Forever Red

“Hi, I’m Polly,” The young woman introduced herself to the teenage girl with a smile. The girl looked up at Polly and pulled her red hood down for politeness. She returned Polly’s smile and extended her hand.

“Cherry,” she said. “What can I do for you, Polly?” They were in the middle of a crowded mall bustling with the murmur of holiday shoppers. Cherry sat on the edge of a wishing pond sipping a drink when Polly noticed her. Specifically, she noticed the symbol floating above Cherry’s head. It wasn’t a number like all the others.

When Polly turned 18 she treated herself to a tattoo. The day after that, she started seeing numbers above everyone’s head. It did not take her long to realize it was counting up every second. A quick walk through the nursery ward at the hospital confirmed that she was watching people’s lives tick up second by second.

Not having any practical use for the information, she learned to ignore it over the next couple of years. Until she saw Cherry. Cherry did not have a number counting up; a red infinity symbol pulsed with a faint glow above her.

Polly knew she needed to talk to the girl. It wasn’t until Cherry’s question that she realized she did not have a plan. Her eyes widened in panic.

“Ummm,” Polly suddenly realized she would sound crazy if she tried to explain her ability. Her mouth popped out the first question that came to mind. “How old are you?” Polly asked. Cherry immediately gave a small chuckle and her smile grew broader.

“I’ll make it easy for you,” Cherry said. She raised her hand and pointed at the red infinity sign. “What do you see?” she asked. Polly let out a sigh of relief. She was glad she wasn’t going to be judged as insane.

“An infinity sign,” Polly said. Cherry’s smile dimmed slightly.

“Oh, sorry. That doesn’t help me,” she said. “What about everyone else? Do you see anything on them?” Cherry gestured at the flow of consumers around them.

“It’s how many seconds they’ve been alive,” she said.

“So you already know what it means?” Cherry asked. Polly nodded. “I’m sorry, what did you want to ask me? Usually, I get asked what the stats mean.”

“Usually?” Polly asked. That was not what she wanted to know, but it sounded like there were more people like her out there.

“Yeah, if they haven’t met Mundo. Oh, have you met Mundo?” Cherry asked.

“No,” Polly shook her head. She decided to ask the question directly. “But, does that mean there are more like me out there?” 

“Plant Souls are the easiest for an Earth to produce, so there’s usually at least one on each Earth. Aside from Mundo,” Cherry said.

“Wait,” Polly shook her head and held her palms out to slow Cherry down. “Can I sit down?” she asked.

“Sure,” Cherry nodded. Polly sat next to the girl and faced her.

“I don’t know what anything you just said means. All I know is I see numbers over everyone else’s heads. Yours isn’t a number and I wanted to find out why.”  Cherry giggled, then apologized again.

“I’m sorry, I thought you knew you were a Unique Soul, and about the multiverse. But, I’ll answer your question first, then we can talk about the other stuff.”

Multiverse?” Polly thought to herself. “She did say ‘each Earth’,” she almost wanted to interrupt Cherry to get to that. She was glad Cherry promised to touch on it again.

“You can see people’s ages,” Cherry shrugged and pointed at the spot above her head again. “That’s my age.”

“How? Infinity isn’t a number, it’s a concept.”

“So is time,” Cherry said. “I was around before it started, and will be after it ends. Infinity from the perspective of the multiverse.”

“Whoa…,” Polly exhaled. Her day was now officially more complicated than she ever expected. Mostly, because she believed everything Cherry said. She felt a truth resonate somewhere deep in her soul.

“And you spend eternity in a mall people watching?” Polly asked. It was part curiosity, part light-hearted jab. Cherry nodded.

“Sometimes,” Cherry said. “This or roller derby.”

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