This is a companion piece to a short fantasy story written by the wonderful Diana Wallace Peach, itself an exercise based around a visual prompt (great image, fabulous writing). So if you haven’t already done so, you need to check out “I Am Worldmaker” before reading on!
The Unwitting Worldshifter
“Oh shit…” I mutter as the wet glass slides through my fingers and rushes towards the scruffy terracotta coloured tiles. There’s the briefest of moments when all I can do is stare at the damn thing, unable to force a limb to respond, to perhaps break the fall with an outstretched foot. And then it strikes and bounces into pieces across the diner’s kitchen floor. The crash and tinkle brings the usual cheer from the punters on the other side of the door, which means that Jo-Beth will have heard and will be through to give me some more grief. Sure enough, the blue door swings open and the proprietor of this slice of American pie strides in, all harassed features and anguished hands wiping down her stained white apron.
“Whatcha broken now?”
“Umm, just a glass. Sorry. I’ll get it swept up. Errr… yeah… sorry.” Christ, I am such a smooth talking dude. You’d think that hitch-hiking across North America for the past five months would have knocked some of the awkward Brit out of me, but apparently not. And even though I’m now in my thirties I still blush and mumble like a bloody fifteen year old.
“C’mon Mike, we’re not a charity. We can’t afford to keep replacing all the things you keep breakin’.” She stares at me, hands on hefty hips, exasperation pulsing out of her face, a strand of dyed blonde hair falling across her lined eyes as she glares at me. I like Jo-Beth, but as with most of my all-too-transient employers, she’s liking me less and less.
“Uh, yeah. Sorry.” Wow, three sorrys in the space of ten seconds. I apologised to a bar stool yesterday. I am so embarrassingly English.
She sighs, turns on her low, rubbered heels and returns to her customers through the swing door; I stare at it blankly as it buh-whops back and forth to stillness. Doorways have always fascinated me.
The shattered glass glints and sparkles between me and the door. I don’t know what’s come over me recently but I seem to be more clumsy than I’ve ever been before. Every now and then for the past week or so my fingers have got hot and achy, causing me to drop or knock over various items of crockery belonging to the Diamond Diner. I hope it’s not the first signs of some kind of debilitating illness, like Parkinson’s or a brain tumour. It’s probably not. There. The internal doctor of the average British male has spoken, so no need to go and get it checked out. And certainly not in America where they actually want to take money off you for telling you that you’re going to die.
I’m just reaching for the dustpan and brush when I feel something else; my hands are quivering and sweat’s starting to pour off me. A blinding flash rips though my head and forces me down on to my hands and knees. I’ve got my eyes screwed shut and my teeth are chattering as I try and clench them together to prevent me from biting into my tongue, which itself is fizzing with all kinds of tastes. There are stars, not just the blood banging behind my eyelids, but vast exploding suns out there in the cosmos. And in my head at the same time. As I slowly collapse onto my face I see a comet, a burning meteor ploughing into the ocean. And a woman’s face fading into black.
I regain consciousness, aware of the saliva pooling around my cheek pressed into the tiles. With a groan I ease over onto my back and stare at the grease-spattered ceiling.
I know it was free, but I really shouldn’t have had that 3-day-old burger for lunch.