Ever since the day you left, I don’t know what to do with myself… I… miss you…miss you…miss you….I really miss you. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes
“I keep a book of people,” she said conversationally. “With their contact information and expiration dates.” Tremaine (at least that was the only name she was known by) let that statement linger as she looked away with a slight smile. In fact, no one really knew her given name. Maybe that was best. Kept people from annoying her during her “downtime.” She continued.
“The expiration dates are the most important. That makes the job easier. Means their time on this planet was set from the beginning. After the expiration dates…well…I still complete my assignment.”
“After the expiration dates…you…still complete your…?” Persi could barely get the words out. To her ears, her voice sounded like a whisper. But apparently her guest heard her words. The tingling on the right side of her neck was almost excruciating, but it was her signal that danger was nearby. Even as one of her dreadlocks brushed her neck, it felt like sandpaper. God, she hated that tingling. What made it even worse is that she also had a sense of calm.
Tremaine looked at her for a moment. Then after taking another sip of coffee, she said, “Think of it this way. It is easier to throw away milk after the expiration date because it starts to smell.” She paused again, studying her expression. “Look, Persi…that is your name, right? I don’t like messy. I am extremely efficient and believe in completing my job quickly. We get rid of bad food quickly. Why shouldn’t we put humans down the same way? Once you become marked, your destiny is set. And before you say that I am talking about exterminating humans as if I am putting down animals, they are different. In their world, the strongest survive and the weak die. Animals have no time for emotions. Emotion is only a human trait. Humans may be at the top of the food chain. But when our emotions get in the way, we tend to fuck things up very badly. In this case, it is not about strong or weak; it is about the expiration date.”
“You still have not answered my question. How can you complete your task after the expiration date?” Persi had a hint of nervousness as she asked this question. She had a feeling she would get an answer she did not want to hear.
Tremaine licked her lips and smiled. Why the hell did she always smile? Was it her way of catching her prey off-guard? With a sigh, she said, “After the ex-date, the person becomes visibly marked. They still have to be exterminated. If they pass the ex-date and are still alive, that just means that someone, somewhere, has altered the plan. That could only mean one thing..”
“A change of heart?”
“What else could…”
“Time’s up,” Tremaine said as she finished her coffee and got up in one fluid move. Her reddish brown dreadlocks whipped around falling magically into place. Her quickness caught Persi so off guard that she didn’t notice the thin blade until it’s light reflected on the table.
“Is it my ex-…” Damn! She said this in that whisper-like voice again. Persi could feel the blood drain out of her face. Of course, Tremaine heard it. She could tell because her brown eyes felt like lasers as she scanned Persi’s face.
“No.” Tremaine mouthed the words slowly. This time, there wasn’t a smile. “That would have been too convenient. The prey seeking me. We will meet again…eventually. Or…” Her words just hung in the air. The tingling in her neck had stopped.
“Are you Nebula?” This time, Persi’s voice was clear. But there was no response.
Tremaine was gone. She moved so silently and so fast, the other customers in the coffee shop barely noticed. Persi didn’t move from her seat until an hour later. She was still trying to make sense of it all as she sat in the taxi. Not even the driver’s Irish brogue could break her train of thought. She really wanted this interview for her book. Now she was starting to regret the experience. There are just some things in the world that should be left unknown.
It wasn’t until the newscaster’s voice said, “Attorney, Oswald Chamberlin was found dead at the Ebony Brews Cafe of an apparent heart attack” that she became very alert. Of course, the tingling came back as she realized Mr. Chamberlin was sitting in the booth behind her. Then she sighed.
Oswald Chamberlin did not have anyone to alter his plan. No one who had a change of heart. As the cab engine and the driver’s voice droned on, Persi wondered if Chamberlin even had someone who would miss him.
My story is based on Writing Prompt #148 from A Writer's Inspirations on Tumblr. Trista Lanette Pollard.
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