This story is by Aleksandra Dulat and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I wouldn’t say the circumstances that took Ben at the end of the world were unfortunate. After all, the alternative for overdosing caffeine could’ve been much worse, and some say that after forty life is just starting.
He drove the whole night and day and the next night. Most of his friends say that coffee doesn’t work on them but Ben would stay awake at his funeral if he’d drank coffee before it.
That was why several paper cups were hiding under every sit and rolling from one side to another with each turn.
Ben considered the weather horrible. Not only was it raining but the sky was just gone. Undercover of thick clouds there was not one glimpse of blue. He was that kind of guy – he liked the sun and clear sky. And his boat and his life that he could barely remember. In his memory, there were faces that lost meaning and places that could’ve been as well from a dream.
The wet road was pretending to be a mirror and trees believed it. The same forest that was around, was also looking at Ben from under his car. Except for yellow lines – they were only on the ground making themselves proof that street is still beneath the sky.
There was no one else in his life and plain sight. Nor in his car or on the road. Alone always was his favorite word but coffee tends to end from time to time and for Ben, this particular loneliness was too much to take.
Behind next turn (which took paper cups on the right side of the car) stand an old sign. Two pieces of wood on which tired letters informed there was a “Restaurant” “The End of the World – fifty-seven miles” (someone was in a great mood while making up the name). When seeing signs like that Ben always thought the same thing: just how ridiculous was placing a piece of information that way. WHY SEVEN? No one is even going to check if it’s fifty-seven. It would be simpler to write sixty. No one cares.
But he clearly did.
By the time he saw the restaurant, it’d stopped raining but not drizzling. The world was wet and sweaty, the sky was staying hidden from peoples’ eyes. There were two cars on the parking lot – both old and used not alike Ben’s. His car was one year old, white, and had led lights. Right now there was some mud on the bottom side but it still looked great.
Ben set up the alarm and crossed the pavement parking. He went inside the restaurant. It smelled like bacon.
The woman behind a bar had no interest in even pretending she’s not judging a stranger. She took a good long look because in places like this, near roads like that, her life could depend on it.
“Now you’re a guy that’s far from home,” she said with a plain smile. She took an old red cup and started pouring coffee. “The question is…” she put hot beverage on a desk in front of her and pushed it in Ben’s direction. “Is it good or bad?”.
He grabbed a coffee and took a large sip. Didn’t say a thing just sat next to the window. The hot liquid felt so good in his stomach. The very last dear friend that stayed in his life. The one that will never abandon him. Nor will do so for anyone else. Coffee was there when life turned to shit and was ever before that. On each rainy day. On each day.
He paid for two coffees and took second to go. Got back on a wet road. It was raining again not hard though but gently. He drove just a short while when pavement started changing into rocks. With every mile, he felt more and more like he missed some turn and drove straight into the forest. He didn’t know it but he was six miles from the restaurant that did not have a name. He saw an old sign “The End of the World – one mile”. In one mile there was no road anymore. Just an edge of a cliff in a couple of yards. He got out of the car and sat on rocks with his legs hanging down. He was looking at the roads’ ends, disappearing forests, rivers that were ending in a middle of nowhere and everything was coming all together creating some dark rainy world far deep under his feet.
In his pocket, there was a wallet where not a single document had name Ben on it.
Let me tell you something about Ben, now as he is staring at the edge of everything that’s known.
He spent whole his life taking care of his sick mother, Mary, while her husband (Ben did not remember times when he called him a father) enjoyed his days in the company of alcohol and women.
Just when Ben was starting to understand that there was no more in life nor the world for him to achieve or see despite the same old streets he drove by every day, his mum died. He cried the whole day.
Ben and his dad met each other at last at Mary’s funeral. They did not say a word of welcome. Just stood there next to her coffin even after the last of the guests was gone.
“Let’s grab a coffee” Ben Senior sad when he started to shiver for a day was foggy and cold.
“I drive” Ben just turned around and walked in the direction of the car. He grabbed keys his dad threw at him and opened a door of white Mitsubishi. He sat on a driver seat and locked himself inside a car. He pushed the gas pedal and hit the road leaving Ben Senior standing alone on a drizzle.
It was three days ago. He spent them burning gas and drinking coffee while paying for both with his dad’s money – he left a wallet on a passenger seat.
For the last three days, he had more freedom than in the past forty years. As the world was falling apart beneath his feet, he thought that after all, he was sitting there with the only one companion who will never abandon him. Ben took the last sip of coffee, leaving the empty cup on a piece of rock.
He thought that there has to be more coffee at the end of all things, for there are more lost souls like him. And he thought “What the hell” and jumped.