Coffee Mishaps (Pt. 2)

The continuing saga of Thornne, Rosalee, and Hyalus…. 

A familiar knock rapped on the door of the closed coffee shop.

Thornne’s head shot up from inspecting her still neon pink tattoos. “Don’t you dare open that door. I mean it. Don’t let him in. Don’t you dare do it.”

Rosalee scrunched her nose. “Oh, please. He’s not going to make fun of you.”

She grimaced. “I know. That’s why I don’t want you to let him in. It would be more humiliating to have him fawn over me than criticize me.”

The modern magic user waved a hand as she glided to the front door. “Hey, Hyalus. Please come in. I locked the door only a few minutes ago, and I still need to finish cleaning up, so I’ll be here for awhile.”

The man with the glass right arm smiled and entered, looking around the empty coffee shop. “How’s business going for you, Rosie?”

“It’s been great. A lot of repeat customers, which has been increasing word-of-mouth. And I promise, no addicting or mind control potions slipped into my drinks.” Her salmon eyes studied the bar stool that just had a patron. “So what brings you by?”

Hyalus ran his hand through his black hair. “Oh, I just wanted to wish Thornne a happy birthday. She wasn’t at her house, and I saw Mr. Sexy in the parking lot, so I thought I’d try here.”

Her eyes narrowed. “It’s her birthday…?” But she soon straightened. “You know what, Hy, take a seat, and I’ll go get the birthday girl. Enjoy that drink on the counter.” With a short smile, she ducked into the back room behind the counter. “Thornne, are you in here?”

The woman with lime green hair had wide eyes searching the preparation space filled with vials, potions, and ingredients. “Rose, we need to talk. Are you…a witch?”

Rosalee sighed. “We don’t use the ‘w’ word here. And to answer your question, no. Even though I don’t know why it would change our relationship if I was. My magic is in my blood, and I channel it through coffee. I’m more of a…beverage sorcereress. How does Hylaus know today’s your birthday, and I don’t?”

Thornne sighed. “Get this pink off me, and I’ll tell you.”

“Have you tried your shapeshifting abilities to make it look black?”

“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past hour?”

The mage rose a dark brow. “I’ll get something to try to help. How does he know your birthday and not your best friend?” She went to a shelf full of partially used containers and grabbed an empty mug.

Thornne waved a hand. “It’s from our government experiment days. Dad always had to parade me around on my birthday like I was some type of god. I hated it. But I’ve always hated both of my parents.”

Rosalee handed her a concoction. “Oh, that’s right. I got out before you and Hyalus were acquired.”

She paused while downing the drink. “Say what?”

“Nothing! How you feeling?”

Thornne squinted an eye. “Why?”

“No reason. What’s your favorite color?”

“Lime green.”

“Your first love?”

“Mr. Sexy.” Thornne stumbled a bit. “What is this?”

Rosalee smiled. “Truth potion. I want you and Hyalus to have a good time. There’s a side effect. It causes drunkenness without the need for alcohol. It’s not harmful. More for my entertainment than anything else.”

She hiccuped and searched for something to support herself on. “Y-you really…suck.”

“I know,” came the chipper reply. “I also know you love me anyway. Now, get. Your non-romance awaits.”

 

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The Day the World Turned Orange

“Hey, Hun,” Elise called, pausing as she grabbed her keys off the counter, eyes transfixed out the window in front of her.

“Yes?” Michael responded as he popped his head out of the bathroom. He followed his wife’s gaze. Toothbrush hanging out of his mouth.

She stood unblinking. “What’s wrong with the sky? Why’s it like that?”

He moved beside her. “I don’t know. Perhaps the clouds are reflecting the sunrise. It is almost five thirty.”

“Right. Almost five thirty?” Eyes widening, she trotted down the stairs. “I’m going to be late for work. I can’t get fired!” She flung open the door leading to the garage then elbowed the button to retract the large garage door. Placed her lunchbox in the passenger seat of her bright green Jeep.

However, her pace slowed to a crawl when she caught a glimpse of the outside world as she rounded the back of the Wrangler. Yes, the sun may start rising before five thirty, but it was never this bright. Nor was the entire air tinted orange. And that’s what it seemed like. As if someone spray-painted the air itself with a transparent, faint orange color. Never had she seen such a thing in her years of life.

“Whoa,” came Michael’s response as he stood in the doorway leading back into the house. “Were we transported into a video game in our sleep or what?”

She gave a short laugh. “Well, if we did, it was Fallout, and this is just after the bombs fell. But I guess I better get going. I can spectate this on my way.” After giving her husband a quick peck on the cheek, she pulled herself into the taller vehicle. Carefully backed out into the orange haze.

Honestly, the atmosphere was eerie. She wanted to declare this was an unbelievable phenomenon, but there was something about it that made her not want to make any final decisions on it. It was too quiet. Even for this early time of the day.

There were much fewer cars on the road taking her to her hardware store job. Normally, there was average of about fifty. Today, she counted thirteen. And they all had their windows tightly rolled shut even though the weather was lovely, despite the summer season.

Elise glanced at her two windows that were rolled down. Was there something in the air she didn’t know about? Did she need to roll up her windows? She looked around at the continued orange through the top of her windshield. Were there even clouds in the sky? She couldn’t see any kind of variations.

Ah, screw it. She was keeping her windows down. As weird as the sky was, it was too nice out to not have them down. Turning up the radio, she placed an elbow out the window. Thumb tapping the steering wheel. Although, her wary gaze didn’t lose true sight of the strange orange glow.

Soon, her nostrils flared. What was that burning smell? Her arm grew hot. She looked down and gave a yell of alarm as the top layers of her flesh bubbled red. Pulling her arm back inside the Jeep, she almost crashed the vehicle during her surprising discovery.

The subtle sizzling of her skin stopped once it was out of direct contact with the orange light. Her wide eyes studied her arm. She couldn’t feel much pain, but common sense told her not to put her arm back out. In fact, she rolled both windows up.

She stared at her festering wound. Returned her attention back outside. What was this orange glow? Where did it come from? There had been no alerts, no sirens in the night. Nothing to relay a national emergency. It clearly wasn’t safe, so why hadn’t she seen anything about it on her news feed when she played on her phone before getting ready?

Was this the result of government experiments? Or was this the pollution finally coming to wipe humans out. It wasn’t a bomb since there were no sirens. Unless certain people died, and no one was able to activate the sirens. She didn’t want to think about that.

The main worry for now was what could she find that would allow her to safely go out into the orange glow? Assuming she would ever find out what caused it and what it was made of. After sending a warning text to her husband, she continued on her way. If there was something she could make to protect herself, certainly the hardware store would have it. It didn’t seem to affect cars and houses, after all.

 

*Author’s Note: Yesterday morning, I did walk into my garage and lift the door to see the air painted with a faded orange. It was an unusual phenomenon. Of course, I ran through every fictional post-apocalyptic/sci-fi scenario I could before the science side of my brain kicked in and told me the crystalized water in the very low-hanging clouds was reflecting a bright orange sunrise down instead of out across the sky. It was ominous and beautiful at the same time. And, of course, I needed to write a short story about it. 

Coffee Mishaps

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Thornne squinted an eye at the mug she finished. “This coffee tastes weird.”

Rosalee paused as she wiped down the main counter. Her salmon-colored eyes widening. “That’s probably because it’s not coffee.”

“Rose…what did I just drink?”

“I, uh, well, I’m not sure.”

Thornne closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Please don’t tell me I just downed another one of your potion experiments. Last time, I almost fell in love with Hyalus, and I swear, if that happens again, I will kill you this time.”

“Oh, come on. You know you love me.” The practicing mage smiled sheepishly. “It’s almost closing time, so how about I shut down early?” She locked the front door of her quaint coffee shop and pulled down all the blinds in the slender windows. Then her expression turned serious. “Give me that mug.”

With a scowl, she pushed it across the counter’s bar. “Take it.” She smoothed back her thick, lime green hair.

Rosalee held the mug under her nose and inhaled a deep breath. “Hmm. Getting some herbs. Ooh, a spice or two for flavor. A hint of honey–”

“Rose, what did I just drink?”

Her tongue flicked along the inside rim of the mug. “Oh! This isn’t anything harmful at all. Just my new way to color my hair.” She tossed her rich chocolate brown hair dipped in fuschia. “A girl like me doesn’t have time for lengthy coloring sessions, so I’m trying an oral method.”

Thornne’s nostrils flared. “Will this change my hair color? Because I have a strict rule of keeping it this vibrant green. I don’t want it to be anything else.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t tried it yet.”

The shapeshifter sighed and let her head fall on the counter. “I swear…”

Rosalee’s lips formed a thin line. “Uh, Thornne?”

“What?”

“Look at your arm.”

Thornne lifted her head, holding out her right arm. Watched the tattoo sleeve change color. The roses and spiraling thorny stems faded from black to neon pink. Her jaw set, and she slowly turned her head toward her friend. “Are you kidding me right now? How long is this going to last?”

The modern sorceress held up her hands. “I don’t know! This was an experiment. It doesn’t look half bad on you.”

“We are not leaving this coffee shop until you fix this. Do you hear me? I don’t care if we’re here until the rest of the night. I’m not going to be seen in public like this.”

Rosalee couldn’t contain a giggle. “You know, it’s a good thing were in the Millennial generation. People are used to our ‘exotic’ colors.”

The shapeshifter frowned. “This…abomination is not my color. I only wear black, white, and green. You know this. So fix it. Now.”

“Alright, alright, Ms. Grumpypants. I’ll start working on a counter potion.”

“And while you’re at it, you can get me a real cup of coffee.”

 

Isle of Lost but Never Found

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My eyes slowly opened as I sat up, instantly blinded by an intense light. I raised my arm in attempt to block the source. It was all pure instinct; sight was the only sense currently functioning properly.

A sudden wind beat my back. The hairs on my arms rising. I shivered, realizing I was soaked head to toe. Pushing myself to bare feet, I hugged my chest. Where was I?

Everything adjusted into focus. Sand met water roughly thirty feet in front of me. A beach? I rubbed my face with my hands. Last thing I remembered, I was camping in a forest on a mountain. This had to be a dream. A hallucination.

My hearing finally kicked in. The rhythmic roar of the ocean lapped ashore. I took a deep breath of salty air. A lucid dream? However, it all felt so real. If this was real, how did I get here?

Distant barking made me whirl around. My eyes widened, and an eyebrow rose. Before me stretched mounds of socks, keys, phones, cables. What on Earth? What was this place? I started forward, inspecting the socks further. Not a single one had a match.

As I walked further into what I assumed was an island barren of vegetation, I noticed a plethora of remotes and bank cards. Lipstick tubes scattered around. Various forms of office supplies. Was this a place for junk? Junk Island?

The barking became deafening as a herd of collarless dogs rushed me, knocking me to the ground. I couldn’t help but laugh as I was attacked by a thousand tongues. But through the canine fur, I caught glimpses of cats, birds, reptiles, and other animals looking more domesticated than wild.

I eventually found my footing and searched the area. My heart stopping. A soldier in full combat gear approached, wearing more dog tags than I dared counting. I swallowed. He held the hands of two children, and a parade of soldiers and children from varying nationalities followed him.

The head soldier greeted me. “What’s your name?”

My eyes couldn’t leave the sunken features of all the humans before me. They looked starved. “Morgan.”

He attempted half of an exhausted smile. “Welcome to the Isle of Lost and Never Found, Morgan.”

I swallowed again. The very last thing I recalled thinking to myself was how I got lost in the woods on the mountain. Then darkness. But an island of lost things? I would’ve preferred the Island of Misfit Toys to be real. “How big is this place?”

“It expands to fit what appears.”

Rubbing my eyes, I nodded. Dared to ask the inevitable. “Do things ever get found?”

The soldier shifted, a couple of the children sniffed and shuffled. “Sometimes. We assume you go back to the real world.” He gestured to his tags. “We’ve found soldiers from WWI here. Unfortunately, not everything lasts forever. Not even here.”

I searched the man then the forlorn children. Allowed my gaze to wander back to the beach I woke up on. Despite the presence of all the people in front of me, I suddenly felt terribly alone. More so than when I walked in the woods.

I had no idea if I would ever be found.

A Chronic Monster Inside

“I need help,” she hoarsely called as she fought to keep tears at bay, the agony inside her head growing. She couldn’t cry because her vision was already blurred by the pain. All she could see was colored blurs. Nothing was in definition. But she needed to get out.

The right side of her face grew numb. Save for the long, quarter-inch drill bit grinding its way through her skull, the pointed tip severing the nerves behind her eye. She rubbed the problem area with the heel of her palm.

There was no blood; she wished there was. It would give a reason to her suffering.

Her hand felt the area beside her. Felt a wall. She tried clawing her way up to her feet, but her equilibrium refused to stabilize. Darkness flickered into her vision. Mind spinning, she slid back to the scratchy floor. “Hello?” her voice was nothing more than a pitiful whine, “I need help.”

She stayed pressed against the wall. Its coolness providing slight comfort. Though her face remained contorted in a grimace. The pain in her head caused her hearing to elevate. She could listen to every creak, groan, and crack of the building. She could hear all the leaves rustling with the wind outside, discern all ambient noise.

But she could not hear another person. Could not locate someone to help her. Her eyes opened. Everything was still blurred, even with the bright white bleeding into her peripherals. Her chest trembled with unspent sobs. Mirroring the slight shudder of her body.

“Please,” she managed. Allowed herself to fall to her hands and knees. “I need help. H-hello?” The outline of what she presumed was a door materialized. Hopefully, it was a door. She needed out. Needed aid. She was alone, scared. The pain had never been so threatening before. “Please.”

The dam holding back her tears finally broke as she miserably crawled to her perspective freedom. “Hello?” Her throat dried, and her little strength waned. She collapsed with a whimper. “I need help.” Curling up into a ball, she hugged herself. “Hello…hello?” She couldn’t get any closer to the door. Couldn’t get any closer to escape, relief.

“I need help. Please?” Her eyes fluttered. “H-hello?” The volume of her voice dropped considerably. “I…I need help. Hello?” She buried her head into the rough floor, everything coming out as raspy whispers. “Hello…hello…I need help. I need help. Please. Hello?” The darkness completely enveloped her. “I need h-help…”

Aurora Borealis

I dared not look up, instead keeping my gaze down. Snow crunched under my boots as my headlamp revealed my short puffs of breath. If I accomplished one thing in my mundane life, it would be climbing this mountain. The wind whipped against me. Making me pause until it died down. I hated this stopping and starting. My muscles burned and were frozen at the same time. This was by far my most painful experience. But it would be worth it. Once I reached the summit.

A sigh of contentment escaped me as I ascended. It took me three days, but I made it. In time to see the Northern Lights. I dropped my pack. Turned off my headlamp. Ripping off my goggles, I exposed my eyes to the frigid night air. I breathed deep. This was why I sat in the same cubicle for ten years. It was this spectacle that had given me hope, given me life.

Greens, blues, even purples danced above me in silent song. Flickered in lazy waves. I held my breath as tears formed and froze. It was more magnificent than I imagined. More breathtaking than all the pictures combined. It sent me into meditative peace. My heartrate calmed. My aching muscles forgot about the trek I had made. Everything centered on the marvel I witnessed.

The colors suddenly shifted. Convulsed and swirled in an organic pattern. A tendril broke away from the rest. Floated towards me. I remained motionless until I couldn’t resist any longer. Hesitating, I reached out a gloved hand. My finger grazed the tendril. Pleasant warmth flooded me, driving away the cold. I jumped back. Not expecting to make contact.

As the tendril snaked away, the form of a woman took shape. She was made of the Northern Lights itself; her hair never left the Lights, and her feet never touched the ground. Her eyes snapped open. Revealing themselves to be twin stars. She turned her gaze upon me. Partially transparent form lambent.

I stumbled back into the snow, landing solidly on my butt. I blinked several times. Couldn’t fill my lungs with enough air. Which had been difficult to begin with in the thin atmosphere.

“Peace, warrior.” Her mellifluous voice kept time with the Lights. “I have waited 1,210 years for you.”

My gaze darted around. Me? I was no warrior. I wasn’t even a weekend warrior. Surely not me. I resided to pointing at myself.

She seemed to nod. “Yes, you. My name is Aurora Borealis.”

Knees shaking, I pushed myself to my feet. Found my voice in my dry mouth. “That’s what we call this. I mean, you, I suppose.”

“Yes. Because that is my name. I have known yours, for you are worthy. You see, I am from the past. I live in the future. Yet, I am aware of the present. I have experienced and waited for this moment for centuries.”

I rubbed my eyes. The Northern Lights had taken the form of a woman, spoke to me, and told me I was worthy? I must’ve passed out after I reached the summit. I checked over my shoulder. I wasn’t lying in the snow, so this wasn’t an out-of-body experience. My gaze returned to the ethereal woman before me. Yes, she was still there.

Her form wavered. “I am real. You will come to belief in time. You always have. However, you must understand. They have killed my brother, Aurora Australis. They seek to destroy me next. You must unravel the mystery that will rewrite history and save us, as well as humanity.”

“What,” I finally blurted. “You want me to be some sort of savior? I barely made it up this mountain. Who’s ‘they?’ How am I worthy of anything? I never even made Employee of the Month. Are you even going to answer any of my questions?”

“Everything will come to fruition. You shall see. Take one of my children as a guide.” She lowered an arm. A star descended, decreasing in size until she captured it in a lantern made of the Lights. She handed her precious child over. “I must go. My faith resides in you. You have always been brave. Do not forget my words.”

With a final pause of affirmation, she retreated back into the sky. The Northern Lights receded. Faded into nothingness. All that remained was darkness. Only for a few moments. The morning sun crept up from the east. Setting the mountains on fire with the reflecting snow.

I stood in dumbstruck silence. Too many questions for my brain to comprehend. I had only wanted to see the Northern Lights. That was the one exciting thing I wanted to do in my life. I didn’t want to be recognized for doing something great. I just wanted to see the phenomenon that had filled my dreams ever since I was a child.

Was that it, then? Had I really been chosen? I finally looked at the flickering lantern. The star twinkled with unknown secrets. My gaze returned to the scenery in front of me. What was I supposed to do?

Before I could think another thought, I was, indeed, transported to the past.

*Author’s Note: Short Story Saturday brings a somewhat short story. I tried sending this to a few online short story publications, and it got denied. I like it the way it is, so instead of changing it, I decided to publish it on my own blog. I just won’t get paid for it. Which is perfectly fine. I don’t write for payment; I write for my own enjoyment. Hopefully, others will enjoy it as well. 

The Butterfly Dragons

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“I just wish they weren’t so afraid of the camera. It’s the only way I ever get to see them,” Aesilver lamented. She sighed and propped her chin in a hand, rose gold hair settling around her long, pointed ears. Her elbows rested on the wooden railing also supporting her camera, but she jutted her hips enough that her decorative bells jingled.

“What are you even talking about?” Calena tossed her lavender bangs from her face, trying to get a better view of the simulated lush environment. Her dangling earrings clinked in response. “This is a botanical gardens. There are no creatures here. You’ll need to go to the zoo.”

Aesilver threw her head back. “Were you not listening to me at all? It took the hover tram two hours to get here. I was explaining the whole way.”

The other elf shrugged. “I guess I tuned it out. All I want to see is the diamond flower. It’s supposed to be the only living plant left in existence.”

“Mm. It is a pity the humans decimated the plant life. Everything is artificial now. Even the animals can only be found in zoos anymore. But that’s to be expected from a race who only values currency.”

Calena played with her holographic phone. “Don’t knock it. Currency is what keeps us living like the princesses we are. Now shut up and tell me what it is you’re trying to find, so we can go look at the diamond flower.”

“The butterfly dragons!” Aesilver lifted the slender camera to her silver eyes. “Be quiet so they’ll come out.” After a few moments of silence, she gasped. Repeatedly smacked her friend’s arm.

Two dragons, no bigger than a fairy butterfly, flitted about the richly colored flowers. Searching for synthesized nectar. Their dainty bodies were patterned exactly off the insects, and there was nothing fearsome about them. In fact, they were thought to be extinct. But they could occasionally be seen in the botanical gardens by a lucky visitor.

Leaning over the railing, Calena squinted. “I don’t see them.” She swatted away the other’s hand. “Stop hitting me.”

Aesilver held the camera display in front of her. Eager to see her pictures. As she scrolled through, she frowned.

“Oh, no…what?”

“I didn’t get any of them.” Her rose gold lips pouted. “We’ll have to wait until they find the courage to come out again. I don’t know why they didn’t show up in any of the pictures. I had it on rapid capture.”

Calena groaned. She allowed her head to fall onto the railing, lavender braids falling around her porcelain face. “We are going to be here forever!”