The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World, Part 1

Strong coffeeAbout 2 months ago I wrote a blog post explaining how I want to write fun short stories (preferably silly or comedic in some way) based on ideas that you, my readers, come up with and pass on to me. Not because I’m lazy – I always have a million ideas buzzing around (which actually gets annoying sometimes) – but because I think it could be a fun new way to interact with my readers and also actually get back to creating more on this blog (which does, to be fair, have the word “creation” in its title). Anyway, if you haven’t seen that blog post, or would like to suggest an idea or want to see the sorts of ideas I’ve received already, have a look here.

The first story I’m going to write is based on a suggestion by CricketMuse, another writer/reader/blogger/teacher who has been blogging at least as long as I have and who has managed to retain far more focus than I ever could. This blog is a must for anybody interested in books, writing, and well just words pretty much!

The story suggestion is: “Suppose aliens swoop in with a coffeebean emp– how will the world cope being caffeine free?” As a coffee drinker, this idea terrifies me. Let’s see what this terrible imagination of mine does to this perfectly great idea (sorry in advance)! This will be in at least two parts but maybe three (just to break it up for you readers (okay, fine, to break it up for me too))!

The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World

Part 1

by the considerably caffeinated Matt Watson

I stared out the window motionlessly as the morning cup whirled down my throat and into my body in a desperate yet routine attempt to bring me back to life enough to drive to work and pretend to be a normal person, just like everybody else pretends to be. We all have that drug of choice to help us achieve this – for some it’s smoking, others it’s alcohol, for some weird people it’s something even vaguely healthy like tea or juice or even water. But for a large amount of us, all around the world, it’s coffee that enables us to feign functionality in a world that is set to drain us until we are nothing left but a mechanical husk of what we once were. It was coffee that had provided me with a means of being an adult for the last twenty years.

My hand moved, without thought, to lift up my coffee cup to my mouth, only something was wrong. I nearly threw the mug into the roof with its lack of weight that I was clearly not prepared for, but being quite sure I had not gained any superpowers in the previous moments of contemplation and window-staring I found myself surprised at the possibility that I had already consumed all my coffee. I looked into the mug only to see desolation and crushed hopes.

I put the mug back down and rubbed my eyes. “It’s too early for magic tricks,” I mumbled to anybody who would listen.

“What magic tricks?” she retorted from the other room.

“My coffee is gone but I swear I didn’t drink it.”

“Oh darling…you just need another coffee. Make yourself another one.”

She was right. Of course she was right. She always was. I had accepted that a long time ago – I think it was in the marriage contract or something. I stood up after a couple of attempts and reached into the cupboard for the coffee, but again the coffee jar was not as heavy as I had been sure it was only moments earlier. I looked at it in my hands – completely empty, not even the coffee dust on the sides. It looked like as if somebody had cleaned it. But…nobody had been in the room since I last looked at it a few minutes ago. I put the jar backed and checked the cupboard properly. Then I checked the entire kitchen.

“Are you okay in there?” The noise had intrigued her, but not enough to actually come and see what was going on.

“Erm…yeah. The coffee has just…disappeared.”

“Well maybe you ran out, dear. Get one on your way to work or something.”

“Yes…yes that’s a good idea. Of course.”

I finished getting ready, with only a few sips of coffee struggling to keep me conscious I was quite certain. I felt like I was losing my mind, which was something that usually required more than ten coffees to occur, not just a few sips. But maybe I hadn’t slept well. I had no reason to worry about it just yet.

No, the moment when I felt I was more justified in my all-out-panic was when I pulled out of the fifth consecutive fast food drive-through window without a coffee. All of them, much to their own surprise, had been entirely depleted of their coffee stocks in what seemed to be the first time ever. I drove to a nearby supermarket, but the same thing had happened there. After two more stores that yielded the same impossible results, I drove to work with a sudden fondness for armageddon.

At the office, it turned out, we had also run out of coffee. I don’t want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I am quite certain I fell to my knees and screamed “nooo” at the top of my lungs for a few seconds before rolling over into the foetal position.

***

Meanwhile…

“So like…do they talk or what?” The long, bony, surprisingly ungreen (it was more a light pink) finger of the alien known as Boll poked one of the dormant beans.

“Don’t touch it you idiot! We still don’t fully understand them yet.”

“Oh, sorry Boss.” Boll stood up properly after being reprimanded by the creature he called Boss, but who was otherwise known as Ocks. Ocks was elected boss not by any sort of mental or emotional aptitude he possessed or had displayed, but because of the fact he was only 97 centimetres in height. As Boll stood at an appallingly tall 189 centimetres, his career prospects looked pretty dim. Such was the way of life for the Floating Nobulas, a curious nomadic people of unknown origins who travelled around the galaxies causing minor mischief normally by accident.

“And yes, apparently they do talk. They are alive after all.”

“But some of those human people said that most living things on Earth don’t talk, that only they do.”

“Yes, Boll, but just because some human told you that you’re going to believe it? Trust me, they’re not the brightest pack down there. These beans can talk,” and Ocks paused to look, no, stare, at the coffee beans, before pointedly asking “can’t they?”

The silence was mostly humiliating. They had come a long way to pick up these beans, to save them from the evil humans who kept grounding them up. They had agreed not to mess with the human affairs other than to remove all coffee beans and place them onto the several hundred ships that waited patiently outside the solar system in which the Earth existed. They already had a few issues to solve, such as where they would actually put these beans in the long term, but this silence was not assisting the situation.

Running out of ideas, Ocks finally played his blackmail card. “Fine, if you don’t talk, I’ll just send you back to Earth and you know what ha-“

But Ocks didn’t need to finish his sentence, as thousands of tiny eyes sprung open. One tiny bean finally hopped forward and bowed politely. “I apologise…we do not know how to handle such kindness as that which you have poured upon us.”

“Yes,” started another bean, “usually we just have boiling water poured upon us.”

“Sh!” The apparent leader of the beans didn’t want to give the aliens any ideas. “We are at your service, so long as you spare our lives.”

Ocks and Boll looked at each other, before Boll exclaimed “Awesome! We have a tiny army!”

Boll’s gigantic and quite hideous grin quickly disappeared with a knock to the top of the head from Ocks. “We have plans to make.”

***

By lunchtime, it had been declared on the world news that coffee no longer existed. It had completely disappeared, not just the stuff in the shops but also the actual plants themselves. It was as if the human race had been hallucinating the stuff, the entire concept, for the last few centuries. Except that when they checked books about it, it was still in there. There were still websites dedicated to it, there were still bad bumper stickers on the backs of cars referring to it, there were still shops and cafés whose business depended on it even if those shops and cafés suddenly looked like victims of a really huge theft (which, to be fair, they were).

It was declared an international emergency. Wars were temporarily brought to a ceasefire, political squabbles were put aside, natural disasters politely asked to take a hike for a short while. The 7 billion inhabitants of the planet needed to put their minds together to find a solution. Which would have been a great idea if it wasn’t for the withdrawal headaches from which large amounts of the human race were beginning to suffer.

However, despite my headache, even though I was emotionally volatile, I realised that this was my moment to shine! This was when I would become a hero, the hero that saved the world’s coffee supply! Today, I would be the biggest single cure for a headache ever! Because while the planet searched itself for something it no longer possessed, I turned my eyes to somewhere entirely different…

To Be Continued….

A new writing segment that involves YOU!

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the future of my various blogs, in particular this one which is after all my original blog. One thing I have been doing a lot of this year is creating – lots of short stories, poetry and two thirds of a quite awful novel, to be exact. But I haven’t been sharing this on my blog, instead writing about only the manic thoughts of some of the writing challenges I’ve taken on.

Well, it’s time to get back to wantonly creating once more! I want to write short stories that I will put up on here, but here’s where you come in – I want you to tell me what to write. I have plenty of ideas, and for that matter lots of half-finished short stories. But I think it could be fun to write stories proposed by others and to share them with you all.

So here’s the plan:

  • the idea you give me can be about anything you like. I can’t make any promises about genre – often when I write comedy I end up becoming dark and introspective and when I try to write something more serious and realistic I get silly and surreal. Really, I must be honest – the sillier the idea, the happier I will be!
  • The idea should be simple – something you can say in a single line (a bit like a log-line, I guess). Something like “An egotistical pot plant learns a life lesson after a near death experience” for example. A very weird example, but still.
  • If you want, specify a word limit. I plan to keep all of these between 5 words and 1000 words – I’ll naturally lean toward 1000 words if you don’t specify the limit, of course. Only in certain circumstances I might consider going higher than this.

That’s it, really. I want to see first how many ideas I get. I would love to get a lot of ideas from people to build up a bit of a bank from which to choose my stories from. I can’t guarantee I’ll write every idea but I’ll certainly try to if possible. Depending on how many ideas I’ll get, I’ll then decide how often I do these stories and publish them on here. I’m thinking perhaps once a month would be nice but if I get more submissions then of course I’ll increase this amount.

So, send me your ideas in the comments section. Let me take some genius story concept of yours and watch me ruin it with my terrible writing turn it into…a story. Yep.

What do you think makes a good ending?

This is a question that has been floating around my head for quite some time now, so I thought I’d explain what I mean before I open the topic up to all of you, my lovely and consistently insightful readers.

In a lot of ways the ending of a story is almost as important as the start of a story. Anyone who has ever done any kind of creative writing class, or let’s face it, anyone who went to school and had a half decent English teacher, will have heard on many the occasion the importance of having a strong opening line, page, chapter, scene, whatever – something to hook the reader and reel them in. And while the beginning of a story is important to attract your attention initially, the ending is the part that will often stay with you long after you have finished. If the ending is disappointing, it can almost certainly ruin a book, but if the ending is powerful and poignant, it can leave you feeling humbled and inspired, even in cases where the rest of the story was mediocre.

Before I say what I think makes a good ending, I’d like to consider what I think makes a bad one, and I suspect much of this won’t come as a surprise. Firstly, I’m not the biggest fan of a happy ending. I like endings that have some happiness, an ending that perhaps leaves you with hope, or makes you laugh even, but I really don’t like that fairytale “and they lived happily ever after” ending on anything other than fairytales and Disney movies – it works great for children’s literature, but too many times I have read a work of adult fiction and found a very forced, happy ending that doesn’t fit in with the tone of the book. And that’s something else I don’t like in an ending – when you can tell it’s forced, or when it’s obvious the writer suddenly needed to meet a deadline and quickly tied up all the loose ends of the story in this half-arsed manner, which just comes across as lazy, and hardly leaves me wanting to read more of their work. Lastly, I am always disappointed when the ending is predictable. I’m not saying I want the ending to completely bowl me over in surprise, but I shouldn’t be able to guess every little detail of it several hundred pages prior, either.

So what do I like in an ending? I like an ending that flows naturally from the story, and that comes to a proper end, one that is realistic and conceivable within its own context and genre. I like an ending that is just lightly surprising, just enough to make you think “oh, that’s clever!” I like an ending that is thought provoking – in fact, I dare say this is one of the most important aspects for me, because I want to come away from a book thinking about and reflecting upon it, and not just thinking “well, another one bites the dust.” And as odd as this might sound, and this is entirely a personal feeling – I prefer a melancholy ending. Not deeply depressing, not “everyone has died, and the community/kingdom/duranduranfanclub* will never recover” type of ending somewhat akin to a Shakespearean tragedy, but something melancholy and sad in atmosphere and tone, something that stays with you and gnaws away gently at your thoughts for a day or two.

What do you think makes a good ending of a story, whether it be a short story, novel, play, or even a film? 

Do you prefer happy or sad endings, and if so, do you have a particular reason why?

 

*No offense to any Duran Duran fans out there. Hungry Like The Wolf was a good song.