Sharp Absence

Empty. That was the first word that came to mind when Max shook the woman’s hand. He silently thanked his years of practice for the self-control it took to keep a straight face. He smiled cordially and released the handshake as fast as he could by gesturing at the seat in front of his desk. The pale, lithe woman sat down and Max walked around to take his own seat. The empty sensation lingered in the back of his mind; it felt cold and dark.

“Thank you for seeing me. I’ll get right to the point, Mr. Potter,” the woman said as he took his seat across the desk from her. He was disappointed she didn’t mention her name and hoped it wouldn’t come up. His secretary, Patty, usually left yellow sticky notes with the names of his appointments on his desk, but she was on vacation. Max asked her not to make any appointments while she was gone but this single one was already on the books. One meeting wouldn’t be the end of the world.

“I have a niche that I can fill with your company,” she said. She opened her mouth to say more but Max took the opportunity to jump in.

“Great!” he smiled. He wondered what a soul-less woman wanted with a nation-wide nursery. ‘Soul-less‘. Max realized that was the perfect descriptor for how she felt to him. “We’d love to help you any way we can. What do you need exactly?”

Max Potter built a national chain of nurseries using his secret super-power. Whenever he met someone he immediately knew what they spent most of their time doing. It wasn’t a particularly exciting superpower, but the more he played with it the more he learned about it. He eventually realized he learned what they would rather be doing along with what they spent most of their time doing. That knowledge was the cornerstone of his business. Once his business grew he assigned people to positions they wanted to be in, even if they didn’t know that’s what they wanted.

‘Your company,’ she said. ‘It saves me the trouble of organizing my own.’ Max chuckled to avoid a more obnoxious outburst then shook his head. He worked almost 30 years to get where he was now and that was with the help of his secret ability. Her casual attitude offended him most of all. The dark-haired woman did not look a day over 25. Max doubted she was ever ‘troubled’ by anything. He assumed she bought her way through life in the same way she wanted to buy his company. Max wasn’t particularly sentimental. As hard as he worked to create it he knew he’d sell the company someday. But he could not imagine selling it to someone who probably did not know a thing about the realities of life. He felt relieved that he would not do business with her. He could have refused at any time but he liked to keep a ‘growth mindset’ when it came to his business. Despite how uneasy she made him; if she had good ideas he wanted to listen. His mind continued to tingle from the emptiness he felt in her. He felt a stiff frigidness in his soul.

‘It’ s not for sale, ‘ Max said. The woman smirked.

‘ You haven’t heard my offer yet,’ she replied. Max stood from his desk with a firm shake of his head. He gestured at the door to let her know the meeting was over.

‘No amount of money will change my mind.’ He was relieved when she stood to leave. The meeting was almost over.

‘Money was just a starting point but we can skip to the more interesting exchanges if you like,’ she said as Max reached for the doorknob. He paused, then shook his head and smiled at her.

‘Sorry. Potter Nursery is not for sale. But if it was we’ d only accept money, ‘ he said. Max did not know what other exchanges she had in mind and did not want to waste time finding out. He pulled the door open and was surprised to find another woman standing in the hallway. She looked like a shorter, rounder version of the woman he escorted out.

‘Next one, Melody,’ the tall woman said. The woman in the hallway looked at Max with wide eyes and burst into laughter with less restraint than he showed earlier.

‘Really?’ she asked while wiggling her fingers at the air. A darker-than-black hole opened in the hallway; it looked like what Max felt when he met the woman.

‘He doesn’ t want to sell,’ the woman he met with said. She walked forward and disappeared into the hole.

‘ Wow. I can’t believe you turned down your own Earth,’ the second woman said then walked into the black hole.

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