(If people are suddenly reminded of its existence and once again want to organise some gettogethers, I am more than willing to keep it open, but as of right now, that looks unlikely. Also, as always, I am still hanging out on IRC in #comicbooks, and can ALWAYS be found there for chatting.)
Something I always had in my head, when I was joking about being the last one out the door, was that I'd write the Last Subreality Story. I generally knew what it was, but never had any intention of writing it, because when I thought of it, that day coming seemed far away. Two years ago, I actually DID write it down, and I thought I'd never share it but...I think I have to.
So, here it is...
How long has it been? 15 years? Pretty close to that, if not more.
Oh, not for the whole place, no. Just for me. The cafe was open long before I got here, and I inherited it through a curious series of events I won't bore you with. If you were there, you remember them, and if you weren't, they are best left in the past.
I remember saying back then, when the keys to the Subreality Cafe were handed over to me, that the place was in good hands. Don't worry, I said. I'd still be here when the lights got turned off.
The funny thing is, or not so funny as the case may be, I never suspected how true that statement would be. I never suspected I would be sitting here in the cafe, looking around at empty chairs at empty tables, and getting ready to turn those lights out, one last time.
The writers were the first to start trickling away, as it had to be. The fictives couldn't leave without them. As long as writers were sitting around in a booth somewhere debating continuity, some fictive would be sidling up to the bar waiting for them to be used next, either by their canon, or the locals.
Once the writers wandered out for greener pastures, different fandoms, or just plain other lives, the fictives began to dwindle. Hard to keep them around when there's no one writing about them, right?
But still, a few of us hung on.
The real persistant ones.
Or the stubborn ones.
Or maybe just the dumb ones, but I don't believe that, and it would make me the dumbest of all. We just didn't want to give up on this place, this hangout where we met so many good friends, best friends, lovers, families... I love the number of people I've seen come together under this roof, how many families got started here, and wouldn't exist without this place. I like to think I played my small role in such events, but I know I'm just a caretaker here, and the ball was set rolling before I even came along.
Even myself, I forged friendships here that last to this day, I had my fair share of women enter my life because they entered through those doors over there. And the friends are still there, they're just not here anymore.
I called myself a caretaker, and since the place has ended up the way it has, some might say I did a terrible job of it. Heck, I've said that plenty myself, when no one was around, in my darker times. I know it's not true, and to everything there is a season and all that.
Subreality's season is long past ended. The winter has come and gone, and other things have grown in its place, like I said.
So, here I sit.
Looking around at the bar, which I've been obsessively cleaning all day long, even though the only reason it needs cleaning is to get rid of the dust.
Looking around at the booth in the back where the Triumverate would hang out.
Looking at the pool table where far too many people and fictives passed out.
Looking past the doors to the back rooms, through them, and catching remembered glimpses of all the little subcommunities that sprung up from Subreality.
Looking around and seeing that here I am, at the last, ready to turn those lights off, one last time.
So I toss my dusty rag off into a sink, not caring where it lands, really. I call out to the bunny slipper, and Nudge perks up, having not been called for so long. He bounces across the floor and lands at my heels hoping for some gummis, looking up at me with shiny black button eyes, and hiss out his familiar, "Skkrrkt?" wondering what's going on.
I don't have the words to express how sad I am that the cafe has come to this, that this is the last time I am walking out that door, and no one's coming back in here, so I just look down at the fuzzy footwear, and give a shrug. It's all I can muster, and it's not like he would have understood me anyways.
I take one last look around, the hundredth time I've taken a last look, trying to find any way to stop me from walking out, find maybe some random idea to spark some life back into the old girl.
But no. It's time.
Long past time, really. I saw this writing on the wall years ago, but every time I tried walking away, everyone would jump out of the booths and behind the bar shouting SURPRISE! and it was like the old days had returned. But it never lasted, you can never capture the past and hold onto it for long, the grains of the hourglass flittering away through fingers, no matter how hard you may grasp.
So with a heavy heart, and a heavy sigh, I walk away.
I want to turn around, take yet another one last look, turn back to the bar, maybe someone will walk through that door. There's still a few Australians and Kiwis that we just can't seem to get rid of, they might come back any second now...
But no one comes.
No one stops me, and I can't even stop myself. Not this time, not as I find myself standing at the door, looking through the glass at the world outside, ready to follow everyone else who has already moved on.
The open sign hangs there, like it always has. It's never been touched in all these years. The place was always open, anyone could come in at any time. As I take it in my hand, I freeze, unable to move. 15 years is a long time, and turning that sign takes everything I have to force my hand to move.
And so the sign faces out, showing "Closed" for the first time in...in forever, as near as I can reckon.
I open the door, the slipper bouncing away ahead of me without a care in the world, bouncing off into the sunrise for the next adventure just beyond our horizons..
Despite myself, I glance back, standing on the threshold. One last chance, to stay or move forward. I place my hand on the wall, my fingers finding the familiar feel of the light switch.
And I turn the lights off.
As I must.
As I joked I would, so many years ago.
As I knew I always would.
And I leave, walking away, hearing the creak of the door as it swings shut behind me.
Goodbye, Subreality Cafe.