A man who forgets his morning coffee has no idea what's going on around him.
The Importance of Caffeine on Modern Society
Mason stared at the alarm clock.
It stared back.
It told him he’d overslept.
The bed covers flew back and the bed was empty in less than a second. A few minutes later the shower was off and there was water on the floor. The door slammed shut and Mason was running down the street toward the bus stop.
It was then that the horror dawned on him – he’d forgotten his coffee.
The bus was coming, there was no time to go back. How would he ever survive the day?
Yawning, climbing aboard the bus, Mason paid for his ticket and took his seat. He stared out the window, past the reflection of the tired and worn face, at the thick morning fog – A fog slightly thicker than the one in his caffeine-lacking mind. His foot refused to quit tapping on the floor boards.
A woman sat down on the seat next to Mason.
‘Jeez, how strange is this fog?’ she said, ‘it’s kind of eerie, isn’t it?’
He looked around, wondering why she didn’t take any other seat, only realising then that the bus was completely full.
‘Uh, yeah. Weird,’ he said.
‘Didn’t have my coffee this morning.’
‘Oh, good lord!’ the woman said, genuinely startled. ‘I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without my coffee. I don’t think I’d survive.’
Mason just nodded and turned back to the window.
‘Where are you headed?’ The woman kept up the inane conversation.
Mason looked toward the front of the bus. ‘To the train station.’
‘Oh, you know there’s this nice little cafe just a stop before the station.’
He looked at her, mulling it over. He could get off a stop early, go to the cafe and get a coffee and still make the train – if he ran.
* * *
The cafe was hot and crowded, a line of people crossing their arms and tapping their feet. It was a rhythm that moved far too slow. Steam rose from the coffee machine, filling the cafe. Mason stared at the barista between glances at his watch. The thick smell of coffee did little to help his patience.
The overly calm music pouring through the speakers stopped and an announcement came on. Something about the fog. Mason rolled his eyes. Why was everyone focusing on the fog when he still hadn’t gotten his coffee? A couple of the patrons moved toward the door.
They had barely opened the door when the coffee machine broke down. Boiling water spurted out of the machine, hissing at the staff’s attempt to stop at and splattering down over the customers. They stampeded toward the door while staff sought shelter in the back room. Mason impotently held his hands over his head and ran outside, into the fog.
‘This just isn’t my day,’ he mumbled to himself.
He wiped his hands and face, careful of the tender spots where the water hit him, and trudged down the road. The fog was thick, the train station only visible by its lights. He saw shadows through the fog dashing down the road across from him. In the distance somewhere was a howl, a dog that sounded far too sick to still be alive. He had cut the distance to the station in half when the familiar sounds of the boom gate told him a train was arriving.
Mason started sprinting.
He ran hard, focused on the station. So focused he didn’t notice the lights appearing behind him, until it was too late.
A humming from behind made him glance back. He spotted a threesome of headlights, shining through the fog as they barrelled down on him. His slow reflexes kicking in, Mason tried to jump out of the way. He tripped over himself and hit the ground. He waited to be hit by the vehicle, feel the tires of the car roll over him, crush him.
But there was nothing.
A slight hum passed over his ear.
He opened his eyes and watched the lights continue on down the road.
Relieved, with only light scrapes where he hit the bitumen, he climbed to his feet and continued toward the station. Several blasts of an air horn signalled the train was approaching.
He would make it.
He ran faster.
* * *
As the train left the station, Mason slumped down into the seat, his chest heaving. He rubbed at his eyes and leaned back in the chair. The train rattled and rocked and an incomprehensible message was announced over the loudspeaker.
Mason stared out the window at the dense greyness. He watched the headlights floating along the roads, parallel to the train. One after another pulled over and stopped, seemingly in formation. All that was visible of the landscape were a few hazy lights slowly passing by the window.
Far too slowly.
The announcement came over the loudspeaker again. ‘Electrical...,’ it buzzed, ‘fog...’
The train shook one last time before coming to a halt.
An inspector came through the door at the front of the carriage, sweaty and unsteady on his feet. Mason reached for his ticket, patting his pockets and pulling out a half-soggy piece of card.
The inspector waved the ticket away, ‘The train can’t go any further,’ he said, ‘there’s a bus just down the road to get you somewhere safe. Seem to still be working. For now.’
‘What?’ Mason asked, ‘What’s going on?’
The inspector ignored him, moving down the carriage to the few other passengers. Mason climbed to his feet and followed as they all hurried toward the door. They jumped out of the door, down onto the gravel and crossed the tracks. They scrambled over the fence like a pack of rats escaping water. As they got to road, a series of headlights flew past at high speed.
‘Was that the bus?’ Mason asked.
The group was fading into the grey, running along the side of the road. Mason was about to begin sprinting after them when something caught his eye. A sign over a shop across the road. It was just a haze of light through the dense fog, but he could make out one single word – “Coffee”.
* * *
He crossed the street and walked into the small coffee shop, the bell over the door jingling as he entered. Fog rolled in through the door around his ankles. He strolled, almost happily, up to the counter and looked around. He stopped.
There was no one there.
‘Hello?’ he called out.
He glanced around the empty shop. He rang the tiny bell on the counter. There was a terrible sinking feeling in his stomach – who would make him coffee?
He called out again, tapping on the counter impatiently. He rang the bell again. He called, he tapped, he rang, he tapped, he rang, he called. Nobody came.
‘I’ll make it myself then,’ he called out.
Circling around the counter, he approached the machine.
He stared at it.
It stared back.
He fiddled with the knobs, he shook it. The machine just didn’t seem to want to work. He looked around the shop for assistance, some sign of what he should do. There was still no one there. Turning some more knobs, he suddenly had a greater appreciation of baristas.
He hit the machine again, this time the machine hit back – a spurt of hot water hit his leg.
He grimaced through the pain.
Some mocha granules from under the counter were thrown into a take-away cup. Some steaming hot water followed close behind. Pleased with himself, Mason circled back around the counter, heading for a chair at the nearest table.
Then, the bell over the door jangled.
A creature stood in the doorway, fog rolling in around it’s misshapen feet. One clawed hand scratched at its scaly face, the other held some kind of weapon. It’s large, red bug-eyes blinked once, then twice. It took a step into the coffee shop.
Mason stopped. He couldn’t breathe.
He stared at it.
It stared back.
The creature moved toward him, growling like a starving walrus. It sneered at him, showing a row of jagged teeth. The creature aimed its weapon at Mason’s head.
Then it fired.
The cup hit the ground.
The coffee leaked out, over the linoleum floor.