Entry A-2 “Autumn Leaves — I”
After a short drive, Meridian and Elise arrived at the parking lot of local family restauant I’m Sorry. Meridian felt like treating her little sister to something nice for making it through the semester without failing every grade.
Meridian stopped quite far away from the building proper despite the vast parking lot being empty. This gave her some time to mentally prepare for the experience and Elise some time to skip around. Win-win.
I’m Sorry drew near at a frustratingly brisk pace. The closer they got, the more Meridian slowed her approach, as if that would stop I’m Sorry from happening. Her little sister kept wistfully skipping ahead, urging her to keep up.
I’m Sorry’s gravity was too strong. She was going to get sucked in.
Meridian held her breath as she pushed forward on the entry door. It didn’t help—the sticky smell of breakfast colonized her olfactory system. Here goes absolutely nothing.
Meridian took the first step onto the almost medical-grade ceramic tiled floor. The walls were stained with an unidentifiable oil, dripping onto the red cushioned seating lining it. Disparate table and chair sets dotted the area, many still adorning dirty dishes. The signature of a dying Americana.
Meridian’s gaze immediately locked onto the uncharacteristic sea of lime-green wireframe cubes that appeared to inhabit a portion of the diner. None of the patrons seemed to mind this mess.
Meridian followed the server to their table. As they made their way through the diner, she observed the other patrons. Their faces were difficult to describe.
The sisters plopped down on the seats opposite each other and listened to the server explain their restaurant’s concept, as is now customary of this place. Elise had a genuine smile on her face. Meridian didn’t really care.
There was a green booklet in front of her. Must be the menu. She opened it - blank. She looked to her little sister for an answer, but Elise was already busy picking between the “smiling banana split” and the “chocolate delight”. Meridian let out a sigh of relief upon further scrutiny—the contents were on the next page. It was completely filled with a random series of numbers. She had a difficult time choosing.
Meridian felt sick after the meal at I’m Sorry. The complimentary coffee was oily; she felt wholly uncomfortable with what she had just consumed. Her little sister looked content, staring at the ceiling, utterly engrossed. Meridian did not have time to see what was so exciting - she was impatiently waiting for the server to come back with her credit card. The head chef and her server were having a leisurely chat in the kitchen. They should work harder.
After Meridian semi-lucidly scribbled her signature on the bill, sis wanted to sign it too. Her handwriting wasn’t very good and she somehow increased the tip. Does she know who’s paying for this? Meridian needed to get out of here before anything else bad happened. She stood up with the intent of leaving as fast as possible. She stepped out and immediately sobered up as the cool autumnal air filled her lungs. At that moment she knew exactly what she needed to do.
The minivan hummed as they made their way down Main Street. Elise pointed out how all the trees were painted with vivid yellows, reds, and the occasional purple. Meridian questioned if this was normal.
Meridian pulled into the town’s only gas station. The sign announcing its appearance had since long gone out, leaving just the text “A oil” to glow in its aged neon. Whoever worked here did not seem to bother about getting paid, as they were nowhere to be found. Meridian paced around while waiting for the attendant to come back . Her eyes fell on a rack carrying a couple of tools. She needed a new shovel since the last one “broke”.
After waiting for 15 minutes, she decided it was enough of a time sink as-is. She got in the car and left the mystery of A Oil behind.
Driving out of the valley, the wind picked up as it swept over the crests of mild rolling hills, blowing leaves about. The road’s edges were paved with their warm colors. In the passenger seat half of Elise kept the rest of her firmly hung outside, trying to catch a couple of leaves for herself.
The leaf coverage grew more intense as they got further from town. It was as though Loamwood’s bustle emanated a force-field that stopped autumn from advancing.
A mile or two flew by. The road was now covered with autumn; only the gravel crunching under the tires helped to reveal that they were still on the right track. Elise decided to ask on a whim if they were lost. Her sister didn’t answer.