Read the other chapters in the Terror Below tale here

Terror Below - Chapter 14: Coffee

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Laura led the group through the battlefield. In the background, a Boomer towered over the other FBI agents who were using every form of weaponry they had in their possession to take it down. Little sprays of bullets and lasers scarred the Boomer, scratching its hard skin. It retaliated with a swipe of its claw, knocking over a couple of cars, scoring a line of damage across the pavement. Laura and the group ran and staggered back as necessary to avoid injury, before entering the dirty green sedan.

“A pizza delivery car? Really, Laura?” Patricia grumbled sarcastically as they piled into the running car. She was sitting in the back with Sebastian. Shep, who was led into the backseat initially, slinked his way to the front and dropped himself into shotgun. Laura, in the driver’s seat, buckled in her seat belt and glared at Shep’s big dog face, panting at her.

“Mine got totaled earlier. I wanted a BMW, but this was the only one I could hotwire quick enough,” Laura shifted into first gear and stamped a foot on the gas. The car sped off down the road, meandering around fallen buildings and other obstacles. Half the town was either vacant or on fire, providing light through the darkness. Some of the road lights were still working, but most had been tangled with electrical and telephone lines. A few baby Screamers slithered down the road and the car subsequently ran them over, splaying pink guts across the pavement.

The sedan pulled into the parking lot of the Police Station and the group spilled out of the car. The coast was clear of W.O.R.M.s, but Patricia and Sebastian stayed close behind Laura regardless. They entered the busy station, which had been commandeered by government agents. A few Golden Barrel survivors had seated themselves wherever they could to get patched up by the doctor. The stench of cigarettes and stale coffee was stagnant in the air, making Patricia cough a little upon entering. Laura walked over to one of the work stations and spoke with the agent sitting at the desk, “Hey, we got some eggs. Can we get payment for these two?”

The agent smacked a mouthful of gum and clicked their mouse. They looked like they hadn’t had a lot of sleep lately. Dark circles ringed their computer-soaked eyes, yellow rings tainted their fingers from too much nicotine. They looked through the bag and counted the number of eggs with quivering hands. A number was tapped on the keyboard and some notes were entered. “Alright, payment’s ready to go. Tell them to hang out for a bit while we get it ready.”

“Thanks, bud.” Laura saw Patricia and Sebastian smile at one another upon hearing the word “payment”.

Wow, these two are too adorable.

“Why don’t we go sit down for a bit?” Laura walked to a wooden bench, where the two collapsed, exhausted. Shep had his front legs lifted onto the bench, attempting to pull himself up as well. Seeing that the other two were not going to budge, Laura lifted Shep’s hind legs up, so he could curl himself onto the seat. The fight or flight instincts had disappeared from Laura’s body, leaving her feeling drowsy. “I’m gonna go get some coffee,” She said to a snoozing Sebastian and Patricia—one with a head on the other’s shoulder.

Laura tapped her shoes onto the linoleum floor of the kitchenette in the other room and grabbed the closest styrofoam cup that stood alone on a circular dining table. Clean enough. The kitchenette was not well stocked, but there were a few coffee pods left for Laura to choose from: pumpkin spice, hazelnut blend, donut shop. She picked the last of the donut shop and popped it into the machine. This was the first moment of calm that she had since the morning. Her gaze was fixed at the styrofoam cup, hypnotized by the coffee dripping out of the machine.

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Her mind wandered, thinking about her past self and how things were much easier in college. She had always been really good at studying, even if it meant ramen for every meal washed down with an energy drink for prosperity. She used to be able to pull all-nighters easily, but now she could feel her body slowing down and feeling tired. She also had time for friends and going out. Now her friends were also her coworkers, and she would rather stay in her cozy apartment than go out to a club. The last time she really had a bit of a break was when she spent the day alone with a bottle of red wine, binge watching old episodes of her favorite sci-fi show. And here I am now, living it. Minus the weird time travel stuff. Plus a lot of more bugs.

Laura took out her phone and checked her text messages. Luckily, she warned her family to leave the town when the red alert was sounded. Her last text to her sister was: “I love you, stay safe,” to which her sister responded with: “I KNEW IT. ALIENS R REAL.” She had spotty signal, but enough to connect properly. She refreshed her texts, but there wasn’t anything new that had come through. Laura assumed that it was because they had escaped properly and they didn’t want to bother her at her job. And also maybe because it was almost midnight, the time that most people would be asleep at. She blinked her eyes slowly at the idea of sleep.

She eventually took a sip of coffee and closed her eyes. She could feel the tension from the day disappear a little as her energy bar went from zero to fifty percent full. Just as she was appreciating the silence and having some time to herself, she heard shouting coming from where she had left the group. She breathed in the bittersweet smell of watered down coffee and headed back.

- Banana Chan