Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Drantill’s become a regular over the last year. His arrival times vary, but he’s always seated by 12:00. From then until 12:30 he watches the long lines of the digitised clockface on his phone move, saying nothing, barely breathing. Then-
“Miss? Can I have a caramel macchiato with a shot of cherry syrup, please?”
“Of course you can, Drantill. Remember, my name is Pellaira.”
He smiles and nods. It’s our little routine. He never uses my name. I make a point of using his. Drantill is, for want of a better term, beautiful. I’d really like to get to know him, but he doesn’t seem interested – in anything.
Except his odd coffee. I’ve never seen a man so transported by just smelling it. His face becomes… Serene. Even more impossibly beautiful. Then his eyes close and he takes a sip, swallows, and sighs.
Maybe I could use that?
“You really like that coffee, don’t you?”
He jerks in surprise. Those wonderful eyes turn my way and it’s like he’s looking at me for the first time.
“Reminds me of home. You blend it well.”
“Your name is unusual.”
“It was my mother’s. She died giving birth and dad named me for her. Seemed strange, but I’m used to it now.”
“Where I come from, it’s the name of a great city. To name a child after it is considered a brave act, dooming the child to greatness and a terrible fate.”
“I’ve never heard of a place called Pellaira.”
He smiles and takes another sip.
“It’s far away.”
“You come from there?”
“A little village nearby. Goshtan O’er the Fyres.”
“It’s at the edge of a huge lava field. The main trade is pumice. Not thrilling for a young lad. I volunteered for something that took me far away,” he sips and sighs, “now I regret it.”
“What did you volunteer for?”
He looks about, mutters something, and gives a little laugh.
Those eyes catch mine.
“They wanted men and women for an impossible mission, one from which there might be no return. We formed the crew of a great boring machine, powered by the biggest creniuld engines ever cranked. Our mission was to prove for once and for all that our ice-ringed world was set fast upon a bed of endless rock, just as stated in the Latturlidan Scriptures.
“We spent months living in that vibrating tube as it chewed through the foundations of our world. Just as we approached the return point, we tore through. Everything flew into the air. Up became down. Our machine toppled and rolled, then fell, breaking apart in the hideous impact that followed.
“A few of us crawled from that wreckage, finding ourselves at the bottom of a deep ravine. Crazed and confused, we wandered until we came upon a settlement.
“Each reacted differently to the epiphany. To save conflict, we agreed to go our separate ways for a year, then meet up and share our tales so we could work out what to do next.”
He looks at me, tears at the corners of his eyes.
“That was twenty-nine years ago. No-one came to that meeting, so I went looking. Not many killed themselves. Most settled. Some found love. A few started families. Only one yearns for home so much he cannot rest, and tortures himself by visiting the daughter who bears the name and face of her mother, his lost sister. But today he told her the truth, and will never see her again.”
He gets up and rushes out.
…What just happened?