One Picture, One Story
Sam tried to catch his breath. He was in disbelief, almost as if he had been here before. He had! Sam recalled when Sciurus told him he couldn’t leave and the panic that followed. The man handed him a paper bag and Sam breathed into it in an attempt to calm down. The room was spinning by now and his legs lost all strength as he fell to the floor. He could see his peripheral disappearing as he moved closer to unconsciousness. The man was holding him upright and talking him through his breathing as he grasped onto what he could have consciousness and just as Sam thought he may succumb, he noticed his sight was becoming normal and the room was seemingly in a fixed state again. He vomited violently as he snapped back to reality, apologizing as he tried to get to his feet.
“Hold on kid, don’t rush it. Let’s get you some water first.”
The man’s voice was calm, yet decisive. Sam felt safe as one of the children handed him a glass and shot off. “Thank you,” was all Sam managed to say.
“I thought you would have been used to the idea by now. I must say, I was not prepared for that reaction.”
Sam was breathing normally again and felt his strength returning as he sat on the surprisingly warm floor. Slowly he stood up and nodded at the man as a signal of his readiness to continue. The man nodded back and they continued down the hall towards what looked to be a cafeteria. Sam was starving.
The man pulled out a chair and motioned for Sam to sit on it and then disappeared behind a heavy, metal door a few feet from the table. Sam looked around the room, seeing 20 or 30 tables, all surrounded by chairs, but none of them filled. The atmosphere was that of a school cafeteria or something similar, with the easily cleaned floors and walls and the faint smell of french fries that no janitor could ever fully get rid of. It was all so damn familiar, but he couldn’t figure out why. It looked nothing like the cafeteria at his school, and he had never attended any other school before that one. It wasn’t reminiscent of any restaurant he had eaten at either. He was growing impatient as the man hadn’t returned and he was famished. The absence of any living creature was also wearing on him as he sat silently in his chair at the table. As if on cue, the heavy door swung open and the aroma of deep-fried food swept through the room like a gentle summer breeze. Sam could feel the saliva build in his mouth as he anticipated the bounty that was about to follow. “I hope you like it. It’s nothing special, just some deep-fried zucchini and french fries. It isn’t the usual slop those god forsaken Squirrels were giving these kids, but it is food!”
Sam never liked eating in front of people; he found it incredibly stressful and embarrassing. He could never explain why, but it was something he had always struggled with. The man placed a plate in front of him and disappeared behind the door again, leaving Sam to eat alone and in comfort. It seemed as though the man knew that Sam found it difficult to eat in the presence of others and was quietly respecting that need. Sam was far too hungry to analyse the situation further and got down to the business of eating.
Having finished his plate and being more than satisfied, Sam leaned back in his chair and scanned the room again. He was sure he had been here before. He was almost positive he had eaten here before…