An order of tea usually didn’t come with an empty container, so I wasn’t sure why mine did. I tried to ask the waitress, but her back was already turned. The little box was barely the size of a biscuit. Perhaps that was what was supposed to come with it. I picked it up and turned it over. A few crumbs fell out, nothing more. Also, my thumb was blue. Perhaps a silly thing to note, but there you go.
It was a puzzle for another day. I poured myself a cup from the little ceramic teapot, and inhaled the sweet scent of jasmine. Only a drizzle of golden tea filled the bottom of my cup. The pot was nearly empty.
“Excuse me,” I called out, now thoroughly annoyed. “Someone’s drunk my tea and eaten my biscuit.”
The waitress raised an eyebrow before turning back to the counter.
I sipped the liquid — nearly cold — and the room shimmered, like a headrush that left everything spinning. I grabbed the table to steady myself, and saw that my cup was now half full, and I had a corner of a biscuit in my stupidly small container.
Some apology, I thought. The waitress must really not want her tip. I ate the biscuit, but noticed something on the piece of wax paper that sat under it. The letter K written in blue pen. I rubbed my thumb across the paper and the ink smudged off, staining the skin.
Curious, I took another sip while I puzzled it over. My tea seemed warmer now. The room swayed again. My cup was even more full, and hotter, and I had half a biscuit back in my box.
This time when I lifted it, I only nibbled at the corner. The wax paper underneath read N.
I wiped it off, although my thumb seemed less blue than it had previously.
I drank again. Steam curled from the top of my teapot. I lifted my biscuit (just the edge bitten off), and found I. The next sip gave me a whole biscuit, a full cup, and R.
I didn’t know whether to be amazed or frightened. I looked to the waitress, but she was taking the orders of a newly arrived couple on the other side of the teashop. With a quivering hand, I took another sip. The couple vanished.
I didn’t know what the letters meant. KNIRD. Was that even a word? I looked again at my steaming teapot, filled with hot, fresh tea. I turned the letters around.
I relaxed. Whatever bizarreness was happening, my earlier self clearly knew what to do about it: Ignore the weirdness. Sit down. Relax. Drink tea.
The next four sips destroyed that, revealing four more letters. T – N – O – D.
I jumped up, knocking the table. The teapot wobbled, then fell, shattering on the floor and spilling hot tea across my shoes. The waitress hurried over with a cloth.
“Let me bring you another,” she said.
“No, no really, it’s fine.”
“Please,” she insisted, then hurried away with the broken shards and a damp rag.
I sat and she returned a moment later with an identical pot and placed it in front of me. I poured a cup, only to find it was nearly empty, and cold. And she didn’t even give me a biscuit. Just an empty container.
Challenge: Include time travel, a tea pot, and an unsuitably small container.