Coffee: Don’t you smell it, taste it - yearn for it? Don’t you want some, right now, before you start reading this short story? I know I do, but why stop at one mug? The flame for this short story comes from three sparks. Spark one is H. P. Lovecraft, that master of the Cthulhu Mythos able to get under your skin and give you a sleepless night if you read too much of his work all at once. Spark two is deep appreciation for coffee, a need for coffee, okay - a dependence and addiction of coffee. Spark three is a canister of "Shock" coffee I saw in Ottawa one year. It promised hyper-caffeinated pleasure in an amygdaloidal shape. It was not wrong. So sit back with your pot of coffee (this story is about 2500 words long) and enjoy. But careful, too much may not be a good thing.
Shock Blaster Dark
by Paul Darcy
It happened during my third mug of the almighty elixir of life: coffee. But this was no ordinary coffee. I was skeptical and suspicious of the canister of hyper-caffeinated synthetic coffee beans labeled ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ that I had found at the mall. This product, purporting to have thirty times the caffeine equivalent of espresso beans, had immediately grabbed my undivided attention. I knew from my own experimenting that such an amalgamate, synthetic or otherwise, should not be possible in any sort of bean form, or so I believed.
The canister of "Shock Blaster Dark’, which forever altered my life, was standing forefront in one of those chinchy center aisle mall displays, the kind set up during Christmas to part foolish people from their money. But it was still three months till the Yuletide season. This center aisle display stood alone and looked hastily erected, products haphazardly displayed. The conspicuous canister of coffee beckoned to me like a Siren’s call.
I was the moth. It was the flame. Resistance was futile.
The sign over the stall read ‘Nephren’s Novelties’. The tall thin black man attending the stall peddled a variety of oddments including an assortment of Egyptian looking trinkets, but I ignored them, my soul irrevocably drawn to that canister of synthetic pleasures promising Nirvana. The canister’s label was taped on and obviously printed using a cheap dot matrix color printer. The price of seven-fifty for this half-pound of dehydrated dark roasted ambrosia seemed far too inexpensive for something as concentrated and potentially stimulating as this.
How did I know this? I am the world’s most intensely addicted caffeine addict. I have no certificate to prove my claim, but to all who know me or know of me, this declaration is undisputed.
Unable to control my limbs, I trembled like a heroine addict as I snatched the canister from its resting place. If anyone had been watching me, they would have been reminded of Gollum and the ring. How many cocaine addicts would switch, I wondered, if this product lived up to the advertising potential printed on the label. Holding my precious canister of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I noticed that I had obtained the last one. I thanked whatever god had left it there for me.
I purchased the canister and took it home, post-haste. You see, no amount of caffeine could satisfy my cravings and this unexpected treasure filled my heart with glee. I had tried it all before. The closest I came to an apotheosis was the day I ate one hundred chocolate-covered espresso beans in twenty minutes and washed them down with eight cups of my own personally distilled caffeine extract made from pulverized Columbian bean hearts and atomized Coca-Cola syrup. It had almost happened then. I was so close I nearly died of despair, but I would never give up because I knew that one day I would find the way. All I needed was a dose of caffeine concentrated and pure enough to find the entrance into the Other and become one with the cosmic all. ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ seemed, if not the solution, at least another viable avenue for me to try.
Once home I wasted no time. I peeled back the vacuum seal of the canister. It hissed open like the sweet whisper from a lover’s lips. The escaping aroma sent my already shaking body into near convulsions of bliss. My head felt light and my heart beat more quickly. Controlling myself as best I could, I ground up a quarter of the synthetic beans and set the water boil. By the time the kettle whistled I had transferred the grounds to the filter, licking my fingers clean of any residue. I brewed a large carafe which, I might add, smelled so heavenly that I felt as though my entire body was made of scent receptors and this the sweetest perfume ever created. I felt surrounded by the aroma of the gods. If the great white bearded old one himself used underarm deodorant, this would be his fragrance.
When the coffee had stopped oozing through the filter like liquid gold into the carafe, I knew that I was on to something good.
I didn’t know how good, but was dying to find out. Dipping the last of my mocha bagel into my wide rimmed stainless steel thermally insulated mug, I started refill number three. What happened then really didn’t surprise me. I was only mystified as to why this had never happened to me before. I had tried countless times to reach the Other before but had always met with failure. This time was different. This time it was the real thing.
I was ecstatic as my vision began to fuzz. I could perceive movement around corners and in shadows. The sensation was somehow unsettling though, in some sixties kind of lava-lamp way. I knew my body was on the verge of shutting down from such a dose of pure saturated caffeine pleasure and I desperately fought the irrepressible urge to pass out. Must stay alert. Must enter the Other, I said over and over to myself like a maniacal mantra. My blood, I knew, was as close to pure caffeine as possible. ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ was working! My true awakening had come and so my first journey into the Other began.
When the wall of my room started to alter and shift like water flowing across a freshly inked page, I knew I was lurking near the threshold. I could no longer feel the chair beneath me as though it had disappeared. The music of Beethoven, which I had been quietly listening to, began playing itself backwards and I could suddenly see beyond the shadows and corners of my room. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at, not knowing what to expect of the Other. Distant curved surfaces twisted into angles my mind couldn’t quite comprehend and a faint greenish glow bathed the entire scene as though I were peering into some undersea vista. Strands of green waving lines swayed over mammoth angular stones and in a short while I recognized them as long tendrils of kelp swaying undulating in the depths.
Wow! Suddenly it hit me like a baseball bat. The random configurations of ganglia in my skull abruptly metamorphosed into a cogent neural-net of profound understanding. We are not alone. I could sense the being in the Other. It was this entity that I had been seeking all of my life and hadn’t realized the truth until this very moment. He/She/It was ancient and genuine, and I had crossed the boundaries of dreams and into a deeper universal reality. At long last I had reached the Other, a world of intrinsic truth, and was riding in the powerful thought-wake of the ultimate one himself. I drifted upwards along a twisting path just above the angled stones and writhing kelp. Soon I could make out what looked to be the top of a mountain, though top suggests a normal geometry whereas the Other did not lend itself to Euclidian conventions. Should the realm of a god be otherwise? I was not worthy to speculate. I could see a huge monolith set behind a gargantuan set of doors. The monolith was engraved with an image of what I can only describe as a squid-dragon. The massive doors which I was drawn to were carved with things, ineffable things. I will say no more about them. I knew I was to open these doors if I could. The being from the Other was compelling me to try. He/She/It was unjustly confined within and must be released.
But before I could reach the great rings of the titanic portals my awareness began to subside. The sharpness of the Other was fading and the walls of my room superimposed themselves over the images before me. Not long after my apartment walls returned and I left that beautiful place I had so briefly visited. Beethoven reverted to forward normal and man, did I need to piss!
My heart rate was so high, and my limbs so shaky that I knew that I could experiment with ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ no longer that night. Tomorrow was another day and the imprisoned entity would wait for me. I knew He/She/It he wasn’t going anywhere, dreaming under the sea in its salty cyclopean city of seaweed.
That night my bed rocked me to sleep like a sea cucumber tossed gently by deep ocean currents, and visions of pseudopods danced in my head.
The next day I woke late, exhausted but eager to be in the Other again. But some inner voice, some thought residue from He/She/It warned me to wait and built my strength. I knew the warning was right and that before I tried the journey into the Other I would need to fortify my earthly body. The task I needed to perform would require strength, strength my body at this time did not have. The eve of the following day was the Autumnal Equinox and I knew it was important to wait until then. It was as though some message had been transferred to me from He/She/It and I was eager to comply.
So I spent the intervening time preparing for my mission. I bought vitamins, something I had never done before, and herbs, steaks, green vegetables and tofu. I gorged myself and even exercised for the first time in twenty-three years. I was so full of nutrients and minerals and verve by the following eve that my carcass could have sustained a tribe of cannibals for several months.
Finally the appointed time had arrived. The last drop of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ oozed into my giant carafe and the clock on the wall displayed a mere thirty minutes until the Equinox. I sniffed the vapors, reveled in the aromatic bliss and began to imbibe. With each finished mug I could feel this world slipping away. When some immortal notes of Beethoven played in reverse I knew I was almost there. The walls fuzzed as they had before and I crossed the threshold into the Other once again. I was bathed in green effulgence, more pronounced this time, more urgent. I felt unbelievably complete. The swaying kelp seemed to part at my passing as though I had the power to affect it with my thoughts. I ascended the slope in my dreamlike state with ease. I was on a mission from a god.
I navigated the non-Euclidian stonework, slippery and twisted as it was, as though I had walked this landscape all my life. Even though I knew the Other was somewhere deep under the ocean, maybe even on another world, I could still make out the stars above. Their gyrating oscillations, I suspected, were the result of diffracted light from wave action far overhead on the surface. As a spill over from He/She/Its’ thoughts I knew their configuration held some importance. I knew that I had but one task to accomplish: open the portals and become forever one with the Other as my reward from He/She/It.
I was soon before the huge monolith, gazing upon the squid-dragon’s features, the mighty portals looming directly before me. I studied these ancient barriers for a possible means of ingress. Their size was prodigious and I didn’t know whether I had the strength to move them. Two immense pull rings were the obvious handles with which to swing open the portals and gain complete immersion with the Other through the power of He/She/It. I reached up and grabbed hold of one, but recoiled in pain. My hand was burned. Then I saw why. Welded to the seats of the rings in fine traceries of gold was a five pointed star. In its center I could see a frozen orange flame. It was the power emanating from the star which had caused me pain. I could sense rage from the entity below. I would need to remove the star first if I was to unlock and open the portals.
I looked about for some tool with which to pry this offensive star from its lodging, but all about me was seaweed and slime and gargantuan blocks of stone, not exactly choice levering implements. I knew my time was running out and an extensive search for another solution would take too long. I would need to grab and wrest this thing out with my bare hands.
Barely enough space existed around the star to allow my fingers purchase. I steeled myself and plunged my fingers in on either side of the star. Pain, excruciating pain filled my hands, but I gripped the star with all my strength and began to pull. I screamed, I laughed, I wrenched my burning fingers in all directions trying to extricate the star, but despite my best efforts I could not break it loose. Then hysteria gripped me. A desperate panic so intense, so alive, I almost exploded from the sensation. I knew this feeling was boiling up from He/She/It below, whipping through me in a frenzy. The entity seemed to take hold of my dream body, and with a power I was sure was not solely my own I began to pry more vigorously still. I would not be denied the Other. There was still time. With a final incredible feat of strength and will I tugged and twisted until I heard a loud crack. I stopped and for a moment believed that one of my wrists had broken. But when I looked closely I could see that the noise had issued not from my wrist but from the star. It had cracked. My last wild struggle had broken the star, but it remained in place. I was drained of energy, unable to pull anymore and I was slipping from the Other. He/She/It screamed in my mind to obey, but I was receding rapidly, unable to do its bidding.
The walls of my apartment formed around me again. I had returned to my world. I would not become one with the Other this day. My last cup of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ had spilled from the cup and onto my hands.
I had failed.
In a mad scramble I raced to the mall. It was open for half an hour more, but ‘Nephren’s Novelties’ was gone and all those I talked to, including the security guards, could not confirm that there had ever been a stall fitting the description I gave. What madness was this? ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I screamed until I was forcibly evicted.
Nearing my apartment, I watched as a figure ran swiftly down the steps of my building and fled into a side ally. He reminded me of someone.
Back inside my apartment I could find no trace of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’. I could not find the canister. My carafe and coffee mug were spotless, and the place I had spilled the coffee scrubbed clean. Even its heavenly aroma had dissipated. Then I suddenly identified the fleeing figure in my mind. It was the black man from ‘Nephren’s Novelties’. He had obviously paid me a visit to remove all traces of his brew. But why?
I still strive through my own concoctions to reach the Other though I am doubtful that I will ever visit there again. The potency of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I have never been able to duplicate. And still, I never pass a mall without going inside and searching the aisles.
One day, someone, I or perhaps another, will become one with the Other and set free He/She/It who is unjustly imprisoned.
But oh, how I want it to be me!