Slightly Afflicted
Signs Of Life

The following is a brief excerpt from Signs Of Life:

It was too far out of the way to create much controversy, let alone wonder. Yet it did.

Far from the hustle of downtown, far from the factories and industrial plants, it stood idly on a small hill overlooking the city. It was too small to be seen clearly from a distance as anything other than a bright silver smear, yet there were a few who every now and then noticed it. Noticed it and reminded themselves to one day trek up the hill and see what it was all about.

The structure reflected the gleaming sunlight off its metal during the day, and at night it also seemed to gleam, its silver and grey sides seemed to reflect not only the moon but also the faintest, dimmest star. That silver smear, brightest during the day, also was bright enough at night for some to notice. Not many did, yet some of those who saw the reflected starlight on that distant hill reminded themselves that sooner or later they should go see what it was. What it really was.

And yet, everyone knew. There was an announcement in the newspaper on the day of its opening. No fanfares or screaming banners, simply an announcement proclaiming the opening of a new diner curiously, or perhaps for very good reason, called something no other restaurant had ever had the audacity to be called. The announcement in the paper was itself curious in that there were no advertised specials or a list of the restaurant's fare. No prices, no hours of operaton. The advertisement looked nothing at all as what a restaurant advertisement should look. only giving hte name of the diner and its address. And that it was now open for business.

Everyone who saw that advertisement commented in one way or another about the place. Commented without making the effort to see for themselves, to decide with their own minds, exactly what it was. Some said, upon seeing the ad, that it was a terrible location for a place of business, let alone a restaurant, where location and convenience is sometimes more important than quality of food. They said no one would travel forty minutes to go to a common diner, a common coffee shop. If it was a French restaurant or somewhere exotic cuisine was served, the distance would perhaps be forgiven for the event of eating a spectacular and scrumptious meal. But to travel away from the city and through the hills for a simple cup of coffee or a sandwich was unthinkable.

Others commented, again without seeing the place for themselves, on the name itself. This was something no one could understand. It was the most common and at the same time most unusual and arrogant name for a diner they had ever heard.

Although the advertisement caused a great deal of curiosity, those who lived in the city for the most part forgot about the diner and its somewhat curious name by the next day. It made for interesting dinner conversation the night of its opening, that was all.

None of those who thought of the diner visited it on that first day, nor on its second day of operation. By the third day still no one had ventured inside its walls, yet a few cars slowly drove through the hills and passed it, the passengers peering through the rainy afternoon to see the building from a closer angle.

The diner was designed in the same layout as those diners of forty years earlier, a long metallic building with wide, clear windows. The silver sides were smooth, with grey and white lines dunning the length of the building. Those few who drove by could see through the windows of the diner from the road, the glass was that large and clear, that . . . open. Yet they saw nothing. None of the cars stopped, yet they all made more than one pass by the small restaurant that seemed to be intent on failing from the very start. Why else, those who passed asked each other, why else would the owner or owners have opened a diner - a diner of all things! - so far from everything and everyone? Why? They could find no reason for it. Surely there are easier ways to lose money, they thought.

Or was it something else? Some other reason?

It was this which ultimately made people, after a few short days, begin to helplessly think about the diner - helplessly since they had no idea why the image of the white gleaming building would pop suddenly into their minds, why the name itself would cause a certain stab of anxiety deep within. For some reason no one openly talked about it, but as the days and nights passed and turned into weeks, more often than not someone somewhere in the city could be seen stealing a quick glance up the hill. And that glance would be full of curiosity and wonder.

It was, after all, a diner.

And yet . . .

And yet for some reason no one could explain, no one entered. No one ventured inside to see what the place with its arrogant and presumptuous name could possibly contain. People thought about it, people wondered about it. But no one talked openly about it, and no one went inside.

Or did they?