A little more symbolic

David Stark / Zarkonnen
15 Dec 2015, 11:01 p.m.

A quick story derived from a writing prompt.

I opened the door carefully, watching out for the cat. Given half a chance, he'd escape into the stairwell, get confused, and try to break into the neighbours' flat thinking it was ours.

No cat, though, just a clink of silverware on crockery.

"Hello!", an unknown female voice came from the living room. Now, as far as I knew, my flatmates were both at work, but perhaps they had returned early, with guests?

I peeled off my jacket and dropped my rucksack and went through to the living room. No flatmates. Just a man and a woman, very tall, with very fair skin, sitting on the sofa. A multi-tiered cake, impractically tall, red velvet and bone-white glazing, rose from the table. A single precise slice had been cleanly cut out and was resting on a plate in front of the two visitors. A smell of rose, sandalwood and seaweed hung in the air.

They even brought their own plates, this isn't one of ours, I thought, seizing on the smallest bit of weirdness in the scene.

"Do sit down and have a slice," the woman said, in a tone of voice that suggested a kindly but concerned British headmistress who had invited you around to have a little chat.

Perplexed, I sat down on the chair opposite. The man smiled kindly and poured me some tea.

"Milk? Sugar?"

I indicated my preferences and the man complied. The woman handed me a plate with cake, another perfect slice. I hadn't seen her cut it, and to think of it, there was no knife to be seen anywhere.

"Thanks for having us around. Now, we want to talk to you about making this reality a bit more symbolic."

I blinked and sipped my tea.

"You see, in most realities there's some kind of symbolism. A motif of migrating birds denoting freedom. An evil man with a scar shaped like a gallows. A sudden frost presaging the end of a romance. Your reality, though, is impoverished. Random. A little boring, if we're honest."

The man looked at me with his golden eyes.

"We're here to fix that. What we offer... it isn't good or bad for you, as such. But it would be altogether more interesting. There would be more possibilities for you."

The woman, in her green dress, looked at me too, and then at the cake. I picked up the fork. Elegant and silver, also not one of ours.

I dropped the fork on the floor.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. Let me just get a new one."

Before my visitors could react, I went to the kitchen, opened the drawers, and got myself one of my own forks, plain and iron. I sat back down again, picked up the plate and touched the slice of cake with my new fork. A shimmering, a smell of rot, and the slice turned into a pile of leaves.

My visitors' eyes went wide and flashed. I dove to the side, grabbed the body and lid of the steel paper bin next to the chair, and flung one at each of the visitors. A thunderclap, a rain of sodden leaves, twigs and little blue flowers, and they were gone.

The cat shot out from under the sofa, yowling. I got the dustpan and brush and started to clean up.