A nightmare at the coffee shop

The story of a customer, cream, and a curse

Café counter with a large sign that says “coffee.” The espresso machine’s paint is peeling and there’s “our machine welcomes scribbles!” scratched onto it.
PHOTO: Clem Onojeghuo / Pexels

By: Izzy Cheung, Staff Writer

It was a hot summer’s day — everyone was flocking to the malls to enjoy the air conditioning and copious amounts of iced drinks when I got this order at the mall café. 

“Do you guys have heavy-heavy cream?” they asked. 

I paused. As a staff member, I had only ever heard of the mythical “heavy-heavy” cream a couple of times. Legends said it was a rare type of cream made from full-fat cream, lemon juice, orange peels, and ginger ale. My supervisor told me where we kept it, deep in the bowels of the store, but I’d never risked going in to glance at it. The fact that this customer knew about it was unsettling. 

“Sorry, did you mean heavy cream?” I asked plainly. Maybe I’d misheard them. 

“Oh, no, I meant heavy-heavy cream. You know, made with lemon, orange, and ginger ale?” 

My eyes widened. Beside me, I could feel my coworker bracing herself. None of us had ever ventured into the deep, dark storeroom to fetch the heavy-heavy cream, but we’d both known someone who had. They retrieved the cream with an empty look in their eyes and ended up quitting the next shift. They’ve never been the same since.  

I looked over at my coworker, eyes wide. It seemed that fate wanted me to retrieve the heavy-heavy cream.  

“Oh, gotcha,” I squeaked, hands shaking as I punched the order in. “Go ahead and pay when you’re ready. I’ll just go and grab that for you.” 

I kept my expression composed, even though it felt like someone had dropped an ice cube down my back. My pulse quickened as I went into the back, eyes locking on the wooden door behind the shelves housing paper cups and frozen muffins. Climbing past all the extra storage space, I made my way to the small entrance that would hold my fate. There was a bright-looking light oozing from beneath the door. 

I took a deep breath, nails digging into the palms of my hands. It was time to be brave. 

My hand found the doorknob, and I turned, wrenching the tiny door open with the might of the Roman Empire. The light disappeared, immersing me in a world of darkness behind the café. 

A flash of blue struck my vision, and as I looked across from me, only a few feet away, I saw the carton of heavy-heavy cream. It was around the length of my forearm, with a label that depicted a dramatic war scene like those seen on old tapestries. 

It was beautiful. 

I ran towards it, ignoring the sounds of coffee being made in the background. The heavy-heavy cream would be mine, and mine only. No one else would take it from me. 

I snatched the carton, peeled the top open, and waterfalled it into my mouth. Rainbows poured out and angels sang as the heavy-heavy cream touched my tongue

And then my stomach gurgled. 

I looked down, trepidation hitting my senses as my stomach began to growl even more. Soon enough, lion-like roars echoed from my stomach, a boulder-like weight settling within it. 

I looked back down at the carton, my jaw dropping as the label began to fade. The curly “heavy-heavy cream writing morphed into a recognizable scrawl that made me gasp. 

“Oh no,” I whispered. “Oat milk.” 

The carton released a maniacal laugh. “That’s right! Consider yourself cursed.” 

I dropped the carton, hands moving to my stomach. “No. No, no, no, no —” 

Before anything else could happen, I ran back out of the storeroom, reaching for the door and pulling it shut behind me. While I may have escaped, I knew deep inside of me something had changed. No longer could I drink regular milk with my iced lattes — the dairy would cause movements that I would never be able to stomach again. I had to face the truth — I was now . . . an oat milk person.