He came into the busy coffee house at the same time every day. His skin was sickly pale with a grim and bony facial structure. He ordered the same drink every day. Iced caramel macchiato, an odd request for such an odd man. He sat in the same corner, pulled out his dog-eared sketchpad, a sharpened pencil and resided for hours illustrating and drinking endless macchiatos.
At this same coffee shop worked an aspiring young boy named Ricky. He was like any other teenage kid; curious, creative with an appreciation for the arts and skateboarding. He was responsible and did well in school.
Ricky had always taken notice of this peculiar man but did not think much of him until one day he caught a brief glimpse of one of his illustrations. Although it was only a glimpse, it was enough to send shivers down his spine and turn his extremities ice cold. From that brief encounter Ricky's mind was tormented with chaotic visions of exhumed corpses, broken skulls and other ghastly images reminiscent of the Book of Revelations. Like a festering spider bite Ricky's curiosity began to consume him. Everything about the man fascinated Ricky. Who was he? Where did he come from? What he was drawing and why did he drink so many goddamn iced caramel macchiatos? Every day, there he was, hunched over his sketchbook in deep concentration illustrating his scenes of the macabre.
One day, Ricky could take it no more and decided to approach the man.
Nervous and somewhat scared, he tentatively approached the dark corner where the man furiously sketched, with his face just inches from the surface of his sketchpad. Suddenly the man jerked upright like an alert viper staring through Ricky's retinas and into his young soul. Startled, Ricky almost stepped back. There was an eerie silence in the air and time seemed to stop. Ricky could not look away from the ocular stranglehold. An arid sensation filled Ricky's throat and mouth before he finally choked out, "W-Wh-What is that you are drawing?"
The man answered with an oddly welcoming demeanor. "It is for a publication that I run. A magazine of sorts." He glanced at Ricky's skateboard shoes. "Do you skateboard?" he asked with a gleam in his eyes.
"Yep! Every day. I love it!" Ricky began to speak with a sense of courage. The man took a sip from his macchiato, swallowed, furrowed his brow and smiled mysteriously as he spoke. "Well then I think you will like my magazine." Ricky's ears perked up. He was now even more intrigued.
"You see this magazine is all about blood, guts, rock & roll and of course lots AND lots of skateboarding." Ricky's eyes widened. He could barely contain his curiosity and asked "Where could I find a copy of this magazine???"
The man responded, "It is funny you should ask, because I happen to have a copy with me." Ricky's jaw dropped as the man reached into his bag and pulled out the magazine. He held it out and just as Ricky began to reach for the magazine the man pulled it away
"Be careful Ricky. What lies within these pages is beyond your worst nightmares. Are you sure you are worthy of perusing its gory depths?”
Without hesitation Ricky nodded with determination. "Very well then," the man spoke. His eyes blazed with fire as he handed the magazine over. Ricky snatched the magazine greedily.
The man whispered conspiratorially, "Enjoy. Just keep it secret."
As the man finished his sentence a barista in a slick Nazi haircut, V-neck t-shirt and thick-rimmed, non-prescription glasses shouted from the front counter, "RICKY! Cappuccino and espresso shot to Matilda at table five! On the double!"
Ricky had almost forgotten he was at work. He rolled up the magazine, stuffed it into his back pocket and went to take care of the order. Suddenly, he realized that he forgot to thank the man. He turned around but to his astonishment the man was nowhere to be seen. He was gone.
A week went before the man returned to the coffee shop. The snobby barista with the slick Nazi haircut, kitten tattoo and thick-rimmed, non-prescription glasses slouched apathetically behind the counter with his arms crossed. "Wuddya need?" the barista asked with a snide attitude.
"Iced Caramel Macchiato," said the man raising one eyebrow in response. As the barista prepared his order the man asked, "Where is that sprite young kid who I always see busing tables, doesn't he work today?"
The barista looked up. He seemed irritated as if the man had asked him how his day was. "Ricky? You mean the little skateboard punk?" said the barista.
"I believe so," said the man. The barista shook his head in disgust. "Pff! That little brat blew it! He doesn't work here anymore."
"Oh?" the man said as the barista continued. "Ricky came in to his shift one morning, grabbed his free daily pastry out of the case and just walked out. Skateboarded away with that weird magazine in his hand. And now I've had to cover for his ass." The barista was hard to hear over the steamer.
"A weird magazine?" inquired the man.
"Yeah, he said he found it somewhere. We tried to take it away from him because we would always catch him reading it on the job. It's like it was his bible or something."
"How strange." The man said in a peculiar tone.
"Whatever! I never liked that little poser anyway. Here’s your iced caramel macchiato!" said the barista. The man took his sugary morning brew and as he began to turn away the barista spoke to him.
"Wait. Aren't you that guy who is always drawing shit? Are you an artist or something?" The man turned slowly.
"I am many things." The man grimaced as he spoke. "The drawings are for a magazine that I publish." The barista listened silently. "It is a conglomerated abomination of all that is blood, guts, rock N roll and skateboarding!"
The man stared at the barista. Feigning indifference, it was nevertheless obvious that the barista couldn't hide his curiosity about this hallowed magazine. Finally, no longer able to contain the urge, the barista spoke. "Where could I find a copy of this magazine?"
The man’s eyes seemed to glow as he smiled malevolently.
"Well, it is funny you should ask, because I happen to have a copy right here with me." With his bony fingers the man reached into his bag and pulled out the same issue he had given to Ricky. Slowly, knowingly, he handed it to the barista. The barista removed his glasses and his eyes widened with horrified recognition as he gasped... "Hazmat?"
\m/ ------ THE END ------ \m/