of his full bowl in one sitting, and beckoning the chef over for another bowl.

Good to know then there is a signal, and I didn’t use it. These are definitely free. But looking at him, it definitely doesn’t seem like I’m doing all that great of a job in making this any easier for him, but hey, I’m not the one who pulled me into this. I wouldn’t have pulled me into this if I knew me.

“I don’t think I could ever replace D’artagnan, not after raising him and going through so many battles with him. We shared our lives together,” the knight reasoned.

“Your horse is named D’artagnan?” Seems a little bit weird. A certain musketeer might not feel so great about that.

“Yes, and he was a beautiful horse—a trust steed who would carry me to victory in every battle I ever found myself in.”

“Sounds like he was pretty talented,” I guess you can say a horse is talented. I’m out of my already very limited element here, so cut me a break. “But I never really said for you to replace him.”

“What?” the Knight looked confused. Not insulted or anything, just confused, as if he thought I was an idiot who had already forgotten what I said.

“I just said to get a new horse is all,” I mentioned again just to make sure he heard right.

“Isn’t that the same thing? I just can’t bring myself to do something like that. Dartagnanon was a precious wedding gift too... ” the emotional knight continued to borderline sob at the loss of his clearly well loved horse that meant a lot to him.

“Nope, those are two very different things. You could never actually replace someone or something like that, at least I’ve never been able to do it myself. Then again, I’m not some be all end all form of measurement when it comes to these sorts of things, but I also haven’t heard of anyone else successfully doing it, so I’m as qualified as anyone I guess.”

“Then what exactly is the difference. I just cannot possibly see myself with anyone else but my D’artagnan, or my love Maria.”

“Well, your Maria is probably totally different. It sounds like this horse is what you really care about. I mean, you’ve mentioned Dartagnanon a bunch, and you only just now named Maria to me. Maybe you knew it wasn’t all that big of a deal she left, but only became a big deal because she took something so important to you, something like Dartagnanon.”

“We...we were betrothed to one another at a young age, and I knew that she wasn’t in favor of it, and to be quite honest, neither was I. However, for the sake of my family, I did my absolute best to make it a happy marriage that would work, and for a while I thought that I might have convinced myself that it indeed was one, but I only ended up making a fool of myself in the end.”

“That’s probably pretty tough, and super old-fashioned. There’s a reason why we don’t really do that kind of stuff anymore. It always makes someone feel curious about what might have been if they weren’t forced into something they didn’t want in the first place. Same goes for anything like that really. Forced into playing Soccer? You might wonder how good of a baseball player you might’ve been if you were allowed to choose that, and in the end, you end up hating Soccer because it’s the one thing that tore you from the other thing you wanted to try.”

“Are you saying I actually hate Maria?” the Knight asked, but wasn’t insulted or anything. He just listened, and honestly just looked pretty surprised with his white mustache fluttering around.

“It’s not like it’s some absolute rule or anything, but it kind of sounds like you’re pissed off she took your Dartagnanon more than anything when I think about it. Thing is, you probably feel guilty feeling that way, right? I mean, you’re expected to have this perfect marriage all laid out for you, and all this time have been trying to make it that way, only for it to fall apart like you both probably figured would happen eventually anyway. Since you kind of feel guilty about it, there’s a little part of you probably trying to cling onto that idea and still make it a truth, or something like that.”

I just realized I’m talking as if I know anything about this. And besides, why am I even entertaining that this is a real thing? It’s definitely some metaphor for something, right? Or at least something that he’s using as some kind of way of not actually directly talking about what really happened. My guess, his wife left with his favorite car or something like that, but close enough either way I guess.

“But what do I know? I probably shouldn’t be involved in this,” I deflected everything I just said, discounting what was already at a pretty low price to begin with.

“No, you are right...” the knight sighed, and slouched back in his chair—rattling around in his suit of armor that really was making him sweat now with a drenched looking face.

“Then if you get a new horse, it’s also a new start in a couple ways. D’artagnan sounds like a pretty awesome horse, but also has some pretty heavy baggage with him.”

“Baggage?” The Knight inquired, acting like he hadn’t ever heard such a modern term before.

Fine, I’ll keep playing along.

“Burdens I guess you can call it then. You know, since Dartagnanon was a wedding gift, it’s kind of like a remnant of her and your memories about all of that. I’m not saying a new horse erased them, but eventually, you’ll run out of space for those memories, because the new ones will just end up overwriting them, see?”

He looked confused again.

“I mean they’ll take their place to the point where they seem like lesser or faded memories. Not outright replaced, but not at the forefront of your thoughts either,” I said with one last slurp. I think that’s it. I can’t have another bowl. I can only hope the chef’s generosity has run out.

“I see...” the Knight thought through it himself for a few moments, and his burdened face looked to be lifting. “Then I will have new burdens to hold, is what you’re saying,” he said with a boastful smirk, as if he had figured something really hard out.

“If you want to look at it that way...” I shrugged. Not on me to tell him how to feel. “At least this way, your new horse will be tied to you, and not shared with someone else you didn’t even really want to share anything with in the first place.”

“Thank you, thank you my friend!” He slapped my back with his annoyingly heavily armored arms. Seriously, I would’ve spilled all my noodles if I was still eating.

“No worries, but I didn’t really do anything,“I’m not being overly humble. I didn’t do anything other than just say what he told me, but in the way I heard it. Not all that helpful or unique.

“Not at all, the next time I find myself around these parts—in this fine establishment that I think I will now frequent more often, I will purchase you the finest and beefiest bowl of noodles, good sir.” the Knight said with a clenched fist, as if he were making some grand speech before battle.

“Sounds good,” I said, and dropped the perfect amount of money on the counter as usual for the chef to collect, and I looked down to see the Knight slap down a few gold pieces. Not my problem if the chef isn’t a fan of this role-play or not.

The two of us entered into the next stage of the awkward encounter—the final one though thankfully. We both left the restaurant at the same time, even when we had no intention of being there together at all, and only just met. I mean, do we try and backtrack the conversation we just ended? Do we start another short one to fill in the silence? What kind of small talk is right to apply here? So many questions that thankfully didn’t need to be answered.

“Then until next time, my friend. I shall tell you the new name of my horse, and with it, I’m sure I will be able to find new love!” He turned to me, and continued to express his now suddenly boisterous optimism, shouting across from me, when there was no crowd noise or anything to shout over.

“Good luck with that,” I waved off, trying to get out of this conversation already before I get given too much credit than I deserve, which is very little to none.

The knight carried on ahead. I mean, really, it all just boils down to me wanting to give him a head start so as to avoid the really dreadful fate of somehow walking on the same path home for a little bit. The last I want is for this to turn into some regular thing or any kind. That’s when he just passed through the archway, and disappeared. Honestly, he just up and vanished—not joining the crowd or anything. Even when I followed behind to leave, I didn’t see who would be a very obvious armored knight walking the streets.

I guess I might need to reevaluate what kind of perfectly normal place I thought this might’ve been.

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