A Chill Came Upon
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A chill had snapped across the morning air. It was the kind that twisted against exposed flesh and pressed down upon you like a blanket of pins. The Larkan Bureau of Meteorology did not forecast it. Still, I had work to do, so I trekked on with my fingers deep within my coat until I unlocked the door to the Matron Café. My very own, I might add. As I entered the pendant hanging on my necklace, which I always kept hidden beneath my clothing for reasons I can only speculate, suddenly felt weighted. I turned around the space as if expecting that I was no longer alone.

When my isolation was reassured, I pulled out my pendant to re-examine it. It was a simple shard of glass, with its edges seemingly dulled as to stop anyone from cutting themselves. Who exactly crafted this rather ugly necklace, where I got it and why exactly I wore it was unknown to me. Even now.

I turned on the lights, unbuttoned my coat, and quickly readied the fireplace. I remember it was particularly stubborn to stir, but with a polite jab at the timber wood and a couple of paper shavings, the flame yawned and began to burn. The flame's heat managed to beat some feeling back into my hands. There was a world of warmth right there, far from the chill of my café and the even colder world outside.

Reluctantly I got to work. I started with the coffee machine, steaming the milk jug dry with the exhaust pipe attached to the machine, simultaneously clearing the pipe of any condensation, and then prepared a shot of espresso inside my favourite mug.

For clarity, I need to do this every morning. Not only do you get a fine coffee to tune your senses, but you must taste the coffee and ensure it's fine enough for customers.

I then steamed the milk and poured it slowly so no foam slipped into the mug until enough milk had poured into it. Then I took a sip of my coffee, letting the taste settle on my tongue and smiled. It was scrumptious. I then began flipping chairs off tables, turning on lights and brought out the cakes and sweets into the small, glass window display beside the counter. Normally we prepared these items the morning of, but my baker Toby had an important errand to run so it was just me in for today. Not ideal, but due to the weather, I shouldn't have needed the help anyway.

Anywho, it was time to open so I unlocked the front door and flipped the sign to 'welcome: Vampires Excluded.'

It was dismally quiet. I don’t know if it was the weather, the exhaustion from all that excitement with the Oracle who visited not too long ago or simply a slow day , but it was awful. A few people were gliding past, and some took a muffin and a coffee to go, and of course, Beth and her husband XX-35 sat down to have their usual.

Sorry, anyway it was so dull. I looked out the windows and watched whatever pathetic foot traffic was eventually lulled until it was empty. That’s the trouble with unseasonal cold snaps! People just can’t handle it. I had hoped the yetis down the street would come by, but I suppose weather like this was unprecedented and they’d probably be enjoying the weather in the park or something.

Sorry, the streets were empty except for this woman. At a distance, she approached my shop with a slightly fettered aura about their character. Her skin was about as white as paper, literally, I might add. Her hair was this pale blond and was pulled into a proper bun with an impressively long side part brushing the side of her narrow face. She walked with her hands held stiffly behind her back, her shoulders square and her gaze steadfast and strong.

She came to the door of my cafe and stepped inside. I attentively stopped wiping down a nearby table and approached her with my usual, comforting smile.

“Oof, it’s awfully cold outside. Will you be sitting in?”

To be honest, I hadn't even waited for the lady to enter before I rushed towards her. I was a little too desperate. So when I had finally approached her, and said what I said, I must admit I fell a little light-headed. The woman stood taller than I had realised, about seven feet tall I’d wager.

The Woman looked down at me, digesting my question.

“I will,” the Woman huffed, taking off her blue coat and folding it over her arm.

Her voice was raspy with a slight grave quality about it. At first, I was surprised, for it didn’t appear to match her visage. Yet somehow, after quick consideration, it seemed to match her all too well. It was like nails inside a blender.

Without the heavy coat blocking her silhouette, she seemed painfully skinny. It reminded me of wrapping old, broken chicken bones with a clean wrap. It looked as if one wrong movement would send her elbow ripping through the sleeve of her flesh. Still, she was tall and many humanoids who grow to such lengths lean towards the skinny side. It was normal to me.

I noticed that I had drifted off and quickly led the woman towards a table seated by a window. She sat herself down, her legs spreading forward to accommodate her length. She looked at me expectantly.

I gasped and quickly took out my notepad. “What can I get for you to start?”

“I would like Pu'er tea, with two ice cubes on the side.”

I blinked. “Ma’am?”

“You can do that for me, Miss…?”

“Gording. Call me Gording. And yes we can do that for you. A bit cold for ice cubes, isn’t it?”

The question seemed grating to the woman.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend…”

“Please just stop.”

I grimaced and then ventured a smile.

“Could I get a name for the order?”


I folded my notepad away.

“I’ll be back with your order shortly.”

Emily had barely touched her drink. I saw her taking a small sip and smile before she seemingly lost interest and began sucking on an ice cube instead. This process effectively continued on a loop until she seemingly grew tired of the routine and simply swallowed the ice cubes whole. Then, as anyone else would, she began sipping at her tea. I eventually brought out the two hot-cross buns she ordered when I served her tea and ice cubes. I sat them down and simply left her be.

Now look I know it really isn’t polite to stare at customers, but there was just a little something about her. Maybe it was because she was, broadly speaking, attractive in a symmetrical sort of way. Or at least there was the general impression of someone attractive. I don’t know how to describe it. It was honestly like looking at a grotesque injury that’s too unappealing to look at but too intriguing to turn away. But in this case, it wasn’t ugly or…well she did strike me as brutal. Regardless of her physical appearance, something was clearly chipping away at her. She restlessly stabbed into one of the hot-cross buns with a knife before her and chewed down a bite.

Frost began to coat the windows.

I shivered and turned on the automated heating system, the fireplace clearly struggling against the near-winter levels of cold outside. XX-35 removed his coat and handed it to Beth who curled herself thankfully into it.


The chill also began to nip at me, and so I tossed on my old hoodie which I kept under the till. It worked well enough, although I felt an inkling that things would change. I could see the trees dotting the street outside begin to sway in a thorough current of winds flowing outside. I briefly turned back towards Emily, as she was my only customer besides the two elderly lovers, and honestly found myself stunned.

I watched, just as my gaze turned to her, as she pulled something from within the pocket of her coat, which had been placed on a chair she’d pulled beside her.

It was a served head!

I understand Larkan hosts all kinds of creatures, but this was rather unorthodox, at least in my café. She gently sat it across from her and then leaned back and folded her arms. Then nothing. I thought I should turn away, but curiosity got the better of me. Emily waited before, with a sharp huff, picking up one of her hot-cross buns and taking another, more violent bite.

The head belongs to a bald man still wearing a pair of dark, black sunglasses. The head was standing on something protecting from the head's base - a metal ring covered in circuits. Despite its metallic qualities, it resembled the topmost vertebrae of a human spine. It dawned on me that it most likely was a kind of vertebrae.

“Well, where is it?”

I realised she was talking to the head. It said nothing in response, which left me feeling more and more like I should turn away.

“It is here, I’m sure of it.” The Head suddenly

It, or really ‘he’ I’d suppose, sounded normal. Well more normal than most of the talking heads I’d seen. There was some at that pop-up market last spring with the foulest mouths I’d ever seen.

“You need to be more specific, Seven. You said it would be here based on studying comparisons between local materia. All I see is a coffee house.”

“Technically speaking, it is a café.”

“Don’t get smart with me.”

I was slightly captivated watching the scene. Even Beth and XX-35 began eyeing the two via brief glances, or in the case of XX-35, twisting their heads right round to watch. Beth prodded him on the hand and his head reared round to face her with slight shame.

“My queen, I am not lying. You’ve seen the same readings as I have.”

Emily scowled at the talking head, however, she eventually leaned once more and again crossed her arms, this time in defeat.

“If you are lying, remember I can simply examine the data stored inside you with or without you alive.”

“And yet I am alive.”

I bit my lip, somewhat impressed by the amount of snark within a space so small. I turned away and began absentmindedly whipping the front counter. Emily waited in silence, looking around my business with completely cold eyes. Then her gaze lingered on me and, with great effort, she began to speak at me.

“You, uh Gording. Have you seen any pieces or fragments of a mirror?”

My hand lurched to my chest, to the palace where my necklace was hidden underneath my apron. Emily eyed me suspiciously before those eyes grew wide with what I can only describe as lust. Greed was too simple a word for it. It looked like an obsession so perverted that most words fail to describe it! She stood up, her hip smacking against the lip of the table, the head on top of it wobbling nervously before calmly settling back in place.

“I see you’re wearing a necklace. Why, I can’t see whatever pendant hangs on it. Show it to me.”

It appeared that Emily intended to reach out her hand to simply illustrate curiosity, however, her hand instead snatched forward as if to claw at me. I stumbled back, smacking into the cabinets lining the wall behind the counter. A teacup was launched off its shelf and smashed against the tiled floor.

“No!” I hissed. “Take your head and get the hell out of my property.”

Emily stared at me, her eyes turning raw. She marched towards the front door and then stopped just in front of it.

“You forgot your head,” I said, suddenly panting.

Emily cocked her head slightly in my direction but didn’t seem to give me the dignity of her total attention.

“Oh I’m not leaving, not yet,” She said, with a smile.

She gently pressed the palm of her hand against the door and to my horror, frost flashed across its surface. The wall of my cafe began to groan as it cracked and shivered underneath the quickly spreading chill. It began to snow. I could see them, snowflakes, I mean. Many of them were larger than normal snow, about the size of an ant - you could actually see the patterns if you squint! They drifted around the air, growing ever more concentrated by the second. I dug my hands into my armpits and watched clouds of air float from my mouth.

“Please, just leave me alone.”

Emily turned towards me, ignoring poor, old Beth who was starting to shiver and shake violently. Emily raised one hand into the air and gracefully cocked it to the side, liquid nitrogen poured from out her fingertips. It ceased, the substance pooling at her feet, the mist emitted from it soon curling around at our feet.

“Allow me to illustrate that you are in no way getting out of here alive,” Emily said dryly. She walked towards me in a slow march. “Unless you hand me whatever hangs around your neck.”

It was then XX-35 lept onto his feet and rushed Emily. With one metal arm raised he then threw it violently down upon Emily. Just as quickly she spun around, stumbling back and dodged the attack. In one sweeping motion of her hand, a thick and elongated icicle shot out from the pond of nitrogen and impaired XX-35 in the chest. His feet now hanging above the ground, he floundered and struggled and he fruitlessly tried to pull himself off of the icicle. Emily sighed in relief, tucking a loose thread of hair behind her ear. Patting herself down she turned back to me.

“Now, last time I checked…Humans don’t take to being stabbed through the…” Emily trailed off, quickly examining where the icicle had impaled XX-35. “Though the heart? Yes, that’s it…”

“What are you?” I sputtered. Although I was not frozen, I could not move.

“Desperate. I need that mirror shard! Show me what hangs around your neck. I am being diplomatic.”

Again I clutched the place where my necklace hung. It was such a simple thing, which I wore out of habit more than any sense of style. I rarely took it off and often felt incomplete whenever I did. I slowly pulled it out from under my shirt and examined it.

Oh, how it gleamed! That little shard of green glass would be something ugly if it weren’t mine. It was this precious little thing that sparkled like diamonds, or better yet, the ocean at sunset! Oh God, it was then I silently began begging for warmth.

Emily seemed to quiver when she saw what hung around my neck. Heavy bags formed from underneath her eyes, and her lips appeared to curdle.

I turned back to her, the tiny thing heavy like a saucepan around my neck. A mounting pressure in the corners of my mind, which I’d since left unnoticed, emerged a voice that sounded like my own.

Do not do it. Do not do it. I am yours. I am mine. You are mine.

Yes, I then thought in turn. This piece of glass is mine.

It felt warm in my hands, although my skin remained cold. I could feel images unfurl in my mind. Future days that I dared not describe, for it felt like an infernal heat to instead keep these new secrets to myself. Infant, that’s how I know how Beth was to die, and the fate of XX-35.

I’ve yet to experience it! Why…It’s strange… No, never mind.

I then eyed the neglected head still sitting where Emily was once seated.

I turned raw with greed back towards Emily and then spun around and reached for one of the decorative frying pans I hung behind the counter. I then threw it with great force at the head, smacking into it triumphantly. The head wailed as it was knocked face-first onto the snowy laid floor. Emily briefly turned towards her companion, unimpressed. With a shrug, she turned back to me and then suddenly thrust her hand towards me.

To be honest, this was where it all went blank. There was an agony like anything I’d expected to find in the simple cold. I could feel my blood paradoxically boil as it froze in place. Unable to move, Emily found no issue in plucking my necklace from me. My vision began to glaze and fog over as the thief plucked up their bodiless companion, made a condescending remark to it, and then simply left by smashing open a window with the aid of a chair.

I think XX-35 carried Beth out and then sprinted off someplace away. I don’t recall. Really, I don’t know.

But thank you for listening to me.

Tell me, where am I?

The Woman in Black simply smiled, nodding to the woman frozen in place against the wall. Her black raincoat was simple, although underneath the light you could vaguely make out images of skulls swimming about the bottom rims of it. Her eyes were sweet and her hair was dark.

“Who are you, why am I…?” Gording whispered.

Behind the woman flashed the red and blue lights of a Larkan Ambulance. Paramedics climbed desperately through the window and hopelessly gawked at the scene.

“We need extra-ordinary help if we’re to save her. Contact the Sharpen Academy!” Barked a Senior Paramedic.

They moved past the Woman in Black, who remained unnoticed by the now-swarming paramedics.

“Are you here to help me…?” Groaned Gording.

“Always,” The Woman Replied.

“Of course Gording, we’re here for you.” Said one Paramedic, staring hopelessly at his medical bag.

The Woman in Black took a step forward, tilting her head off to the side

“What…what will you do…” Gording managed.

“Nothing, not yet.” Said the Woman.

By now various paramedics were chipping away at the ice around Golding, whose eyes began to fog as she began dipping in and out of consciousness. The Woman in Black simply stood and waited. She’d wait and simply smile, for waiting was not a difficult task at all. She had been waiting for a good while, since before the first spark and of course she’d be there long after that brief spark flared out.

She’d be there for Larken too.

Very soon.

Far away, the Woman knew, Emily was stepping into an orb of light continued within a set of golden rings, which were in turn attached to a brilliant snow-sled. Emily faded from Larkan, not for the last time.

Things were moving and pieces. Nothing unexpected, and nothing old. Nothing was old, actually. Not to the Woman in Black.

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