Restriction: Make something with your dinner before you eat it.
When he said, ”I’m of two minds about staying,” that’s when her shadow started feasting.
“I know how that goes,” she said, smiling over the pasta, while the shadows flickered behind him on the wall, picking slowly at his hair and neck. “How’d you end up here in the first place?”
“Well, you know how it is.” He swallowed a bite and gestured vaguely at the ceiling. “Could never predict I was going to end up… here.” He gestured around the small apartment, walls mostly blank, in the sterile efficiency. His eyes flickered over her face and to the table, to his hands, and he nervously itched his nose. “I enjoy it, I really do, the vibe is good, but I’ve never felt really at home, you know?”
“Tell me about it.” She rolled her eyes and sighed, resigned agreement. “We can’t always find a place that accepts us.”
He stared into the distance. “I can’t remember when I did actually feel safe and… like… I was at home in a place. Really at home.” He munched another bite absent-mindedly, but the flavor was draining out of it as the darkness climbed up his legs in tangled vines.
“Well, do you have to accept the place, or does it have to accept you?”
“Maybe it’s both.” He scratched his head and twisted his shoulder up to his neck, unaware of the shadows, but he felt them climb over the hairs on his skin, noticed them in the back of his mind. “Maybe it’s – I’m sorry, I’m really distracted tonight, not feeling well.” He wiped sweat from his upper lip and cast his eyes down again, refusing to meet her gaze.
As he did, her shadow creeping closer all around him became obvious. His eyes opened wide in a horrified realization, and he muttered “Not again” as he stumbled away from the table, knocking silverware to the floor with a clatter, tripping over the chair. He pulled himself up to the counter but the darkness still clasped him, hugging him like loose scarves.
“Oh, don’t be like that! You haven’t even given us the full tour, here,” she said, smiling sweetly and twisting hands filled with more blackness at him.
Squinting, he clenched his jaw and then opened his mouth. A beam of yellowish fog swirled out, and her eyes widened in fear. “You–!” she had time to blurt before the dusty sunbeam-lit fog sliced her shadows away and she fell back into her chair, head lolling back, eyelids flickering.
He collapsed back into his chair, staring at the unfinished plate of pasta. Head in hands, he began mumbling, and before she blacked out completely he said: “I swear, for the last time, no more online dating. Too many of these damned weirdos.”