“I’ve been looking for you.”
I stare at the tall, blonde woman over my cup of tea. She’s impeccably dressed; black dress, red necklace and high heels. She pulls out the seat across from me and sits down, looking just like an old friend, though I’ve never seen her before.
“Can I help you?” I manage to stutter out, setting my cup back into the saucer with a slight tremor. The way she looks at me, like she knows me… really knows me, is very unnerving. I have to clasp my hands together to keep them from shaking all over the place.
“I know this going to be very hard for you to believe,” she begins, but she’s already lost my attention. Her words go in one of my ears and out the other, as I try to memorize every inch of her appearance. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing straight up, I can tell something terrible is about to happen. I keep my gaze trained on her eyes, watching the way her eyelashes flutter open and shut a few times, before they pop open wide.
“Damn!” I hear her curse, and before I have time to register what is happening, she grabs my bag from the floor and slings it over her shoulder. She then grabs my hand in an iron grip and pulls me out of the café, all within the span of 10 seconds.
“What the-” The words die in my throat. We’re sprinting down the street, pedestrians and cars flying by, when I catch a faint sound. Something is snarling behind me and with every passing moment the sound grows louder. I chance a glance and I can see it, not even 20 yards behind us and gaining quickly. It runs on all fours, dark grey like talons digging into the pavement with each step. Dark brown matted fur covers it’s body, it’s clear whatever the thing is hasn’t even looked at water in years. I can see scorch marks all over it’s skin and face. But the most chilling feature is that, while its entire body looks like a large bear, the eyes are human.
“Fuck.” I turn back to the front and notice for the first time that nobody else seems to be panicking. People keep giving us strange looks as we fly past, but nobody else can see the beast. I want to call out to the woman, to get an explanation even while we’re running, but I know I need to save my breath. My thoughts begin to stray to the people we’re passing by and I start writing their story in my head as we run, giving me something else to think about other than my impending doom. I can feel the thing nipping at my heels, the wild foam coming from it’s mouth spraying on my pants. A victory growl begins to work it’s way out of it’s throat, and I close my eyes waiting to feel it’s sharp fangs digging into my flesh.
But then, just as quickly as it appeared, it’s gone.
The woman in front of me stops immediately, and I run at full speed into her. We end up in a tangled mess on the pavement, the people commuting to and from their jobs pausing to stare at us.
“Oh shit… I’m… sorry,” I manage between breaths, getting to my feet as quick as I can, before extending a hand to her. She looks up at me, blonde hair caught in her mouth, and huffs, before grabbing onto my hand and letting me pull her up.
“That was you, ya know.” She growls out, adjusting her necklace and pushing her hair behind her ears, trying to gather her dignity. She gives me one last glare, before turning to the crowd that has gathered and giving them the same look. Every one quickly dissipates, returning to their business and ignoring the two strange looking woman on the street.
“Excuse me?” I can hear the anger as it rises in my voice. I want to shake this woman, with all of her cryptic bullshit. I can feel the anger start from the bottoms of my feet and begin working it’s way up my body.
“Stop… Stop… STOP!” She turns back to me, grabbing onto my arm and pulling me into an alley. Heat begins to flood into my cheeks, a combination from over exertion and my increasing temper. She doesn’t let go of my arm, and where her hand touches my skin I can feel a cooling sensation flood into my veins.
“You have to control your emotions. I’ll explain as soon as you calm down,” I hear her say through my now subsiding rage. “I promise.”
Maybe I’m too trusting, or maybe I’m just gullible, but I believe her words and let peaceful thoughts flood through my mind. I close my eyes and try to calm my breathing – ‘in through your nose, out through your mouth.’ It takes a few minutes, but I gradually feel my anger recede back into the darkness. I open my eyes to look at the woman and shrug my arm out of her grasp.
“Explain.” One word, that’s all I need to say. I don’t want to waste any more time or energy on this woman.
“Not here, come with me,” she says, and I just look at her with a blank expression. She sighs, brushing some of the dirt off of her dress and for the first time, shows me a genuine tired face.
“You told me this is what would happen, but it still sucks having to deal with you when you’re like this.” I have no idea what her words mean, but now she’s piqued my interested. I don’t remember her face at all, and I’m usually good at remembering people.
“At least tell me your name,” I say, giving her my best ‘I’m not joking’ look. She gives me an annoyed look before finally conceding and giving up her name.
“Deedra. Do you understand now?” I only nod, no more words coming out of my mouth. I know that name, though it doesn’t match her face. I let her lead me to wherever she wants, terrified but curious to hear her story.
She leads me to a small, one bedroom apartment just a few blocks away. There’s no furniture, just a mattress on the floor and some take out boxes littering the kitchen counter.
I stand in the middle of the room, trying not to let my emotions get the best of me. All of the adrenaline from earlier has finally worn off and now I can feel exhaustion creeping into my bones. She disappears into the bathroom, returning a minute later with a towel, drying her hands off. She gestures to the mattress and I sit down without a second thought.
“I was sent here to help you.” She starts, but I’m not listening. The empty walls and the weight of what happened causes me to retreat into my mind, sadness now replacing the fear and rage I felt so strongly earlier. I close my eyes, blocking out everything but the feeling that’s weighing heavily on my heart. A tear slips down my cheek and an electric charge ripples through the air.
“Oh for fuck’s sake…” I hear Deedra grumble. “You really are an emotional basket case at this age aren’t you?” I open my eyes, and finally pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place without having to hear her explanation. Across the room, cowering in the corner is a slight figure draped in a purple sheet. She’s human, with dark red hair and pale white skin. She rocks back and forth, oblivious to both Deedra and I.
“Can you see that?” I ask, looking up at Deedra, but she doesn’t respond. She comes over to me and crouches down in front of me, putting both of her hands on my shoulders.
“I need you to reel it in if you ever want the whole explanation. I know this is a lot for you to process right now, but I’m here to make it easier for you.” Her words are clipped and short, it’s obvious she’s just as stressed out and tired as I am. I try to pull my emotions back in, letting the familiar feeling I get from Deedra wash over me. Another electric charge ripples through the air and when I look into the corner, the girl is gone.
“So they won’t all attack me?” I ask, watching as Deedra leans back, a sign coming out through her lips. She shakes her head, before drawing a pack of cigarettes from a pocket in her black dress and lighting one up.
“Smoking kills you know.” I say before I have a chance to stop myself. She just looks at me, one eyebrow arched.
“Then why did you write me as a smoker?” She lets her words hang in the air while she finishes the cigarette. I don’t dare put my thoughts into words for fear that my emotions will once more take over. I have no choice but to wait for her to finish. Somehow I know she’s going to take as much time as she wants, savoring every last bit of nicotine.
“I think you know who I am,so I’m not going to waste my breath.” Her words are clipped, but are beginning to warm. I reach out and grab her hand, looking into her eyes for the first time since we met.
“How?” I ask, not letting my gaze waver from her dark green eyes. I study her irises, watching the small, golden lines catch the light with every movement of her head. I know this woman because I created her, every inch of her a carefully thought out detail for a very special story.
“You sent me here from the future… several years from now there’s a serious scientific breakthrough, but that’s not important. That’s not why you sent me back here, I’m not supposed to spoil it for you.” She pauses, looking at me to see if I understand. I nod my head, wanting her to continue. “When this happened to you in the future, you almost killed yourself. You were so sure that you were going mentally insane… that everything that happened had taken it’s toll on your psyche. It was ‘Love’ that stopped you… she managed to break out on her own and show you the truth.”
My confusion must show on my face, because she pulls her hand back and runs it through her blonde hair. I know there are a few strands of grey on her head, casualties of a tough life. She pulls out another cigarette and lights it, but this time chooses to talk and smoke at the same time.
“It’s a genetic mutation. You experienced it a few times when you were really young, only when you had emotional explosions. It didn’t full develop until you reached emotional maturity. Which is right about now… You weren’t sure when it exactly happened, so we were just guessing on what would be the best time to send me back. Obviously we were a little off.”
Realization hits me like a ton of bricks. I feel my hands begin to tremble again, but this time she reaches forward and grabs them, letting warmth this time flow from her palms.
“You’re not alone this time, so don’t worry. I’m going to help you learn how to control your emotions,” She trails off, glancing around the room to ensure we’re still alone. “Most of them are harmless; when you experience really strong emotions they usually just manifest and do what they please until your emotions wind down again. It’s ‘Fear’ and ‘Rage’ we have to be the most wary of. You’ve developed those emotions so thoroughly in your life that they have malicious wills.”
I nod my head in understanding, though my mind is one giant mess. It’s like every filing cabinet of information I have has been emptied onto the floor… Everything I’ve learned and known so far in my life has been thrown into an upheaval.
“If you don’t learn to control them, eventually they will start to harm others. You noticed today that only we could see your ‘Fear,’ right? You can see it because it’s the manifestation of your emotion and I can see it because, well, you created me. If you let your emotions get too far out of hand, however, they will start to go after other people. That’s the main reason you sent me here… You want to save him.”
“Him?” I squeak out. She gives me a knowing look.
“You told me all about him in the future. He’s very handsome, by the way.” She smirks at me, before giving my palms one more squeeze and releasing me. She stands up, finally kicking off her heels and letting her whole body relax. She walks to the one lonely window that overlooks a parking lot and gazes out for a long time, letting the silence hang in the air.
“Don’t worry, we’ll save him. I promise. I won’t let you end up like me.”
When she turns back and smiles at me, her lips curled up but the rest of her face betraying her sadness, I know I chose the perfect name for her. “Broken.”
You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?