Midnight Tea
By S.R. Buckley

Thirteen to twelve. The roar of the kettle, slow-growing, a gradual roiling, filled the kitchen and faded to boiling. Lights on, setting out the windows as black squares. Whole world outside in dark blues, purples, browns. Ghost of a moon. Pleasant night. Stars obscured in the dulled electric glare.

Check: time getting on. Afraid almost to touch the dampened windows. Leave everything as is. TV off; laptop off, put away. Any difference? Who knew. And there, yes, kettle boiled, forgot to scald the pot first but still hot from the last. Heaped spoon of leaves plus change. Perfect.

Friends out—how would it affect them? Shouldn’t he be out? Who knew. Have to cut it short at the wrong time, after pubs but before clubs. Former only just chucking out now. Would be chaos out there. Decline of moral fabric. Hell in a handcart. That sort of thing.

Tea better. Nine to twelve. Tea good in four; he’d time it to perfection. Who knew when the next one would be. Like those huts on the a-road: last hot drink before the motorway. Last burgers. Now there was an idea: would the takeaways be staying open? Donner meat would stay hot for a good while; he was willing to take his chances. Perhaps.

Five to twelve and measure of milk in the bottom of the cup. Perfect amount. Sip a little to get it at just the right level. Bad etiquette to add milk first? Who cared. Milk faded to brown. Perfect.

At three to twelve he sat down, sipping a searing taste of the tea, and let his eyes zigzag unseeing across last Sunday’s paper. Soft yellow light; fridge was humming in the kitchen. Ever so slight rush as the wind took the trees outside.

There was a tiny dim flash, off white, and a few moments past midnight a slow, deep thunder, rolling and stretching, quieter with each echo, drowned by the squawk of a boy racer’s car. The sounds broke, faltered, disappeared.

Bigger gulp of the tea. Throat halted, then yielded. Slight twitch in the eyelid. When was Mick getting back to him about the trip to Sheffield? Never mind.

Another tiny dim flash, off white. Even smaller, now. Like a storm moving away. Long pause, then another roll of slow, deep thunder. This one deeper, more profound. Tiny rattle in one of the windows. Nothing like the thunderstorms you got in May or June, sometimes, or at the end of one of the dog days. But there: a minute tremor, perhaps. The lights flickered off and the fridge cut out in the kitchen; the orange glare fell from the sky and stars began to reveal themselves, with blinking wing-beacons arcing lazily between. What a lovely sky. Tea was perfect, still hot; maybe another left in the pot. Would the mobile networks still be up? Who knew.

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S.R. Buckley is a student from England and writes extensively in his spare time, whether long quixotic science fiction novels or shorter stories and sketches. He has previously been published in the Cadaverine Magazine.

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