October 12, 2019 by Patrick Starks
No one ever said that college would be so complicated when Tye graduated from high school. Unlike his peers he really didn’t have a clue to what he wanted to be or what he wanted to do. If he could, he would’ve just sat on his butt playing video games all day after working a long hard day at Best buy but being from a family of high intellectuals he didn’t necessarily have the option to do so.
His father was a doctor at one of the most prominent Hospitals in the country. His mother, most highly decorative teacher and most sought after in the city. And his little sister was already smart enough to compete with some of the greatest chess players in the world. It was as if he was set up for failure or set up for success. But deep down Tye had felt that his turn wasn’t going to be as glorious as family no matter how positive he tried to be.
In his 450 sq. ft studio apartment, nothing but cups of caffeine piled all around him. About four cups of Starbucks coffee and three cans of energy drinks, and still counting. It was enough to give someone a heart attack, but Tye had convinced himself that he needed it more than water or air, sadly. There was no way he could fail. If he wasn’t going to pass his writing class, then he was better off dead, he’d told himself. The studio had smelt of sweaty gym socks and dark roast, which was closer to a burnt smell than anything, and for that reason, Tye’s girlfriend Symetra didn’t stick around for long. In fact, hours later she’d broken up with him. But Tye never shed a tear about it, seeing how all he could think about was being successful, and if he could, more successful than what his family had bragged about.
Finally, out of all his years of being ridiculed for not ever being focused, today Tye was going to prove to everyone who doubted him that he could be just as smart as his family was, and he just couldn’t wait to shove the D down Mrs. Reeds throat. No, this time Tye was getting an A, and afterwards, it would be onto the big leagues. But before Tye had even gotten the chance to finish his last sentence and hit save, his computer would go black, and along with it his heart had dropped down into his stomach in panic.
Immediately, Tye bent down underneath his computer table in the hopes to resolve the problem, and it would be just as he suspected; his laptop was never plugged into the wall outlet, which meant his laptop hadn’t been charging the entire time. So, he plugged it back in, and with joy in his eyes a bright screen would reflect off his teary eyes.
“Yatta!” yelled Tye, referencing his favorite TV show, Heroes.
Without wasting any more time, Tye moved his mouse cursor down to the task bar and clicked to reopen the file.
THIS FILE CANNOT BE OPENED, it read.
It was then Tye’s heart nearly stopped. He’d done what most did in the situation and tried rebooting the computer. Being pressured with time, Tye cracked open another energy drink, and the more he drank of it, the harder it became to breathe. Was it Anxiety? Was it a panic attack? Or was it just the damn drink?
The computer then came back on, but when it did something strange had happened, something unearthly. He felt light-headed, and the longer he’d stared at his computer screen, everything around was beginning to become hazy. The room felt as if it were spinning.
Before Tye had even realized it, he was out like a light and had slept through the night. When he woke up, he’d find himself surrounded by multiple people in a coffee shop. Although, these people weren’t exactly people, they were animated or animations to better put it. From across the room Tye noticed a woman in a red dress, with long hair that put the tang in tangerine. To the left of him was a man in a suit with an S curl oily enough to start a fire, and his jawline was so chiseled that it would break any man’s hand if they ever dared to take a swing at him. And in the center of the man’s chin was a crater deep enough to eat cereal out of. It was all so comical but real.
Tye then felt a little tap on his leg. He looked down and felt even more concerned than what he’d already been bearing witness to. It was a little girl with blonde hair in pigtails and blue eyes. And to compliment those eyes she wore a blue dress. From the way that she smiled Tye could already tell that she had a bubbly personality about her.
“Coffee!” shouted the girl with a smile. “Hey mister! Did you hear me? Or are you too busy like the rest of these perverts staring at the lady in red over there.”
“What the fuck is going on…” said Tye, still so oblivious that he didn’t even notice that he’d just cursed in front of child.
On the contrary, Tye still had a hard time believing that the child was a child at all.
“You know mister… You probably shouldn’t curse, especially in front of me. My dad would probably ground you for eternity if he ever heard you say that. You know he’s a professor ya know,” the little girl winked.
Tye’s eyes widened. All that came to mind was the essay he needed to finish. More so, the thought that if he didn’t, then instead of Mrs. Reed it would be him shoving the D down his own throat, that of which he felt awkwardly thinking to himself rather it was about the grades or not.
“Where am I? What is this place?” asked Tye.
The little girl then pulled out a tiny stool and pulled herself up on the table in front of him. It was in many ways absolutely adorable.
“You mean you don’t know?” she asked.
“No… That’s why I’m fu… I mean, that’s why I’m asking you.”
“Oh boy this isn’t good…”
“What do you mean isn’t good?” asked Tye, nervously.
The little girl didn’t say another word after that. Instead she’d hopped off the table and headed back to wherever she’d come from. Afterwards Tye looked puzzled, and at this point looked for anyway to escape the hell he’d been dumped in but already twenty minutes in and he still couldn’t find a single reason to how he’d gotten there in the first place. A man from across the room then called him over. His voice was groggy, and his body was no different than Tye’s from what he could tell, at least not animated anyways.
“Hey! You! Yes, you boy! Come sit down!” the man yelled. “Have a drink with me!”
Suddenly, things had begun to slow down a bit. As if everyone in the room was giving off an aura for Tye not to go sit with the man. But seeing how the man and him were alike, he still had made his way over to sit, hoping that he’d find something he could for once relate to.
When Tye had sat down, immediately the first thing he noticed was the man’s hands. It was cartoon-like, with a big white glove that went over it like Mickey’s or Goofy’s, although, the other hand was just a normal hand—completely human.
“So, you overdosed huh?” asked the man, with an awkward grin, like Jack from the Nightmare Before Christmas. “Happens to the best of us.”
“I’m sorry?” asked Tye.
“The caffeine…” the man paused. “Who’d ever thought so much of it would bring us here, and all for a silly test.”
“Wait… How long have you been here?” asked Tye, concerned.
The man then became silent. From the look in his eyes it wouldn’t have been wrong to believe that he’d been there for a few years.
“Seven months and twenty-four days,” said the man, with sadness.
Tye’s hands began to shake as he’d held the cup of coffee the man had slid to him prior to the conversation.
“You’ve been here that long?” asked Tye.
“Yup… And unfortunately, my hands already began turning into a goddamn looney toon sketch. It’s too late for me now,” the man admitted. “But it might not be for you…”
Underneath from the man’s trench coat he pulled out the rest of his arm, it lied on the table like a giant Udon noodle.
“What happened to your arm?” asked Tye.
“What do you mean what happened?” asked the man, annoyingly. “How long have you exactly been here?”
“Well… I don’t know. I took a sip of my last energy drink and just blacked out. And when I opened my eyes I was here.”
The man pulled his hand back into his trench coat and then stood up with his back towards Tye. Everyone in the room had stared at the man as if he was the spawn of Satan, but still the man was the closest thing to human Tye had encountered within the time he was there.
“Still wet behind the ears,” said the man, with a blank face. “But come with me… There’s something I need to show you.”
Tye was a bit hesitant to go along with the man. After all, he’d seen this part in many horror films; Man is dying or is sick but finds a young man to take under his wing as his protégé only to sacrifice the young protégé so that he can save himself. Tye had already played out in his head a couple of times already, but still he couldn’t help but go with the man, for everyone in the room were no different than the doodles he’d done in his chemistry class he hated so much.
Tye went with the man, and when the doors closed behind him, the party inside would continue.
“What was that all about?” asked Tye.
“What was what about?” the man replied. “You mean the back in there?”
Tye nodded. “Yeah.”
“Right… Well, I wouldn’t concern myself with them… They don’t really like anyone who’s not fully animated, especially those of us who are trying to avoid being such.”
Tye nodded again, and this time his shoulders would be a little more relaxed.
“Okay… So, I never got your name?” asked Tye.
“Oh, right… The name is Dr. Safari. But before you start judging, no, I do not have my PhD but who the hell said you needed a degree to validate who or what you are? Why can’t you start being who you are now?”
Tye never thought of it that way. It made him feel good inside. All those years he wanted to prove to everyone what he was. He thought if he got the degree then things might’ve changed for him but then again, he’d seen a lot succeed in obtaining those degrees and still not achieve much. But the moral that he’d gotten from it was that he could start being what he wanted to be right there and now. It was just the pep talk he needed.
“Sorry… did I say something wrong?” asked Dr. Safari, worried.
“No, not at all. In fact, everything you just said is right, and was just what I needed to here.”
Dr. Safari smiled.
“Well, of course it’s right. That’s why I said it,” he chortled. “But I didn’t get your name either?”
“Like Tye dye or as in bow tie?” asked Dr. Safari, comically.
“As in Tye dye.”
“Nice,” said Dr. Safari, with a smile of amusement on his face.
Both Tye and Dr. Safari shook hands, and then proceeded forward. Outside the coffee shop Tye couldn’t even begin to comprehend what he was witnessing. The place was so magical. So… technologically advanced.
“It’s like that movie, The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis,” Tye smiled.
“No, even better,” Dr. Safari, intercepted. “It’s like the Jetsons.”
Tye then gave a fake smile. “Right… Of course, it is…” he said, sarcastically.
The sky looked as painted as Picasso’s Starry night. It was stunning. For the moment, Tye wondered if it all could’ve been his new home. That maybe he could’ve just stayed right there. Afterall, being a cartoon couldn’t have been all that bad, he thought.
“Dr. Safari,” said Tye.
“Yes,” said Dr. Safari.
“If you don’t mind me asking but what does it feel like? Your arm.”
Dr. Safari had stopped walking. He already knew were the conversation was headed. He’d hoped Tye wouldn’t go down that road but there it seemed he was already thinking about it, and not even a full day in.
“Let me guess,” said Dr. Safari, still with his back turned. “You want to know if this place is worth the stay?”
Tye hesitated to answer but still found himself to do so anyways.
“Y-yes,” he replied.
Dr. Safari then turned around.
“It feels like nothing,” he said.
“What do you mean nothing?” repeated Tye, troubled.
“Exactly what I said, nothing…. Like when you eat something non-healthy vs. healthy. Sure, the non-healthy taste is great at first but then you feel like shit afterwards, only to crash into an exhausting sleep.
“So, its that bad?” asked Tye, regretful that he’d even asked.
“Yes… it is,” said Dr. Safari.
The two then continued to walk down what Tye believed to be a candy road. The trees almost seemed to be made of chocolate as they passed them. The trail they walked was sticky, which led Tye to also believe they were walking on fruit rollup, but at this rate he’d doubted it because fruit rollup had no caffeine in it, so it had to be something else.
Dr. Safari had taken them off the trail and pass the chocolate trees. Tye could smell them, some sweet, some dark, but either way Tye felt the urge to want to take a bite out of one of them. The further they walked the more visible the house not far away from them became.
“There, over there is where I stay,” said Dr. Safari. “There I will fill you in with the rest. And if we’re quick about it we just might ne able to bring you back to…”
“Seattle,” Tye finished. “That’s where I’m from.”
“Y-yeah… That’s exactly what I was going to say,” said Dr. Safari, uncertainly.
Dr. Safari and Tye had reached the door to his home, and it would be just as animated as his arm. Dr. Safari knocked, and then pressed a doorbell twice. When the bell had rung, playful chimes echoed the from outside it. Awkwardly, Dr. Safari started to shimmy and shift his hips from side to side, but that wasn’t what Tye was questioning in the moment.
“I thought you lived by yourself…” said Tye, guardingly.
“Of course not! What do I look like to you, some thirty-year-old bachelor? I’m fucking fifty-nine years old!” Dr. Safari shouted.
“No way! You look as old as me,” said Tye, in defense.
“Dr. Safari then pulled out a tiny mirror from his coat pocket. “Take a look,” he said
Tye pulled the mirror up to his face. His dark curly chin hair was gone. The five o cl shadow was gone. His bold head again had hair on it now, which almost made him shed a tear just by the sight alone, and when he felt around it, he no longer felt just skin; it was like rubbing sheep’s hair. In both his ears he had a diamond earring, the fake kind. And by the side of his eye was a scar he’d gotten in a fight at school long before he knew how to.
“What is this?” asked Tye.
The door then open.
“Malcom where the hell have you been! I’ve been waiting all day for you to get back! Did you even get what I asked you to bring?” shouted a woman.
Dr. Safari stood speechless, and sadly terrified for reasons Tye stood in awe by.
The woman wasn’t the typical short, or shockingly tall, she was of average height, and as Tye suspected she was as animated as they come. On her noes rested a pair coke bottle glasses, but Tye couldn’t fathom how such did, for there were no hinges or temples attached to them to stay on her head. The woman had long chocolate hair and wore a comfortable emerald coat that hung just about past her knees.
“Malcom?” asked Tye.
Dr. Safari then slapped his palm onto his forehead embarrassed.
“Malcom! Who the hell is this?” asked the woman, annoyed.
“Jesus can we all just get inside first,” begged Dr. Safari. “Its cold out here…”
The woman rolled her eyes and then walked back inside the house, while the door stayed open. Dr. Safari had gone in first and Tye would follow.
“Ok explain yourselves,” said the woman, pouring both of them a cup of coffee.
“I’m sorry but do you have a cup of water?” asked Tye.
Dr. Safari slapped his forehead again. “Jesus…” he said.
“Water? Are you serious?” asked the woman.
“Y-yes mam,” said Tye, respectfully. “If it isn’t any trouble.”
The woman then grabbed Dr. Safari’s arm and pulled him around the corner of the kitchen.
“Excuse us for a moment, won’t be long,” she said.
Tye watched as both Dr. Safari and the woman, threw each other hand signals. He didn’t know what any of it meant but if anything, Tye could see that the woman was pissed, and that Dr. Safari was getting the verbal beatdown of a lifetime. The two then came back to the table. Dr. Safari remained quiet, while the woman spoke.
“Okay, so you’re trying to get back home are ya?” asked the woman.
“Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there is no way back. Once you’re in Caffeine World, you stay in Caffeine World.”
Tye was silent. All that could be heard was the sound of his foot tapping the kitchen floor. He didn’t know what to believe. Maybe the woman was lying. Why else would Dr. Safari tell him something like that? Or maybe it was that Dr. Safari had a different plan in mind.
“Dr. Safari… Or Malcom is it… Is that true? Is there no way out?” asked Tye.
But Dr. Safari was still as quite as a church mouse.
To be continued