Truth Revealed

“Well, what can I do for you, Mr. Quintero,” the pale, raven-haired woman asked. She swept her flowing black gown behind her as she sat across from him in her front room. She set up a small, round, two-person table in front of a set of immense bay windows. The curtains were open and a full blue moon hung in the dark sky.

“Uh, I found one of your pamphlets,…,” he dug out a crumpled pamphlet and put it on the table between them. The woman nodded.

“I know,” she gave a soft laugh. “You mentioned that when you made an appointment on the phone, and again when I answered the door. But why are you here?” she asked with a patient smile. “Are you ready to live forever?”

“NO!” Paul sat back in his chair with wide eyes. His host remained quiet while Paul processed the question and his reaction. Why was he here? “I mean…,” he relaxed and leaned forward again. “… maybe? I want information,” he said. “What’s it like?” he asked.

“What’s what like?” she asked for clarification.

“You know…,” he gestured at her with both hands. “…being a vampire.” she shrugged.

“It’s a lot like being a human. Except the sunburns hurt more, and ‘having guests for dinner’ is a bit more literal,” she smiled and flashed a pair of sharp fangs.

“Oh,” Paul said. “Is that it?”

“Well, what did you want?” she asked. “Now that vampires are recognized, we do much less stalking and hiding than we used to.” Paul shook his head.

“No, I mean, the whole living forever thing. How does that work?” he asked. The vampire tilted her head and gave him a confused look.

“You asked about being a vampire, but okay. Now you want to know about living forever. I’ll be the first to tell you, that’s a bit misleading. It’s not actually forever, but it is long enough that when the end finally does come you’ll be sick of living anyway.”

“Hold on,” Paul held a hand up. Her wording confused him. “I did ask about being a vampire… why is living forever a different conversation?”

“Do you want to live forever as a vampire?” she asked.

“Assuming I want to live forever, do I have a choice?” Paul replied. His host nodded.

“Yes, of course.”

“What? How?” he asked. She giggled.

“Okay,” she grinned. “I know how we got here. You thought that “living forever” meant turning you into a vampire, right?” Paul nodded.

“Okay. Well, we don’t do that willy nilly. It’s a whole thing that has to go to Elder Council and everything, it’s harder than getting married these days. So, no. I’m not offering to turn anyone into a vampire.” She watched Paul’s eyes grow wide with questions and kept talking.

“What I am offering you is a new life customized to your specifications for as long as you live, which is a very, very long time.”

“How so? What’s it going to cost me?” In the back of his mind, Paul was pretty ready to accept any arrangement. He didn’t have much to live for, nor that long to live. He found her pamphlet in his oncologist’s office after a terminal diagnosis. He literally had nothing to lose by meeting her.

“I’ll be upfront because I want you to make an informed decision. The required payment is your soul.  As for how-,”

“My SOUL?” Paul interrupted.

“Of course,” she said. “You think that body is going to live for centuries? By signing over your soul, you give permission to put your soul in a new body. One that you’ve customized by the way.”

“Huh,” Paul had to admit it made sense in a way. “Okay… I’m still thinking about it. How does it work?” he asked.

“Do you like video games?” she asked.

“Yeah…,” Paul nodded, unsure where the question came from.

“Alright, well that’s the easiest way to explain it. Imagine going through a character creator to make your new body; that’s pretty much what it is. You can pick a race, soul, and class to live out the rest of your life. After you make your character you can choose what kind of world you live in.”

“What kind of world? What kinds are there?”

“Anything you want, prehistoric to futuristic sci-fi. Utopias, dystopias, zombie hordes, vampire societies. If you can imagine it, there’s a world out there for you.” Paul narrowed his eyes.

“You’re making it up. Everything,” he said. “You expect me to believe that you can put my soul in any body I want, then put that body on any Earth I want to live for the rest of my very long life?” She gave a firm, deliberate nod. Paul chuckled. “Do you have any proof?” She smiled with her fangs and stood from the table.

“I don’t suppose it’d be enough proof if I told you I’ve done it myself,” she said. Paul shook his head with the same deliberate motion she used.

“What if I did this?” she asked as she tapped the table with her fingertips. It immediately disintegrated into white powder that fell to the floor and disappeared. As Paul debated whether it was a simple stage-trick, he felt his seat fall apart under him. He managed to hop to his feet instead of landing on his butt. As he looked around, everything in the room became the same white powder and collapsed. Then, the room and house they stood in melted vanished into white powder. In less than two minutes, the house, neighborhood, and city as far as he could tell, were gone. They stood on a vast white, powdery plain. Paul only had one question left.

“Was it worth your soul?” he asked.

“It’s the best deal I ever made,” she replied.

Stopping Point

“Nice to meet you, Mundo,” Perry shook Mundo’s hand. He distracted himself from the somber funeral march playing in his head by admiring her attractiveness. Over the years Perry learned to ignore music during the handshake, then reflect on it later.

“If she’s gonna be the death of me, what a way to go,” his mind rambled while he concentrated on her cute button nose. It sat perfectly between her two bright, sparkling yellow eyes and her soft, full lips.

“If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask,” he smiled.

“Thanks!” Mundo leaned closer to Perry and whispered. “Where’s the best place to hide a body?” Perry immediately gave a full, hearty laugh and patted Mundo on the shoulder. He was pleasantly surprised they had the same sense of humor.

“Thank god I finally got someone with a sense of humor,” he chuckled. “Everyone around here is so stiff.”

“So kind of like a morgue, but less fun?” she asked with a large smile. Perry shared another laugh with her, then cleared his throat.

“Alright, I should be a boss I guess. Get to work,” he said. Mundo nodded and returned to her cubicle. Perry finished the walk to his office and sat down.

“Funeral march, eh?” he wondered what it meant. He learned his ability wasn’t as straightforward as he would have liked. He heard wedding bells when he met Sarah, his ex-wife. Perry assumed they’d be married forever. It wasn’t until a year after the divorce that he realized all it meant is that he would marry her. The song hinted at the greatest impact that person would have on Perry’s life. While he tried to give it a meaning, a soft knock came from the door.

“Come in,” he shouted. The door popped open and Mundo poked her head in.

“I have a question, is this a bad time?” Perry shook his head and smiled. He realized he loved the way her eyes half-squinted when she wasn’t sure about something.

“Come on in,” he waved her forward. “I just met her, why do I like her so much?” he wondered. Mundo nodded and slipped in, then closed the door behind her.  She sat down on the chair in front of his desk.

“Do you know what you are?” Mundo asked. Perry started to laugh, but then he realized he did not get the joke.

“Your boss?” he asked. Mundo shook her head.

“Nope,” she smiled. “You’re #15, La Pera. You’re a Unique Soul that probably has some special powers.”

“How do you know?” Perry never mentioned his ability to anyone. He spent a few years trying to hint at it, but no one ever got the hints, so he guessed no one else could do it.

“I’m a Unique too, #37, El Mundo.”

“Not very Unique if there’s two of us in the same room,” Perry laughed.

“Actually, that’s the point. Uniques are drawn to each other.”

“What’s your ability?”Perry asked. Mundo shrugged.

“Knowledge. I don’t know what powers you have, but I have an idea about how most abilities work.”

“I hear music,” Perry said suddenly. “When I meet people for the first time, I hear music.”

“Music?” Mundo asked. Her eyes squinted while she thought. Perry’s heart fluttered. “There’s nothing about music for Pears, but you said it happens the first time you meet?” Perry nodded.

“Is it always the same kind of music, or does it change?”

“It changes.” Mundo nodded.

“Okay,” Mundo sat up straighter. “For you, the way your power works is tied to your emotions. If it happens when you meet someone new, it’s usually a good indicator of your mood while you know them. It’s not about the actual song so much as what feelings that song inspires in you. Concentrate on the emotions you feel when you hear the music.”

“Really? It can’t be that easy,” Perry said. He held his hands up to quiet Mundo and closed his eyes. In his mind, he replayed the wedding march. Now that he was paying attention he felt a definite sense of obligation form in his chest and weigh him down. He shook his head to get rid of the feeling and opened his eyes.

“Wow, things make more sense now,” he said.

“What is it?” Mundo asked with a curious smile.

“When I met my ex-wife, I heard wedding bells. I assumed she was meant to be forever. Now that I think about it I heard a lot of wedding bells growing up. My parents were wedding planners. As a kid, I attended a lot of weddings out of obligation. I did it for my family. When I met Sarah, she was the perfect kind of woman my family would have wanted me to marry. So I felt obligated too…” he said. “Wow. This changes everything.”

“What about me?” Mundo asked. A small flush or red grew on her pale cheeks. “What did you hear when you met me?”

“A funeral march.”

“Really?” Mundo shrank in her seat, and her sparkling eyes clouded over. “What do you think it means?”

Perry started thinking about that right after he realized what the wedding bells meant. He was now in his mid-30s and had never attended a funeral. The only real associations he had for death was the funerals he saw on TV and a song that his father listened to all the time. On TV every funeral looked so peaceful and calming. The song his father over-played buried itself in Perry’s subconscious over the years and gave his death a sense of purpose. Thinking about the song along with the new information about his powers made Perry grin at Mundo. He looked into her eyes and knew exactly what the funeral march meant.

“That’s easy,” he said. “I’ll love you ’til I die.”  

Inopportune Opportunity

“Thank you, ma’am,” Perry winked at the cashier and gave her his best smile. The steady, green “90” hovering above her head changed to red and jumped up to 100. “I’m losing my touch,” he thought as he walked away with the small bag of hair products including a fresh box of green dye. He stepped out into the auditorium-sized hall-way of the mall and merged into the flow of shoppers. He ignored the sea of red and green digits hovering above the crowd as he made his way to the food court. The novelty of his ability wore off years ago.

When he first discovered his ability he would check on every number that wasn’t green; he wanted to help people. It took a massive, round, angry man to finally convince Perry that some people did not want help. The giant man’s number flashed a bright red 200 while enjoying a hamburger. Perry dashed across the restaurant out of concern. While the stranger berated Perry for not minding his own business the number climbed even higher.

He apologized to the stranger and paid for his meal just to calm him down, but he never bothered with ‘Reds’ again after that. Perry reached the food court and glanced around at his options. In the field of ‘Greens’ and ‘Reds’ a single black zero hovered over a woman’s head. He did not register it at first, she was sitting between his two finalists, pizza and fried chicken. As his head moved from one to the other he saw the zero but did not register it until several seconds later. He looked back to double check. The owner of the black zero, a pale woman with short dark hair wearing a white business dress, smiled at Perry. Curiosity guided him to her small, single-person table.

“Hi,” Perry gave her a friendly wave. “I’m Perry.  Uh… are you feeling okay?” The woman nodded, but her smile disappeared. Her lips straightened and her face shifted from warm and welcoming to a business-like demeanor. Perry had seen that look in each of his dozens of job interviews.

“I’m fine, Perry. Why do you ask? My name is Dana Sharp, by the way.” Her hands remained clasped together on the table as she introduced herself.

“Oh, no reason,” Perry wracked his mind to find an excuse for his awkwardness. “Sorry to have bothered you, ma’am, the truth is I came to talk to you on a dare. I’ll leave you be now,” he gave her a polite nod and moved to step away. While running the excuse through his mind for plausibility he remembered something his best friend told him.

Perry’s best friend knew more about his ability than Perry himself. He mentioned in passing that it might not work on everyone that crossed his path.

People from other universes aren’t bound by the rules of this universe. You might not get any stats from them,” Mundo’s voice echoed in Perry’s mind. He stopped and turned to face Dana again.

“Are you from around here?” he asked as generally as he could.

“I suppose that depends on how you define…,” Dana gestured at the wide open food court with her hands. “… here. Do you mean the mall, the city, the state, the country, or the Earth?” Perry rushed back to the table-side. He leaned over with one arm on the table.

“You are from a different Earth? I knew it! What’s it like?” Dana nodded to confirm his assumption.

“It’s very busy. So please,” she gestured to the empty seat across from her. “Have a seat. I have other appointments to get to.” Perry sat down without knowing why.

“I’m an appointment?” he asked.

“I know it’s sudden, but what better way to gauge prospective employees than by catching them off-guard?”

“You’re offering me a job?” Perry looked to his sides, up and down the food court. He assumed he’d find cameras filming him for some sort of prank show, but saw none.

“Well, you’re not slow. That’s something,” Dana said. “I run a corporation across multiple universes, and I need someone like you to help vet applicants’ health and honesty.”

“You know what I am?” Perry smacked his forehead. “Duh. Of course, you know. You’re from a different universe.” Dana’s head tilted ever-so-slightly to the right and her eyes narrowed.

“Do YOU know what you are?” she asked. Perry nodded.

“Oh yeah, Mundo explained it all to me. I’m #15, La Pera. Which Unique are you?”

“Thank you for your time, Perry. The offer has been rescinded,” Dana said abrubtly, then stood from her seat and walked away.

“Wait! Why?” Perry jumped from his seat to catch up with her. He reached to grab her arm, but someone grabbed his. It belonged to a short, stocky bald woman. A red skull tattooed on her head grinned at Perry.

“Interview is over,” the short woman said.

“WHY!?” he shouted at Dana as she stepped into a tall, black hole floating in the air.

“Because Ms. Sharp said so,” the short woman replied. She shoved Perry’s arm away then followed Dana into the portal. Then it disappeared.