The Dromedarian

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.

“It’s empty?!”

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?” 

“Yes, but…” 

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.

X-Files: Cure for Mid-Winter Blahs

I am a fan of good sci-fi that the pop-culture embraces. I am all over shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Terminator. I do not obsess over them at low level, but I enjoy good story lines that flow well and strong interaction between characters.

When X-Files first came on the air, all my work colleagues were religiously watching the program week in, week out. I never watched a single episode. When the first movie was released in 1998, I figured I would see why the show was so popular, and, well, I did not get it. The movie was too linked in with the story line which required you to watch the show to fully appreciate.

Fast forward to last year. In 2015, Fox announced a revival of the show. I get why they did that. It was the longest running sci-fi show ever (9 seasons, 203 episodes), it is the only show written since 1993 that is still in active syndication, and fans were screaming for some potential unanswered questions to be resolved.

Since X-Files is available on Netflix, I started to embark slowly on the journey to watch the shows last year. It was a futile attempt, there are just too many episodes. I got through the first two seasons after six months of watching. Then,  wifey found the following link:

How to Catch up on 9-Seasons of The X-Files (Plus the Movies) in Just 4 Days

The 4 days reduced the 200 plus episodes to around 70. Still ambitious, but much more manageable (and yes, impossible to do in four days!)

I embarked on this journey, skipping most of Day 1 as I had already watched the first two seasons.

What I Would recommend

If you are like me and never watched the x-Files, note there are two types of stories: standalone (these were the weekly monster/paranormal features) and what they call “mythology”.

The mythology is the ongoing storyline. To best appreciate it, one would need to watch all the mythology episodes in sequence.

The list does not necessarily contain the “greatest hits”.  In fact, some of the mythology episodes are weaker than the standalone episodes.  Even the standalone episodes in this list are not necessarily the best, but they represent something that may be of interest (for example, David Duchovny’s episode he wrote, comedic Christmas episode featuring Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner, an all black and white episode, etc).

My approach, doing it again, is to watch Day 1 in its entirety (as the first year did not have much mythology), but I would include the second episode “Deep Throat” as it introduces a key character. Day 1 will give you a taste of the standalone episodes.

After, if you want to save some time, watch the episodes labelled “mythology” in this list onward.  It will have a flow worthy of typical modern binge watching and the storylines will keep fresh as they can get complicated.  That said, most of this list relates to the mythology, so watching the episodes as listed does not break the flow.

You don’t have to watch seasons 7 – 9, but there are some plot lines that may be of interest if you enjoyed the show.  Seasons 7 -9 were  no way near as good as the previous ones.

I am going to revisit IMDB  to see the highest rated episodes that may be of interest not on the list. I have a strong appreciation now of the X-Files, so I am now interested in seeing some more monster of the week episodes. I will list my favorite standalones at the end of the blog that I watched from the list.

If the mythology does not interest you, just watch the last episode of season 9. It summarizes it well, but you will miss the fun nuances of the show.

What I Liked about the X-Files.

  • Seasons 1-6. Most fans agree. Season 6 should have been the end of the show.  Season 1 is slow filled mostly with standalone episodes, but the last episode is the first strong mythology episode.  Season 2 starts to ramp up the mythology, and once in Season 3, there is a very good rhythm to the show that hooks you.  The show was contracted to end at Season 5, but it was too popular to cancel (so I read), and Season 6 does end the main story line half way through the season.
  • Duchovny and Anderson are very good TV actors. They are both very expressive, despite playing stoic FBI agents. They have good dry and sarcastic humour. They have a lot of screen chemistry. In the show, Duchovny is the “believer” in UFOs, the supernatural, and the unexplained. Anderson is the scientist and skeptic. In real life, it is the reverse. Further, the two were known to not get along during the filming of the show and were bickering constantly. Ironically, they are best friends since the show ended.
  • Mulder and Scully’s characters are well represented when they are working together on a case. They challenge each other. They build each other. As the show continues, they learn to respect each other, and a solid friendship is formed. The actors really deliver the care for one another well, while maintaining “professional boundaries”. It sets up a very good question as to what are those boundaries between care for a colleague, friend, and someone you love.  It creates a great tension between the characters, and the show writes that very well.  One thing I noted,  Duchovny played a perfect gentleman, despite some of Mulder’s character aspects.
  • Chris Carter fought hard for the casting of the show. The show’s key characters were very well casted across the board and I liked that they were not the usual “Brad and Angelina”, as Fox network wanted.
  • I liked the fact they used Canadian actors. It may have saved them some coin, but it helped them support the stars of the show much more while giving exposure to some unknowns in the States. There are some nice guest appearances too, like Alex Trebek, and Callum Keith Rennie (who turned down the recurring role of Alex Krycek, too bad, he would have been perfect for it…btw the one who played him was Canadian too), Bruce Harwood, and the Cigarette Smoking man.
  • Despite the weaker seasons 7 – 9, it was nice to see the professional chemistry restored at the last episode of the series.
  • I did not mind the movie “I Want to Believe of 2008”. It was a stand alone and was not a typical X-Files feel to it, but it had a nice flow to it despite poor IMDB reviews. You don’t have to have watched the X-Files show to watch this movie, though there is one “mythology” spoiler that is subtle and it is helpful to know what the X-Files is about, though not essential.

Don’t Likes

  • The series was winding down to a conclusion in Season 5.  Chris Carter was set to do a series of X-Files movies, and the first bridged Season 5 to Season 6.  The filming schedules did have heavy demands on the actors, as we start to see in Season 6 more “solo” shows for Mulder and Scully, giving the actors time to rest. The chemistry between the two made the show work for me, separating the two made the show weaker.
  • The first X-Files movie should not have been a feature film. It should have been a two part episode. In fact, that is what it really was.
  • I liked the chemistry and some of the romantic tensions between Mulder and Scully, As the plot got resolved in season’s 5 – 6, so did some of those tensions. Once the tensions were lost, the actors had less challenge and direction, and it reflected in their performances (hard to elaborate without spoilers!).
  • One thing that surprised me about the show is that despite being a story around Mulder and his desire to find his sister (who he witnessed being abducted by aliens as a child), it had more emphasis on Scully as a result of her experience working with him. Her character goes through a lot, which had a physical and emotional price. That said, a stoic FBI agent evolving to a character that cries in just about every episode since season 6 became a little bit too much to watch. Not sure if Anderson had a special gift to cry on demand or not, but looked like it. It was a little over the top, surprising to me, and was really getting annoying to watch. It became too predictable a pattern.
  • Once Season 7 started, the actors looked bored with the roles. It really looked like they were going through the motions.  As mentioned, the show was more or less resolved, and the writing looked like it was clutching at straws to keep the plot going.
  • Duchovny pretty much left the show in Season 8. The Scully and Mulder relationship is what made the show tick. The writers introduced new characters, perhaps to set up the X-Files for the next nine years. Very difficult to do when the show was built around “Mulder’s mythology”. The actors were unfairly criticized as being poorly cast. I would argue that an actor is only as good as the script.
  • So many solid Canadian actors were killed off. Ryan Reynolds, Megan Follows, and Corner Gassers Brent Butt and Gabrielle Miller became the equivalent of the Star Trek men in red.

Favorite Standalones From the List

“Ice” (1×8): Mulder, Scully and a team of scientists try to figure out why an Arctic team wiped each other out–until the new team turns on each other, too.  This was the episode that really drew me in to the show and was the best monster feature to that point.

“Humbug” (2×20): Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the death of a sideshow performer.  An episode that succeeded in creeping me out.

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4): Mulder and Scully enlist a reluctant psychic, Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle), to help them catch a killer who may be able to see the future. The hour won an Emmy for Boyle’s guest role and for Darin Morgan’s script.  He was exceptional.

“Syzygy” (3×13): A rare planetary alignment causes people to act out of sorts…including Mulder and Scully. First episode I recall seeing the two act beyond stoicism and I was surprised to see their behaviour. Some satire in here too as there are some “horror movie” cliches in here..

“Pusher” (3×17): A man is seemingly able to take away people’s free will. The Pusher is a very strong character.

“Home” (4×2): The hour was so disturbing that Fox opted to not re-air it after its initial broadcast. Rightfully so, not for the weak of heart.

Small Potatoes” (4×20): After multiple babies are born with tails, Mulder and Scully struggle to find the cause.  There was a nice touch of humour here as well as the first time we concretly see any romance potential between Scully and Mulder.

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×5): The black-and-white hour has Mulder and Scully investigating a small town with a Frankenstein’s monster-esque creature.  Nice to see the show not take itself too seriously.

“Bad Blood” (5×12): When Mulder stakes a “vampire,” he and Scully have very different recollections about what really went down. The he said/she said delivery of this episode was very funny. The acting to deliver the stories was well done.

“The Rain King” (6×8): A man claims to be able to control the weather. Victoria Jackson was awesome, blending in some nice humour.


Now that I watched this list, time to start watching the Revival!

Do you agree disagree with my observations? Do you have a favorite episode that was either on or off this list?