Authors: Tara Bennet
“True love is just over the horizon, my dear,” said the old woman, smiling and patting Amber’s hand gingerly. “
The coming dark times will allow you to see its glowering light.” The woman put on a pair of reading glasses and pulled out receipt paper.
dearie. That’ll be thirty dollars. Will that be cash or charge?”
Amber reached into her purse
and finished the transaction, unsatisfied. Walking out the door of the woman’s tenement, she checked the horoscope app on her phone.
Pieces - watch out! Today’s surprise fortune may have unforeseen consequences.
She sighed. Amber didn’t consider herself a gullible woman, but despite the fact that she had never found herself walking away from a fortune-telling session or horoscope satisfied, she couldn’t give up her strange hobby.
Addiction, more like
, she thought, turning the engine of her car on and backing out.
As she drove, she put on
a favorite mix tape of hers. Time passed on the freeway, and her mind wandered and her eclectic tastes boomed through her open windows. Classics songs from the Rolling Stones and Isley Brothers intermingled with modern hits from The Strokes and Usher.
Her friends were going out on the town tonight, and had invited her
to hit the clubs with them. As usual, she’d passed. She rarely went out in the first place and, when she did, she preferred bars to clubs. Besides, there was a good book waiting for her at home.
Her phone rang in the d
ashboard cup holder below her radio. Picking it out and looking at it, it was her grandmother. She put it back down and let it ring.
Not tonight, Big Momma.
Amber loved her grandmother. After her mother died, Big Momma
raised her. Shortly before she’d moved out, they’d had a falling out over whether Amber should leave for college.
That woman can be so selfish at times
, she mused, turning up the volume to drown out her thoughts.
The truth was
, the rift between them had started when Amber realized her grandmother wasn’t being entirely honest about her mother’s death. The bits and pieces she’d heard about what happened didn’t match up, and Big Momma was incredibly reluctant to speak about it. That might not have been so strange, but Amber always had the nagging suspicion that it wasn’t because it was painful to her so much as because Big Momma was hiding something. Amber was tired of being protected.
The day rapidly approached in which she would wish for such simple times
The phone began ringing again, and Amber didn’t bother picking it up. She knew who it was. Big Momma was one of the most persistent people she had ever known. It was part of what made her such an effective person.
“You know, you really should answer that,” said a voice next to her.
Amber swerved the car,
and everything blurred as she skidded to a stop sideways in the middle of the freeway. She backed against the driver side window, her mind taking a moment to catch up to what her eyes were seeing. Next to her, casually stretching his neck - as if from a tiring journey - sat a naked man. Her glance lingered between his legs a few moments, her eyes somehow growing wider than they already were.
The handsome stranger chuckled, his grey eyes smiling as he rubbed his five o’clock shadow with one hand.
“Damn, looks like you sent me back too far. So much for Mistress of Time, eh?” he laughed, and took out a cigarette. “Speaking of which. Listen to me, I don’t have much --” he broke off mid-sentence, terror growing in his eyes as his unlit cigarette fell from his mouth. He pointed behind Amber in horrified astonishment.
Amber turned her head looking into the oncoming traffic. Still recovering from the shock of having a man appear in the seat next to her, she’d forgotten she was in the middle of a freeway. Seconds from the car, she could see
the menacing grill of an eighteen wheeler, its horn honking urgently.
“Amber, start the car,” said the stranger trying to sound calm. His eyes were still glued to the oncoming vehicle. Amber turned the keys to the ignition, expecting an easy start. There was none. That was strange, as it was a new car and hadn’t done this before. Then again, she hadn’t tried Tokyo drifting on the highway, before.
“Amber. Start. The. Car,” he repeated next to her.
“I’m trying!” she said, nearly in tears.
The sound of the horn blared louder, it was too late for the truck to swerve.
“START THE CAR!” he shouted. His voice had changed.
Amber pulled on the door on her side. It wouldn’t budge. The unlock button didn’t work. She moved for his side, and stopped. Hair covered his face, and his mouth was open, fanged teeth clenched as he yanked on the passenger side car door handle.
Amber didn’t have time to react. She heard the sound of the horn
boom, and turned just in time to see the flash of the grill of the truck.
Dr. Eiph and Mrs. Ngyuen walked side by side up the steps of the First National Bank, moving in perfect unison. Dr. Eiph, dressed impeccably as always, wore white gloves, a suit with tailed jacket, and top hat. He carried a small white Yorkshire terrier in the crook of his arm, stroking it and casually rolling his one open eye down to it from behind his monocle - the other squeezed shut, giving him the seeming countenance of a permanent wink.
Ngyuen was a rather plump woman in what appeared to be her late thirties. She wore too much makeup and was dressed all in orange (which, truth be told, Dr. Eiph thought made her look rather like the fruit of the same name - though he was wise enough not to make his opinion known). A distinctive orange flower fluttered its petals in the wind as the pair reached the set of glass doors and again, in perfect unison, opened a door each and entered.
As their perfect steps clicked down the tiles to a bank window, they received little more than an
occasional passing glance. Which just goes to show you how long it takes people to notice those special little oddities that sometimes occur around them. In this case, too long.
The unit walked pas
t the short line of people awaiting a bank teller, and went directly to a window. As they approached, a young woman shuffled papers, unnoticing.
“Hey! Get to the back of the line!” a dissenting voice from the line shouted. It was a mustachioed man with a trucker hat, jeans, and a plaid shirt with cut-off arms. Dr.
Eiph and Mrs. Ngyuen looked at each other, then at the man.
“Oh dear, it seems this young man has forgotten his manners,” said Mrs.
Ngyuen, reaching for the locket around her neck and fiddling it between her fingers and thumb, staring intently at the man. Dr. Eiph’s empty hand shot out, grabbing Mrs. Ngyuen’s wrist in terror. A small growl came from the Yorkie in his arm.
“My dear Mrs.
Ngyuen,” spoke Eiph, smiling tersely. “Perhaps a more…moderate approach is in order?” Mrs. Ngyuen looked up, eyeing Dr. Eiph, annoyed.
“Very well, Dr.
Eiph. You are the doctor, after all. Perhaps you have a prescription for our problem, yes? I’ll speak with the teller.”
The woman at the counter looked up now, blinking blankly behind her rounded spectacles.
“How may I help you, ma’am?” she said.
“Yes, I would like one million dollars, please,” said Mrs.
There was a startled expression from the teller as she processed this, realizing Mrs.
Ngyuen was serious. In the background, she could see the other odd person taking off his top hat, offering what appeared to be an apology to the mustachioed man. He reached into his jacket pocket, putting the dog on the floor while he did so.
“Um, ma’am, what’s your account number? I should warn you that if you want that amount in cash, I’ll have to verify it with my manager…”
A confused look passed over Mrs. Ngyuen’s face, transitioning back into her saccharine sweet smile. A shiver passed over the tellers back, though she could not think why.
“That won’t be necessary,” said
Ngyuen. She calmly unshouldered her orange purse, placing it on the counter. Opening it, she pulled out two items. The first was what appeared to be a small glass marble with an orange core. Holding it in her hand, she whispered something into it. It flashed orange. Mrs. Ngyuen put it on the table. The second was a handgun.
The teller reached for the silent alarm, but at that
very moment a thin orange beam shot out from the marble and hit the teller in the forehead, making a brief glowing orange ripple between her eyebrows. The teller’s eyes glowed orange has she withdrew her hand from the untouched alarm.
dearie, how about that money?” asked Mrs. Ngyuen smiling, again.
calmly and blankly pulled picked up the gun, going behind a door in the back of the bank marked “Employees Only”. There were shots and screams. The other tellers and customers looked toward the noise in shock. Mrs. Ngyuen calmly put the marble back in her purse. Dr. Eiph stood at her side once again, the matter with the other gentleman taken care of. Still standing in line, the mustachioed man was weeping, a darkened wet spot on his pants front. The other customers in that particular line seemed to have abandoned it, their horror unheard in the ensuing violence behind the teller desk.
After a few moments the woman came back, strolling to the counter with a steel suitcase in one hand, and the gun hanging limply in the other. Droplets of blood splatter
were lightly spread over her otherwise lovely face.
She calmly placed the suitcase on the counter, her eyes wide and unseeing.
“Thank you dearest. You’ve been such a sweetheart. Now then, I think I have a little reward in my bag for you,” she said, almost pleasantly.
Eiph cleared his throat. His hands behind him, looking dignified. When Mrs. Ngyuen looked up at him he shook his head, eyes downcast in theatrical regret.
Ah,” said Mrs. Ngyuen, catching his drift. “Well that is a shame, then. Well now, this
awkward. And after you’ve been so helpful, too!” she said, putting her coin back into her purse. Dr. Eiph picked up his dog, turning to leave.
If you would do me one last favor?” she said. “finish this nasty business, yes?”
And as the two left the bank in perfect unison, sirens in the background, there was
the flash and bang of one final gunshot from behind the banks glass doors.
Amber Trice clenched the steering wheel to her
car, eyes slammed shut, body shivering. She felt sure that she was in shock, and knew that when she opened her eyes she’d see the passing fluorescent lights of an ER as she was rushed for immediate care or, worse, twisted within the steel of her car on the freeway, breathing her last.
Which was why she was very surprised to find that, when she did open her eyes, she was sitting in the passenger seat of her
car, which was itself sitting in the driveway of her house.
Slowly, testing that this reality was real and not some coma dream, she opened her driver side door and placed one foot onto the solid concrete of her driveway. Getting out, she didn’
t bother to close the door, going around the outside of the car. There wasn’t a single scratch.
As she came around to the other side of the unscathed vehicle, Amber suddenly remembered the naked man in her passenger side seat. She yanked the passenger doo
r open as if he could be hiding, slumped down in his seat.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she closed both car doors. Walking up the step to her front door she paused a moment, looking at the car. She pressed the alarm button on her key chain, and switched to her house key to open the door. Her house, which she normally thought of as a sanctuary, felt alien and foreboding. She decided two things, pulling out her cell-phone. The first was
to join the girls for drinks that night. The second was that when she did join the girls, she NOT taking her car. She activated the internet on her phone, and searched for cab services.