"Would you like a cup of pleasant coffee? It's very nice... That'll be one fifty."
As I sat in this diner, just off of route 66, a strange little man was serving me a strange brand of coffee that I'd never heard of. I sat there, slowly sipping on this mug of brew. It had a smooth texture, and a nice little zip to it. I had quite a few hundred miles to go before I hit my destination, so stopping for coffee seemed like the natural thing to do at five in the morning.
I stared into my half empty cup o' joe, and was thinking about the journey ahead, when the strange little man initiated a conversation with me.
"You know, I used to have an uncle who drank this stuff all the time. He used to drink a cup of of it every day, it used to refresh him so... Come to think of it, a lot o' people in my hometown used to drink this stuff."
I looked up at him, he looked pleased with himself. Almost happy, but not yet fully content. An expression I've never seen on a person before. Trying not to appear rude, I spoke up to him:
"...tell me more about your hometown then."
"My hometown? Well, it's not a very well-known community. Pleasant Springs, Illinois.. They used to grow coffee beans there, and that's where the name of this coffee comes from..."
He chuckled to himself lightly, but in an almost cartoonish way.
"I haven't been back there in half a decade! I should go back someday and see how things have come along..."
I suddenly felt a trembling from within me. My stomach felt as though it were on fire. I didn't know whether it was the coffee which didn't agree with me, or because I hadn't eaten in a while, or that this man had poisoned me.
No. It couldn't be poisoned, this was just some sort of coincidence.
"You look a little shaky there pal. Here, have another cup of coffee, on the house..."
Yes. It was definitely poisoned. The way this man stared at me intently. The way I felt like I was burning inside. The way he was then offering me cups of coffee for free. But then again, he could've just been a nice guy trying to help me. I held my stomach, and said,
"Perhaps could I get some water instead?"
"Oh sure. I'll go get you some."
He walked slowly over to the sink, and turned the valve slowly. Nothing came out of the tap, and he walked nonchalantly back over to the counter.
"Sorry, our sink appears to be out of order. Would you like some bottled water instead?"
I, busy contemplating what to do at the time, blurted out in the heat and confusion of the pain mixed with my own paranoia, "Yes, sure, how much?"
"On the house, friend." He smiled an unsettling smile. He slowly walked through the back door and within a split second he came back out again, this time looking more pleased with himself, and with the bottle of water in hand. I accepted it hastily, unscrewed the lid, and drank about a quarter of it down. I felt the pain disspate, and I felt better.
"Thanks," I said, not feeling as creeped out.
"Oh, it's nothing... I'm happy to help."
When I say, not feeling as creeped out, I don't mean I felt entirely comfortable being here. I sat there, taking a few breaths, counting them in my head. All of a sudden, the pain reemerged, this time stronger and more intense than the last time. I writhed on the diner stool, trying to look normal yet failing.
Maybe I just needed more water. I went to drink a bit more from the bottle, when suddenly, the label caught my eye.
This was weird. This was strange. This was unnerving. I stood up from my stool, and backed away to the door, shoving the bottle into my jacket pocket.
"What's the matter? Where are you going?"
He cocked his head slightly, having a mildly aggressive tone. I opened the door, keeping my eyes trained upon the man.
He had an expression of sadness, falsely etched onto his face. His voice imploring me to come back and sit. I was not prepared to do that. But what I was prepared to do, was run to my car and get the hell out of there.
I ran as fast as I could over to my car, fumbling for the key to get in. I unlocked the door and got inside. As I tried to start the car, the man came outside, his head cocked to the side. His face almost questioning why I was leaving in such a hurry. I managed to start the car up, and drove away.
The nightmare was over, except for one thing. The bastard had slashed my tires.
I was swerving across the road, slowing to a stop. I got out of my car and looked in the back of the car. All I had was one spare tire and a tire iron. One spare tire wasn't going to be enough, so all I could use was the tire iron. I shoved it into the back of my trousers, and I walked away from the direction of the diner.
I had been walking for a couple hours. I'd maybe walked about 6 miles, and I was feeling tired. I heard a noise, it was coming from the road, more specifically, from the direction of the diner.
I was ready.
I waited at the side of the road to see who it was, maybe they could give me a lift. If it was the man, I was prepared to defend myself.
Off in the distance, I saw a mini convertible driving towards me. I stuck out my thumb, hoping that it would be someone good, and not some psychopath trying to kill me.
The driver halted to a stop, and smiled at me. It was an old man wearing a suit and tie, along with an old fedora.
"Where ya headin', stranger?"
I bent down to look at him through the car window, and said, "I've been running away from some psychopath! Back about several miles there's a diner with a madman running it. He tried to kill me!"
He lifted his brow and invited me into his car. He started driving again, and said, "I've just come from that diner. The guy running it seemed perfectly fine to me."
I implored him, "Please, just drive to the nearest town with a police station in it!"
"Alright, calm down son. There ain't nothin to be afraid of now. There's a town about twenty miles ahead, I'll drop you off at the police station once we get there."
We sat there quietly. The long slow hum of the motor, mixed with the rumbling of the tires on the old unkempt road calmed me. It would've sent me to sleep if I wasn't aware of my situation. I looked around at my surroundings, the car was filled with bits of old junk that the elderly usually keep in their car.
A few minutes later, I readjusted myself in my seat. I stretched my legs and my back and settled back onto the chair, I looked into the rearview mirror, and that's when I saw something I had never anticipated.
The man was in the back seat, sitting up, and grinning.
I froze, too scared to say anything, in fear of what he might do to me or the driver. The old man changed gear and looked into his rearview mirror.
The old man smiled, and said, "Heya Jim! This the guy you were talkin' about?"
The man stared at me through the rearview mirror.
"Yes, thank you for helping me find him. You, I never got your name. What is it?"
I was frozen. I could not speak, move, not even blink.
"No matter, I just wanted to let you know, you didn't pay your tab for the first coffee you bought."
"That'll be one fifty..."
That's when I blacked out.
I woke up in my car. I opened the door, and checked everything. The tires were not slashed, I didn't feel sick or in pain anymore, and everything was fine.
I must've stopped to rest my eyes and dreamt all of it. Funny how nightmares can relate to the subconscious fears of what you're doing.
Smiling to myself in relief, I felt my jacket for my keys and I felt something in the pocket of my keys. It was badly torn bit of paper, it felt dried out, as though it had been wet previously. I pulled it out, and in the darkness I read out the words: