(If this is your first time, start here.)
Jerimus lightly touches the stab wound on his thigh and winces. He is bleeding out.
An hour and a half in, and there were fifteen words on the screen before me. I had the day off. I had arrived to the coffee shop early. I’m going to write 20 freaking pages today, I had told myself.
Now I was struggling to hit 20 words.
The place was empty, chairs tucked perfectly underneath their wiped down tables. People must have been out trying to enjoy the precious few summer weekends left. Or the zombie apocalypse had begun, and I just hadn’t realized it yet.
Soon, there would be a hallow thud against the windows. I’d look up to see one of the Coffee Café regulars beating bloodied palms on the glass, trying to get inside. Trying to eat my still living flesh. I could hold out here for a while, I supposed. Get the door locked and the glass should be strong enough to withstand zombie hands.
Assuming, of course, these are the original stumbly-crawly zombies and not those 28 Days Later, rabies-fueled rage monsters.
I’m pretty traditional, so I assumed it would be the former.
There was a decent amount of food here. And plenty of coffee to keep me alert. Not that the coffee had been doing much for me today. A white, ceramic mug sat next to me. I had emptied it twice already. Maybe it was time for round 3.
I grabbed it and staggered up to the counter, legs stiff from the way I had been sitting.
There were no baristas present. Maybe they had taken the trash out and the zombies got them too.
I would be stuck alone at the end of the world.
With no bell to ring, I cleared my throat loudly and looked around the register. There were little bags of Swedish Fish available. One of my favorites. I had never noticed them there before.
I almost jumped backwards when I looked up and realized there was a girl standing on the other side of the counter now. And not just a girl, but a very attractive one. She wasn’t the one I had spotted my first day, though. This girl had medium length blonde hair, pulled into a ponytail except for one string of bangs that went over her left eyebrow, resting just to the side of a green iris.
She gave a halfhearted, closed mouth smile. Her lipstick was a rather vivid red. I realized I was staring at her.
“Hi!” I said far too loudly.
“Hello,” she spoke slowly.
“Sorry, you surprised me. There was a guy before and then there was no one and then…”
“Nope, that was me.”
“I rang your order earlier. Got you that coffee there.”
I looked down at the empty mug. There was a crack no wider than a hair running down the side I had been drinking from. I hadn’t noticed it till just then. I looked to the Swedish Fish I had failed to ever see before. I looked back up to her, head in a haze when I noticed she was smiling, revealing her teeth this time.
“You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”
“A little bit.”
“I was going to say, I can be a little spacey, but I definitely would have remembered you taking my order.”
My cheeks went warm. “Because,” I swallowed hard, “I, uh, have never seen you here before. Are you new?”
She scrunched her lips to one side of her mouth. “Started just last week.”
“That would explain it,” I rapped my knuckles against the wooden counter. “Like it so far?”
She raised her hands and shrugged. “It’s a job. I don’t hate it.”
She brushed the loose bangs aside. They quickly returned to where they had been. “I actually did hate my last job, so yeah, it’s good. I guess.”
I was going to ask about the previous job, but I quickly got the feeling she didn’t want to discuss it at the moment. “Well, sometimes you just need to focus on the good things, even if they’re little.”
She gave a subtle, half smile. “So just the refill?”
“Yeah,” I said, sliding the cup towards her. She took it and started to turn. “Actually, I’ll take a bag of Swedish Fish too.”
“Good call,” she said. She refilled my cup, and returned it to me before ringing up the candy. I handed her my debit card.
“Thanks,” I glanced quickly to her name-tag, praying I wasn’t being weird, “Katie.”
She flashed surprise for a moment before grinning. “You’re welcome…” she lifted my card to her face. “Preston S. Carr?”
“Oh no, that’s just who I stole the card from.”
She rolled her green eyes. “Oh, so you won’t mind if I keep it then.”
“Go ahead. The police will come after you while I make my getaway.”
“In that case,” she handed my card towards me, “I’ll let you hold on to it.”
“You’re too kind.”
I slipped the card back into my wallet and grabbed my coffee and candy.
“Thanks again,” I said as I stepped backwards. “I’ll see you around here again, I’m sure.”
“Hopefully you won’t forget who I am.”
I smiled, “I’m pretty sure I won’t.”
She placed her hands on her hips. “But I won’t be new anymore. I’ll just blend in. Like the guy who who got you that coffee.”
I began to turn around, my head still facing her. “Oh no, you’re too pretty to just blend in.”
Before I could see her reaction, I turned away, my face certainly blushing. I exhaled heavily through closed lips as I stepped quickly back to my table. Setting down the coffee, I took my seat.
I stole a glance towards the counter. Katie was looking at me. We both turned away. I leaned forward and placed my hands over my mouth. Regaining composure, I grabbed the candy, opened the bag, and took out a small red piece.
For the first time that day, my mind felt awake.
Fresh coffee. My favorite candy. And the name of a pretty girl. Little things, really. But today, they were enough.
I popped the candy in my mouth and placed my fingers on the keyboard.
Jerimus – We ain’t come this far….
He shoots a few round from his pistol before thrusting the hot muzzle against his wound, cauterizing it. A blood-curdling scream ensues.
Jerimus –Well (he grunts out, tears in his eyes), better than sitting around and bleeding to death.
He drags himself to his feet and continues down the darkened corridor.
Two hours and twenty freaking pages later, I left the coffee shop. Katie was gone by then. A shame that zombie apocalypse didn’t work out. I think I could have handled being trapped in there with her for a bit.
Another day, perhaps.