Energy Drink - My Short Story for We-Write
The Charged Up Cafe was dead. Not because its tables didn’t have the power to charge devices as promised, but because no sane person wants coffee in the middle of the night.
So I loitered at the cash register looking out at the emptiness. Benches lined the walls and a single line of small circular tables were set up between them. The space was small - the owner liked to call it "intimate" - but it felt strangely cavernous being there alone. Now and then I'd walk back to the kitchen to chat with Henry, the night shift cook. But tonight he wasn’t in the mood to talk and simply grunted at me in response to everything I said. Still, I kept going in since just seeing him made me feel a little less alone as the hours dragged on.
Somewhere around midnight I left the kitchen to clean the tables, again, and saw I had a customer. He wore a black business suit with a long blue tie and white shirt. His face looked like hell. It’s not that he was old, but the skin around his eyes and mouth sagged a little. It's how I imagined doctors look after long shifts in the ER. When he saw me he shuffled past the benches and tables towards me.
"I need to charge," he said. I looked at him, wondering why he was telling me. Every table had a charging station. Why didn't he just go plug in?
"Ok. Pick a table and plug in. I'll be over to take your order in a sec."
He looked at me, then at a table. After what seemed like forever he sat down. I took a deep breath knowing that this would be one of those nights. You know, the ones filled with weirdos and oddballs. Like the guy a few months ago that came in wearing pajamas. Pink unicorns and balloons on the pants and a purple shirt that said "I Believe". It was cute, but didn't match his bushy beard and mohawk. Another time a woman tried to order "fuzzy wuzzy coffee". She was rather insistent, even when I explained to her that we only served regular, non-fuzzy or wuzzy coffee. After yelling unintelligible words at me, she screamed and ran outside.
My mind tried to figure out what the dude-in-the-suit’s thing would be. I was fifty fifty on whether he was high or exhausted. I grabbed the coffee pot and went over to his table. And, of course, he's sitting half bent over staring at the fake wood pattern surface. Nothing plugged in.
"I thought you needed to charge?" I said, regretting it immediately.
"I need to charge..."
His words slurred together, like a toy when the batteries are running low. His head dropped onto the table hard, making me jump back. That's when I saw the back of his neck.
The dull silver band looked like a 'ear-free' headphone device of some kind. It ended at a point just behind the ears where a red light was winking. I looked closely and saw a wire going down the neck. I checked the man, he was breathing slow but steady, like in deep sleep- probably an overdose of a variety of hard drinks and maybe a few pills thrown in. I took a pic of the headphones out of curiosity and did an image search.
"Lifeline" was its brand name. It not only functioned in tandem with your phone but almost all the electronic devices- from cars to air-conditioners to doors and medical implants. It boasted of a 100 hour battery life and the state of art wireless tech. It was priced at $8,999.00 That was serious money, I looked at the sleeping man with new interest. The clothes looked pricey and he had a bracelet- a solid band of silver or white gold. I walked to the door and peeked outside, no car in sight and the street was empty but for two homeless guys sitting on the pavement sharing a bottle.
I came back in and lay the stranger on the seat and began rifling through his pockets. The mobile phone was a new one with face recognition. I held it in front of his face but maybe it needed to see the eyes. I kept the phone on the table and reached out to position his head so his eyes can stay open- It seemed worth one try at least.
I felt a vibration when my fingers touched his temple, the headphones were on. The phone was alive, so what did he want to charge? I went on to open his left eye- that was a mistake. I don't remember anything else.
Detective Macy Grespin sighed and switched off the recorder. " So you can't describe the man's face, you don't remember seeing any weapon."
I shook my head and murmured "Nothing."
"That is a serious burn on your chest. Like somebody poke you with an inch thick red hot iron bar. And you were unconscious for nearly two days due to 'loss of blood' though there is no other wound on your body. This is... strange. You want to tell me anything else."
I lay silent. Fear gripped my heart again. There was no way I was going to tell her about those terrible eyes or the burning I felt in my neck, just below the left ear, where I could feel the two tiny puncture marks. She would any way think I was delusional.
Picture credit: Pixabay.com