From “Liminal Rites” – Chapter Two: Jasmine Tea (Fiction)

Liminal Rites” is a surreal detective/horror/dark comedy story which I’m writing at the moment. It will be published on its own blog (which can be found here) and, so far, the prologue and the first five chapters can be found there and the story is still getting started.

I might publish selected chapters (probably the less strange and horrific ones) on here too. So, here’s chapter two – it’s one of my favourite chapters [along with the prologue, chapter three, chapter five and chapter six (coming soon…)] which introduces The Caffe Noire, which will probably be one of the main settings in this story.

Anyway, without any further ado, I am very proud to present chapter two of “Liminal Rites”.

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Chapter Two – Jasmine Tea

All it said was ‘Jasmine Tea, The Caffe Noire’.

Ten minutes later, I was walking along the high street. Since the other students had already left and the tourists hadn’t arrived, the town looked as deflated as a punctured blowfish. The extravagant novelty had been sucked out of it and only an unremarkable shell remained. All of the shops were still open though, with no-one but the staff standing behind the counters and the occasional customer perched over a shelf like a raven pecking away at a bus after the apocalypse had hit.

Yeah, if this town was anything at the moment, it was ripe for an apocalypse. Even the cars crawled along the main street slowly, dodging the occasional carrier bag which rolled like tumbleweed across the road. Even my empty house had more life than this place. Still, I had a case to solve.

I’d never actually been to The Caffe Noire before, but I’d walked past it on a couple of hazy nights out. In daylight, it looked almost pathetic – a thin spite house of a building leaning against the wall of the alleyway next to the Regal Court pub. The leaking drain on the side of it just confirmed my idea that it had been inspired by the thousands of drunk guys who had left their mark on the walls of this alleyway over the years.

Still, it apparently served jasmine tea. And, well, a case is a case and tea is tea.

I walked over to the door and turned the handle. Despite the “open” sign in the window, the door didn’t even budge. This wasn’t a good sign. I was about to turn away when I saw movement behind the window. So, wincing slightly, I turned the handle again and put my shoulder to the door. With a loud creak and a sprinkle of red paint flakes, it opened reluctantly.

"The Caffe Noire" By C. A. Brown (This image is released under a Creative Commons BY- NC- ND licence).

“The Caffe Noire” By C. A. Brown (This image is released under a Creative Commons BY- NC- ND licence).

To my surprise, the cafe was pretty much full. In fact, in all of my time in this town, I’d never seen a single one of the customers before. Most of them looked fairly ordinary, but a woman in an extravagant floral dress sitting in the corner caught my eye. She couldn’t have been much older than thirty, but she looked like she’d stepped out of an old novel. Likewise with the old guy in the yellow suit leaning against the faded mural on the far wall.

As I neared on the counter, I found myself staring at the tip bowl. It was filled with pennies and was watched over by the beady eyes of a blue plastic Chameleon. Someone had painted it’s eyes with glow in the dark paint and, in the gloom of the cafe, they glowed like luminol-soaked blood under UV light. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t somewhere you would bring your friends to. Well, maybe not all of them.

‘What can I get you?’ The voice came from behind a stack of boxes on the other end of the counter.

‘Er… A jasmine tea please.’ I stuttered as I rustled a fiver out of my purse..

The whole place went silent before I could even get the last syllable out. Everyone looked at me. Obviously they didn’t like jasmine tea here.

Finally, a short man with a grey moustache and a blue apron emerged from behind the boxes and joined the others in staring at me. I raised an eyebrow and asked again. Speaking the two words as if they were some kind of magic incantation. Jas-mine tea. The silence deepened and everyone’s eyes widened.

After what felt like a minute, the man behind the counter took my money with trembling hands and just said: ‘One jasmine tea. Give me a minute…’

Everyone kept staring at me.