The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work and finding the perfect brand of deodorant and wondering if that cute barista was flirting with us (They weren’t. It is literally their job to smile and draw hearts in foam and have perfect hair. We as a society need to get over ourselves) we would have asked ourselves why the water towers didn’t want us to see them represented in the movies. Maybe if we hadn’t sharpened those not-thinking skills by not thinking about global warming and drone strikes and the asbestos in the ceiling that coated our hair like dandruff, we would have asked the right questions before it was too late.
Three days before the invasion, my barista, Zed (not the barista I mentioned earlier, that was a hypothetical barista and anyways, their eyes are way too green, like who has eyes that green, it’s obviously colored contact lenses and I could never date someone who puts colored pieces of plastic in front of their eyes) said, “I think the water tower on my building moved last night.”
“Oh really?” I said, my pulse beating at a normal tempo for a pulse to beat.
On the day of the invasion, I was waiting for Zed to turn around so I could put milk and sugar in my coffee, when the radio cut off the Inoffensive Station suddenly: “We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to report that the water towers are moving. We do not know what they are, where they came from or what their intentions may be. All citizens of New York and New Jersey are required to stay indoors.”
We all checked Twitter, desperate for more news, but the water towers had destroyed the internet. Stripped of our dignity and our Wi-Fi, we sipped in stunned silence until Zed said, “free drinks for anyone who helps barricade the doors,” in a voice so confident and commanding and melodious and mellifluous and pleasing, that everyone obeyed instantly. We hauled tables and chairs and sacks of beans against the door.
Then a water tower shuffled past. I could see its long spindly legs through the advertisements for Basilisk Frappuccino that covered the window. Zed held a chair out legs first as a weapon. The other barista thrust a customer in front of him as a shield. I did… something badass and heroic. But the water tower passed us by, paying no attention. Afterwards, everyone sat on the floor drinking caffeine because what we really needed during an alien invasion was a faster heart rate.
“I thank you, fine purveyor of caffeine,” I told Zed, who was leaning on the counter, exhausted.
“Thanks,” said Zed with a tired smile that did not make me imagine massaging their shoulder blades while they lay naked in a bed of coffee grounds.
After the water towers seized control of the banks, the city government and the bagel shops in that order (according to the radio which might have been controlled by the water towers), after we huddled in the Starbucks for 72 hours, living off soymilk and increasingly stale lemon poppy seed muffins, after we cried and wet our pants and said our prayers (we meaning everyone but me – my pants and eyes stayed dry), after we gave up hope of seeing our families or our friends or our safety-code-violating apartments ever again, we ran out of food. Various solutions were proposed: cannibalism, shoe-eating, waiting for the government to save us. While we voted, the other barista chewed on an elderly customer’s hair.
“STOP,” said Zed, in a booming voice like a sexy sea captain. “It’s way too early to turn to cannibalism.”
“Hair is dead cells,” said the other barista. “So it isn’t technically cannibalism.”
“We have to go out and get food,” said Zed.
The (probably-water-tower-controlled) radio had warned us that if we went outside, we would be captured by the water towers. Rumor had it that the water towers drank their prisoners. So everyone avoided eye contact with the same intensity as when an accordion player asks for money on the subway (everyone including me.)
Zed sighed. “I’ll go alone then.” They removed the barricades, while the rest of us huddled in a pile on the opposite corner. They opened the door.
A water tower crawled in, then a second, then a third.
“We have come for the coffee,” said the water tower.
Zed brandished the blade of a dismantled coffee grinder. “We can’t let them take our coffee! Who’s with me?”
No one said anything.
The three water towers surrounded Zed, sloshing angrily. “You will make us coffee, or you will be eliminated.”
Zed was beautiful and flawless and perfect in every way but they were only a barista. What good is a barista against a water tower?
“What can I get for you?” said Zed.
© 2019 by R.D. Landau
R.D. Landau recently fled New York. Her work has appeared in Star 82 Review, Heavy Feather Review and tl;dr among others. Her hobbies include watching musicals, making truffles and hiding under the bed.