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Prompt 22 – Machine

by | FlashFicFeb | 0 comments

Mohammed had not slept for fourteen days. He had to buy copious amounts of eye drops because he no longer blinked. This was the way of Legion. Sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop, he visibly vibrated. He looked up and saw new stars, secret stars, stars other people could not see. Closing his three eyes, he remembered the night that changed his life. With his eyes still closed, he wrote his memories in a notebook, his pen almost invisible as it moved superhumanly quickly.

…and upon the third night, we awoke to a great and deafening wail. It seemed as if the very belly of the Earth had been ripped open and the world cried in agony. This was the first time the great metal beast had been activated.

We pushed forward, down the old wooden stairway that lead into the dusty cellar, past the boxes and barrels, and down the second flight of stairs, the old stone stairs, into a lower chamber. I paused for a moment, waiting for my assistant. Mary was not far behind, carrying the wooden chest with our treasures.

There was still another level down. We had found it after much investigation and excavation. The long path of roughly carved steps that were dug in the earth and rock lead down into a vast cave. The red and gray walls of the cave were illuminated by torches that lined the walls. The old wood of the torches seemed ancient, but they were wrapped in what seemed like new fabric and fresh oil.

As we got to the base of the stairs, we turned and face the Machine. The torches mostly lit the stairs, leaving the great thing in the center of the cave in shadows. I could make out the shape of the thing. It was huge, almost two stories high. There were so many pipes! A clockwork horror made of twisting turning copper. So immense! So overwhelming. It was like pure, twisted, chaos. If you tried to follow any pipe or tube you would go mad. It tricked your mind, it feed on your sanity, it was an enigma, an abyss, but it made the greatest coffee in the universe.

There are those who would call it… Legion.

I stepped in front of the giant metallic beast and looked up at its evil genius. “The steam, man! Be careful of the steam!” Mary shouted. Her face was covered in soot, but her emerald eyes shone brightly.

“The Beans! Give me the Beans!” I shouted back and she began to unlock the chest.

The bag was many layers of burlap. I had not taken it out of the chest since we recovered them on our trip to Ethiopia. It was said they were from the first coffee plants ever utilized by man. The old tale, from the ninth century, monks and their flock of goats. The goats growing frisky and wild then they ate a certain berry. The monks taking said berry and making a drink with them that let them pray throughout the night.

That bush, like the tree of Eden, gifted man and cursed man. Thirteen hundred years later, the old bush had become something else. Something poisonous to those who did not know The Way. Or so I was led to believe.

The oils from the Beans had burned through many layers of burlap. It stung my hands, but I ignored the pain. As I walked closer to the vast machine I took the grinder from my bag.

Diamond burrs. The precision of a Swiss watch. As I knelt on the ground, I opened the bag and the scent of the Beans made my eyes water. I needed no scale. My hands knew the weight. I poured Beans into my hand and my flesh reddened and swelled. When I had the weight I poured the Beans into the grinder and got to work.

I had a little mantra in my head as the wheels and cogs and burrs spun. Secret words I can not even put in ink. The smell became deep and spiced. I had to shake my head as not to fall into the spell of the Beans. When it was done, I turned to Mary and nodded.

“This may be the end for us,” I said to her. She cut her eyes at me. “No time for sentiment, my brother. You found the Machine. You procured the Beans. It is time to walk among the gods. Go,” she said, steely-eyed as always.

There were so many things left unsaid between us, but I knew she was right. I turned and walked on, past the light of the torches, until only the flickers of flame caught the edges of the metal in front of me. Until I came to the base of the Machine. Until I found the mouth of Legion.

I had practiced for years and the muscle memory took over. Finding the portafilter. Filling it. Tamping it. Going through the well-rehearsed motions. The microtraditions and scientifically questionable pounding and pressing and praying.

I locked in the filter. The metal was hot, like a furnace. I found the large dials and stops and switches. A terrible humming started. Vibrations I felt in my chest, in my soul.

I fished the chalice out of my bag. A demitasse of pure tungsten. The story of the cup was almost as long and complex as the Beans. And then, very quickly, the tiny rivulets of black liquid came. Not an angry eruption, but a soft slow drip. Like tears. Every drop a mix of onyx and gold, kissed with crema, distilled dark power.

When the shot was pulled, I waited. Time slowed. It seemed like the hum and howls of the machine dimmed. There was only the cup. The soft silver of the metal seemed to glow.

It was like I was watching my arm move, my hand reach out and take the cup. I brought it to my lips. The smell was no longer burning, painful, but it was huge, an aroma that seemed to bleed all of my other senses. A wave of chocolate and rose petals and musk and spices. Curries and potpourris and mélanges that had no names.

I sipped at molten gold. It burned ecstatically. It burned as true love burns. I burned as the phoenix burned.

And so it is that Legion let me have my ambrosia and then went dead, silent, its cave becoming a tomb. And I became a god.

This post is part of Flash Fiction February from Storytelling Collective.

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