One random day Zeta was shot.
Like a lot of other random people in the news, said her brain.
Not like anybody else, said her heart.
It had looked like a promising day. She woke up happy and didn’t know why. She couldn’t recall the dream she’d just finished, but some feel-good lingered. Beautiful morning, chilly but sunny.
A good day. Lately she’d had lots of them. Her work satisfied her. After decades she was quite competent and glad to contribute. Friends stood in every pocket of her life: work, book club, yoga class. It no longer hurt that her marriage had failed years ago, or that she was childless. Well. If she let herself dwell on those things. But mostly she did not.
She wasn’t a social climber anymore. Who cared, really? She could enjoy the people right in front of her face. She had no bones to pick with anybody anymore.
This level of comfort was priceless, she was finding out. Worth more than becoming queen of a small country.
That morning on her way to work, Zeta stopped at Tony’s to fill her gas tank. As the nozzle chugged, she tried to blow smoke rings with her frozen breath. Settled for white puffs. Never could do smoke rings, not even years ago when she smoked.
She felt eager to pop into the warmth of Tony’s store, grab a coffee and razz him a little.
A howl filled the air. It was a three-year-old boy whose mom pulled him out of their car toward the store. The boy wore a yellow stocking cap with buggy eyes. One of those cartoon creatures. Frustrated little guy, he wailed all the way in. Poor Tony had to listen to that.
Hmm. Maybe she would skip the coffee.
No, she wanted coffee. She bounced on her heels to warm herself until the scrolling gas pump numbers stopped.
She indulged in her numerology game, adding up one number for the gallons and another number for the price. Today these were nine and one, an ending and a beginning.
Completion on something and wonder what’s next, she thought, walking into the mini-mart.
The boy whined and tried to pull away from his mother’s grasp. Mom carried a couple of granola bars and juices to Tony’s countertop.
Zeta went for her coffee. And cupcakes, why not? Two packs. One for the little guy. She stood behind them. Beamed a sympathetic smile at Tony.
The boy whipped around to eyeball Zeta. He fell into an irritating rhythmic noise, “Aauhh, Aauhh.”
Zeta looked away and breathed deeply. Maybe the kid didn’t need cupcakes. Wouldn’t want to sugar him up.
Now the mother was having issues with her credit card.
A souped-up rumbling old truck stopped outside the plate glass windows. Its vibrations reverberated into the floor and rose up through Zeta’s legs.
The boy dropped to silence and stared at the truck.
The guys in the truck fussed around like they were arguing. They didn’t cut their engine.
“Ah, there it goes,” said Tony, his hand on the credit card machine. “It took it.”
“Yes!” said the mom.
The boy quietly glanced up at Zeta. And her cupcakes. She smiled.
The truck door slammed. A scruffy man swooped in, his arms rigidly pointing a pistol at them. “Empty your cash!” He took his first shot at the ceiling.
“Who do you think you are?” Tony yelled.
Zeta leapt and wrapped her arms around the boy. The mother dove down, hugged them both.
Whoops, shift this, said Zeta’s heart.
She lifted away and tucked mom in with her son.
Gunfire banged all over the place.
Two guns, one of them Tony’s, Zeta realized.
“Out! Get Out!” Tony bellowed.
Two bullets ripped into Zeta’s back. Warmth poured out.
Tony’s shout broke off into silence.
“Stop it!” cried a new voice. Zeta opened one eye to see the frantic driver, trembling like his truck behind him. “No time for this! Grab it!”
A scuffle, and the truck roared away.
Zeta lifted her head and strangely lifted her chest up and out from the back of her body. She looked upon her crumpled form.
Mother and son screamed and cried.
Zeta didn’t see any blood on them. She wasn’t sure what to do next.
Tony hovered behind the counter with the wackiest stunned look on his face. “Are we -? Are we -?”
“Yes, Tony, we are,” said Zeta. “Out of our bodies.” It felt uncanny and yet sublime.
The place filled up with other beings, coming in close, encircling the two of them.
“Well done,” they said. “Well-played, Zeta. And you, Tony.”
. . . Why?
It would take awhile to find out why.
(I would love to hear your whys and wherefores. Is this sort of thing simply random chance? Does this scene spark any interesting explanations to you? Do tell.)
written by Diane Langlois Stallings, 2018
Thanks to wikimedia and John Busuttil Leaver for the use of this image.