by Sam Kostakis
Krissa stepped up to the curved metal counters, crossing from the polished floors of the mall into the colorful ring surrounding the Here & There Coffee Bar. Under her feet, the ground swirled with stars and nebulae. A black hole opened and closed hungrily feet away, sucking the light from the surrounding bodies into it.
“Good morning,” the Grizzly said. Krissa tore her eyes away from the black hole on the floor, and met the gaze of the bright eyes projected onto the surface of the Grizzly’s body. “I noticed your appreciation for our black hole projection. It is also one of my favorite aspects of our floor display.”
Krissa smiled, though she knew the Grizzly couldn’t really see her. Its egg-shaped silver body sat in the middle of the circle of counters, towering several feet above Krissa’s head. Perfectly round ports were set at intervals around its body, the lowest at Krissa’s waist height, the highest nearly at the peak of the body. From each port, a flexible silver arm protruded, scaled like a snake, all waving idly in the air around the Grizzly.
“Good morning, Grizzly,” Krissa said. “Could I get a caramel macchiato, please? Five espresso shots.”
“Of course,” the Grizzly said. Three of its arms started to move with more purpose, reaching under the counter for ingredients, producing a sleek metal cup from a stack beside it, flipping switches on one of the counters’ many machines. “My protocols require me to point out the potential health risks of excessive caffeine consumption. It is recommended that adults not consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. This drink will contain approximately 320 milligrams. Do you still wish me to proceed?”
“Please do.” Krissa waited as the Grizzly finished assembling her drink, swirling milk foam onto the top before snapping a plastic lid into place. One of the snakelike arms lifted the waxed paper cup between two pincers, depositing it directly into Krissa’s waiting hands.
“Is it to your satisfaction?” the Grizzly asked. “I am always open to comments and suggestions.”
Krissa lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip. “This is great, Grizzly, thank you. Maybe a little light on the caramel?”
One of the Grizzly’s arms shot toward Krissa’s face, pincers snapping menacingly. Krissa leapt back, feet skidding on the floor as the black hole widened, sucking in the stars from the far corners of the circle as she thrust the cup back toward the machine.
The Grizzly snatched the drink away and dropped it into a hole on the top of its body. A reflected flash of red laser beams off its sides and a puff of smoke were all that remained of the first drink as the rest of the Grizzly’s arms set to work, frantically snatching and mixing.
The second drink was the best macchiato Krissa had ever tasted, and when she left the coffee bar, she left a trail of comets and brilliantly colored nebulae in her wake.