“The time is seven fourty-three and twenty-six seconds. Precisely sixty-two seconds after you last asked.”
She shifted the weight on her feet slightly, back to front, front to back. That was the thing that got to her – her feet were killing her. Even so, it seemed like a reasonable tradeoff – her feet, their souls.
Take the soul she was waiting to collect right now, for example. Female, age 27, dated but never married, worked one job to the next but never promoted, had acquaintances but no friends. A nobody. This morning, the woman was going to meet up with the wrong guy at the wrong time, and the shine on her soul was going to go dark. Her job was to stop that from happening.
“The time is seven fourty-four and twenty-eight seconds. You have five minutes.”
When she’d applied to the department, she’d expected kids. That the shine would fall off a lot sooner. That someone would do something bad to them sooner, more often. Turned out there was a separate department for them; you had to have ten years of experience before you could even apply. The waiting list was hundreds of names.
There were a lot more like this one, though. Just going through the motions of life, never lighting up with joy and dimming only a little with daily sorrow. Until one day a predator swept them up in darkness. She was the rescuer, the angel, saving this soul for the light. Her feet hurt.
“The time is seven fourty-five and thirty seconds. You have two minutes.”
“Goo- that math doesn’t add up, you know.”
“It shifted. You have a minute and fifty-two seconds.”
She didn’t like it when things shifted. It meant the other side was moving against them. She didn’t see the predator moving, though. He should have been in sight by now, if she had less than two minutes to collect. She picked up her feet, one at a time, getting ready to move in quickly. She mentally went over the plan again. From this spot, she was thirty seconds from the door, fourty-five from being able to collect.
“The time is seven fourty-six and thirty-two seconds. Precisely sixty-two seconds after you last asked.”
She moved, swiftly. Thirty seconds to the door, five seconds to open it.
It was locked.
It wasn’t supposed to be locked. That’s how the predator was coming in, through the door the woman had forgotten to lock. Things had shifted – badly. Another twenty seconds to break it open. She could see the glow now, fading. Another five seconds to cross to the next room.
She took it all in at once – the letter on the table, the blood on the floor, the weapon in the woman’s hand. No sign of a predator or violence, save what the woman had done to herself. Sometimes nothing just ate them alive. The shine dimmed to deep black and vanished as she watched.