[eerie music plays]
NARRATOR: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between lunch and dinner, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call…
N: The Midday Zone
[fades into a basement lab. we see HENRY BEMIS, a graduate student, at his desk, slurping coffee from a ceramic mug with gusto. His labmate, GRACE, sits across the room]
HENRY: Grace, have you ever tried the Gimme Java Blue Batavia?
GRACE: How’s that?
H: It’s a wonderful roast. The beans are grown on the steep slopes of the Preanger mountain range west of the city of Bandung in West Java, and…
[gesticulating, HENRY knocks some apparatus onto the floor]
G: Henry! You’ve broken lab equipment again! You’d better clean that up.
H: Oh my, I’m terribly sorry. [scrabbling on the floor] Then there’s the flavor profile: sweet earth, brown sugar, …
[GRACE gets up and leaves the lab, shaking her head]
N: Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of caffeinators. A jittery little man whose passion is the cup of joe but who is conspired against by a PI and a world full of sleepers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without PIs or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself, without anyone…
[PI enters the lab]
PI: Henry, I hear you broke another piece of equipment! Those jittery hands have caused enough damage in this lab. You, sir, are addicted to coffee! I see you drinking it constantly! You’ll henceforth severely cut back your coffee usage on the job. I don’t want to see that mug in this lab again!
P: No buts! Lose the cup or I charge you for this equipment!
[PI leaves the lab. HENRY lies his head to the table, sobbing. Eventually, with puffy eyes, HENRY begins aimlessly browsing the internet. The clock on the wall shows noon; everyone is out of the lab for lunch. Suddenly, EXPLOSION offscreen. Lights flicker, dust falls from ceiling, internet cuts out.]
N: Seconds, minutes, hours, they crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world. A laptop connected to nothingness. The building above, the arts quad, collegetown, the mailbox of what was once his apartment is now rubble. They lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was, but is no more.
[HENRY, holding his mug, has emerged from the basement into a sea of fallen buildings]
H: They’re all dead. They must be. Everybody’s dead except me - I’m all right. Why am I all right? I was right there in the… the basement! I was down in the basement. That’s why I’m alive
[HENRY wanders the rubble, soon comes to the remains of the Mandible Cafe]
H: Coffee! All the coffee I’ll need. All the coffee I’ll ever want. Espresso, pour over, french press, oh. January, February, March, April, May, this year, the next year, and the year after that, just coffee. [chuckles] Oh, and the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there’s time now, there’s all the time I need.
[HENRY prepares a huge pitcher of pour over in the shattered building. As he begins to fill his mug, he fumbles, and the mug crashes to the floor in pieces.]
H: That’s not fair! That’s not fair at all! There was time now, there was, was all the time I needed. [sobbing] IT’S NOT FAIR
N: The best laid plans of roasters and men, and Henry Bemis, the small man with the coffee mug, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself.
N: Mr. Henry Bemis, in the Midday Zone
[eerie music resumes, fades to black]
This post originally appeared in an email announcing the Cornell physics graduate student coffee hour.