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Horror Suspense Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

The shorts and t-shirt clad exercisers of various shapes and fitness levels, sipping their beverages while panting, stretching, beads of sweat on their foreheads drying in the cool evening air, dark patches on their backs and stomachs glaring like mournful, weeping eyes, making you feel guilty about unused gym membership that's about to expire.

The tap-tap-tapping keyboard pounders, lost in worlds of their own creation, focused, on the words appearing on their screens, working or creating, for themselves or others, lidded containers over-seeing like proud agents by their sides, offering encouragement, support, reward in liquid form for their efforts, judging you for your collection of rejections.

The well-dressed dog lovers, their own drinks an afterthought as they busy themselves making sure their pets have enough water in their thoughtfully-provided bowls and are sitting obediently, earning treats by not making a racket, walker and walkee taking a well-earned rest before heading home, reminding you of haunted rooms you can no longer return to.

The lovers, the partners, the same-sex and opposite-sex couples, clutching hands across tables in one of three marquees around the hissing, steaming, hazelnut, caramel and vanilla-scented truck that has appeared in the park, paper-cup professors of caffeinated romance misting the air between glances with tendrils of tender-loving steam, taunting you with wafting depictions of what was, what would have been, what no more will.

The sights, the scents, the sounds of people alive, happy in this moment with their others or in their own skin, following their still unbeaten paths writing the lyrics of their songs, being, doing, loving with some kind of purpose. Forcing a lump to lodge in your throat when you question yours. A purpose you no longer have, and perhaps never did. 

The something you did have, the someone, who you loved and who loved you back, unconditionally, despite your flaws and transgressions. The someone who gave you reasons to get up, to self-motivate, who inspired you to be better, to try hard.

Reasons that no longer exist. 

The shame.

The warmth in your hand in the quickly cooling air as you accept what the man in the truck hands you, the thanks you offer insincere as you meet his crystalline gaze and sever it, burnt by eye contact, by those smiling irises, contentment radiating from them like accusatory lasers, making you feel ungrateful for the life you have squandered and the breath you have taken for granted.

The glitch-like, stuttering awkwardness with which you turn from that man in the pristine white apron and peculiar cocked red beret, refusing the lid and the napkins, head hung low as you seek out the most isolated table in the most empty marquee, ignoring all others as you move towards it. The laughs and snippets of conversation from people in person or on phones, chatting to family, friends, loved ones, giving household instructions, finalising meet-up plans, complaining about workloads that are stressful.

Making you wish you could call her about such things. 

Making you aware of how much you threw away.

The jerk of the head when you accidentally meet a woman’s eyes, the ignoring of her friendly nod and greeting, the severe swerve in another direction, to slink into a seat in a lonely corner. 

The escape.

The length of gauze wrapped around your knuckles, successfully preventing colour seeping through. The clean vinyl tablecloth on the rickety picnic table, the coarse wooden bench tucked beneath. The absence of someone taking a seat beside you, with their soy milk, gluten free latte and blueberry muffin.

The swaying attendee, dressed like the vendor in beret and apron but beyond that clad in denim head to toe, feet strapped into hobnail boots, meandering from table to table, marquee to marquee, like the needle in a broken compass that can’t find North. Cloth in one hand, multi-purpose cleaning spray in the other, squirting, wiping, cleaning in no rush, smiling to no one aa he ambles, a grateful glint in his green eyes.

The smooth, milky liquid in your mouth as you lift your uninjured hand and tilt your head back. The difficulty swallowing the lump, the warmth flowing into your chest, melting the frozen surface of your cracked, glacial heart.

The guilt. 

The thought of the note in one jacket pocket, the words for your mother, the apology. The weight of the newly-purchased boxcutter in the other, the shameful plan, this unexpected stop on the way to execute it.

The coffee truck and set-up that wasn’t there that morning or ever before. When things were normal, the same. When you tried and made an effort to be strong. When you were wanted, by someone better than you, though you had little to offer.

The rising, silvery disc squinting behind jostling clouds. The quieting day, the fading light, the blinding, screaming, retching recollections. Of champagne and cake and celebration, for a writer’s work selected for publication. The realisation of a long-held dream. The receipt of long-awaited recognition. The saccharine-sweet story of success.

But hers, not yours.

The act.

The other attendees, oozing out of the truck, also in aprons and berets, with eyes that stare and probe, smiling as they enter the marquees, nodding at patrons, pleasant, friendly, nice. Busying themselves loosening ties on poles that hold up side panels, letting white PVC barriers drop to the grass, shutting out the park, the trees, the darkening sky. The faint lunar reflection, broken and distorted in warped, uneven plastic windows. 

The people in your marquee and others finishing their drinks and standing up, prompted by this closing-up routine. The wooden panel in the truck’s vending window swinging shut. The shuffling of feet and yapping dogs.

The froth and bubbles in the golden brown liquid in your hand, spinning as you swirl it round and round. The lowering level of the fluid as you lift, tilt, gulp, watching it diminish like time. The last marquee side panel dropping, trapping you inside like another prison, beyond the ones of meat and bone and thought. Your cellmates making for the loose, hanging flap that is an out.

The man reading the newspaper. The woman nursing the baby. The teenager scrolling on phone. Standing up and striding from their tables, taking up position by the door.

The sudden screams from unseen marquees on either side, making you jump, spill your last precious ounces, knock the bench to the ground as you marionette up.

The utterances of shock and surprise, the disbelief and confusion.

The discarded newspaper, the baby-less bundle of dropped towels, the dark-screen phone cast aside. The side panels rising as bereted, aproned attendees duck under and in, silent, smiling, shifting like sidling snakes.

The flash of pointed teeth as their lips splay wide. 

The panic.

The joggers, the dog walkers, the writers and bound-in-love souls pounced on by newspaper reader, fake baby feeder, pretend phone scroller and others, knocked onto tables and to the ground, clawed and pawed, clothing torn, chests and necks exposed.

The yelping dogs that escape into the night as masters and mistresses shriek.

The box-cutter in your hand, your finger on the switch, the blade click–click-clicking forth. The fear, clutching your heart, like a pair of hands, throttling.

The image.

The hand on your forehead and the arm around your chest as you hold the blade out to defend. The unbalancing tug, the forced turn, the visage of evil, hovering close, like in a mirror. 

The beret. The crystal eyes, the gaping maw and teeth. The hypnotic stare that pulverises the fragments of your clay heart and causes your body to stiffen. The face craning close, the hot breath on your neck, the pop and puncture of flesh.

The memories. Broken glass, shouted insults, anger bloomed from the seeds of perceived failure.

Raised fists, temperatures, voices. Bruises and blood.

The teeth sinking in, cold, like daggers of ice. The frozen lips clamping to flesh with rubber-like suction. The precious source of life exsanguinating out.

Her face. Screaming her dismay. She gave you everything, all her trust and faith, her support. She believed in you, you let her down.

The death of love.

The box-cutter, propelled by instinct, blade slicing through tissue-thin flesh, serrated edge carving up gristle. The steaming, warm essence of all things that live washing over your hand, the gauze bandage stained red at last.

The chuckle in your throat as a monster drinks its fill. The realisation of futility as a monster surrenders. The smile on your lips, the roll of your eyes, the abandonment of hope and acceptance.

The curse of being a coward to the end.

The story, what was the story, what was it called.

The relief.

The story, the one that she wrote, the one about vampires.

The release.

The vampires who get their caffeine fix from blood.

The revulsion.

The blood that drains out of your veins now the story is yours.




September 22, 2023 23:52

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46 comments

Michał Przywara
20:36 Sep 26, 2023

Cool take on the prompt, and a heck of a twist - or is it? :) We quickly learn he's hurting for some reason, and soon learn that reason is the end of a relationship. Then we hear about guilt. And then, "The length of gauze wrapped around your knuckles" - this is ominous, and we start having an idea of how he f'd up. Things take a severe sudden turn when the vampires attack. The little details like the fake bundle of baby work really well to sell the horror. But, this is also the plot of the story *she* wrote, the story that claimed his j...

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12:31 Sep 29, 2023

Hey Michal! Thanks so much! Very different for me. I set out to try and do something in as few words as possible, 1000 was the goal initially, crept to 1500 but still happy with that. This was not just a creative challenge but a time-restraint challenge as I was extremely busy with work lol. This week I had even less time and fell ill so I wasnt able to complete one unfortunately , and I had a good idea . This is the second time I've started one and not finished-- now i just have to wait for appropriate prompts to come up again that I can d...

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Chris Miller
20:19 Sep 25, 2023

Well it's an unusual one to say the least but it flowed really nicely. The long poetic sentences give a nice stream of consciousness feel which works for the distressed main character. You set up enough of a case for his confusion and instability that the ambiguity of the end works too. A really interesting story Derrick. Thanks for sharing.

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12:27 Sep 29, 2023

Thanks Chris. Definitely unusual, it was an unusual writing experience . Thanks for commenting!

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Carina Caccia
20:55 Mar 07, 2024

Hi Derrick, your writing style in this piece was very original and had me intrigued from the get-go. I can't pretend to know what happened either, exactly, but I enjoyed the effect it had on me. Did he steal her story? Did he kill her? Did he kill himself? Both? And in that order? A few brilliant lines that stuck with me: "The absence of someone taking a seat beside you, with their soy milk, gluten free latte and blueberry muffin," "trapping you inside like another prison, beyond the ones of meat and bone and thought," and the "click-click-c...

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Jeanine Rogers
04:22 Dec 14, 2023

It flowed. I was wondering what was going to happen next.

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21:38 Dec 15, 2023

Thanks Jeanine. I was wondering myself as I wrote it. One of those!

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Martin Ross
15:30 Oct 17, 2023

Boy, this prompt really has me reexamining my coffee addiction! Great horror analogy — I’ve often felt both vampiric and zombie vibes at Starbucks😉. You create vivid imagery and perfectly identify the demigraphics of the upscale coffee shop, and the notion of caffeine-enhanced blood is brilliant and timely! The pacing is flawless, and I respect the ability to create such suspense and dread without any dialogue! Wonderful!

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Old Mate
02:53 Oct 12, 2023

G'day Derrick, thanks for your support. I'm not overly confident in giving feedback on short stories as I'm just starting out in writing and the process. I wish you all the best on your writing adventure.

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Philip Ebuluofor
18:53 Oct 08, 2023

Fine work. Captured interest and it flowed well.

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Robert Egan
10:35 Oct 03, 2023

Oh man I'm late to the party, but this is a truly wonderful story, Derrick! I was happy with not knowing exactly what was happening because of the interesting writing and perspective. The possible suicide/self-harm interpretation packs a punch, and the mention of vampires didn't seem like a twist so much as a beautifully thrown curveball. The cascading descriptions were beautiful and overwhelming in leading up to that moment of violence when the coffee's nearly gone.

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16:51 Oct 04, 2023

Hey Robert! Thanks for stopping by? That is a great comment thank you. It's genuinely interesting to hear from people who enjoyed this . It's not my usual style but I thought it came out really well so nice to hear it's not just me!

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04:33 Oct 02, 2023

Somehow, so many sentences starting with 'The', works in your story. Only you could turn a harmless drink of coffee at a cart into a nightmare vampire raid. On recognizing the prompt (I did think this would be a fun one to choose, even though I didn't choose it myself) I wondered how easily I would recognize the location. You nailed it in a brilliant 'showing' way. Didn't fully understand how or why it ended so horribly. The comments from Michal P were interesting. Sometimes the story seems better when one reads others' comments as well. Gr...

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Helen A Smith
07:02 Sep 29, 2023

A story that draws the reader in piece by piece. Great visualisations and for me, all the more interesting as it was open to interpretation. Visceral and raw and elements of poetry which made it all the richer. Well done.

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12:02 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you Helen! That's a lovely review, chuffed with that 😊

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Beth Connor
16:03 Sep 28, 2023

oh wow- very sureal and dark, and very stream of conciousness. Great read.

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19:37 Sep 28, 2023

Thank you Beth 😊 appreciate the kind words

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AnneMarie Miles
04:33 Sep 27, 2023

This read like a horror narrative poem, and I am here for it! I love the darkness that may not have immediately come to mind with this prompt, but it is so delectable. I love the sinister so this was really a treat. And unfortunately, these days, something as gruesome as this really could take place at a coffee shop which is really the most chilling part of this whole thing. Such an ordinary and mundane place for horror. The slow revealing details built the suspense wonderfully. It vaguely reminded me of George Saunders, which is surely a co...

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12:27 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you AnneMarie. A horror narrative poem , that sounds amazing! I think that's a genre I would happily populate! :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

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Nina H
19:36 Sep 26, 2023

This is like a Tim Burton meets Stephen King and all blood breaks loose kind of tale 😱 I loved it! 🤩 I’m not sure I want to analyze it 😂

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21:36 Sep 26, 2023

I definitely wouldn't analyse it! This one wrote itself, moreorless I just let my fingers operate the keyboard. Nice when that happens and you end up with... something! Glad people are enjoying it!

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Mary Bendickson
17:57 Sep 26, 2023

Well, I like others here mention had a little trouble understanding it all but thought that was the intention. Great poetic descriptions and lots of action shots.

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21:34 Sep 26, 2023

Thanks Mary . Tried something different, a bit oblique. Inspired by the works of David Lynch. I kind of like it! But ...yes ....what really happened lol

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Rose Lind
00:50 Sep 26, 2023

I like how you made it all perfect. Sometimes the play on political correct can be satire or tension builder.

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21:34 Sep 26, 2023

Thanks Rose!

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Judith Jerdé
14:54 Sep 25, 2023

Wow, Derrick, just wow! Your description of the scene as it’s being taken by the main character in your story is so vivid I felt as though I was there. Best of luck!

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12:36 Sep 29, 2023

:) Thank you Judith! That's a great compliment !

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Michelle Oliver
11:27 Sep 25, 2023

This is poetry. Love the long run on sentences juxtaposed with short snappy sentences. It gives that feeling of surreal strangeness. Not sure what the ending is, but i don’t think that matters. A reference to literal coffee drinking bloodsuckers or a fevered jealous man’s emotional outpouring of grief and pain at choices he’s made. Is he a mad man? A psychopath? A victim? Choose your poison really. The style is so open to interpretation. There are so many descriptive and evocative images here I’m hard pressed to pick my favourite. “paper-cu...

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12:32 Sep 29, 2023

Hi Michelle. That's a really lovely comment/review, thank you for that. I genuinely didn't know how this one would go down so pleased to see a lot of people enjoyed.

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Myranda Marie
17:34 Sep 24, 2023

So good ! I'm sitting here, mouth agape, still wondering how you managed this emotional experience from a coffee truck. Just WOW!

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18:22 Sep 24, 2023

Wow thank you Myranda ! That's really great praise. Glad it worked for you I really wasn't sure about this one I kind of went on instinct.

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Myranda Marie
18:37 Sep 24, 2023

Your instincts served you well.

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Ty Warmbrodt
11:18 Sep 24, 2023

I had no doubt which prompt you chose early on. This was beautifully written and masterfully ended. Loved every second.

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18:23 Sep 24, 2023

Oh wow thanks Ty! I appreciate that so much!

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Danie Holland
17:48 Sep 23, 2023

I avoided this prompt this week like the plague. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how to describe a cafe without the COFFEE. How brave you are to jump into it and I really liked your creative and poetic take!

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08:52 Sep 24, 2023

Thanks Danie. I nearly didn't try either. Really struggled to come up with an idea. Then I just thought of the first sentence and wondered if I could write a whole story that way without it outstaying it's welcome . Bit of an experiment. Still not sure if it works!

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