She should be writing. Instead she was stuck on this stupid brain-teaser. James Bond, Space Marshall. What was that movie where Sean Connery was wearing only a mustache, a speedo, and some orange suspenders? Zardoz or something. It didn't really fit, though.
"I've seen you here before," said the man who'd sat down at the table across from hers. She looked up, ready to engage FuckOffMode immediately. She relaxed when she saw that it was indeed another regular, someone she'd nicknamed Reverend Rooibos for his eternal cup of tea and Bible.
She nodded. "Yeah, I've seen you here too."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to hit on you," the man patted his Bible ruefully. "Or try to convert you."
"Not much point of that now, is there?"
The man smiled, looked down. The crow's feet around his eyes gave him an aura of gentleness and wisdom. "I suppose not."
The barista called out her order. Vanilla bean latte, skim milk. She stood to get it but he walked it over to her. She took a sip. Perfect.
Time to get back to writing. Well, maybe in a second. "Hey, Reverend, do you know of any Sean Connery movies where he's like a space marshall?"
Reverend Rooibos tilted his head, thought for a second. "Outland?"
"Hey, nice! It fits. Thanks!"
"No problem. Um, you're Lilliana Velasquez, aren't you?"
She beamed. Not that it mattered much anymore, but this was the 5th time she'd been recognized, a whole hand's worth. Definitely the first presumably straight white Christian dude to recognize her. "Yeah, that's me. Hi. Nice to meet you."
He reached out his hand to shake. "My name's David. Nice to meet you, too. My wife is a big fan. She's seen you in here and was all excited, wanted me to try and meet you. Um, I hope that's not too stalkerish. She made me read," he lowered his voice, "Superclusterfuck."
She laughed. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Actually, I did! I thought it was great."
"Even the queer alien sex?"
Now it was David's turn to laugh. And blush. "It was very . . . acrobatic."
"Well good for you, Pastor. I think you're the first Christian minister who's ever enjoyed my feminist queer SF."
"Do you think they, uh, you know, up there, do you think they are as creative? In bed?"
"Ha! They don't strike me as being very adventurous, somehow."
"Yeah. Just a bunch of big . . . party-poopers."
Lilliana was warming to the pastor. He was self-deprecating without any cruelty and quietly funny too. "We're kind of in the same predicament, aren't we?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, not to be blunt, but we're both a bit obsolete now, yes? I'm just going through the motions, finishing up this series to give my readers a sense of closure. But no one's really very interested in speculative fiction, now that the real thing is finally here."
"Well, my congregation's not quite ready to give up the ghost just yet. Or the Holy Ghost, so to speak. But yeah, I do wonder what the point is anymore."
"Oh geeze, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it sound like declining readership of my books is equal to, um. You know. Proof that Christianity is all a myth."
David rubbed his temple. "It's not the first time religion has been declared dead. No one's rioting, at least. For now we continue on."
She raised her cup to him. "Cheers." David nodded and took a sip of tea.
Lilliana raised her eyebrow. The barista didn't normally just shout out profanity. He was usually very professional.
"What's the matter, Terrence?"
He held up his phone. "This is big. I dunno. The aliens. They just announced that for the next phase of their terr-rehab that arable land is to be reduced globally by 18%. That's huge. The UN says that near-zero-calorie crops will be suspended indefinitely."
Lilliana was a seasoned world-builder and was very good at extrapolating cause and effect. "So coffee, tea and tobacco are effectively going to be outlawed? Holy shit."
David said, "So what does that mean? Coffee is going to quadruple in price?"
"It means you need to get home to your wife. Now!"
"Oh come on, it's not that bad. We survived the end of religion."
Before she could answer a brick crashed through the window of the coffee shop. Alien security drones materialized out of nowhere. The sounds of mayhem could be heard, sirens and broken glass and screeching tires.
"Go home now, before it's too late. It's the end of coffee," Lilliana said. She looked outside. New York was on fire.
"It's the end of the world."
- Nathan Waddell