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WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

ZOMBIE CAFÉ by Ed Wagner
August 12, 2008  Humorous,Short stories   

Suzy was a petite blond with shoulder-length hair, high cheek bones and an upturned nose. Her eyes sparkled and she was in the habit of lightly touching people as she talked. People assumed she was a cheerleader because she was always so perky. She flashed a winning smile. It was perfect camouflage for the shark within. Suzy was full time student, part time barista, and an opportunistic thief. Some people are only pretty on the outside.

She worked in Rachel’s Café, where big painted letters spelled out the shop’s name in the front window. Each letter included a little scene with lots of flowers, castles, unicorns, and other hippy trash. It was very artsy-fartsy and about as far as possible from the big, sterile corporate coffee house down the street. Mismatched furniture made it look like an second rate antique shop. She hated the job for its snobby customers and equally snobby staff. The manager was overly ‘friendly’ and probably related to an octopus. It seemed he had that many hands. College sucked. The job sucked. The only relief was that Rachel’s sold the best damn coffee in town and Suzy loved it. The odd cuppa taken at break time was sheer joy. She looked forward to putting college behind her and getting out into the world with a real job, one where she could get her hands on some real money. A career in banking or politics might feed her avarice.

Invariably polite and attentive, Suzy short changed customers whenever possible. Guys were the easiest because their attention was riveted on her face or her boobs. She lifted a little cash from the till once in a while, but she was smart enough to avoid doing it regularly. Shoplifting supplemented her wardrobe. She knew which stores had security and which would avoid prosecution.

She wasn’t above stealing cash from a co-worker’s purse left unattended in the break room, and once she found a bag of amphetamines. Suzy hid the drugs in a hollow behind a loose tile in the ladies room. She thought of it as her safe. Double-sided adhesive tape held the tile in place and a dab of toothpaste covered the cracked grout. It was perfect.

She used people, belittling them privately with sarcastic nicknames. Friends, acquaintances, co-workers, professors – all of them were merely stepping stones. For instance, Pretty Boy, a grad student and her soon-to-be-discarded boyfriend, wrote most of her term papers. Guys were so easy to manipulate after she’d slept with them a few times. She had no old friends or long-term boyfriends because people discovered that despite her cheery, warm demeanor, she was inwardly cold and ruthless.

Her customers were the easiest to categorize. The middle-aged bikers on breathtakingly expensive Harleys were the Mild Bunch. Mr. Friendly was smooth and talkative, with perfect hair, teeth, and clothes. He talked loudly on a cellphone and never failed to mention his BMW. The dorky cyclist was Eddy Jerkx, who once had the audacity to steal the tip jar when her back was turned. He was a thief, but a stupid one, which only earned him contempt from Suzy. He did it in front of three other customers and not one of them said a word. Fussy Woman was one of the three. She always ordered a double skinny latte – no foam – and she had a fit if there was a bubble atop the drink. She didn’t tip, either. The pretentious bitch staked out a four-top near the window, spreading books, papers, and the inevitable laptop across it. She stayed most of the morning, frowning at the computer and furiously pounding on the keys.

Businessmen either ignored her or offered her a ‘position’ in their firms. Tips varied according to their illusions about getting into her pants. They were the real reason she worked at Rachel’s. Suzy carefully observed their hands for wedding rings. More importantly, she noted when they chatted her up and the wedding bands disappeared. They offered to ‘interview’ her over drinks. So predictable. The guys were easy marks, but again, she didn’t get greedy. A diamond cuff link here, a Rolex there, and just recently an expensive necklace and earrings when a fool took her to his home while wifey was out of town. All the jewelry was tucked away with the amphetamines in the ladies room safe.

Suzy lived in a small apartment within walking distance of campus. It was an old house that had been divided into student apartments. The elderly owners lived on the first floor. Suzy’s place was on the third floor, up creaking wooden stairs past Cartman and Bob, two gay guys who spent their off hours smoking pot, playing video games, and listening to an endless succession of rock tunes. Cartman was big, fat, and obnoxious just like his cartoon namesake, but Bob was sweet.

She was an indifferent housekeeper, a slob, in fact. Dirty dishes were heaped in the sink. The trash can overflowed and a waist-high pile of laundry in the closet threatened to avalanche onto the floor. Pretty Boy hated her apartment, partly due to the mess and partly because Cartman liked to chat him up.

Mid-terms were coming up and she had to study. There was no way around that. Pretty Boy couldn’t do it for her. She still had to show up and take the tests, so stealing the speeders had been fortuitous. She could take a few from the stash at work and use them to cram. Mid-term week passed in a blur of work, study, and a few hours of blissful sleep.

Then one morning everything changed. She missed most of it, crashed out in her apartment after mid-terms. Suzy woke up to uncharacteristic silence. No pounding music from downstairs. No faint hints of pot smoke. Just quiet. It was shattered by Cartman’s high, wailing scream from the second floor. It choked off abruptly, replaced by grunting and gurgling. Then the stairs creaked as someone began climbing toward her room.

Without thinking, Suzy hid under the pile of clothes in the closet, hardly daring to breathe and hoping that the clothes didn’t move from her trembling. Her door banged open and someone wandered around the apartment, knocking over a lamp. The crash almost made her jump and there was a strong temptation to run. Footsteps approached the closet and stopped. She didn’t breathe until they wandered off, finally clumping downstairs. Hours later, she crept to the window as screams rose from the street. Suzy watched in horror as zombies caught…and ate…a middle-aged woman. They bit off chunks of flesh while the woman still screamed.

She stayed in her room without making a sound, only turning on a radio for news. And that news was universally bad as hordes of the walking dead overran the town. The water and electricity went off on the third day. She was terrified at night and doled out the rest of the speed. Bursts of gunfire added to her anxiety. Her only thought was to stay alert, stay awake, and stay alive. When her body simply had to sleep, she crawled under the reeking pile of laundry. After days without a shower, the smell just didn’t bother her anymore.

The food ran out after five days. Just after dawn, Suzy crept down the stair and thought about raiding Cartman and Bob’s apartment, but the appalling stench kept her from going inside. The door hung open and flies covered the walls.

On the street, she moved like a rat from one hiding place to another. She scurried only a few yards at a time, her senses alert and twitching from fear and the after-effects of the amphetamines. Doorways, trash cans, and hedges all provided concealment. Suzy saw a few zombies far down one cross street. She waited until none were facing her direction and ran across the intersection. The landscaping in a neatly tended front yard offered a safe hide while she watched her back trail. None of the zombies had seen her.

Suzy had a plan. She’d thought about it while in her apartment. She’d take a car and get out of town. There were plenty of them just sitting on the street with their doors open and keys still in the ignition. The owners had been eaten…or worse. But first she needed to recover the diamond necklace, earrings, and other jewelry at Rachel’s Café. It was highly unlikely that the original owners would make any complaints at this point, and besides, she’d need it to make a fresh start. Driving a car to the café would attract unwanted attention, so she crept along on foot.

The businesses she passed probably had plenty of cash in the tills, but without a working government to back it, paper money simply became legal tinder, good for starting campfires but not much else. There was one jewelry store along her route, but it was locked up tight with security screens in place. She passed a gun shop too, and looked inside hoping to find a shotgun, but the store had been picked clean. No guns, no ammunition, not even a bow and arrow remained.

At the café, one plate glass window was smashed and some of the flowery letters were gone. The front door was shattered too, and one hinge was broken. Suzy quietly stepped past it and carefully looked for more shambling zombies. The shop was empty. She walked to the ladies room quickly and popped the tile loose. Stuffing the pills and the jewelry into her bag, she started back toward the door, and stopped abruptly when she saw another person silhouetted in the light from the street. A one-armed walking corpse was in the shop.

Fussy Woman stood at the counter, looking up at the menu and waving her remaining arm. She moaned. Suzy edged behind the counter, hoping to keep it between them. Fussy Woman spotted her, moaned even louder, and waggled her arm more frantically. In desperation, Suzy filled a cup with cold, slimy coffee from the urn. Chunks of mold floated to the surface. It was disgusting. She put it on the countertop, careful to stay out of the zombie’s reach.

After staring at it for a long moment and grunting twice, Fussy Woman picked up the cup and wandered off. She sat at a window table, looking intently at the blank screen of a broken laptop while stabbing clumsy fingers at the keys.

Suzy couldn’t leave. Zombies streamed down the street, heading toward the café. One by one they walked in the doorway.

Mr. Friendly lurched inside as far as the counter where he stood like a post. His lips were gone, leaving a parody of a ghastly smile on his face. Bits of rotting flesh stuck to his perfect teeth. He smelled of decay and Armani. She gave him a cup too, but he didn’t move away until the corpse behind him started pushing. He lifted the cup to his mouth and poured most of the coffee down over his shirt. It formed a puddle on the floor. Mr. Friendly shuffled to rejoin the line.

As each reeking corpse arrived at the counter, Suzy poured another cup of coffee and quickly set it down on the counter, stepping back to stay out of reach. The café was filling up. She glanced toward the street and that’s when it hit her. The broken window left just part of the store name. Now it spelled out “hel’s Café. She was Hell’s own barista, wondering in mounting horror what would happen when the coffee ran out.


  1. Great story, though I likely could not differentiate between the last scene and any given weekday morning in my local coffee spot.
    Or my house, for that matter.

    Comment by Ryan on August 12, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  2. “Hell’s own barista”

    That’s great!!!

    Comment by Avidor on August 12, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  3. It shouldn’t be any surprise that I thought of Zombie Cafe while watching the regulars stream into our local coffee shop one morning. A couple of things hit me. First, that line from Dawn of the Dead about why the zombies kept coming back to the mall, and second, all those extras in the background of Shawn of the Dead. In the early scenes, they’re already zombies. They just haven’t realized it yet.

    Now, don’t get between me and my coffee cup. I’ve been known to bite.

    Comment by Ed W on August 13, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  4. I love this very nice. Makes me giggle in an odd and scary way.

    Comment by Mikhail on August 16, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  5. Great story. Seems to me, the lady got just what she deserved. Keep writing!

    Comment by Glenn on August 18, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  6. Man, this was one very original story. The build up left me absolutely no pity for Suzy. Hell’s own Barista. GREAT!

    Comment by Chris on August 20, 2008 @ 8:02 am

  7. I dug the end, but the beginning build up was a bit too long…sounds like you were just describing a girl you hate, not building a story. Don’t get me wrong though, the idea of a stuck up broad slinging coffee to corpses in Hel’s cafe for eternity is genius.

    Comment by Clitoris Rex on September 15, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  8. A fun morality story. I greatly enjoyed it. An issue I’ve recently discussed with people (due to the recent instabilities in the economy) is whether or not cash would or would not have value in an apocalyptic or pre-holocaust setting. This story suggests that it would lose value immediately (“legal tinder”). I believe that it would be usable, at least for some time. Gold, diamonds, etc. certainly would be valuable, but initially it would be difficult to buy a $100 gun in exact dollars, for example, with gold or diamonds, and easier to buy a $100 gun with, well, $100. Anyway, my 2 cents (which per this story are worthless).

    In any case, a great story.

    Comment by Bill Bultas on September 22, 2008 @ 1:05 am

  9. Great story. Sort of Stephen King in it’s morality. It would make a great short film.

    As a side note, it would be impossible to know if money was any good for months or at least until it was known if there was indeed a working government left. Gold and jewels? Can you eat a diamond bracelet? What would pass for currency would most likely be food, guns, ammunition and survival tools.

    Comment by Andre on December 22, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  10. In defense of my view on the story in regards to the currency question. I think everyone has a valid point about how long legal tender would have value. Yet, from the perspective of this shallow girl who thinks all that glitters is gold, I can see where she would make the leap of faith that her trinkets have more value than money.

    Comment by RandyB on January 13, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

  11. The survivors of Hurricane Katrina have stated that one of the most valuable currencies in an apocalypse-situation is toilet paper.

    TP can be easily carried, stored in ziploc bags and traded for just about anything. After a week without hygiene, you can imagine how valuable half a roll of TP can be.

    In WW2, US Marines used to roll it around a pencil before going ashore to make sure you had as much as possible – since the hole in the middle of the roll is a waste of space in a survival situation…

    Comment by Justin on April 28, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  12. Heh, pretty funny. Just for laughs, I’d like to see this: as she fills the cups for the zombies, she hears the rattle of gunfire from outside. Daring to take a quick peek, she sees a young man in street clothes- aside from a city detective’s badge on his chest- burst out from the crowd, continuously reloading and firing a pair of submachineguns aimed roughly at the level of the average rotter’s head. After a few seconds, he seems to run out of ammunition, only to slide out a strange melee weapon, shaped like a steel oar with a sharpened paddle, and dice zombies apart with it. After a few minutes, Hel’s Cafe is an abbattoir of bloodshed, and the detective strolls up and says: “Yeah, I’d like a mocha frappucino, two cups of extra decaf, and some coffee cake t’go, please… Hey, nice watch.”

    Comment by Liam on July 8, 2009 @ 1:34 am

  13. I feel kinda bad for Suzy. After all, she just used the men who intended to use her. Also, more people steal from their jobs than you’d care to know. I was at the hair salon one day and the ladies started gleefully and shamelessly swapping stories about how they lifted cash from former or present jobs at fast food restaurants and things of that nature. I must admit, in recent years, even I have stolen cash from work, not by overcharging anyone, but maybe leaving something off that was done and pocketing the cash. I’ve also taken cleaning supplies and miscellaneous items. While I wouldn’t go so far as taking something out of someone’s purse or anything like that, when people leave something good behind like a raincoat or umbrella and don’t come back for it after a few weeks, I just might take it home! Also, I’ve taken a few prescription pills from people that I personally know if they had some pain pills or something I needed. Over the summer, my sister, my daughter and I got our nails done for a special event and I paid for all of us. It was towards the end of the day on a Sunday and we were the last customers. Even the receptionist left before we did. I know something was up because the Asian ladies were talking amongst each other before the one who worked on me came over to collect payment. I remember a distinct look of disappointment when I handed her my credit card! I wanted to say “Lady, I know the feeling, but no skimming for you tonight!” She even had the audacity to ask “You no have cash for me?” Times are hard and when you make just enough to pay the bills but not enough to qualify for Medicaid or food stamps you don’t always make the moral decision. Anyway, good story…I, for one, hope she makes it out with the lesson learned that “valuables” are not worth your life.

    Comment by Catwoman on November 27, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

  14. Hahahaha hilarious xD

    Comment by Hope1719 on April 25, 2011 @ 3:19 am

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