I am going to die tonight, Richard wasn’t startled by this but at the same time he was. Today turned out to be off kilter. Finishing the cig, he cast the remains and the unsmoked carton into the gutter and continued on his way.
He hid in the bushes that lined the right side of the café and watched Kimmy leave and in a hurry. After her car had turned the corner Richard headed to the back.
Richard found something that he didn’t expect, the heavy door was ajar and there was a note, Richard, I am a friend and friend’s help one another. Good luck, be careful, I hope your story is here. Kimmy
He let the note fall from his hand as he stood before the ajar door. He took in a deep breath, no backing out now, he thought. He reached inside and pulled the door open just enough for him to slip in. It closed leaving him in darkness, Richard pulled out his flashlight and turned it on. With that he was able to make his way through the kitchen without much difficulty. Reaching the dining area he turned off the flashlight, as not to alert any passerbyers and anyway there was enough natural light left.
Richard sat down at his booth, this time sitting where Kimmy had this morning. Seeing the empty café was indeed a little spooky, setting down his legal pad and minicorder in front of him. The face clock above the door leading into the kitchen read eight-fifty. Ten minutes he had to wait now, as the minutes slowly ticked by the eeriness grew as the sun finished going down.
Nine-oh-one and the café was still, no heavy air or dinnerware flying about or screaming. Richard looked around disappointed in himself and in Kimmy. She had seemed so sure that the one time happening was real and would happen again. Richard was then convinced by her depiction of it that he was here and waiting for the story. He had fallen for a fable because he was so desperate and an idiot for believing such but he had hope. He wondered if that was why Kimmy left the door ajar to teach him a lesson, though he was pretty sure that he would ignore it.
There was a sudden smell of fire and smoke, but there was nothing to be seen. Richard stood up, intending to search for the source but he was shoved back down and there was a blackened handprint on the front of his shirt.
Richard sat stunned as he stared at the thick black ashen print on his grayish black shirt, then looked about. Not fear but in curiosity.
“Hello?” Richard asked the empty café.
“You wish for death, do you not?” an echoy rough male voice spoke.
“That would depend on tonight.” Richard said steady.
“Speak and quickly!”
“If I get my story tonight or not.” Richard said.
“You show no fear.”
“Why not, if I want to die?” Richard questioned.
“But you can’t see me yet you are talking to me.”
“Because I don’t think this is really happening.”
Richard felt a sharp pain in his gut and screamed as he started bleeding.
“Now is it real enough!” The voice raged, “did you not see ever clearer today?”
Richard laid in the booth hand over his bleeding wound, gasping in pain. Mind unable to think clearly to respond, I have been stabbed, he thought, “What do you mean?”
“For the last five years you have been living in a sort of trance. Today was different as it was the sign of your coming death.”
Richard, on the conscious level, was too high in pain to think much of anything. However, in the far recesses of his mind, what the voice said was true. Unconsciously he knew that he was going to die tonight, hell he even thought it as he smoked.
“What do you want?” Richard said scared, his conscious level was not ready.
“I want to be named and my unmarked grave known.”
Richard gasped, “Why an unmarked grave? You a criminal?”
“Mr. Norm, you are aware that you can die from your wound.” The voice said.
Richard nodded and arched his back in pain, “Just a question.”
“You are the first.” The voice considered, “legends have been made about my great skill with forging iron and steel and me being well-known and highly-spoken of. However, at the ends of all the legends they just say that I disappeared. When I was murdered over a shard of an unknown metal, it wouldn’t get hot or bend.” The voice said.
Richard was not liking the fact that the blood was oozing through his fingers steadily, “Please, I want to help you.”
“Why?” The voice asked.
“’Cause my wife and unborn child died in a car crash that should have been me.”
“Boohoo, men always say that.”
“But this time it is the truth.”
“Rich, baby, where are you?” Morgan called from the front room.
Richard was in the bedroom bent over a legal pad with his hand moving fiercely along.
“Hon-” Morgan stopped dead in the doorway just as Richard dropped the pen and flexed his hand, “Sorry.”
“It is ok I just had to get an idea out.” He smiled, stood up running his hands up her body as he did and hid his face in her long hair.
Morgan’s breath quickened.
“What did you want to ask me?”
Morgan looked at him hesitantly then smiled, “I’ll go to the store, you stay and keep working.”
“Are you sure, because I can go.”
“No, I’ll go, what do you want for dinner?”
Richard held her close, “Surprise me,” then kissed her fully on the mouth. She was sweeter than a Hershey Kiss.
“Ok, love you, I will be back.”
“The next time I saw her I was identifying her body in the morgue. And a week later I got the news that she was four weeks pregnant.” Richard had tears mixed with sweat but forced himself to continue, “You want to be remembered by name and I want to give my wife the best story I can muster up.” He was then struck with a name and said it, “Gaylin.”
“My name, you knew my name.” Gaylin choked with tears.
“Yes, please if you can give me more time I can tell our story.” Richard said.
“Norm, you have been dead for an hour now. But I will give you back to the earth to write the story, then you will have your wife and little girl.”
“Girl?” Richard started to cry, “I have a little girl.”
“Yes, hang on.”
The café started to spin faster and faster to the point Richard had to close his eyes. Then after a few seconds he opened his eyes. His wound was gone, the face-clock read ten o’clock and sitting in front of him was a transparent typewriter with a stack of paper next to it. On the other side was the minicorder and the legal pad.
Richard looked up and there stood Gaylin, a thick structure, balding on top but had a full dark beard and dressed in blacksmith clothing, dirty and smiling, “Mr. Norm, thank you.” Gaylin vanished.
“Your welcome, and thank you.” Richard said and began to write.
Richard Norm finished pounding the story out on the ghostly typewriter. Took up the minicorder thumbed the switch to Record and spoke his final earthly words. When that was done he set the minicorder beside the manuscript, then tore off the front page of the legal pad and penned, The Midnight Café. And set it on top of the typed story. Appearing at his side was his wife and little girl, Richard slid out of the booth, took both by the hand.
“Let’s go home.”
Kimmy is about to open the café, bracing herself for what she might find in there. She had come to love Richard as a brother. Having felt sorry for him, she gave him the only aid she could by leaving the back door unlocked.
Expecting a huge mess of broken glass, she found the opposite when she opened the door.
“Richard?” She calls out hopeful. Hoping against all odds that it was just a one time ordeal.
When she receives no form of an answer her eyes gravitate to the booth that Richard always sits. Her heart quickens as she sees something on the table, and with slow heavy steps she walks to the booth.
Stopping beside the booth, she gasps and collapses into the seat, where she had sat the morning prior. With one shaky hand she grabs the page of dull yellow, turns it right and reads the hand written title, The Midnight Café. A sad smile touches the corners on her mouth when she sees the minicorder. Taking it in her hand, steadying her breathing. She slides the switch down one notch to the play position the reels turn and out comes Richard’s voice. As happy as can be.
In life we all hope to make our mark in history before we wink out of existence. I believe this story will be my mark, though, I hope I will be able to clear a mark off of the face of history. The legend of the greatest iron and steel forger, his name is Gaylin. He was murdered and buried here, where the café stands. Through me, his story is cleared of it’s blemish and the café no longer needs to fear. I am the last victim and as I am about to leave the lair of the living I give my last bit of advice. Every life amounts to something, just go for it and make your own mark.
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