Episode 4: Bloodcurdling Espresso

He may have introduced himself, but Chad’s still not sure what to think of him.


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End of previous episode:

Something in the man’s inky eyes caught Chad’s attention—a peculiar glint deep within, like moonlight catching on a secret buried in an uncanny dark.

“It’s alright.” Chad replied.

“Well, if that’s settled, then I shall introduce myself.” The man made a dramatic gesture indicating himself. “My name is—” He stopped, like an actor in a play who suddenly finds he has forgotten his line. For a fleeting moment he stared into Chad’s eyes, and to Chad it felt uncomfortably like he was peering into his soul. “Well, you may call me Player.” The stranger smiled mysteriously. “The Masked Player.”



“Seems a little melodramatic, don’t you think?” Chad remarked.

“Nonsense!” replied the Player. “What is life without drama?”

“I’m pretty sure you’d still get that without the mask,” said Chad with a little smile.

“Quite so, quite so,” came the reply, “but in this way I relish it!”

“Well, I’m gonna get a drink—” Chad began.

“Allow me!” the masked man cut in. “Order whatever you desire. I shall make good with the proprietor.”

Chad protested. “Thanks, but you don’t need to—”

“Nonsense, I insist!”


“Not another word!” Chad opened his mouth, as if to reply, but up came a solitary gloved finger. Chad relaxed, and the man said, “Quite the obstinate fellow, are you not?”

“I may have heard it once or twice,” replied Chad.

The Player laughed; that smooth, seductive kind of laugh that inspires trust. “Your beverage, stage right,” he said with an illustrious gesture toward the counter.

Chad ordered his drink. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He never let people buy drinks for him. He handed his card to the barista, but she told him to swipe in the pin pad in front of him. Wow, Chad. Get it together. It felt like the mask was watching, boring holes in him from behind. Chad glanced discreetly in the man’s direction. If the Player was watching, he showed little sign of it. There was something intriguing about this strange man, alluring even. But Chad didn’t know what. His sheer oddity piqued Chad’s interest, yet something in those dark shimmering trappings made the back of Chad’s neck tingle.

“Do you come here often?” the man asked as Chad opened a straw.

“Pretty often, yeah.”

The Player motioned to a table and sat down.

Chad joined him. “What about you?”

“Not terribly often, no. From time to time,” replied the man. “I am none too fond of coffee, but on occasion I have been known to drink espresso. In such strength, in fact, I was told it would ‘curdle the blood of Satan himself.’ ”

Chad smiled. “I like espresso myself.”

“Do you!” said the man. He settled back in his chair. “What do you do, my young friend? For a living, I mean.”

“I’m studying at the university right now, so taking it easy for the last bit of summer I have left,” Chad replied. “Student life gets more hectic every year.” Chad studied the man before him as he sipped on his Americano. He could tell this “Masked Player” dude really did relish the attention he got for his outlandish outfit. The hat and jacket matched nicely, both a deep teal so dark it might be mistaken for black or indigo from a little way off. But up close the mask was obviously darker. Looking at it, Chad felt like he was looking into it, like a portal to a deep dark dimension all its own. Chad couldn’t pin down a color—the mask seemed to possess an almost iridescent shimmer, like the ghost of a rainbow on black water.


To read the next installment, click here.

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