By Nicole Jeffries.
Bodies. Different sizes, shapes, and nationalities were all crammed together in the slightly dingy restaurant. Inside the neon lights gave the faces around him a green tinge, making everyone look ill. The hum of different conversations mixed with the sound of various languages filtered into John’s thoughts. Gasps of shock slipped in with squeals of delight as he watched a couple begin to gobble down the sizzling dish in front of them. A spicy mixture of grease and herbs floated through the air. Briefly, he locked eyes with the woman at the table. He quickly looked down at the sheet in front of him; his face grew warm from embarrassment.
Tall, blond woman. Caucasian. Early twenties. Model
Leaning back in the orange plastic chair, John looked around. Exotic, odd. Strange. The first time he had come here, he had been shocked and at times felt what was going on inside slightly unmoral. But, then again, isn’t that why they came here in the first place? To decide if living on earth and being a human was worth it? He grabbed the edge of the table to pull himself closer but jerked his hand back as his fingers brushed against a hard lump of old gum. He leaned down and looked under the table. Mint green, pink, and white. Fat globs of gum had been pulled from people’s sloppy, spit-filled mouths and stuck to the underside of the table. It was slightly weird to him that something like old gum bothered him as much as it did when he was about to do something worse.
Short, middle-aged man. Asian. Late fifties. Business man.
“Ready to eat or do you want something to drink?” John looked up at the waiter and thought it was odd that this was how he chose to present himself at the table. The waiter pushed his dirty, red baseball cap up a notch on his forehead revealing an oily sheen. A small trickle of sweat weaved its way down the left side of his face, working its way through dark stubble. The steady click of the conveyor belt could be heard as the next round of dishes began to make their way across the front of the restaurant, but John wasn’t ready to eat yet. He would wait for Jane. Although, she had probably stood him up. Again. Jane. They had decided to keep themselves known as Jane and John Doe. Later they could change their names if they wanted. At first he thought she liked him, but now after weeks of dating he wasn’t so confident. But, he didn’t know what to think. Humans were a strange breed; you could never tell what they were thinking.
“Yo, buddy. Do. You. Want. Anything. To. Drink?” The waiter tapped his foot impatiently while he scratched the thin white skin of his gut that hung slightly over the top of his jeans. Black coarse hairs curled up towards his belly button.
“Just a glass of water please, for now anyways.” He answered the waiter politely and smiled at him. Not because he wanted to, but because the need to be nice was ingrained in him. It was how he chose to be. It had been Jane’s suggestion; she said he was rude and needed to work on his manners. So he became someone who was more polite. So far it hadn’t worked out well for him. The waiter muttered something under his breath and walked away. A different waiter returned with the glass of water.
The trance-like music with its heavy bass vibrated the table slightly, the glass of water beside him quivered with the beat. Through the window the stars shone brightly, he flicked his wrist over and glanced down at his watch. She was over an hour late.
There was something about Jane that kept him coming back for more. He wasn’t sure if it was some human instinct or what, but there was something about her that made him want to keep her around. There were things she did that irked him, but they could be changed.
“Hey,” she said as she slid into the chair across from him. “Sorry I’m late.” She looked exactly the same as last time. Her sickly sweet perfume caught him in the back of the throat, he could almost taste her perfume it was that thick and heavy.
“You look the same.” He said to her. He wanted to ask her why the hell she was always late, but he didn’t. He was just glad she showed up. He also wanted to reach across the table and grab her and kiss her. He wanted to knot his fingers in with her hair and pull her head back, exposing her throat while he kissed the soft tissue of her neck.
“So do you.” She reached across the table and took his glass of water, their eyes met while she drank. She set the glass down and ran the back of her hand across her mouth, smearing her lipstick. An annoying habit she often did. “I thought you might have changed. You know, after our last fight.” Her eyes flicked around the room before briefly resting on something behind John. He shrugged his shoulders; he was about to tell her he liked who he was when the waiter came over again.
“Want anything to drink?” The man grinned at Jane; he didn’t even bother to try and hide the fact he was staring at Jane’s cleavage, which was completely on show. He rolled his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other and tugged at the seat of his sagging jeans. “Why?” John asked before he could stop himself. “Why do you choose to be like this when you can be anyone?” He asked, looking up at the greasy waiter.
The man looked at him and rolled his eyes. “Look man, I can be who I want to be when I want to be, it’s the only perk I get working in this dive. I like to change it up.” The waiter reached behind him and scratched the back of his neck, yellow circles stained the armpits of his dirty white t-shirt. “Are you guys gonna order something, or are you just gonna sit here all night wasting my time drinking free glasses of water? Because those girls,” He poked his thumb over his shoulder towards a group of three young girls, “they are probably gonna meet me after work. If I play my cards right, I might just get lucky, so I’d rather not stand here all night with you two.”
“Fine, give us two beers.” Jon snapped slightly. As much as someone like him would snap. The waiter gave a snort and shook his head as he walked back over to the three girls.
“You’re not eating?” Jane asked while she held a mirror in front of her and examined her lipstick.
“I don’t know. Do you want me to?” He looked down at the sheet of paper again.
Jane sighed loudly. “Jon, I thought this is why we are here, to fix this relationship. You know things haven’t been the greatest between us.” She shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. “We need to decide if we want to be together. I mean it’s such a thing here on Earth, to try and find someone to be with. It’s weird to be honest.”
“Okay fine.” John shook his head. “Just tell me who and how you want me to be.”
“I don’t know. Motivated, a success at something. Maybe your problem is you’re too nice. Maybe I want something the complete opposite of how you are now.” She flipped her straw-colored hair over her shoulder and again, focused on something over John’s shoulder.
“Too nice? Are you kidding me? Last time you said I was rude, so I changed that!” He realized he might lose her, and suddenly he wanted her more than ever, annoying habits and all.
The waiter stopped by the table, bringing with him a waft of rancid smelling body odor. A sickly mixture of armpit sweat and dirty feet. The man set the two beers down in a hurry, the beer in John’s bottle foamed out the top spilling over onto the table. “Just so you two know, the conveyor belt is about to begin. We got a new one on the menu, just came in a half hour ago so he’s not on there yet. He’s some sports star. Jumped off a building half an hour ago, he’s nice and fresh.”
“Come on, Jane.” John spoke softly to her. “Let’s go take a look.” He worked hard at keeping the pleading from his voice. He pushed himself back from the table and hurried over to take her hand. As they made their way to the front of the restaurant the conveyor belt began to clack, bringing with it the available dishes for the evening. Live human heads were placed under tall glass domes. They chatted to each other, some flirted, and others fought, probably just how they had been when they had still been attached to their bodies. Behind each of the heads, a brief bio stated who the person was, and what their most and least desirable traits were. The last head to come clambering in front of Jane and John was the sports star. Thick, luscious brown hair was combed perfectly to one side. His cheekbones looked as if they had been carved from stone they were so well defined. Deep, sexy brown eyes looked up at Jane. The sports star winked at her and formed his lips into a pucker.
“Him. I want you to be him.” Jane pointed to the dome. John read the screen behind the head, and felt the spit dry from his mouth when he saw the price tag. He would have to split the price for this human over two credit cards.
John slipped his arm around Jane’s shoulder and motioned to the waiter that they would take the sports star. The two of them hurried back to their table, Jane was clearly eager for him to change. Under the table John rubbed his sweaty palms against his jeans and told himself to get a grip. He hated this part. He hated eating humans, they often tasted too fatty. Maybe the sports star would be different, he had probably been in good shape.
Moments later the waiter set the dish down in front of John. The pink flesh wobbled slightly. As he took his first bite, he felt himself gag slightly. Jane sat in front of him sipping on her beer, not saying much. John instantly felt himself begin to change. The bones in his arms and legs began to stretch and pull, lengthening themselves. The sensation almost made him pass out. The seams on his shirt threatened to split at any moments as his biceps grew. It was obvious this man, the one Jane wanted him to be, had been slightly obsessed with the gym. His skin also darkened slightly. White hot pain flashed behind his eyes as his cheek bones became more defined.
“So? What do you think?” His voice was a few octaves deeper.
“You know what, John, I can’t do this. I’m sorry. As the humans like to say, it’s not me it’s you… er whatever.” Jane jumped up from the table and hurried through the restaurant towards the back door. John sat stunned. He wanted to stay still, his body was still throbbing from the pain, but he went after her. The metal door swung open, banging against the wall outside. A familiar laugh floated through the air, catching his attention. A hysteric laugh bubbled up in the back of his throat when he looked to his left. There was Jane, wedged between the dumpsters, pushed up against the brick wall with her arms wrapped around the greasy waiter.
NICOLE JEFFRIES has had an interest in reading and writing since she was young. She would spend her school days scribbling down short stories in the margin of her pink exercise books during math class. Needless to say her math marks reflected that. Currently she has bit the bullet and is starting the long yet exciting road to becoming a novelist.