Author’s Note: I humbly submit January’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring a castle as this month’s setting, the object is a coffee/tea press, and the genre is science fiction – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
George opened his bedroom curtains to a sunny day. A lifelong bachelor, the middle-aged accountant maintained strict to routine, including cranking Dave Brubeck when he awoke. His condo chimed with smooth jazz.
He dressed and retrieved his newspaper outside his front door. He had been reading the Montreal Gazette each morning since graduating university—loving the feel of ink on his fingers.
“Language police arrested pet shop owner for parrot saying ‘hello’ instead of ‘bonjour,” read George, reaching for his coffee jar to prepare his morning espresso.
Routine broken, George ventured out to restock on ground coffee so this fiasco wouldn’t happen again.
He could take the elevator to the basement and walk through the underground city to get to the shop. But today was sunny, so he elected to stroll above ground.
The sidewalks of St. Catherine Street bustled with folks enjoying the June sunshine. George weaved through the crowd until he reached the cathedral, which had two entrances to the underground city on either side. He chose the left one, descended to the mall, and joined a queue for the speciality Egyptian coffee shop.
“Twenty pounds ground, please,” George asked the barista. “Oh,” he added, “and a latté.”
It took over a half hour for the barista to grind and package the beans, much to the chagrin of the others waiting. It didn’t phase George. He took the bag and his drink from the young woman and followed the passage under the cathedral, exiting the mall through the other side.
The buildings along St. Catherine Street had vanished, leaving a vast empty space filled with sand. He looked over his shoulder, and a sandy mountain replaced the cathedral. He scanned around. Not a soul was in site. He stood alone, drinking his beverage under the blazing sun.
In the distance, stood a lone castle. George didn’t recognize it, but it must’ve been a couple of kilometres away. Its two round towers on either side of a rounded front wall pierced the sky. A tall pole with a giant ball on the top rose in the centre, a bit higher than the turrets.
Having nothing better to do, and his condominium likely raptured, George wandered over. He walked an hour before reaching it. The castle towered high over him, and the base of the building sunk deep into the sand. The drawbridge couldn’t open as a consequence.
A rope ladder flew down the side of a turret from an aperture and a man climbed down. George rushed over to help him and held the rope ladder taught so he could shimmy down. He noticed a huge hump in the middle of the alien’s spine and jumped out of his skin when George realized the man had a camel-shaped face.
“Who are you?” asked George.
“I’m the Dromedarian,” replied the stranger. “Hey, is that coffee?”
The Dromedarian snatched the cup from his hand, took a swig, and spat it out.
“Ugh, is this the best you denizen have?” the Dromedarian bellowed in anger.
Realizing the stranger probably didn’t come from Montreal, George asked, “Are you from Toronto?”
“I have no idea what’s a ‘Toronto,’ but how can you humans consume this sludge? I’m scanning the universe for the perfect cup of coffee. When I beamed to your world, some twit said I should go to Chez Tim Horton’s, claiming they had the best coffee. I procured some. It was bloody fetid.
“Enraged, I teleported to my ship, and vapourized the surface of the planet. My stupid vessel ran out of juice, and I had to make an emergency landing.”
“That’s awful you were lied to. Can I help?”
“I need fresh-ground coffee to kickstart my ship.”
“I so happen to have some.” I presented my bag to the Dromedarian.
“Espresso? That should do the trick. Ever been inside a spacecraft?”
Mother told George never to go in cars with strangers. Given there’s no one else alive, he figured, what the hell? He followed the Dromedarian up the ladder, down a stairwell, and into the main control room of his ship.
In the centre stood a giant tank, running the height of the main wall. The pole erected outside of the castle was attached to a cylindrical object raised a few feet above it. It resembled a giant coffee press.
The Dromedarian strapped on a jet back, took George’s bag, and flew to the top of the basin, emptying the contents into it. He then flew across the top and grabbed a hose, then pumped in some boiling water. He rejoined me to watch the liquid turn dark. After five minutes, he launched upward towards the ball in the sky, and with his rockets in reverse, lowered the plunger until it compacted all the coffee.
At that precise moment, the castle rocked and all systems came back online.
“Excellent, it worked!” he said. He walked over to a spigot at the base of the tank and filled my cup with brown liquid. “You will never drink Earth coffee again once you try this. Now that my systems are a go, I shall teleport you back to your planet. You can then fend for yourself”
Within a flash, George found himself standing at a safe distance from the castle. The turrets smoked and the vessel lifted off and rocketed into space.
“Wow, this is the best!” George cried after sipping the drink.
He retraced his steps to the remnants of the cathedral and found the entranceway. When he reached the bottom, people scurried around the mall like any other Sunday morning.
George exited by way of the escalator on the other side. Mysteriously, the city had returned to its original state. He paused. “Oh, okay. Guess the alien really liked the coffee—everything’s back to normal.”
Returning home, he sat back and thought, Funny how weird things happen whenever my routine is broken, then enjoyed his beverage and continued reading the morning paper.
The Dromedarian © 2020 Bruce Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Bruce Gordon.