Nico noticed the little girl as she pressed herself against the glass window of his antique store. She stared with intent but when he smiled, she didn’t smile back.
He returned to his work but looked up over the wire-rim of his glasses as the bell above the door tinkled. The little girl strode in, black braid swishing behind her, followed by a frazzled woman.
“Annie, wait,” the woman said, but the girl ignored her. Instead she stopped at the end of the counter to focus on the project in front of Nico.
“The layover was only two years.”
Hazel let out a breath and crinkled her already wrinkled forehead. “He told me about it.”
Keira bounced her newborn child, more to calm herself than to calm the baby. “We’re newlyweds. How could he die? Was there a malfunction in stasis?”
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I don’t expect you to understand. The mountain of evidence that seems to support the prosecution’s case is daunting to say the least, but all of it is based on an adolescent understanding of the forces that move the universe. I must stress to you once again that Ambassador Gupta is alive and well.
Jackson looked up from a cat video at the sound of flopping sandals on the floor he’d just cleaned. His expressionless middle-aged face bore the slightest frown. Was she management? She looked more like a tongue depressor escaped from a gardening expo than a supervisor. However, he didn’t know all the ship’s managers, so he placed his device in his pocket discretely. He picked up his mop from the floor and examined her progress. She left a trail of echoing “THOP” sounds across the hall’s tiled expanse.
“Stop it, TJ, you’re doin’ it wrong!”
“Shut up, Alex, I am not.” Chalk staining his fingers, TJ drew a double inverted arrow, piercing the center of the circle.
“Are, too!” Alex crouched beside his brother, careful not to smudge the lines. “That’s not the way Mom showed us—”
“Fishie?” Little Evan asked over the sound of his mother flushing the toilet.
Ray stepped between Evan and Cecelia, squatting down to look into Evan’s watering eyes.
“I thought you said that Fishie went to heaven.”
Ray took a deep breath, keeping eye contact. “Evan, … Fishie, … well, he did some things… He’s gone to a bad place.”
The wind’s desperate grasp strips the frail leaves from the silver maple but the giant looks as if it still wears its finery, a borrowed dress perhaps, with the murder of crows gathered within its branches. The girl listens to the soft flutter of wings, stretches out her hand to catch a single black feather as it drifts down in a slow spiral. When the stiff plume makes contact with her skin the birds alight and she gasps, even though she has already seen their departure.
The girl watches the murder grow smaller. She watches the empty leaden skies for a long time, until the shadows of the night form and Morgan comes for her.
Morgan follows her gaze into nothing. “Just like you said.”
The girl tucks the feather into the breast pocket of her heavy flannel work shirt. “Is Sirin okay?”
Morgan looks down at the girl. “I haven’t seen her since breakfast.”
“They used to be bats, you know. That was before they lost their wings.”
“I beg your pardon?”
It was going to be one of those kinds of conversations.
“The story goes,” the man persisted, “that when Noah built the ark, he sent invitations to the bats, but that they refused. ‘Why should we ride on your smelly old boat?’ they said. ‘Even if there is a flood, we can just fly over it.'”
I wrote my first prophecy when I was seven. I filled a diary with short statements like, “Sister leaves forever at Christmas,” and “The robot sets the house on fire.”
At the time, everyone else thought the writings just fanciful imagination. I knew they were more. They resonated in my young mind like an aluminum bat does when it strikes a knee. Wasn’t until years later, after the gift left me, the prophecies started coming true. That Christmas, my robot butler malfunctioned and melted down. My sister visited us that year. She didn’t make it out.
Thomas sat in his truck, glad to be out of the cold rain blowing in sheets against his windshield. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and as he glanced over to the right at the trees and brush, thought he saw a flash of movement. Sitting up now on full alert, he watched carefully through the rivulets of rain pouring down the window. A woman burst out into the clearing and started lurching forward, her arms extended towards him, her expression one of terror.
He threw his truck door open, and as he got out, just for an instant, looked down to where he was stepping. By the time he raised his eyes again to the approaching figure, she was gone.
He thought she must have collapsed into the long grass, until he reached the empty spot where he last saw her.