Coffee & Flower

This is it,” Charlie thought. She stood on a busy corner with a crowd waiting for the light to change. The day proved more eventful than she expected. It wasn’t until after lunch that she realized she was the one causing the weirdness around her. Even then, she did not grasp it until she held her breath to avoid a customer’s halitosis.

He stopped talking immediately. Then, when she took a breath to ask he started, mid-word, from where he stopped. Luckily here manager stepped in. Charlie felt so relieved she did not think about the time-stop until she had a moment to stop and think.

The light changed and the crowd around her surged forward. Charlie remained in place and forced them to go around her. she heard rapid, heavy footsteps behind her and turned around. A handsome man with dark hair was rushing to catch the light. At the last minute, Charlie decided to have some fun. Their eyes met as he walked by and Charlie winked at him. The man continued running until he realized Charlie was not crossing. His rush must not have been important because he stopped to talk to her. It was not what she expected, but it did not matter. She was about to hold her breath.

“Hi, I’m Angel,” the man said with a flirtatious grin.

“Hi,” Charlie replied. Then she inhaled deeply and held her breath. She looked at the street and noticed the crowd stopped in the middle of the street. She looked around and all the cars seemed to be parked. She ran past Angel and into the crowd.

“OKAY. I GUESS I’LL SEE YOU AROUND!” Angel called after her.

“What?” Charlie said in surprise, releasing the breath. The crowd started moving again but Charlie turned back to the corner to look for Angel but he was gone. “What the hell is going on today?” she wondered with a shrug. She continued to finish crossing with the crowd but when she reached the other side Angel waved at her. He was leaning against the side of a coffee shop as if he’d been there all day. Charlie rushed up to him.

“What’s going on?” she asked. Angel shrugged.

“Lots of stuff. You’ll have to be specific,” he replied. Charlie made a show of inhaling deeply, then she held her breath. Every person, car, and bird stopped moving. She spread her arms wide to indicate “this” is what she meant. Angel shrugged.

“What about it?” Charlie exhaled and time roared back to life with honking horns and the murmur of casual conversations walking by.

“I can stop time!” she said. “That’s not normal.” Angel smiled.

“It depends who you ask,” he replied. Charlie gave him a curious look.

“Why doesn’t it affect you?”

“Finally, a proper question. It doesn’t affect me because I’m a Unique,” Angel said.

“Uhuh. What makes you so unique?” Angel shook his head.

“I’m not saying I’m unique. I said I am A Unique. A Unique Soul to be specific. Although,” he added. “Not all Uniques can move during a time stop. Mostly only Celestials and maybe a few Conquerors.” Charlie nodded.

“Okay, I’ll see you around,” she said. She waved at Angel and resumed her journey home.

“You’re one too,” he said before she got too far. Charlie stopped but did not turn around.

“I’m one what?” she asked.

“A Unique.”

“How do you know?” Angel chuckled.

“Stopping time isn’t normal for humans, but it is a common ability for a certain Unique.” Finally, Charlie turned around.

“So, which one am I? The celestial or the conqueror? And which one are you?” Angel facepalmed in disbelief, then he cocked his head at the coffee shop he leaned against.

“You’re already all mixed up. Let’s get some coffee and try to sort it out.” The curiosity drove Charlie into the coffee shop. After they ordered and sat down, Angel started talking.

“First I’ll start with what a Unique Soul is,” he pointed at Charlie to make sure he had her attention. She nodded. “This is the short version. Also please remember you can stop time. So nothing about what you’re going to hear should be too surprising. I assure you it’s all real.” Charlie rolled her eyes.

“Get to it,” she demanded.

“Okay. First things first. Alternate universes are real.” Charlie’s eyes widened, but she did not interrupt. Angel nodded and continued. “Him, him, her, him,” he pointed at various strangers. “All of them have other versions in different universes. You and I don’t. You’re the only you anywhere ever. That’s what a Unique Soul is.”

“Whoaaaa,” Charlie whispered to herself in awe but did not interrupt.

“Okay, here’s where it gets complicated. There are 54 different types of Uniques.” Charlie’s eyes sparkled and she looked like she wanted to ask something. “But that doesn’t mean there are only 54 Unique Souls,” Angel said.

“Oh, okay,” Charlie said.

“A Unique can be any of the 54 types, which are split into categories based on how powerful they are. Still with me?” Angel asked. The barista appeared with their drinks and he decided it would be a good time to pause. Charlie smiled and nodded. After the barista left he continued.

“The two most powerful categories are Conquerors and Celestials. Since this is the short version we don’t need to go into the other categories. Really,  we don’t need to talk about Conquerors either other than tell you that’s a category. You and I are Celestials. You’re #14 La Muerte, and I’m,”

“I’m death?!” Charlie whispered sharply with a smile. Angel shook his head.

“No, that’s just the name. I’m #46 El Sol, the sun. Most Celestials, you and me for sure, have the ability too…,” Angel brought his hand over the table and made a gesture at it with his fingers. A small black hole opened on the table’s surface. Angel reached in and pulled out a glowing purple rose far enough for Charlie to get a good look then he dropped it. It fell back in the portal then the hole disappeared. “…travel to different universes.”

“I can do that?” Charlie asked. Angel nodded.

“As soon as you get a tattoo.”

Angel and Red

“Are you sure you don’t want some company?” Jorge Alaniz asked his daughter. They stood in the driveway loading her car with camping gear. “The Wilson’s son summoned a minotaur that he had trouble controlling at first,” he shrugged. “It might help if you had some back-up,” he smiled and nodded at his own familiar. A giant grizzly bear, larger than her car, slept under the shade of a large oak tree. Lydia shook her head and shut the trunk. The bear stirred, but he rolled over again.

“I’ll be fine, dad.” She leaned upward and kissed his cheek. “I gotta go if I want to be set up before my birthminute.” After a quick hug, she hopped in the car then headed out of town. The summoning happened at exactly 18 years down to the minute. Whether the person was conscious or not. Lydia reached her favorite campsite within a couple of hours and got to work. After another hour she sat in front of a warm fire watching the sunset. Then, she noticed a small black dot hovering in the air before her. She stared at it with curiosity and it started to grow. She stood from her camping chair in confusion.

Everyone warned her that the summoning hurt. Everyone’s summon happened in different ways, but it always hurt. She felt no pain even though the black hole stood over a foot taller than her 5’6″ height. She began to doubt it was her summoning and reached for her phone to check the time. Before she managed that a tall, thin man stepped out of the hole. He wore black slacks with an off-white guayabera shirt, but no shoes or socks. He smiled at
Lydia with perfect white teeth.

“Hello, beautiful,” he said with a smooth, low voice. Lydia stepped back with wide eyes. She’d never heard of a human familiar before.

“What are you?” She asked while keeping distance between them. He shrugged.

“#46 El Sol,” he bowed. “Angel -“

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHH!” Lydia screamed. She doubled over in pain holding her stomach and toppled to the ground. Angel ran to kneel next to her.

“Are you okay?” She nodded through gritted teeth. Angel looked around the camp and saw her sleeping bag lying nearby. He lifted Lydia and carried her to the bedding with no visible effort. “You don’t look okay,” he said after he placed her down. Lydia kept both hands on her stomach. The pressure helped ease the pain enough to talk.

“I’m okay. It’s…,” she grunted. “…supposed to hurt.”

“What is?”

“Summoning you,” she grinned. “My familiar.” Angel laughed and shook his head.

“You didn’t summon me, I’m just passing through,” he said, then shrugged. “I guess you’re still summoning whatever you’re going to summon.”

“Passing, oww,” she closed her eyes for a second. ” Passing through how?” she completed the question. She moved one hand off her stomach and squeezed Angel’s.

“Passing through this universe. I like to check out new places when I can. Never been to this Earth before.” Angel squeezed Lydia’s hand, then she felt him squeeze it again. “What’s that?” he asked. He lifted her hand up and noticed it covered with a tacky, deep red liquid.

“Hey, what color is your blood on this Earth?” he asked.

“Red, why?” Angel showed Lydia her own red palm.

“What?!” She looked down and lifted her other hand from her stomach. A large, moist, red puddle soaked through her yellow t-shirt. She pulled the hem of the shirt upward expecting to see a wound. She found none, only her tan stomach with no traces of red.

“Hey, where’d the blood go?” Angel asked. Lydia shrugged and pulled her shirt down. It was dry and yellow with no signs of the red stain. She checked her hands and they were clean also.

“What the hell?” Lydia stood up from the ground. “Hey. It doesn’t hurt anymore.” Angel chuckled.

“That’s good,” he nodded.

“So you’re not my familiar?” she asked. Angel shook his head.

“I’m your familiar!” a tiny squeak said. Angel and Lydia looked around the camp but did not see anyone. “Down here!” Lydia suddenly felt like she stepped in mud. Something cold and slimy enveloped her foot and she looked down. “Hello!”

A wobbling, smiling ball of translucent red slime stared up at her. Once it had her attention it began to climb, almost roll, up her body until it sat on her shoulder. It felt like she was being licked. Everything the slime touched felt moist, but it left nothing behind.  The red slime was almost the same size as her head and weighed as much as a filled water-balloon. Angel looked at the young woman with a smiling red ball of slime on her shoulder.

“Your Earth is weird. This’ll be fun,” he grinned.

What a Wonderful World

“Well, at least it moved,” Julio shrugged at the tiny digital clock. The bright red ’22’ displayed on its face was different from yesterday’s 23. He grabbed his phone to check the time and realized he was running late for work. The panic pushed his nightmare to the back of his mind and it did not resurface until lunch time.

He sat in a quaint employee break-room with an action movie playing on the TV. Julio ignored the movie to focus on his meal: cold fried chicken with a side of potato salad. Gunfire erupted from the TV and Julio nearly jumped out of his seat at the sound. He managed to hope for a split second that nobody saw him; but, that hope was crushed by a familiar giggle behind him.

“It’s just a movie, Julio. It’s not real,” she said between the laughter. A short, plump woman with long neon red hair sat down at the table next to him with her own lunch bag.

“Hey, Mundo,” Julio smiled at the woman. “It wasn’t the TV,” he shrugged. “I remembered a hell of a dream from last night. Someone gunned me down and it felt way too real,” he explained. “I guess it stuck with me more than I knew.” Mundo listened while unpacking her sandwich with purple jelly dripping out the sides, and chips.

“Maybe it was,” she smiled at him then took a large bite.

“Nah. No way they’d let you into heaven,” he smiled at her. She shrugged as she swallowed the bite of food.

“Meh, it got boring so I left,” she said. Julio gave her a confused look, but she winked at him and continued. “But, what I meant was maybe it really did happen to a version of you. You know how alternate universes are a thing, right?” Julio leaned over and lowered his voice to a near whisper.

“Are you high right now?”

“Oh shit, is it obvious?” Mundo opened her pink eyes wide, then squeezed them shut several times. “Are my eyes red? I used eye drops and everything.” Julio burst into laughter.

“Hah! I knew it,” he shook his head. “Well, if the only side effect is you making up some pretty crazy things, it’s not a big deal,” he smiled at her.

“Oh, no. Everything I said was real, I just happen to also be high right now,” she shrugged. “They’re unrelated.”

“Right,” Julio nodded. “See ya Monday, Mundo.” He waved at her, then made his way back to work. The rest of the day passed uneventfully and Julio glanced at the red ’22’ as he climbed in bed. That night he dreamed of his death again. This time he was decapitated instead of shot. He sat up in bed and realized he woke himself up with his own screaming. He glanced at the nightstand as his breathing recovered. A bright red ’21’ glowed in the dark.

“Goddamnit,” Julio rolled his eyes and sighed. He reached for his phone and glanced at the time while he searched through his contacts. 2:04 a.m. He found Mundo’s number and dialed.

“If this is a booty call I expect breakfast in the morning,” she answered on the first ring. “A good breakfast, not just a biscuit sandwich.”

“It’s not. Wait, are you awake?” Julio asked.

“Yeah, I don’t need much sleep. What’s up?” she asked.

“I had the dream again,” he said. He felt silly calling her with only that in mind, but she was one of his closer acquaintances from the office. Somehow the dream felt more real this time. He subconsciously rubbed his neck while he talked.

“Oh? Good, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Assuming it was an alternate you getting killed, there’d be differences, no matter how minor. If you dreamed the same thing twice, then it’s just a dream.”

“About that. When I said, ‘I had the dream again,’ I meant I had another dream where I died. But, this time I got decapitated, not shot.”

“Uh oh.”

“Uh oh, what?”

“Nothing. I’ll be over in a bit. In the meantime here are some questions I want you to answer for me when I get there. When did the dreams start, and does that coincide with anything else changing in your life? Bye,” she hung up. Julio set the phone down and stared at the red ’21’.

“Well, that was easy,” he chuckled to himself, then went to get dressed. 15 minutes later he let Mundo in. She’d been there a handful of times before and made herself at home on his couch.

“So? Any ideas about what’s different?” Julio nodded.

“Yeah I bought a clock at a pawn shop a couple of days ago, that first night is when the dreams started.” She looked around the living room.

“Where?” Julio tilted his head toward the bedroom.

“And you couldn’t have brought it out here?” She sighed as she stood from the couch. Julio shrugged.

“Didn’t think about it.” He followed Mundo into the bedroom, but she stopped at the threshold. He bumped into her from behind. She backed out into him and closed the bedroom door.

“Yeah, that’s your problem. We need to get rid of it. Did I see a 21 on it?” Julio nodded.

“Yeah, it had a 23 when I bought it. After the first dream, it changed to 22, then tonight to 21.” Mundo walked to the kitchen and pulled a bottle out of Julio’s freezer.

“I hope you appreciate what I’m about to do for you,” she said, then took a deep swig from the bottle.

“Sure, I guess finishing my vodka is kind of a favor.” She smiled.

“No, idiot. I’m about to call in a favor I never planned to cash in,” she reached into her pocket and pulled out a shiny, black business card.

“Wait. Do you know what’s going on?” Mundo nodded.

“Yeah. Short version, that thing’s kind of like a lure. Once you have it, it sends out a signal to let you know you found it. Not you you, an alternate you.” Mundo threw the black card against a wall in Julio’s kitchen. It grew into a tall, oval-shaped pitch black portal. “ANGEL!” She yelled into the hole, then she looked at Julio. “Seriously. You owe me big time.”

“Man, I always knew I had crappy luck…” Julio complained. Mundo shook her head.

“No, that was meant for you specifically.”

“C’mon. There’s no way to guarantee I’d buy it.” Mundo turned to the hole and yelled again.

“ANGEL!” This time a deep male voice replied from the abyss on the wall.

“WAIT A SECOND!” Mundo rolled her eyes, then looked at Julio.

“Actually, yeah. That’s how it works, you’re compelled to buy it.” Mundo reached into her pocket again and pulled out a stick of gum. ¬†She unwrapped the flat strip, threw the gum in the trash, and held out the wrapper to Julio. “Wanna buy this for a dollar?” she asked. Julio scoffed.

“No. I’d rather keep the dollar, thanks.” Mundo nodded.

“But you’d rather have a broken ‘clock’…,” she used air quotes. “…that only shows one number, than whatever you spent on it, right?” Julio’s eyes narrowed.

“Point taken.” Mundo turned to hole in the wall.

“Damnit, he’s already making me regret this. ANGEL! GET YOUR ASS OUT HERE!” A pitch black card flew out of the hole and landed in front of Mundo.

“Tomorrow, probably.” The disembodied voice said, then the black portal disappeared.

“Well shit,” Mundo chuckled. “It’s a good thing you’ve got 21 days left. This might take a few.”