Monday, August 31, 2009

The Spoon in the Coffee

Officer Harcourt always kept his thermos with him. It was a trademark, an idiosyncrasy, it was an element of his day to day that made him feel like he was a real person and not just another face behind a uniform. He had a long spoon that he kept in the thermos, using it to stir the miraculous liquid, the fuel that allowed him to do his job without going insane. The spoon imparted the coffee with a nasty metallic taste, but Harcourt took the hit just to be different. He found that these days he was always having to watch something, a house, a shop and tonight an office tower. There had been a bomb threat that morning from some kid, nothing had happened. Harcourt was suffering from a soured relationship with his superior officer, and for the last few weeks had been sent on every job like this that turned up.

Were they expecting that kid to turn up on the scene of the crime, for literally no reason? It was routine to keep an eye on a place after any report had been placed, but a useless type of routine, one that sounded great on paper but ultimately offered no value to anybody and only served to be an element of the constructive dismissal of the officer involved. Harcourt stirred his coffee agitatedly, noting how much resistance the spoon responded with, how much of that vital liquid remained. It was never enough.

There was a thud from somewhere down the road, perking Harcourt up. He raised his head until it touched roof of the car as he tried to make out the source of the sound but all he could make out was the dusky sidewalk. There was nothing. The sound had been tinny, like an old style dust bin falling over. Harcourt sat back down into his seat and unbuckled himself. He decided that he might as well investigate, it wasn't like he was going to miss anything at the office block. The first gust of cool air over Harcourt was soothing as he left the stagnant atmosphere of the car. He savoured the moments between opening himself to the air and the first wave of shivers. He was in a cold grey wasteland, the only light was from his phone, blinding him as he checked the time. The rest of the world was in bed and Harcourt was bitter. The street wound around the office block and constricted into a tight alley that stank of refuse and decay. Harcourt held his thermos close in order to absorb the precious joules of energy which were otherwise leaking into the night through where the plastic and the metal met at it's peak.

The alley was perfectly empty. There was nothing but a dubious puddle that reflected an unseen street lamp. Harcourt was disappointed but his breathing at once settled, there was one last puff of visible mist from his lungs before he turned back to the car. Turning, his eye was caught by the faintest hint of movement for the crease of the alley, where the smooth curves of the cobble stones met the straight lines of the building walls. It was something metallic and round, like a discarded hubcap. Usually, however, hubcaps didn't quiver like a freezing child. Harcourt approached it, slowly, sure that it was a trick of the twilight eye. Or perhaps a rat had made the hubcap it's home. A rat living in a hubcap would definitely have cause to shiver on a night like this, at least until the pneumonia kicked in and made it an ex-rat.

Harcourt reached for his torch, with a click the object was bathed in yellow light. It wasn't a hubcap, it was more oval in shape with four fork like protrusions at each pole. It was deadly still. As Harcourt got closer however, it moved slightly. It's little hands clawed at the wall it was leaning on, turning its face to Harcourt. It's mouth moved, slowly, as if frozen. It produced words like a marooned man who hadn't met another human being in living memory, slowly mouthed, deliberate and desperate.


Harcourt looked at his discovery. Its metallic face had a small hole in the centre, though it never moved Harcourt assumed that's where the voice came from. Its voice was tinny but, unusual for a synthetic voice, it really had emotion. The thing sounded like it was dying. Harcourt stayed at a safe distance and bent his knees, looking into the yellowed metallic face of the creature. Harcourt was caught up in the moment now, excited that he had found something the break the monotony. He called out to the object, convinced that it had to be some kind of child's toy.

"What? Did you say something?"

The word was drawn out agonizingly. A marooned man gasping for water. Of course, Harcourt thought, tonight heat was as rare as water on a desert island. Harcourt stepped back, had it answered him? He threw the light from his torch around the alley searching for some other source of the sound but there was nothing.

"Hello? Is anybody in there?"

His voice echoed in the alley before dissipating completely. There were no answers, his eyes picked up the same shivering as before however, from the small round object. He snapped the torch light back onto it and it stopped moving again. He stepped closer, pulling his coat tighter around himself. The light from the powerful halogen bulb of his torch was now focused on the round object and it was moving again, pushing itself closer to the torch. Harcourt decided that it must be some kind of no gadget, reacting to light by crawling towards it. They had those didn't they? Harcourt laughed at his own fear as he went to pick it up.

As his fingers closed around the disk he felt a shock of cold travel up his arm, like he had just plunged his hand into a puddle of liquid nitrogen. Instinctively he tried to let go but found his fingers frozen in place. He shook his hand frantically as the cold spread through his body, he was experiencing some odd sensation, like his blood was freezing in his veins. He fumbled with his free hand and screwed off the top of his thermos, the hot coffee washed over his captured hand and he was able pull it free. His hand was burned and frost bitten, and thankfully, completely numb. He turned to run back to the car but was stopped in his tracks by the sight of the small disk scuttling to block his path.


He tried to walk around it but every time it just moved to block his path. It was fast, too fast for Harcourt to outrun on foot. Why wasn't it touching him, Harcourt thought, it would easily catch him if it had wanted to.


That was all it said, over and over. Harcourt needed all his heat for himself. He lifted his thermos defensively.

"You want this?"

The disk just stood in one place, suspended by its tiny claws. The thing wanted his thermos. Harcourt couldn't believe it, he was being mugged by a hubcap.

"From my cold dead hands."

Harcourt leaped onto the disk, he shoe freezing in place. Sipping his foot free he ran out of the alley and to the car, as left the alley it shot underneath him, pushing him off his feet. He landed on his front and he watched in horror as the precious liquid poured forth from his thermos and onto the concrete path. The creature walked over to the thermos, the shoe still frozen onto its top and bathed itself in the steaming coffee. It made a slight chattering sound and visibly grew before the prone Harcourt. As the coffee depleted itself from the thermos the creature began to curl itself awkwardly into a tube, shedding the shoe which slid off it's flat top and towards Harcourt. Harcourt sat back up, away from what he perceived as some kind of death ritual. Where was there more heat than in Harcourt's freezing body?

It continued to curl tightly and then contracted until it's body was a short metallic tub with claws. Harcourt backed away but stopped as the tube started squeezing itself into the large thermos. Harcourt watched it, like some kind of alien nature documentary until it had full placed itself in the thermos and diligently pulled the thermos cap back on. He sat and watched it in the silent freezing night, waiting for it to do something. Eventually, the cap popped off once again and a claw emerged from the thermos. It threw a spoon at Harcourt's feet before placing the top of the thermos back on and rolling back into the recesses of the alley.

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