“Pardon me,” the tall stranger apologized to Clover over his shoulder without slowing. His forest-green suit stood out from the crowd of blue and grey suits waiting for the bus as he plowed through them. Clover’s gaze drifted upward. She gasped audibly when she saw a golden infinity sign floating above his head.
The rest of the commuters around her all had a timeframe of years above their heads, but not the stranger. He didn’t stop to wait with the rest of them and kept striding down the block, seemingly in a hurry. Clover pretended to weigh her options, but her decision was already made. The mystery of the immortal man was far more pressing than anything she needed to do in the office. After a few moments, she stepped away from the other commuters and followed the man in green.
Clover followed and studied him from behind for two blocks until he reached the park. She could not see much other than the green suit and a perfectly parted white head of hair. He walked into the park at a much slower pace. As he turned, Clover also noticed he had a full white beard; she thought he looked like a lean, tall Santa Claus. Clover followed him into the heart of the park until he sat down at one of the concrete picnic tables.
After she watched him from a distance for a few minutes, she realized he was waiting for something. Even with his back to her, she noticed him glancing around the park with the same kind of nervousness that comes with expectation.
Clover never told anyone about her abilities. She hinted and joked about it with some of her closest friends in her younger years; just enough to find out she was unique. She didn’t know how to, or even if she wanted to explain her gift to this stranger; but, she had to talk to him. If he was immortal she wanted to know why and hopefully how to be immortal too. Clover took a few deep breaths to build her courage, then walked over to his table.
His face lit up into a bright smile when she reached the table and looked at him; it surprised her. Clover spotted a white vest under his green suit, but it was his eye that surprised her. His right eye looked like the Earth, and it spun slowly in its socket like an Earth. Under that eye, the number 37 was tattooed on his right cheek. He spoke before Clover could say anything.
“You came!” he said and gestured at the seat across from him.
“Do I know you?” Clover asked. It was a silly question; she would definitely have remembered him if she did, but he seemed to expect her. He smiled but shook his head.
“You don’t yet, but I did want to introduce myself. My name is Peppermint,” he said. Clover smiled.
“My name’s Clover, and I’m glad I’m not the only one with a flowery name. So, Peppermint, why did you want to introduce yourself to me?” When he said he wanted to introduce himself, Clover assumed the bump at the bus stop was intentional. She started to grow annoyed until she remembered the very real mystery floating above his head. As if he read her mind, Peppermint pointed to the air above him.
“Because you can see this,” he said. Clover’s eyes went wide.
“YES!” she almost shouted. “How did you know?” Peppermint shrugged.
“I don’t know what you see exactly, but I know you see something. Like you, I can see things too. To me, you look different than anyone else at that bus stop.”
“You’re immortal,” Clover said. “I see when people are going to die, you have an infinity sign. Can I be immortal too?” Peppermint shook his head and chuckled.
“I’m not immortal as such. I can be killed, but if I’m left alone I won’t die naturally. You can’t be immortal in the same way, but there are workarounds that I’m familiar with if you wanted to join me.”
“Join you?” Clover asked. Peppermint nodded. “Doing what?”
“That’s up to you. I’m building a new society of sorts where special people like you can live in peace. So, if you joined, it’s up to you to find your niche.”
“My niche? That doesn’t sound like it’s gonna earn me much money,” Clover said. “Can I keep my current job?” Peppermint shook his head.
“You won’t need money to survive; that’s the whole point. We take care of our own. You’ll have comfortable lodgings and plenty of good, healthy foods. Most of the extra luxuries are covered with bartering.”
“When can I start?” ‘Clover asked. It was mostly a joking way to accept the offer. She was planning to turn in her two weeks notice and use that time to pack. Peppermint smiled and reached into the interior pocket of his coat.
“Whenever you want,” he said. He pulled a fresh sprig of peppermint from his coat along with a small glassy rectangle. “When you’re ready, pin this to your top. Ensure the pin is touching your skin,” he handed her the sprig; it had a green needle affixed to it.
“Once you have that pinned,” he handed her the node. “Use the TraverseTaxi app to call a ride.” Clover tilted her head.
“Does it have to be the app? Where do I tell them to take me?” Peppermint nodded as he stood from the picnic table. He waved his hand at the air; a green, watery portal opened up next to him.
“The only way you can get there is by using the app, but you won’t be able to go if you don’t have that pinned. As you can guess…,” he gestured at the portal. “…it’s not on this Earth.” Peppermint stepped into the green hole as he waved at Clover.
“Ask your ride to drop you off in Hell. Goodbye,” he smiled. The portal closed and disappeared.