Six months into 2019 and I can’t even remember where I hid my resolve for safekeeping, I thought. I began clawing, frantically, through the contents of my shoulder bag. Jerry would kill me if I’d lost another pencomm, already. Two, just this month! Pricey ones, too. Running my index finger along an unfamiliar, serrated edge of dull metal, I paused to peer into my purse – “The Abyss,” Jerry called it – and pulled out a small bit of cheap brass shaped like a key.
It wasn’t mine.
I had seen keys in the curio shop, so I knew what it was. But why was this small relic lying at the bottom of my bag? No one used keys, anymore. Everything opened with a handplate, these days. If you were supposed to enter, it let you. If not, tough luck. Biometric devices had replaced the illusory security of locks and keys long before I was born. I hadn’t seen a lock outside the Museum of Santa Clara, so a key was not of much value to anyone. Some people liked to decorate with them, but I’d never understood why. The oddest part was, it looked…new. I just sat there, pondering.
Jerry must be wondering, by now, if I’d stood him up. We’d had plans, and I was running late.
Six months into 2019 and I felt as though I was already six months behind. I’d come out to the park, as I did most Wednesdays, to enjoy a peaceful, sack lunch and gather my thoughts before the afternoon staff meeting. Time to get my game face on. I reached into my bag for a bright, plummy lipstick to make me look less cadaverous. Maybe I could pass the dark circles around my eyes off as that trendy, “smokey” look, but not with lips that looked fresh from a morgue fridge. As I pulled out my lipliner, or what I thought was my lipliner, I stared for a moment, perplexed. That’s not lipliner, I muttered. But what the hell was it? It looked a bit like a pen, but there was only a convex bit of glass where the point should be.
Just then, the slender cylinder began to emit a low, strangely pleasant, hum. Turning it in my fingers, as one might twirl a pen, I felt the delicate click of a button, and the humming stopped. “Hey!” I heard a man’s voice, close enough to make me jump out of my skin. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you for the past hour!”
“What?” I whirled around, but there was no one nearby.
“We had plans – for tonight, remember?”
The “pen” was talking to me. I peered into the barrel of the thing. “Ouch!” I yelped. A bright flash of light had blinded me for a second, and I’d dropped the thing. As I bent to pick it up, I noticed the tiny man staring back at me, hands on his hips, looking bemused, and comically angry.
“Who the hell are you?” we gasped, in unison.
To be continued…