Subliminal messaging has always been the world’s best form of advertising, though most of the world has never known it. Pierre-Brand Coffee figured it out first. This was back before coffeemakers were ever really popular. If you wanted coffee, you’d grind the beans into paste, and that’s what Dylan’s father did every morning like clockwork.
Then Dylan had a dream, and a young boy with slick black hair and sepia overalls spoke to him, and in the background there was one of those new-fangled coffee makers that his family didn’t own. “The ideal boy,” the boy said, doing a little dance and spilling his coffee all over his outdated clothes.
Upon waking, he asked that his parents buy Pierre-Brand Coffee for a Pierre-Brand Coffee Maker, and he didn’t have long to wait. His mother came back from the department store with a shiny new coffeemaker and several cartons of beans. A slick-haired boy in muted color was smiling out at Dylan from the packaging.
Nobody questioned when the dream boy began to follow Dylan and his father around the house. He would cheer them on as they drank coffee, and he would entertain them with his dancing and singing. Dylan saw his father smile for the first time in years as he patted the coffee boy on the head.
When his father was asleep, Dylan and the coffee boy would play together. “Do the thing,” Dylan would say, and the boy would pretend to drink coffee so that his mouth would make loud slurping sounds and his throat would actually swallow. He pretended so well that actual coffee dribbled down his lip.
“Someday you’ll be able to do that,” the boy said. “The more you watch me.”
As Dylan grew, so did the boy. It seemed the former didn’t grow as much as the latter. Through Dylan’s eyes, his father cherished both of them like sons were supposed to be cherished, unlike before when mornings were silent and his father would ground beans without giving him a second glance.
“Dad really likes you, doesn’t he?” Dylan said to the coffee boy.
“It’s a pleasure to bring joy to our family,” the boy said.
“I want to be like you.”
The coffee boy smiled and spilt coffee down his shirt.
Then one day Dylan woke from a dream and the coffee boy wasn’t there. He wasn’t worried, because he could still feel his presence. “Will you teach me to do the thing today?” Dylan asked.
Dylan’s skin began to peel at his feet. His toenails fell off and were replaced by the hard enamel of leather shoes. His ankles shattered like marble.
“Goodbye, Dylan,” said the all-encompassing voice of the coffee boy as Dylan panicked and clawed at his skin. Eggshell flesh broke off to reveal sepia overalls, and Dylan felt something beneath his face move and laugh with muscle that was no longer his.
Screaming now, Dylan tried to wrap his blanket around his splintered body, but his arms were busy pouring coffee of their own accord. Beneath him the coffee boy laughed and laughed, and as the last chunk of Dylan’s flesh was about to fall away for ever, he saw his father standing in the doorway, watching the transformation with unblinking eyes.