Coffee in the Morning by Russ Bickerstaff

She sat there with her hands around a cup of coffee looking out the window at passing traffic. Tomack Alto tried not to stare, but she was a total stranger sitting there in his kitchen in the early morning and she had come to his door speaking something to him that he had never expected to hear. She had told him about the blood coating the temple by the volcano. So naturally he had to let her in. He really didn’t have much of a choice. To close the door on her would have been closing the door on a part of himself.
Her eyes peered out the window at passing traffic. Nothing could have been more mundane than this total stranger sitting there taking a sip of coffee. Tomack found a second mug and filled it for himself. He had just gotten back from dropping his kids off at school and wasn’t due in to work until later on in the day. This was his point in the day to relax a little bit before the stresses of the day lurched into view. He was used to enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning by himself. This was a bit out of the ordinary for him.
“So,” Tomack said, “run this by me one more time.”
“What do you want me to say?” She asked slowly.
“We can start with what you told me when I answered the door.” He said.
“Okay,” she sighed. “The only blood covering the temple in the shadow of the volcano will be your own.” She had a soft, girlish voice which made the words all the more strange. She spoke the words like a child who had memorized lines for a performance in some grade school auditorium. Then she took another sip of coffee as a dump truck drove by outside the kitchen window.
“Right,” Tomack said stifling a shiver that had run up and down his back. “And how is it you know about that?”
“About what?” Her voice almost seemed a little tired in response. Tomack tried to search her eyes, but the woman seemed determined to gaze out the window.
“How is it that you know about the temple in the shadow of the volcano that has to be painted with blood? I’ve known about it my whole life, but I’d never heard about it from anyone else before.”
“Me too.” She glanced at him and nodded absently.  “I mean,” she said with a sigh, “I’ve known about this thing my whole life too. Never read about it anywhere. Never heard about it from anywhere else. I just know there’s this temple in the shadow of this volcano. I know that if my blood covers the walls of that temple, the world will come to an end.”
“Wow,” Tomack gasped. “That’s exactly it. It’s what I’ve known my entire life. Only I’ve never known where this temple was or anything like that. But it’s something I know to be absolutely true. It’s like gravity always doing the same thing or the sun always rising in the morning. Black will always be black. White will always be white. And there will always be this temple unless my blood coats its walls.”
“Right,” she said, “and then the world comes to an end if that ever happens.”
“Which is totally crazy.”
“Right,” she said. “But that doesn’t make it any less true.”
“Exactly,” he agreed.
“But there’s more to it than that,” she said. “You and I both know there’s more to it than that, right?”
“Yeah,” he said gazing out the window as an old man strolled by outside with a dog on a leash. “That’s as surreal as everything else.”
“I guess when I moved into the neighborhood and saw you for the first time I knew you were the other one who knew about it.” Tomack looked at her and saw her as she spoke. And maybe he was looking at her for the first time and even though he had never seen her before, he knew. He knew she was who she was as well as he knew that black was black, white was white and there was a temple in the shadow of a volcano. He knew that the only person who could kill him and paint the walls of that distant temple with his blood was her. She clearly knew that same thing about him.
“Right,” he said. “I’m not interested in killing you or anything.”
“Right,” she said matter-of-factly. “I don’t even know where that temple is.”
“Exactly,” he said. “I’d tried to track it down online, but there’s no evidence a place like that even exists.”
“I know,” she said. “I’d looked into it to. Couldn’t find anything.” She took another long sip of coffee.
“The thing is…” he said, his voice trailing off into the ether as he cautiously gazed into his cup. “If you did know where it was and you could take us there right now through some sort of magic or whatever, you wouldn’t tell me about it.”
“Right,” she said reluctantly. “I am the villain in this whole thing. I’m the antagonist and the nemesis. I don’t even know why, y’know?”
“Right,” he said. “And I don’t know why I’m supposed to be the hero or anything like that. It’s just . . . fate or something.”
“Right,” she said. Here eyes glanced away into the sky as she thought about that distant space. The acrid smoke coming out of the volcano. Right now there was a woman pushing a stroller on the sidewalk outside the kitchen, Within the hour she would feel his skull crush in her bare hands as blood gushed out of Tomack’s body that would paint prisitne whit marble walls of a temple at the end of the world. By lucnh time it would all come crashing down. Gravity would shake loose from every other dimension as planets and galaxies would spiral out of control into an uncaring abyss of nothingness. Infinity itself would be at an end right around 3:00 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s