An Espresso Tale
Accipiter G. Goshawk
Teal nervously adjusted their watch fob and stared at the grey marble wall, willing themself to breathe.
Noise surrounded them in a hushed cacophony: the ticking of their pocket watch, the almost-imperceptible whistle of the wind sweeping through the deserted corridors.
The occasional tapping of dress-shoes on the polished floor.
Teal ground their teeth again, as once more the steps came closer and then finally died away, lost in the maze of the Building. They took another long shuddering breath and wiped their sweaty hands with a much-used cotton handkerchief.
“Aspiring World-moulder Teal Insik?”
They flinched, as inspector Erez stepped out of the wall behind them. Controlling their breath, they turned.
The inspector stood in the centre of the corridor, like an impossible tower set on a desert plain. His short hair and carefully trimmed beard adorned his thin face like ancient runes of power, suspended above his statuesque shoulders by a neck of frozen steel. As usual, his clothes were impeccable and rigorously dark grey. Only his pocket-handkerchief stood out: a dash of Mayan orange amidst the barren charcoal.
Erez peered down at the notebook in his left hand and quickly scribbled something. Then his piercing green eyes deconstructed Teal, taking their time to catalogue every single atom of their existence.
“Have you been instructed as to the nature of your exam and the risks it entails?”
One dark eyebrow rose meaningfully.
“Yes sir, I have. As stated in my previous interview, I am ready and willing to take the test.”
The answer came out more forcefully than they would have liked, but the inspector didn’t seem to notice.
“Very well. Let this be your last warning then: by using the door that I shall presently create, you will be entering the inner workings of the Building. There you will be untethered, open to all realities, yet belonging to none. Your objective is to mould the prima materia and coax from it your own interpretation of existence. This task will of course be rendered considerably harder by the other worlds already present within the Building. Countless moulders are currently operating and their worlds constantly warp and expand, according to their designs. Should you enter one of these, simply exit and resume your exam. Should you be unable to extract yourself however, your test will be considered failed and you will forever remain within the reality that trapped you, devoid of any memory of the Building or of the moulding arts.”
Teal forced themself to stare unflinchingly into the inspector’s eyes and simply nod.
The inspector blinked and gave an answering nod. Then he turned, and without so much as a flick of an eyelash, materialized the door to the Inner Workings.
“Your exam begins now, Aspiring World-moulder Insik. There is of course, no time-limit.”
He stepped back, leaving Teal standing in front of the closed wooden door.
A blink, a clenching of fists and a breath later, the corridor was empty.-
Teal’s story continues in Part II…