Sharp Question

Claire wiped sweat off her forehead and relaxed on her haunches in the grass. She planned to work on her garden for the morning; now it was well past noon and her shirt and overalls were soaked with perspiration. She meant to be done sooner but she had not even started yet.

While prepping the area her spade hit something buried just below the surface. Caution and curiosity prompted her to dig around the area and see what it might be. She worried it might be a buried cable and did not want to pierce it accidentally. Claire worked carefully to expose the area but stopped the moment she saw a bright red color peeking at her from under the soil. She stared at it for several moments and wondered why it looked vaguely familiar.

“It couldn’t be…,” She faced East subconsciously, even though she knew she could not see what she was looking for. Five miles East of her backyard a giant tree with bright red bark grew in the center of town. The tree was so much taller than the houses she could see the top of its bright red leaves her house. The same shade of red she found buried on her property. Determined to solve the puzzle she kept digging at the area.

Now, past noon, she had a small, inches-deep trench that spanned across her entire yard and into the yards of the neighbors on either side of her. She stared at the red root and shook her head. It definitely belonged to the tree.

“I’m impressed,” a woman said from behind Claire. The surprise of having a stranger right behind her, in her own yard, made Claire jump off the ground. Thanks to adrenaline and a five-year ballet career, Claire spun 180-degrees in the air. She landed facing the unexpected woman wielding her spade like a dagger. The stranger was a pale woman with dark hair wearing a white suit. She stood somewhat taller than Claire. “I intended to be here before you dug it all up,” the woman kept talking. She did not react to Claire’s surprise or threat at all. “But, I under-estimated your diligence.”

“Who are you? How’d you get in my yard?” Claire asked. She chanced taking her eyes off the stranger to look at the fence’s gate. It was still closed and locked.

“What’s your favorite number?” the stranger asked. Claire was insulted that the woman completely ignored her questions.

“37,” she replied. Her eyes went wide at the response and she clapped her hand over her mouth. After a second she moved her hand out of the way. “Why did I answer that?” she asked. She watched the woman’s straight lips curve into a large smile.

“Janet,” the woman said loud; she still ignored Claire’s questions. “Claire here is a slumbering Mundo,” she said. She sounded as if she was talking to someone but Claire did not see anyone else. She wondered how the woman knew her name, but she knew the question would be ignored. Then, she heard a soft rustle in the grass and looked down. A black cat with a red skull pattern in the fur atop its head sat on the grass next to the stranger’s feet. “Take her to the lab,”

“Yes, Ms. Sharp,” the cat replied.

“What? Wait-” Claire started to protest. Then, she blinked.

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