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SEVEN

The boy and Beth stepped into the diner. It wasn’t very busy. Just some overweight guy with a Peterbilt cap and a full beard, a young couple having a milkshake and a guy in a suit working behind a laptop. As they came in, they were immediately greeted by the kind waitress.

“Hey, it’s you! Oh… And Beth! Long time no see.”

“Hello Melanie,” Beth said.

“Are you already here to pick up the clothes with me? You’re a bit early. My shift isn’t over yet,” Melanie the waitress told the boy.

“We’d like to have something to eat first,” he said.

“Oh, of course. Have a seat and I will be right with you with the menus.”

Beth and the boy had a seat near the window. Melanie quickly returned with the menus. They decided what to order pretty quickly and so Melanie walked back to the kitchen a few minutes later.

Beth sighed. “I do hope I can eat something. Part of my is feeling hungry, part of me has the feeling I won’t be able to eat anything. My stomach is pretty upset about the thought that tomorrow I will be part of a full bodied exorcism.”

“I will be there to help you go through it,” the boy said.

“That’s very kind. Hey, I just realized… Where are you staying tonight?”

“I will probably sleep outside. It’s not very cold. I usually only sleep in hotels when it’s colder. Saves money.”

“No way! You can sleep on my couch if you want,” Beth said. “You really lead the life of a drifter don’t you?”

“Kind of, yes.”

Beth smiled. “And I thought my life was exceptional.”

Melanie arrived with a veggie pizza and a Cherry Coke for the boy and a hamburger and fries for Beth. They thanked her for the food.

“Enjoy. It’s good to see you, Beth. How are you?” Melanie asked.

“Hard to say at the moment,” Beth said. “Hopefully better tomorrow.”

Melanie raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”

“Never mind,” Beth said. “I’m fine.”

“All right. Come in more often,” Melanie said.

“Sure,” Beth answered.

Melanie went back to work. The boy sipped his Coke and started eating pizza. Beth toyed with a French fry for a moment, dipping it in ketchup. She just stared at it. The ketchup started to become a darker color of red. It started to seep off the plate. It looked like blood. It dripped off the plate. A hand shot up out of the pile of fries, it was a greenish color with broken fingernails. It grabbed her wrist. She screamed.

“What is wrong? Are you seeing things again?” the boy asked, worried.

The hand was gone again, the ketchup was ketchup again. The other customers in the diner looked at Beth. Although she of course couldn’t hear what they were saying she understood they were probably whispering to each other that she was crazy. She would be so glad when those crazy hallucinations would stop. Or whatever they were.

“I’m okay again. They’re gone,” Beth said.

“What did you see? Was it scary?” the boy said, very interested.

“Very scary. Freaky.” She looked at the window, seeing her own reflection. There were tears in her eyes. Her reflection seemed to warp then, shimmer… Her eyes turning red, her lips starting to look more bloodied, her ears becoming sharper, like an elf or like that alien in the Star Trek show. Scales started to grow on her face. Not again, not again those stupid hallucinations.

The boy was looking at the window as well. Staring. What did he see there? Then the reflection jumped out of the mirror, grabbing Beth by the throat. She tried to scream but couldn’t, the grip of the mutant reflection to strong. She told herself it was not real, ordered her mind to come to her senses, but that didn’t help. She saw the boy stand up. She couldn’t concentrate, not able to read his lips. But there was clear surprise in his eyes. Could it be? Was that thing trying to squeeze the life out of her real?

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Jochem Vandersteen

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