Sipping his cooled coffee with little attention, Bill continued clacking away on his computer with his free hand. Returning the near empty cup to the table, he settled his hand back on his keyboard and typed twice as fast. After several hours of painstaking writer’s block, the muses had taken him. He ignored the ache in his bladder, he couldn’t let this streak pass.
The baristas were used to seeing the conflict on his face, and knew that his determination would win over his body. He had been coming to this Starbucks for the better part of two years, trying desperately to finish his manuscript. His writing style appeared to be feast or famine. At times, he would write like the wind, and two thousand words would flow from him like lava having discovered a crack in the ocean floor. Other times, he would stare at his screen, trying to will the words to come. But they evaded him. On more than one occasion, concerned patrons had alerted the cashier’s to his fugue-like state, but they explained that it was simply his creative mind turning putty into art.
There were only a few customer’s to pay him attention today. The mid-afternoon sun still road high, creating a slump in business for the coffee house. The interior of the small building held a young couple flush with text books, a mother and two-year old daughter, and an old man, who intensely read the newspaper.
Bill was so involved in his laptop, he might as well have been alone. He didn’t even notice the near blinding flash of light outside until the building shook. Even then, he brushed it off as an earthquake. That is, until the screaming started.
Looking up, he saw that outside the glass windows, ash filled the air. Dirt and streaming particles flew angrily against the surface. The mother had ducked under a table, holding her daughter tightly beneath her body. The two teens stood at the windows with their cell phones out, documenting the event. The old man continued to read the paper.
Another bright pulse pierced the darkness. Moments later, the building was racked once more. Tiles fell from the ceiling, accompanied by old dust and insulation.
Of the two baristas, the female one was first to yell out. She looked to be of college age, with a freshman fifteen to back it up.
“Quick!” she yelled, “Let’s all get into the walk-in. It’s strong. Let’s go!”
The middle aged male cashier conferred, and went to shuffle them all in. The mother was reluctant to leave, but after some prodding, scooped her daughter into her arms and ran. The teens, not understanding the severity of the situation, protested at first, but quickly followed after. The old man refused to leave his seat. Bill, with a computer in one hand, used his other to help the clerk try to pry the man from his seat. He shook them off and would not budge.
Another flash came, and it was clear this man was not going with them. Hesitating, but running out of time, they left him to his paper. Running, they got to the fridge. The barista held the door open for them, and they ran into it, just as the next shock wave struck.
The frigid air made their already goose-bumped skin prickle more. Bill felt a frostiness against his legs. Looking down, he regretted not having taken that bathroom break.
The building rocked another twelve times before there was silence. They all sat in quiet, wondering what was going on outside. During the hours they waited and wondered if it was safe, Bill typed and typed, inspired by the event.
Before he knew it, ten thousand words had appeared on his screen. If the world survived whatever was happening, perhaps he’d finally have his best seller.
After what felt like an eternity of silence, they decided it was time to explore. Slowly opening the door, and pushing against some resistance, the cashier poked his head out. After he looked a bit, he swung it wide so all could see. A bright orange light filled the room. One by one, they climbed out of the fridge, and into the rubble that once was the Starbucks.
The building had collapsed around them. The barista had saved all of their lives. Well, almost everyone. The chair that the old man had been sitting in was knocked over on the ground. Scanning the ruins, Bill saw his charred and smashed body a couple feet away. He still clung the paper in his hands.
The group wandered the streets, searching for any sign of life. All they found was thick pockets of dust and craters filled with meteorites.
“Anyone have a signal?” the teen girl asked.
They all checked their cell phones and shook their heads.
“Hey, dude,” the teen boy said, addressing Bill, “you’ve got your computer? Any wifi?”
Bill opened his computer and searched for a network. There was nothing. As he refreshed again and again, his battery button blinked.
“No signal at all,” he said.
“Do you think everyone is gone?” the barista asked as tears welled in her eyes.
“I don’t know. I’m just glad we’re safe,” the woman said, still clutching her daughter.
Bills computer blinked off.
“No. No, no, no,” he said.
“What is it?” they asked, afraid.
“I didn’t save. All that work! I got more done in that freezer than I have in a month. It’s gone.”
“The whole world is gone!” the cashier yelled, upset by Bill’s priorities.
“I know. I might not be able to plug this in and recover it. It’s all gone. It’s all gone for good.”