Battle of the Bean

It was the end of the world as we knew it, and nobody felt fine. Remember that song by R.E.M.? It’s been stuck inside my head since this whole thing began.
Anarchy reigned; society was in chaos. People rioted in the streets. Yadda-yadda apocalypse…
All because of one little thing. A tiny thing really. Not quite miniscule, perhaps the size of a pea, but a tiny thing nonetheless.
The all-powerful coffee bean.
We were warned of the impending extinction of our precious bean, but like so many warnings before it, we chose to ignore it until forced to confront the ugly truth.
It began early in the century, when farmers in Colombia noticed a troublesome blight affecting the Arabica plants. The blight, known as ‘coffee rust’, was a type of fungus that spread rapidly, despite all efforts to eradicate it.
Some blamed pollution, others blamed global warming, but regardless of who or what was to blame, Arabica crops in Latin America were wiped out by 2017, and from there it spread to crops in Africa.
Still, the public pooh-poohed. As long as Starbucks kept pouring eight-dollar lattes, there was no cause for alarm. The problem was far away from their sheltered yuppie environment. Cultivation was the farmers’ problem, not theirs. Even when the Arabica crops were gone and the price of that particular variety skyrocketed, people simply switched blends.
It wasn’t until every coffee plant on the planet was dead that we were willing to acknowledge that we had a problem. The problem escalated to catastrophic levels when the governments took control of the world’s remaining supply of coffee. Coffee disappeared from supermarket shelves. Starbucks went out of business. Coffee shops with boarded-up windows littered the urban landscape.
At more than ten times the price per kilo, coffee replaced cocaine as Colombia’s most lucrative illegal export. Coffee cartels waged war on each other in hopes of controlling the world’s dwindling supplies of the precious brown bean. Penalties for smuggling coffee ranged from several years to life in prison or even death by firing squad, depending on which country one was arrested in, but that didn’t stop an intrepid few from trying their luck.
Street value of an ounce of ground coffee climbed higher than that of gold. Users traded automatic weapons, priceless family heirlooms and even the deeds to their homes for a cup of espresso, just to get one more fix of that aromatic black nectar.
We tried consuming tea, colas and caffeine pills, but it didn’t take us long to learn that caffeine wasn’t what gave coffee its addictive nature. It turned out there was another ingredient we had overlooked. A mystery ingredient that latched onto the brain much like cocaine did. Suffice it to say, lack of this ingredient made some people very unhappy indeed. Scientists analyzed it, tried to isolate it and tried to synthesize it but to no avail.
The increase in violent crimes due to coffee withdrawal led to the legalization of marijuana. Pounds of Purple Kush, Amsterdam Indica and BC Big Bud now occupied the shelf space that had once displayed pounds of French Roast, Breakfast Blend and Decaf. A society of anxious, stressed-out bean-hounds became laid-back and complacent, sleepily smiling as they crammed their mouths full of snacks.
Of course, there were still the hardcore addicts, for whom nothing else but the bitter ambrosia would do. White-collar professionals became organized crime bosses, dealing the world’s most valuable substance to street addicts, some of them former colleagues. When the coffee finally ran out, one country accused the next of hoarding it, even though nobody had any coffee anymore.
With everyone at each other’s throats, the UN dissolved. Their final meeting ended in a massive brawl; a Battle Royal between nearly 200 delegates that resolved nothing. The situation deteriorated to the point of war, with everyone pointing warheads at everyone else.
With a bunch of coffee-starved world leaders holding their jittery fingers over the red button, I did what any sensible man would and went to ground.
I found the bomb shelter in my neighbor’s back yard after investigating the sound of a gunshot. I found him at his kitchen table, where he had been trying to snort lines of instant coffee before giving up and swallowing the barrel of his .357. Poor bastard – everyone knows there’s no real coffee in that instant stuff, but looks like he died trying.
I found a shovel and thought I’d do the neighborly thing and give him a decent burial but damn, the ground was hard! I tried a few different spots but kept hitting rocks, then at one point I hit something metal. Curious, I dug it up, and damned if I didn’t find a bomb shelter! Probably built during World War II and long forgotten under layers of landscaping. My neighbor probably bought the house without even knowing it existed.
So, when the threat of nuclear war became imminent, I packed some supplies and retreated into the shelter with plans to stay put for a few weeks or months until the coast was clear. I brought food, plenty of water, books to read, flashlights and batteries, but I needn’t have bothered to pack so much because when I got down there I discovered the shelves well-stocked. Sure, eighty-year-old canned goods might not be ideal, but they were better than nothing if it came down to it. I scanned my flashlight over the shelves and lo and behold! What did I see? Coffee! Cans and cans of magnificent, marvelous coffee!
I had packed a butane camp stove and a few cases of fuel, so I was all set to prepare hot meals. Now hot coffee would accompany those meals! This dark, dusty hole in the ground had suddenly become paradise.

I’m writing this down, partly to keep myself busy so I don’t think about coffee. I also thought it would be a good idea to record what became of our world just in case nobody else is alive to do it.
As close as I can figure, it’s been about six months since I felt the first of the bombs hit. My food supply is dwindling, even the really old stuff. If I have to eat another can of cold lima beans I’m going to scream. Who the hell puts lima beans in a bomb shelter? I guess I could leave the shelter, but as long as I have coffee in my possession I run the risk of getting robbed, maybe even killed for it. Lord only knows what’s happening up on the surface.
I’m down to my last can of coffee, but I’ve been putting off opening it because once it’s gone, then I truly will be out of coffee. After that I will leave the shelter and see what awaits me up above.
I’ll wait one more day to open it. I can go without coffee for just one more day. I’ve been saving one last can of butane to make it nice and hot. Cold food I can handle, but cold water won’t brew coffee.

See? One day wasn’t so tough. Why not make it two? If I have a cup of coffee every two days, it will last twice as long. If I wait one more day before opening the last can, that’s one more day before I run out for good.

I made it a whole week. Wow. That’s one more week before I run out. As long as I have that can of coffee, I’m the richest man on earth. I might also be the only man on earth, but… mere details.

Two weeks, and that damn can of coffee sits there unopened, mocking me, daring me to open it. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Nice try, coffee can. I’m smarter than you. After all, you’re just a stupid can of coffee. I’m over you. I don’t love you anymore. I could quit you cold turkey if I wanted to.
Aw, fuck it. Since I know I can quit anytime I want, I might as well drink it and enjoy the last coffee on earth.
I’m doing it. This is it. I’m opening the can.
Tomorrow.

I’ve been out of food for weeks now, and starvation is weakening me more each day. The can of coffee still sits unopened, though. I have decided to save it until the very end. If the last thing I do before I leave this world is drink the last cup of coffee in that can, I will die a happy man. I’ll have to do it soon, though. I’m on my last two gallons of bottled water.
Maybe it’s time I left the shelter. There is probably clean water on the surface. Hell, I don’t even care if it’s contaminated, just as long as it will make a decent cuppa Joe. But… what if it’s total chaos up there? I’d be killed for my can of coffee for sure. I guess I could leave it in the shelter. Nobody knows it’s here. But what if I was followed on the way back, or worse, what if someone found this place – and my coffee – while I was away? Without my coffee, I have nothing. No, the only way it will be safe is if I stay and guard it.
When I finish the water I have open, I will open the last jug of water along with the can of coffee and brew a nice steaming cup of Heaven. When the coffee is gone, I will leave the shelter. If the world is destroyed, I’ll use the revolver I took from my neighbor’s hand and exit in likewise fashion.

NO! NO!!!! I went to open the last water jug and found it empty! DRY! All this time I thought it was full but I didn’t actually pick it up and shake it. The jug must have had a leak at the bottom because the water is long gone. No. No. No. I can’t live without water, because without water I can’t make coffee. A world without coffee is not one I want to face.
Goodbye world, whatever’s left of you.
* * *
The steel door groaned open. Two faces peered into the hole, closing their inner eyelids to shield their eyes from the dust that rose.
“What is this?”
“I’m not sure. Looks like some kind of ancient ruins. There’s a cave or something down there. Let’s go down and check it out.”
They scuttled down the shaft into the cavern below.
“Look there! Bones! What kind of creature is that?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not one of us. Look, only four appendages and it doesn’t even have a tail! Must be some kind of weird old fossil.”
“What’s that object beside it?”
A webbed, green-scaled hand reached for the metal can.
“Is it some kind of weapon?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe it’s food or something. Look, I can open it.”
Sniff. Sniff.
“What is that?”
“I don’t know, but it smells delicious! Should we taste it?”
“No, it might be poison. Let’s go and ask Mom first.”

Copyright© 2014 Mandy White
(Previously Published in Goin’ Extinct by WPaD and Dysfictional 2 by Mandy White)

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Hibernation Holiday

Posted: December 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

 

Hibernation Holiday

By Mandy White

 

The season loomed, as it inevitably would, but this year the approach of the holidays filled me with more dread than usual. Having finalized my divorce earlier that year, I would be spending Christmas alone for the first time ever. My kids had lives and families of their own, and both lived closer to their father than me, so it didn’t take a genius to guess where they would be gathering for the obligatory annual feast.

Alzheimer’s had claimed my mother to the point where I was no longer able to care for her at home. Three months previously I’d faced the heartbreaking decision of placing her in a full-time care home. She had deteriorated to the point where she needed constant supervision, something I was unable to provide when I worked full time. I visited her every day after work, but she seldom remembered who I was. When she did, she regressed into the past, talking to me as though I were still a child.

Thanksgiving came and went. My son and daughter both phoned, but neither had time to visit. I assured them I was fine; that my work schedule didn’t allow for socializing or cooking fancy meals.

More and more often I found myself sitting at the kitchen table, gazing out the window at the bleak landscape that was now my back yard. It had once been a happy place, filled with the activity of my children and their friends. Now, the garden was overgrown and the swing set hung rusty and unloved, anticipating my grandchildren’s next visit. No children would visit this year. No misshapen snow people would populate the lawn. No warming little red noses and chilled fingertips with steaming mugs of cocoa.

Not even Mom anymore.

Just me.

I flipped open the brochure for the thousandth time; the people at the care home had given it to me, suggesting I give it consideration before it was too late. She wasn’t too far gone, they told me. Science was making great strides in Alzheimer’s research and a cure might be a reality in just a few years. After all, they had already perfected cryogenics to the point where it could now be offered as a viable solution in cases like that of my mother.

Freeze my mother.

It sounded so barbaric when I thought of it that way, but it was the bald truth, no matter what fancy name they wanted to slap onto it. Her life insurance policy could be used to pay for the cryogenic process, which had about a twenty percent risk of failure. Not everyone survived. There was a chance I would be signing my mother’s execution order in an attempt to save her life. But if I chose the alternative, which was to do nothing, she was destined to die. A slow, miserable death, which I would experience with her, moment by agonizing moment.

The more I thought about it, the more rational my plan seemed.

December first, I arrived at my appointment at the cryogenics place. I listened to their orientation, which was more of a sales pitch, and signed all the necessary forms and waivers. After that, it was time to find out how well the process would work.

***

Voices. I heard the sound of many voices.

They were singing.

I recognized the song, but what was the name of it again? Oh, that was maddening! I’d heard that song numerous times. It was… I hummed the melody in my head until the words came to me.

“Auld Lang Syne…” I joined in the chorus, but my singing voice was terrible. It came out as a raspy croak.

“She’s awake!” someone said. I knew the voice.

The singing stopped and excited conversation broke out.

“Grandma! Are you awake?” a child’s voice this time. My granddaughter.

“Haley?” I whispered. I struggled to open my eyes, but my eyelids felt swollen and heavy.

“Give her time,” a strange voice said. “The effects will wear off slowly. Carol? Can you hear me?” A finger lifted my eyelid and a bright light flashed in my eye for a second.

“Ow!” I squeezed my eyelid tighter against the invasion of the light. “Fuck off! That’s bright.”

Laughter filled the room.

“That’s Mom, all right!” my daughter’s voice said. “She’s back!”

I managed to open my eyes; just a sliver at first, until they adjusted to the light, then eventually opened them all the way.

“What…” Words escaped me.

I was in a strange room, similar to a hospital room but the décor had a homier feel. My family surrounded my bed. My son Mark and daughter Nancy, along with their spouses and children, all crowded into the room.

“What are you all doing here?”

Mark explained, “We had been planning it since September. We weren’t going to let you be alone at Christmas. Nancy and I collaborated and all four of us managed to schedule vacation time for December. We wanted to surprise you. Turned out we were the ones who were surprised when we showed up to find you weren’t home. We called your workplace and your boss said you’d taken the entire month off for health reasons.”

Nancy chimed in., “Mom, how could you do this without telling us? Do you have any idea how worried we were when we couldn’t find you? It was your neighbor, Helen, who told us. You’d given her the key and asked her to water your plants because you were going away. She said you’d given her a phone number to call if you didn’t return by January fifth. We called the number and it was a… whatever this place is. I still don’t fully understand it.”

“Cryogenics,” Mark said. “You froze yourself. But I’m not sure I understand why.”

“I just wanted to skip it, you know? The whole damn thing. I knew you kids were too far away to visit, and Mom…” a sob caught in my throat at the mention of my mother. I felt guilty for abandoning her, even though she didn’t know the difference. “I did it for Mom, too. I wasn’t just being selfish. They gave me the brochure, the people at the care home. We can put Mom into Cryo-sleep until they have a cure. I wanted to discuss it with you, but thought it only fair to test it myself first to make sure it worked. I didn’t want to do anything to her that I wasn’t willing to do myself. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to cause her any pain or suffering. I mean, they say it’s just like sleep, and now I know that’s true, but I needed to know for sure.”

The room had fallen silent since the mention of my mother.

“Mom, there’s something you need to know,” Nancy began.

“What?” A cold weight formed inside my gut. “Is Mom ok? Have you guys checked on her?”

“She’s…” Nancy’s voice choked.

‘Mom,” Mark said, “Grandma passed away the day after Christmas. We spent it with her because you were asleep. Heart attack, they said. She died in her sleep.”

“No,” I whispered. “I shouldn’t have left her.” Tears filled my eyes. “At least she went peacefully. She didn’t know the difference anymore.”

“She asked for you.”

“She did what?”

“Christmas Day, when we all gathered to visit her at the home, she looked around at all of us and asked, ‘Where’s Carol? She usually visits me every day. It’s so strange that you are all here but she isn’t’. We tried to explain to her where you were, but she didn’t understand. She just kept commenting how strange it was that you weren’t there.”

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Mandy White

I long ago reached the conclusion that I am not cut out to be a blogger. I don’t know if it’s the pressure to come up with new content on a regular basis that makes me choke, or just a general fear of commitment. As a result, this blog has stagnated save for the occasional reblogging of things that interest me.
I figure, what the hell, it’s a new year and all that shit, let’s try something new and breathe some life into this dead piece of web space.
I still don’t have much to say, but I do have a fondness for short stories. I have a buttload of them and so do a lot of my friends. So I’m going to start posting those for readers to enjoy (or not)
Starting….now.

A brilliant Christmas story from my favorite vampire blogger, the Vampire Maman:

Vampire Maman

The voice on the phone whispered, “are you coming over today?”

Why Tellias always whispers on the phone I will never know.

“I’m on my way,” I said. “I’m stuck on Hazel in the never-ending construction, but I’m on my way.”

“Good,” he said in a papery thin voice. “I have a lot to tell you.” Then he hung up.

A 2054 year old Vampire can have a lot to say, so I picked up a case of Poet’s Blood at Dave’s Bottle Shop.

When I arrived at the Queen Ann style farmhouse Tellias and Eleora were waiting for me on the front porch. Tellias was wearing tuxedo pants, a slate blue workshirt with the name Jose stitched on the pocket, and yellow flip flops. His pale blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Elena was wearing  white Go Go boots, a red mini skirt, a black fake fur…

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We all encounter trolls at some point in our lives. Some sage advice on how to deal with them.

JADE M PHILLIPS

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We all know what trolls are. They’re those green ugly creatures that lurk beneath bridges and demand your first born child in exchange for safe passage. Or maybe we think of them as naked little dolls with cotton-candy hair that people used to stick on their car dashes back in the eighties. Right?

Well, technically yes. But today we’re discussing an entirely different beast altogether: The Internet troll.

Internet trolls are a certain breed of human whose main goal is to disrupt the harmonious flow of the interwebs with their nasty and inflammatory words. There are many different types of trolls, and they don’t necessarily have to be on the Internet to qualify as such. A troll can lurk in your personal life as well. Heck, a troll could be a friend or a family member even, but we’ll get to that in a bit. For now, let’s focus on…

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The Jealousy Game is a free ebook available for download from all major online book distributors:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple
Kobo
Smashwords

Unfortunately, I can’t offer the paperback edition for free due to the cost of printing, but I did my best to keep the price as low as possible. The paperback is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I am happy to send a free ebook copy in any format via email if, for some reason you are unable to download from any of the vendors listed above. Just email me and ask, and it’s yours. mandywrite@hotmail.com

I’m offering the book for free to get it into the hands of as many readers as possible, especially the younger generation who has yet to experience the things some of us ‘older’ women have. Please share it as much as possible. You have my permission to download it and give it away to as many people as you like, on one condition: Do not sell it. This book must remain free.

If you feel this book is worth it, you may send a donation to the author to help me widen the distribution of the paperback edition. My goal is to get it into as many libraries as possible, both public and school. I am also donating copies to various women’s organizations where they can be made available to victims of violence. The easiest way to donate is via Paypal, to: mandywrite@hotmail.com

Is your boyfriend or husband unreasonably jealous? 
Define unreasonable.
Is he intrusive, accusatory and controlling?
~ Constantly accusing you of infidelity, no matter how hard you try to prove your loyalty to him… forbidding you to talk to any man for any reason…
~ Invading your privacy by reading your emails and texts…going through your purse and other belongings… allowing you no privacy, even in the bathroom…
~ Controlling your money… preventing you from spending anything on yourself… insisting your bank account is joint with his… sabotaging your job and keeping you impoverished and dependent on him…
~ Undermining your self-esteem by telling you that you are old and used up… that no other man would want you… that you are lucky to have him…
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you could be in grave danger.
Fact: 
Every day 3 women die at the hands of an abusive partner in the USA.
Fact: 
Physical abuse often goes hand in hand with jealousy.
Jealousy is a form of mental abuse that is almost ALWAYS a precursor to physical violence. If jealousy is present in your relationship, it is a red flag that should warn you of worse things to come.

Trust me on this one. I have experience in this area.
But your relationship is different than mine was, right?
I sincerely hope it is, but I’d bet money that it isn’t.
Many people mistake jealousy for an endearing display of affection without realizing it can be a sign of something more sinister. How do you know when jealousy has crossed the line from simple affection to unhealthy obsession?
Can you fix it before it’s too late? 
You may think jealousy is a natural part of being in love, or that jealousy is a man’s way of showing how much he cares. But, what about when jealousy reaches such an extreme that you find yourself constantly under attack, accused of things you haven’t done?
How can you tell if your relationship has reached the danger point? Knowing how to recognize abnormal behavior in your partner can save you from months, even years of mental anguish. It may even save your life.
~ The Jealousy Game follows the cycle of abuse as it develops within a woman’s relationship with a jealous man, starting with subtle little displays of jealousy and culminating in a struggle between life and death.
~ Red Flags: The book provides a list of common symptoms that appear when a relationship has progressed beyond what should be considered normal. If you recognize your own relationship in any of these scenarios, it is a sign that you should consider ending it before you become traumatized, injured or even killed.
This book can be an eye-opening read for young women who are new to dating and a chilling walk down memory lane for those of us who have experienced jealousy first-hand.
Dedicated to all survivors of domestic violence; and especially to the ones who did not survive. 

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Today, we’re going to do something a little different. You want to know one thing I love probably more than anything in the world? Spotting great talent and getting to share it. Thus, today I would like to introduce you to one of my followers who snagged my attention over the holidays and I asked her to come and share her wisdom today because I think we can all gain something from her (even me because am always learning BAY-BEE!).

I would like to introduce, Britt Skrabanek!

****

Indie Author Britt Skrabanek Indie Author Britt Skrabanek

A lot of you may be wondering how I ended up on Kristen’s blog in the first place. She’s pretty big-time, an influencer—she’s worked her tail off to build her brand presence. Many of us look to her for writing tips we can actually use, knowing some esoteric BS like…

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Kristen Lamb's Blog

Too many choices! Too many choices!

We’ve had an eventful week or so with my last couple of unplanned posts. In all fairness, I did expect to get some knickers in a twist (which I did) with my post Pay the Writer. As a quick recap, I love used bookstores. They get a lot more of my money than I like to admit *looks up number to 12 Step Sponsor*

You don’t understand. Half Price Books has books ZEN DOODLES. No frigging idea what those are…just that I need some.

I’m not against “discovering” an author there.

But writers? If we promote used bookstores, make sure to remind readers you don’t get paid that way. Discovery must serve a purpose. Exposure must have the follow-up to be effective.

Because if you don’t ever make any money, you have to go work retail. If you work retail, one day you will be asked one too many stupid…

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Vampire Maman

I’ll be blunt.

I write stories. I draw cute little sketches.

I love you. Juliette drew this. I love you.
Juliette drew this.

If you download and read a FREE Horror Anthology (not just my stuff, but a lot of really good stories) and leave a review, I will send you an original sketch drawn just for you with my cold undead hand.

As part of the WPaD (Writers, Poets and Deviants) writing group I am proud of what we do to support MS research and entertain the reading public at the same time.

This month (January 2016) our newest anthology Creepies 2: Things that go Bump Beneath the Bed, is FREE.

Creepies 2 - Best Horror Anthology of 2015 Creepies 2 – Best Horror Anthology of 2015

Yes, FREE.

From the twisted minds of Writers, Poets and Deviants:
Prepare for terror… and a few laughs as well.
– An exterminator meets his match in a family’s attic…
– A cuddly toy with a…

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Kristen Lamb's Blog

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Well, I figure I have one more day to drunkenly torch my platform. Sad thing is I don’t drink. I am apparently this stupid when sober 😛 . Actually I am writing this as a follow up for my rant from the day before yesterday, because knowledge is power.

Writers need this. Your friends and families need this. Readers need this. The more people get how this industry works, the more everyone can start working together for everyone’s benefit.

In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go into a LOT more detail and I highly recommend you get a copy if you don’t have one. I spend the first chapters of the book explaining how the various forms of publishing work so you can make an educated decision.

All types of publishing have corresponding…

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