Nothing about this was normal. But then, that was Normal all over. Most people didn’t realise that the damn thing had been hanging out with them until it buggered off. Waking up to find a recycling bin rammed through the windshield of your second hand BMW and a dollop of sketchy looking poo sliding majestically down the inside letterbox was a boot camp reminder of how fickle a companion normal could be.
See, that was the other bastard thing about normal- you could only measure it by its opposite. Which always felt like a kind of roundabout way of doing things. Conner looked over at the man perched perkily on the edge of his favourite chair. Good old normal had its non-descript fingers in every pie imaginable. It had happily skipped with him through long, golden days and it had cowered with him under the duvet as the black dog paced the dark halls of his mind. It was littered across the monochrome grey of scarlet battlefields and feathered with the peacock colours of love. In a line up, normal would stand, perplexedly overlooked and ordinary next to the average looking guy, while whispering corrupted stars into the ears of the serial killer.
Conner cleared his throat, ‘Well I for one need a cup of tea, can I get you anything?’ he ran his hands over his face, feeling unwelcome stubble catch at his fingertips. The man certainly looked better, there was a healthy colour to his cheeks and he sat with an annoying authority that made Conner feel decidedly uncomfortable. The prospect of an ambulance being the solution to all his problems was rapidly fading along with the evening light. Even the most tolerant of paramedics would look unkindly on him calling them out to a patient who vaulted onto the stretcher as they arrived through the doorway. He just had to keep reminding himself that whatever happened, he was not answerable to this stranger.
‘The outline of civilisation scours chalk from willow fingers…’ the man spoke softly, threading the line like poetry. His voice also cut out the middle man and interfaced directly with Conner’s brain.
Good old normality eh? It was so easy to overlook just how great it was until it had thanked the crowd and gone for a drink at the hospitality bar. People talked about weird shit like telepathy, but no one actually believed it was real. Conner battled on, ‘I have Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Green, White… Peppermint?’ Strictly speaking, Peppermint wasn’t a real tea, but these were desperate times.
‘Specters of acrid hope.’
Conner laughed easily, but it was the daisy chain laugh of a deceiver, ‘Is that some kind of Himalayan blend?’ He had never been so freaked out in all his life.
‘Snakes of peroxide venom are the martyred weavers.’
‘I have decaff if you’d rather?’
The man twisted his head like a bird, ‘Sanctuary and oblivion flicker with the same tepid fires.’
The words roamed around inside Conner’s mind, trying to find a purchase of understanding. He grinned hopefully, ‘I’ll put the kettle on then shall I?’
In the relative safety of the kitchen, Conner leaned against the dishwasher and wondered if the milk was still in date. He wished he had an answer for what the hell was happening here, but he didn’t. He just had tea. And tea would have to do because tea was normal. And in all honestly, normal was the only thing left to hold onto in situations like this.