...dial RR for damn fine coffee

Thursday 17th May. 19:30, The Bethnal Green Working Man's club, London

“Dianne! Dianne! You alright back there?!”

– Georges barked over the fierce growl of the engine and the screech of howling brakes, as, gripping the wheel for dear life, he negotiated yet another hairpin bend in the road at a speed he feared this battered jalopy would not be able to sustain for long.

“take it easy honey, it’s all under control”

Georges shot a glance over his dark glasses into the cracked rear view mirror. Dianne was reclining on the back seat casually finishing off a cigarette, one hand resting lightly on the door handle to steady herself against the vehicle's violent shuddering. Her eyes hidden behind large shades, a hint of a wistful smile hovering about her lips she nodded faintly along to the rhythm of a song only she could hear, at odds with the pounding thrum all around her. Now and then she glanced across at the man next to her who was sitting bolt upright and maintaining a grim silence. Wide eyed and unblinking he stared straight ahead right into the back of Georges' neck. An unsociable manner at least partially explained by a recent encounter with the back end of a .45 followed by complications involving an alto saxaphone and a rare brand of horse tranquilliser. It may well have also been the result of psychological issues rooted deep in its bearer’s murky past but this was something Georges wasn’t willing to delve into at this stage. The first explanation was fine for now.

“I have no idea where this will take us but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange!”

Georges flashed his teeth in a wide wolf grin at the thought that this was his ticket out of here. The chance to finally get to the bottom of everything and get his paws on a few answers. But first he had to make it out of this forest. The road jittered all over the place providing only the narrowest of openings through the firs which flashed past him in a dizzying whirl of dark green foliage. His way only partly lit by the car's failing headlights and sporadic splinters of moonlight falling from a sickle moon scratched out of a night the colour of the strongest black coffee. Georges kept his eyes manically fastened on the broken white line flickering in the gloom ahead of him.

Then all the lights went out. Plunged into darkness, the wheel spun out of Georges’ hands, and sparks flying off its battered frame, the car leapt into the undergrowth. A suffocating blanket of silence fell thickly, broken only by the soft hoot of an owl, the hissing radiator and the distant sound of a dismembered hubcap rattling to a standstill on the now abandoned road. After a short while he regained consciousness. Snatching his fraying nerves together he shakily struck a match and looked behind him.

A sickly sweet sense of fear slowly suffused the atmosphere as, gut rising, he realised he was now the car's only passenger and all alone in absolute night...

Stopping to marvel at the perfect circle of sycamores which Georges found himself within, he stared up at the moon... and the moon stared back!

Looking down on him, its one large unsympathetic eye bore down into his very soul. All at once a feeling of immense dread seemed to flow right through him, he could feel it feeding off his darkest fears. Stunned, he watched as the surrounding forest answered the call of the moon and as one, it began to sway to a single beat.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...”

This way and that, the very trees began to move to a ritualistic tribal rhythm. A great crescendo led to a parting in the tree line where a series of dancing figures now took up the beat. Georges watched in disbelief as what appeared to be a chorus-line of skeletons danced a merry jig before him. Their chalky white bones glistened in the moonlight which seemed to wink its approval in return.

The beat was infectious and Georges couldn't help but stomp his foot to the rhythm. An almighty thunderclap echoed around the clearing every time he brought down his heel.

“The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone. The leg bone's connected to the knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone. The thighbone's connected to the... hip, hip, hip” “This most certainly is not hip” thought Georges to himself. “Time to make like the trees and get outta here!”

He ran for all he was worth but no matter which way he turned the moon followed, pure lunacy seemed to envelop him at every turn. If only he could escape its gaze. He ducked through a thicket and, dammit, he was back in that circle of sycamores. Strangely, it felt like a room, yeah, that was it... the drawing room where, he vaguely recalled, it all began, that stolen moment when Mr Kaplan himself came into existence. There was a man standing in that room, his back to George, pouring himself a drink.

“The problem with you Mr Kaplan is, you can't see the wood for the trees.”

The man turned to face him, and George realised that his mute passenger, with those same enigmatic wide staring eyes, had now found his voice. Edging slowly backwards Georges fumbled awkwardly with the red drapes that now enveloped him. Looking for a way out, the man seized upon his confusion.

“Tick, tock, tick, tock... time's running short.”

Was Georges running out of time? He’d rather be running out of here!

“Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head.”

Georges thrashed wildly, but the drapes held fast.

“Chop, chop, chop, chop... the last man's... dead!”

“Hey hun’ you gonna drink that cup o’ joe or just stare at it?”

Georges glanced up from the booth of the diner where he now found himself and offered up a slightly uneasy grin in the direction of the waitress. Watching the swirls glide smoothly across the surface of the deep black liquid before him, he couldn’t help but be hypnotised, seductively drawn within their vertiginous dance.

And that music, so very… dreamy.

He surveyed his surroundings, taking in his fellow diners one by one: he didn’t like what he saw. Where was this place and who were these people? They looked to Georges to be the cast of the world’s most disturbing soap opera. Yeah – it was a harsh, nightmarish vision of small town life that he'd be only too happy to wake up from. A sharp chill went down his back and his flesh started to crawl.

As he got up to leave, Georges felt the scalding of every eye in the diner as they burned into him. Striding purposefully to the door he knew he'd outstayed his welcome; he had come looking for answers, but for his troubles he'd found nothing but a slice of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.

Approaching the hunk of metal one man had laughingly sold him under the pretence of a car, he was surprised to see the shadow of someone sitting in the back seat. The faint whir of a Dictaphone could be heard as the figure within frantically scoured its recordings before clicking it to a halt.

“Hey handsome, heading my way?”

Georges took a step closer and a pair of dark glasses stared up at him. From behind the enormous shades a woman smiled suggestively.

“Anywhere but here” he responded.

“That sounds like my kind of town.”

Fancying that his luck may well have just changed, Georges slid behind the wheel and began to wrestle with the ignition. Adjusting the cracked rear view mirror, he took a little time to check out his beautiful stray: yep, things were certainly looking up. She positively glowed beneath her shades, bathed in the all too watchful eye of the moon.

“Buckle up honey, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!”