I walked down the cobbled street, the dull stones reflecting my mood perfectly. The sun was drooping past the horizon, slowly slipping beyond my sight. I turned to walk past an alley when something at the end of it caught my eye: a restaurant. I had never seen this restaurant before; the Victorian architecture was appealing. I decided to have a peep inside.
The restaurant was dark. Only a few candles lit the walls like stars in a dark sky. There was a black counter decorated with small shrubberies waiting for me. I also noticed a bell on the table with a sign next to it that read: Please ring the bell to be seated. The warm heat of the restaurant was a pleasant contrast to the outside cold and I thought something like this would be a great story to tell. I was also very hungry. I reached out my hand and rung the bell.
The sound echoed through the empty restaurant, and I waited to be seated. It only then occurred to me the weirdness of my situation. A figure came from a door behind the counter. It was like a shadow, fingers long and curved, like many small knives. Its head was speckled with white dots, its mouth a twisted Jack-o’-lantern, curved into a permanent red smile. “Follow me,” it said, voice refined, like a smooth lavish plate.
It started to walk away, waiter uniform swaying. My heart was beating fast, but it had to be a costume– some elaborate attire to bring in more customers. I breathed deeply and followed it to the seating area.
The tables were a dark mahogany, with red tablecloths, napkins, silverware, candles, and bouquets of autumn colored flowers. The waiter sat me down in an ornate chair.
“What would you like to drink?”
I could barely speak. “W-water.”
It nodded. Only when it started to walk away did I realize I had no menu.
“Wait, where is the menu?”
The waiter turned around with effortless ease, “You can order anything here as long as you can afford it,” it continued, disappearing behind two hinged doors behind the counter.
I sat there in silence, too shocked to move. A moment passed and the doors opened again, the waiter bringing a shiny tray bearing a glass of water adorned with a ripe lemon.
The waiter set it down next to me. “Have you decided on what you are going to order?”
I thought for a long moment. “A steak?” I questioned, not sure of anything.
“Coming right up.” The waiter once again disappeared behind the doors, leaving silence to surround me. I thought about leaving, but the restaurant served anything, and I was seriously craving a steak.
It had only been a minute before the waiter came out again. It still had the same polished tray but with a new masterpiece. I could taste the steak’s juiciness just by looking at it, the rosemary smell mixed with a slight char. The waiter set the jewel of a dish down in front of me, slightly bowing, and declared, “Enjoy your meal.” I hardly noticed it when it went through the doors as my mouth watered. I cut out a piece and introduced my mouth to a number of previously unknown spices. I ate the meal with complete and utter joy. I wiped the juice off my mouth with a napkin, setting it down next to my now empty plate.
The doors opened again, and the waiter picked up my plate, replacing it with a check. I hadn’t even thought of the cost. I skimmed the receipt hoping the bill wasn’t too expensive. I almost laughed when I saw the number– the wonderful meal had only cost me eleven dollars.
I pulled out my credit card and placed it on top of the receipt adding a generous tip of five dollars for the smooth service. The waiter took the bill right after. I waited only a second before it came back. I signed the receipt with an included pen, picked up my credit card, and walked towards the exit.
As I opened the ornate doors the waiter said, bowing slightly, “Have a good evening.”
The door shut behind me and I was hit by the cold wind of reality. The alleyway was now much darker than it had been, the moon a bright dot in the sky. I stumbled through the shadowed alley and back onto the bumpy street. The cobblestones looked shiny.
Illustration by Collette Harrison