“I have got to be the least interesting person in the world.” Erin said to the air. He looked up at the clock it was 3:01 A.M. and his shift relief was late, again.
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“I should have never taken this damn job.” He kicked the counter and felt a spike of pain shoot up his leg. “Damn gas station, twenty four hours a day in this town? No one is ever awake now, except me.” No ones been here in over and hour. “If my relief doesn’t show up soon I’m walking.”
“But before that I’m taking a piss.” Erin had become accustomed to talking to himself at night, it was really the only thing to do. As soon as he had unzipped his pants a light knock came to the door. “Fucking figures.” The porcelain began to ring and Erin let out a sigh of relief.
Erin zipped up his pants, and went to wash his hands, before he could dry them he was assaulted with another knock on the door, this time a bit more insistent. “Just a second I just need to dry my hands!” He had tried to keep the agitation out of his voice, but he knew he had failed. Another knock.
“Impatient mother fucker.” When he threw the door open it wasn’t the drunk teenager he thought it might be, it was a twenty something girl. A very attractive girl at that. The look of surprise must have registered on his face because she gave him a wicked smile. Erin liked that smile.
“Can I help you?” Dumb ass.
“Yeah, I think you can.” It came out as a growl. Erin felt his heart race and didn’t quite know why.
“Are you Erin?” Surprise must have once again taken hold of his features because she didn’t give him time to answerer.
“Erin Johnson, that’s you right?”
Erin’s thoughts raced, did he know this girl? Was she someone he should know? He was about to find out. “Yeah that’s me, what’d I do wrong.”
“In one hour you will be dead.”
This time Erin didn’t have time to be surprised he just laughed.
“I’m serious; you will be dead in less then an hour.”
“I thought you said one hour.”
“That was a couple seconds ago.”
“Drugs are bad lady.” The insult came to his mouth without even a thought. After he had said it though he knew he was right, this girl was high; what else would she be?
She frowned, it wasn’t near as attractive as her smile, but it would do.
“Sorry, I mean how do you know this?” Erin tried to keep his voice calm and steady. Before he had taken this job they had given him a pamphlet that told all about situations like this.
“I mean it.” The girl’s brow creased and she made a pout with her lips.
“It’s Three A.M. in a gas station, in a town that closes up at eight p.m. I mean what are the chances of that happening?” Erin decided he was carrying on this conversation because he was bored. It have showed because the girl frowned again, but said nothing.
Erin pushed past the girl, and made his way to the counter. The girl followed after him and stood off to the side, after about a half minute of silence she spoke up. “Why don’t you believe me?” Erin chose to ignore the question, and asked one of his own.
“Who are you anyway?” She knew who he was, it wasn’t fair.
“You know me.” She cocked her head to the side, puzzlement spreading across her features.
“No I don’t, I have never seen you before in my life.” Her eyes where grey, Erin looked away from them.
“Sure you have, you just don’t remember.” She paused for effect, or to give Erin another shot at remembering he wasn’t sure which. “It was at your grandfathers’ funeral fifteen years ago.”
“Either you have a good memory or you aren’t as old as you look. Because I was twelve then and you’re not more then twenty two.” She smiled at him; he had to figure out how to get her to do that more often.
“You would be surprised how much I hear that. Age is in the eyes anyhow.”
“What do you mean by that? Wait --- sorry I don’t really want to know.” Erin let out a sigh and began to move around the counter. “I don’t want to be rude, but, I am at work and I really should be getting back to it. Don’t get me wrong this conversation was fun.” Erin made to grab her elbow and guide her towards the door but before he had the chance he felt needles spread through his hand and shoot up to his head.
“Ow, OW! What the fuck?” Erin jumped at least ten feet backwards and began to rub his arm. “How the fuck did you do that?”
“Sorry.” Erin looked at her; she actually seemed to be.
“It’s ok.” It wasn’t.
“Would you just listen to me Erin, just for a second? Not many people get the chance you are getting right now---” Erin held up his hand.
“You know what, why don’t you give me a reason to listen to you, I don’t even know what the hell your name is.” He felt angry but didn’t know why.
“Fine, you want I name I’ll give you one; you won’t believe me. My name is Kera.” She paused then, apparently waiting for a reaction. “Ok… I see, you have no idea who I am. It not important, what is important is that you listen to me.” Kera’s face was so sincere that Erin forgot to breathe.
“Ok fine I will be dead in an hour, how do you know this?” He would play her game; it was more interesting then standing around waiting for his shift to end.
Kera cocked her head to the side again “Erin, do you believe in fate?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle “Fate? Like someone is in control of my life no matter what I do? That kind of fate?”
“Something like that, except more like a tree root. It starts off as a single path and splits and split and splits. If you where to walk along the root and only take one path eventually you would end up at the end. Fate is more like the path you walk on, and you have a choice of which direction you go. It’s just that fate decides the end no one else knows. I don’t even know until she tells me.”
“I restate my former claim on drugs being bad.” She was higher then a NASA shuttle, but despite that she was interesting. “Mostly its jerk off kids trying to buy beer or late night drivers pumping gas and getting coffee, but you are something new thanks for that at least; now leave.”
“Like hell I am leaving you ass, I am trying to explain something important to you, now just shut up and listen!” If they where growls before this time it was a roar and Erin felt like a mouse.
“Are you with me Erin?” He shrugged partly because he didn’t know how to answer, partly because he couldn’t talk.
“I’ll take that as a yes. OK, roots right? Some roots end earlier then others. Once in a really great while though Fate gives me a shot at saving one of you from your root ending earlier then it should. No I shouldn’t say that, could is a better word. Well It’s something of a bonus really.” She smiled at Erin as if she had made some joke, if she had Erin didn’t follow, but the smile relaxed him a little.
“Anyhow like I was saying I get a choice, and you’re it; all you have to do is walk out of here, and don’t come back.” She cocked her head at him once more. It was a cute habit, and it set him at ease enough to talk.
“Why me?” Better yet why did he ask that question, of all the millions running through his head?
“Because you weren’t afraid of me back at the funeral, you just smiled at me.”
“What the hell are you talking about? You couldn’t have been at my Grandfathers funeral. It was a small funeral, family only. So unless you’re my cousin you weren’t there.” How the hell did she know about her Grandfather being dead? That was the real question.
Erin locked eyes with Kera and saw venom there. She was going to hurt him again he was sure of it.
“At age seven you wanted a kitten so badly that you stole the kitten from a neighbor girl. After all why should she have a kitten when she never even asked for one? When the kitten went missing though she came straight to you, and asked for it back you refused her Erin, you refused her and took an opportunity when you saw one; you pushed her down a flight of stairs as she ran for the door to tell her mom. She died three hours later Erin. Brain hemorrhage. When everyone asked what happened you said she tripped over the kitten that you were both playing with.” Erin felt sick, h had never told anyone about that, never told anyone what had really happened.
“I felt horrible about that!” Erin’s rage exploded with the heat of a million suns. “I had nightmares for years! I never meant to do that, NEVER!” He forced himself to look at Kera, stoic eyes greeted his own.
“Age thirteen you and your best friend will found a gun inside the bed of a truck. You stole it and went out looking for something to shoot, anything. When you came across a bee-hive you couldn’t resist blowing it away despite Wills protestations. You both got stung by the bees several times, but what you didn’t know was that Will was allergic to bees; anaphylactic shock. That’s a term I am sure you had a monopoly on at age thirteen, no one else you age would know what it meant.” Erin’s mind was numb, none of it made sense. He never told anyone about the gun.
“At age seventeen you and your friends where at your fathers’ rooftop apartment. You had some older kids buy you some liquor and with your dad gone for the weekend there where no consequences. After hours of binge drinking with no food you were all pretty ‘shit-faced’. Everyone was passed out except you, and your friend Trent. Trent was crying, you called him a sad drunk and he laughed at you. Do you remember this? He wasn’t even drunk; right there and then he confided in you about some suicidal feelings he had been having. When he came to you for compassion do you remember what you said? ‘Fuck man, do it or don’t but stop whining.’ Not very compassionate was it? Well he took your advice and tossed himself out the window. Great advice there Erin, perfect actually.” Erin vomited on the ground, chunks of his spaghetti dinner and bile spread over the floor like cold blood.
“I was there at each of those moments in your life. I was also there at your grandfather’s funeral. At each of those points in your life you saw me, and didn’t even know it. At every instance you smiled at me, and didn’t even know it. So now I am here to preserve your smile, it’s the least I can do. Not many people can see me.”
Erin could smell the acid from his vomit rising into the air, but his mind wasn’t focused enough to care. There was no way she could know this, but there no way he could deny that she did.
“Who the fuck are you” He had meant to scream but it trembled pathetically across his lips.
Keras eyes found his and held them. “Now will you take what I am telling you seriously? Now do you understand what I am?”
Erin shook his head that was all he could manage.
Kera sighed, it was almost compassionate sounding. “What was the one common occurrence in all of those moments Erin? What happened to all those people?”
It was not a movie gun click, but a harsh metal sound. Erin turned to see the barrel of a gun held at his eye.
“Give me a pack of Camel lights and all the money in the drawer.” Despite himself Erin looked up at the wall clock, it was now three fifty four a.m.
“There’s not much in here they don’t let us keep any more then a hundred after midnight.” Erin unlocked the drawer, and it popped open at the sound of a bell.
“Whatever just give it here.” The man said as he reached out for the money. Erin couldn’t look into the mans' face so he just stared at his hand. Erin knew he was going to kill him, it was an odd thought. Erin also thought that he deserved it having been reminded of how horrible he was so recently.
“Turn the fuck around.” Here it comes, not even in the face. Erin did what the man said, but as he was in mid pivot he heard the worst sound that any living creature could produce. It made him want to retch all over again.
As Erin spun around he could feel a warm sensation splatter across him body. Some of it got into his mouth, and he could taste the hot iron of blood melt over his tongue. Kera was standing behind the man with her hand pushed through his chest. Her hand was stained red, and dripped gore onto the floor to mix with his cooling vomit.
The mans face was distorted to the point of being inhuman. “So cold, didn’t think it would be cold.” With that Kera pulled her arm out, and the sound of a body hitting the floor greeted Erin’s ears.
“I told you not many people could see me. I really wasn’t supposed to do that, but I doubt anyone will notice.” She bent over and wiped her hand off on the dead mans shirt, taking special care in between her fingers.
All Erin could do was nod, he knew he should have thanked her, but he just couldn’t.
“It’s ok Erin no need to thank me, just couldn’t let it happen. It was more my fault than anything, I just kept talking. I don’t get to talk to many people.”
Keras looked up at Erin, a smile playing on her lips once again. It wasn’t the same smile from before; this was a smile of accomplishment. It was a smile that something she had done was pleasing to her. “Walk with me?”
Erin just nodded again, how could he refuse?
When he made it to the door Kera took his arm, and all but skipped to the door. When he opened it a flash of blue awaited him. He was to numb to stop his motion, he just kept walking. He could feel a sensation much like flight take over his body, and the next thing he knew the world was an indigo monochrome.
“There you are” Erin flipped around to see Kera standing five feet behind him. It was the first time that Erin had noticed how colorless Kera really was. She seemed to be made of shades of Grey. The Grey of her eyes. “Why is everything blue?”
“Home.” She spun around with her arms in the air. “Do you like it? Blue is my favorite”
“How is this home?”
Kera stopped spinning and looked Erin in the eye. “You still don’t get it do you? Look around you, what do you see?”
He did an arid landscape devoid of life, nothing but blue. He said as much.
Kera shook her head. “No nothing is a very different place” She paused her brow creasing and relaxing.
“We just left the gas station--- Where the hell is the town?”
Kera placed a finger on her nose and winked. “No town means no people, no pets, no trees, and all those things are?”
“Good, and since nothing is alive here that would make this place?”
“And since this is home, that makes me?”
“Death…” Erin’s throat caught at that dry word.
It was true.
“I am sorry about all of this; I really did mean most of what I said.”
“Well you seemed pretty much right about me dying.”
“You aren’t dead.”
“Why else would I be here?”
”Well, remember how I said I get a bonus?” Her tone was that of an adult speaking to a child.
“Well it’s you.” She spread her arms and bounced. “It’s not many seven year olds that will push a girl down the stairs over a cat. Hell even fewer of those people can see me. So when my bonus from fate came up I picked you.”
“I thought you where saving me from dying. That guy was going to shoot me.”
“Actually that was more luck than anything.” She turned around then and rocked back and forth on her heels. “You see I get a bonus once ever hundred years or so, I get to choose one person to keep me company until the end of their time. I chose you.”
“I feel sick”
“The only way I can take someone as a pet is if they go with me willingly, so I just wanted to get you out the door really. As soon as you did that you where mine.” Kera turned around and walked towards Erin. “I had to kill that guy. He was going to take you from me.” Kera's lip stuck out in a mock pout. “I just couldn’t let that happen.”
“Now we get to be together. It’s going to be so much fun. We can play all sorts of games; like pushing people in front of buses and tangling sky-divers parachutes and things like that. It’ll be great.” Kera walked up and kissed him straight on the mouth, when she pulled away she was smiling. Not those smiles Erin had seen before, a real smile, and it made his heart go cold. He had wanted to make her smile before, now he wished he never would again.
"It is considered rude to silence a fool, but cruel to let him go on."