Nora woke up with a start, and immediately opened her laptop. There before here was a set of blurry rectangles filled with numbers on her screen. She blinked deliberately, bringing them back into focus. Something wasn’t adding up, and she was going to have to search cell by cell to find the error.
Moving always sucks. The cable company was two hours late last nigh to install internet at her new apartment, and then she had to spend another two on the phone with tech support. But the worst part was she had to do it all without coffee to wake up to in the morning; somehow, in all the rush of boxes and moving vans, Nora had forgotten to pack her coffee maker. At least she remembered her mugs. But between the cable company and a menacing email from her boss “checking in” on the status of tomorrow's 9AM presentation, the once-subtle throb between her temples grew into a massive, pounding headache.
But then she smelled something… unmistakeable… emanating from her empty move-in-ready kitchen. Her brain knew it instantly: That's coffee! She looked up from her laptop and could almost see the aroma animatedly wafting towards her nostrils. Its source was a little white plastic Mr. Coffee machine, which had appeared, as though by magic, on the Formica countertop of her new apartment. Nora had no recollection of seeing it there before, and certainly hadn't filled it with coffee and water in order to brew it the night before. (Mr. Coffee wasn't really her brand—she was more a Bonavita person.) The pot was yellowed from age, and had been plugged in by… someone?… into an outlet near the sink in her otherwise empty kitchen. It must have been the landlord, she thought, genuinely befuddled (that's a little weird) yet undeniably drawn to the sweet, heavenly ambrosial aroma of the coffee.
The clear power switch illuminated red, and her favorite mug, the one she and Mikey had stole from that diner on Broad Street, was sitting next to the Mr. Coffee, full and steaming. It took her brain a few moments to catch up to her eyes, and when it did alarm swept through her. When had she poured herself a cup of coffee? Why didn’t she remember doing it?
Nora examined the pot sitting on the warmer, and it appeared completely full. Panic flashed, and she walked to her front door, checking all the locks. It couldn't have been the landlord. This place is managed by a corporation. Everything was bolted, and the chain was still engaged. No one had entered unnoticed. The days had begun to blur together since she started working remotely full-time, but she had never lost moments or noticed blanks in her memory. I’m just stressed from today, she thought.
She turned back from the door and stopped cold in the entrance to the kitchen. The mug was now sitting next to her laptop. She looked from the mug to the coffee machine. She hadn’t touched the mug before checking the door. The red brew light blazed, mocking her. I don’t have the energy for this, she thought. Shaking her head and sighing deeply, Nora sat back at the table and grabbed the mug, taking a large sip. It tasted fine, and her brain lit up with the coffee's warmth. It was time to hunker down and finish the presentation.
A full day passed. Daylight faded into night, and the yellow streetlamp cast a dull glow through the single front window. Nora sat in the dark kitchen, her face illuminated by the blue-light of the screen. Suddenly her laptop simultaneously chimed and dimmed, and she noticed the low battery icon in the corner of the screen blinking. She had definitely plugged it in before working, but maybe the cable was loose. She checked the connections at the computer and the outlet, and both were firm.
Nora reached up and flicked the light switch. The room remained dark, except for the laptop and the angry red light on the coffee machine, which had grown in luminous volume as the other lights had dimmed. Hadn’t she switched the machine off after emptying the pot? Using her phone, she shuffled gingerly down the hall towards the bedroom where the fuse box was located. The breaker box opened with a creak, and she peered inside. The kitchen fuse didn’t look or feel tripped, and neither did any of the other fuses. Except for the main breaker.
That meant nothing was getting power. How was the Mr. Coffee still on? These old buildings have all sorts of strange wiring. She would have to call the corporate building services number in the morning. Tentatively, she flipped the main breaker, which instantly tripped again. Apparently, she would have to call the hotline now, at 3AM.
As she started typing L-A-N-D- in her contacts, Nora heard something shatter in the kitchen. Fear jolted through her veins, and she yelled out “Hello?” into the empty hall. Nervously, she edged from the bedroom back towards the kitchen. Nora could hear the blood pounding in her ears, and as she neared the kitchen she fought the urge to shut her eyes and run back into the bedroom and under her covers, hiding until morning.
More than anything else she needed to finish her work. Her work! If there was no power, that meant no internet. And she had been saving everything to the cloud.
The realization heightened her anxiety, but she entered the kitchen anyway. In the dim light she could see the coffee maker on the counter, its light piercing the dark room. Shattered around it was the glass pot, black coffee dripping into a puddle onto the floor, jagged glass reflecting the crimson glow of the power indicator. In the moment that she took to assess the damage and contemplate the new coffee that miraculously appeared in the pot, her laptop gasped its power-down chime.
“NONONONONO!” Nora yelled, racing over to the laptop to try and prevent it from shutting down. Goodbye, the screen read, and she collapsed into the chair. The room was cast into darkness. She wasn’t sure how long the power had been out, and how much work was lost.
This new city, new apartment, it was all supposed to be a fresh start. If she missed her deadline the boss would be furious.
Nora looked up with blurred vision at the mysterious Mr. Coffee, power light pulsing, laughing, as if to say, “Screw you!” She yelled towards the machine. It deserved to be in a landfill. She strode towards the counter, wincing briefly as a small shard of glass pierced her foot. Nora took one last look at the red eye of the machine, its glow menacing. She wrapped her hand around the power cord and pulled. A tingle passed through her arm, growing in intensity towards her chest until everything went black.
9AM came and went. The presentation was never filed.
Darren Nelson is an American coffee professional. This is Darren Nelson's first feature for Sprudge.