as I was walking
the sun was out
took a deep
as I was walking
the sun was out
took a deep
“I like the spikes on you head,” said Lexi. “It’s a good look for you guys. Kind of scary, and very in right now, especially among teenagers and those in their early twenties. They’re doing a lot of scaring and piercings EVERYWHERE, and when I say EVERYWHERE, I mean EVERYWHERE.”
“We’re going to kill you,” hissed the demon, menacingly.
“Really?” asked Lexi. “Why?”
“What?” asked the demon, trying to tilt his head on his very thick neck. “What do you mean, why?”
The dragons looked from one to the other.
“Why are you going to kill me? I didn’t do anything to you, so what’s the deal?”
“Killing’s what we do,” he said, taken back.
“Maybe you could do something else, like have pizza with us instead.”
The demons chatted among themselves for a few minutes and the dragons nudged her for more sugar cubes. She rubbed their gigantic noses and gave them each another box.
“No Pizza. We’re evil demons and it’s our job to kill you because you want to stop the orange one from becoming president in the future. Once he’s in office we will take over the world.”
“We think so.”
“What are you going to do with the world, once you take it over?”
The demons stared at her.
“I mean you must have some idea of what you’re going to do, right? You’re too big to live in our houses and you certainly can’t fit into our cars, so what will you do with the world? Do you think that someone smaller than you might be using you to get what they want, which might not have anything at all to do with what you want? I mean look at this place. What’s here for you? We have like three lava beds, so no bathing in luxury for you guys. What will you eat? Nothing big enough lives here, so you’ll never be satisfied. And look at the trees,” she said, pointing at them. They’re alive and tiny, compared to what you’re used to. Where will you stay? And how do you like THIS weather? Snow? You guys HATE snow.” She watched them deflate a bit.
“We really do hate the weather,” they said, bushing snow off of their shoulders. “Hate it.”
“Look, it’s up to you guys. You look smart and capable. I could probably take you out before you knew what was going on, but that’s NOT a threat, or the point,” she said, holding up her hands, watching them tense. “It’s just the truth.”
“You’re a puny human. We could break you in half with one hand,” they laughed.
“Do you want to die here or do you want to go home?” she asked gently. “Again…what will you do here?”
“I don’t like it here,” said one of the demons to the leader. “Maybe she’s right.”
That earned him a punch in the face. “You can hit me but its still the truth,” said the bleeding demon. “We’ve been set up.”
The dragons shoved her and begged for sugar cubes. She gave them more and kissed their faces when they bent to nuzzle her.
The demons sniffed the air, as Merlin walked up to her with fifteen boxes of pizza.
“Hungry?” she asked, happily.
They mumbled, groaned, scratched their heads and finally dropped their weapons. Then little by little, they inched forward. Lexi sat down in the snow and everyone followed suit. The dragons moved in and hovered behind her. “This is the best pizza,” she said to the demons, giving each one of them a box. “Enjoy it.” Then she opened a couple of boxes for the dragons and grabbed a slice out of Parker’s box.
The demons held up their pizza and nodded at her. “Good.”
“Told you,” she said, smiling. “I kind of nuked your port, so do you have a way get home?”
“No,” said the leader, shaking his head, as much as he could.
“You do want to go home, right?” she asked.
“I can get you there.”
“Okay,” said the leader, holding out his hand for a fist bump.
She laughed and bumped his enormous fist. “Friends?”
He stared at her for a minute and said, “Friends.”
The dragons pushed her again and she gave them the last of the sugar cubes. She rubbed their necks and kissed them over and over again, telling them that they were beautiful and that she loved them.
“I can get you home as well,” she said to the dragons, her voice thick with emotion. “If you’re ready to go.”
They nudged her an dropped a gigantic ruby at her feet. “Oh, no,” she said quickly. No need to pay. They nudged her again and she said, “Thank you.” Then she opened a tear in the sky, kissed them one last time, and watched them take off. She waved until they were out of sight and the opening disappeared.
“They’ll be happier there,” said the demon, patting her back, almost knocking her over.
“I know,” she sniffed, but…”
“You’ll miss them.”
“Maybe you can visit them,” he said. “We were bred to kill and hunt, you know. We were made to be violent.”
“I know,” she said, leaning into him. “Humans were bred for the same thing.”
He nodded. “They’re just smaller and break more easily.”
“Yes, it’s the gravity and their poor design.”
“Fragile,” he grunted.
She pulled his huge arm around her. “I don’t think we can stop the orange one from winning and destroying the country.”
“Well, I’m starting to get cold. I’m happy to have met you and your crew,” she said, looking at the guys all talking to each other and laughing.
“Same” he said, patting her again.
The demons nodded to her as one by one they walked through the tear in space and were gone.
Merlin smiled at her. “It’s hard letting them go but you know they don’t belong here. You get attached too easily. However, I suppose in your job, that’s not always a bad thing.”
“No, not always,” she said. “Maybe I will go and visit the dragons one day.”
“I think they’d like that,” he said, sincerely. “Be sure you bring a lot of sugar cubes.”
She laughed and looked at Parker and Bill. “Is it over?”
“For now,” said Parker. “It’s never truly over. Not as long as men want to kill each other and rule over others. What you did was good.”
“Well, you know,” she laughed. “That IS my job, after all.”
“Job?” said Parker. “What exactly is your job.”
Merlin looked at him and said, “She’s the Negotiator for the Universe. She can go anywhere she’s needed. She’s fast, she can calm situations with her voice and she can fall in love with dragons and demons in one night.”
“Makes us look kind of useless,” said Parker.
“Indeed,” agreed Merlin.
“Is that what you did to me?” asked Parker, staring at her. “Did you calm me and make me fall in love with you?”
“First of all a big NO, since I wasn’t WORKING, and second, you love me?” she asked surprised.
“Uh,” she said. “Don’t you have to go home?”
“I don’t know. You must have something you want to go home to.”
“Not really. I’ll stay here as long as I can, without disintegrating.”
She turned to Merlin. “Can he do that?”
“He can try,” he said, nodding.
“Fine, but no marriage and no real commitment. We’ll stay together as long as it’s fun, or you’re atoms start acting up. Deal?”
“I’d like more than that but I can see that I’m not going to get it. So yes, it’s a deal.”
“I think you’re both crazy,” said Bill walking past them. “Can we go somewhere warm before I freeze to death, PLEASE?”
“Big baby,” snickered Lexi.
“I heard that,” he said.
“You were supposed to.”
“If it was a mattress store I could understand it, but a coffee shop? Don’t they have any respect for the beans at all?”
“People overlook the obvious,” said Merlin.
“I guess, but where’s the dragon?”
“Did you expect one to open the door for you and take your order?”
“I want hot chocolate and a brownie,” she said happily, getting out of the car. “I want the brownie heated in the microwave, so it’s soft and gooey.”
“Of course you do,” sighed Bill.
“So, where’s the port?” she asked, staring at Merlin.
“You’re looking at it.”
“You mean it’s the WHOLE store?”
“Got it in one,” said Bill.
“And the customers are demons or jumpers? Is the barista the dragon? She’s cute.”
“We could just grab something to eat at the Egg Roll over there, and then go home,” said Bill, pointing to the restaurant.
“Yes and no,” said Merlin, ignoring Bill’s plea for Chinese food. Some of the customers are demons but some are regular humans. The barista is the communications officer. When we walk in, she’ll hit the alarm and it will begin. First the humans will feel an overwhelming urge to be somewhere else. Once they’re gone…well, that’s when the fun starts.”
Lexi laughed and said, “I got this.” Then she made a few snowballs and started throwing them at the window. She waved and threw some more, until, one by one, the humans started leaving. Once they were gone she took a small object out of her pocket and threw it at the window, breaking the glass and watching the demons scurry for cover. The bomb went off and the building came down. The fire was hotter than your average fire so not much was left. Well, except for the two dragons standing there, thrashing their tails back and forth.
“Hi,” she said, waking toward them. “Look, I have sugar cubes. You’ll love them. Trust me. Horses adore them and everyone KNOWS that horses have wonderful taste, right?”
The largest dragon, drew up to his full height and snarled.
“Have a bad day?” she asked. “I know why.”
The dragon stared at her. “You don’t really belong on this plane, so I can only imagine what you’re going through,” she said, throwing a hand full of sugar cubes into the air. The dragon snapped them up and swallowed them.
“They’re kind of small for you but that’s how they make them here,” she said, throwing more and making sure that both dragons were able to get some. “Where are the demons?”
“We’re right here,” said one gigantic red, lizard like creature with spikes coming out of his scull.
“Why did you leave the three bodies in the back room?” asked Lexi, staring at the old man. “I mean, you’re MERLIN, for goodness sake. Surely, you could have made them disappear.”
“I could have,” he said, smiling at her, “but then how would I have been able to use them as a deterrent to others who imagined themselves up to the task of killing me?”
“Good point,” she said nodding. “Get it completely. Great job.”
He laughed then. Loudly and with great gusto. “Parker, you must not let her get away. She’s funny, fearless, and intelligent. You better get her before she notices who you are.” Then he laughed again and slapped his knee.
“Seriously,” Lexi muttered to herself. “Who would have thought Merlin would ever slap his knee?”
“So you think your plan will work?” asked Bill.
Lexi sighed. “No. I’m positive it will fail and get you killed, that’s why I think it’s such a good plan.”
“I told you,” snickered Parker. “It’s easier if you don’t say anything about the plan. It seems like it’s going to work and…”
“Seems?” she asked, turning to glare at him.
“WATCH THE ROAD,” yelled Bill, putting his hands over his eyes.
“Wow. Scaredy cat much?” she laughed. “You must be from one of those warm states where the sun’s always out and it never goes below seventy-two degrees.”
“And?” grumbled Bill.
“So,” said Merlin, we’re going to go to what we think is their port sight and shut them down, is that right?”
“I can’t believe you didn’t do that immediately,” she said. “Why let them come here if you can stop them?”
“You didn’t tell her about what’s guarding the port?” asked Bill, surprised.
Parker shrugged. “Nope.”
“Why not?” asked Bill.
“I think she can handle it.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“And Merlin is with us. He’s had experience with those kinds of beings, remember?”
“This is a really bad idea,” groaned Bill
“I can drop you off here, if you’re afraid to come with us,” said Lexi.
“No,” he moaned. “I really don’t want to miss it.”
“Wanna tell me what all the fuss is about?” asked Lexi.
Merlin grinned. “There are guards protecting their port site.”
“What kind of guards?”
“Oh, dragons and demons,” he said, casually.
“Really?” she said, excitedly. “I LOVE dragons. Think I can ride one?”
“You mean before they burn you to a crisp?” asked Bill.
“Why are you SO negative? I get along really well with animals. Even Hellhounds.”
“Is she serious?” Bill asked Parker.
“What is she?” said Bill, looking out the window.
“No idea,” said Parker. “None at all.”
Merlin chuckled but said nothing.
“Okay dragons, demons. What else and how many?”
“How many dragons do you need to keep people away?” asked Bill, sarcastically.
“Five?” she guessed. “I mean you’re bound to have at least one sweetheart and a young one among them. Maybe another who was misunderstood as a baby and…”
“You need to leave her,” whispered Bill, into Parker’s ear. “She’s gonna get you killed. Actually, I think she’s gonna get us all killed. Tonight.”
“You are SUCH a baby,” sighed Lexi. “Big Jumper terrified of a dragon and demon or two.”
Merlin chuckled louder and wiped tears from his eyes.
“Is this it?” she asked, in amazement?
“Yes,” said Parker and Bill in unison.
“No way,” she said, rolling down her window, braving the gusting winds and swirling snow. “Starbucks?”
The bookstore was lit up, the twinkle lights sparkling. Parker and Lexi were through the door before Bill was out of the backseat. They both sighed in relief, as they saw the old man standing behind the counter.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name,” said Lexi, looking at the old man.
“People just call me the old man.”
“I’d rather call you by your name,” she said, smiling.
“You were named after Merlin, the greatest wizard ever?” she said, her eyes wide.
“No,” said the old man.
“He IS Merlin,” said Parker, smiling at her. “You know, the sword and stone thing.”
“Anyway,” she said, dismissing them. “What about all the dead people and do you think the bad guys will come to the bookstore?”
“As for the dead people, they’re already dead, nothing to be done,” said the old man. “The bad guys have already visited. Their bodies are in the back room. I sealed the portal two hours ago,” he said, going through a short stack of books.
“How many bodies?” asked Bill.
“Three. One of them killed Casey. I could smell her on him. They didn’t know who I was. Though I just worked for the Company. Looks can be deceiving, you know.”
“Tell me about it,” said Parker, glancing at Lexi.
Bill came out of the back room. “No marks on them. How’d you do it?”
“I convinced their hearts to stop beating.”
“Can you teach me to do that?” asked Lexi.
Merlin stared at her for a full three minutes and said, “Yes. I can.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“Is all of this about the orange guy?” she asked.
“No,” answered Merlin. “It’s a power play between the rich and powerful. They want to kill a lot of people they don’t believe can contribute to their coffers. They are using the orange one to give them a way to do it. It’s politics as usual, just on a bigger scale.”
“So he’s being conned?” she asked.
“Yes, but he’s too egotistical to know it.”
Lexi nodded. “Now what?”
“Now we wait for orders,” said Bill.
“I think we should be pro-active,” said Lexi.
“She’s right,” said Merlin. “We need to act.”
“Wow,” she said. “How do you guys even get dressed in the morning? Does someone help you? Give me a minute and please, someone put the kettle on for tea.”
She came back an hour later with a slew of papers in her hand. “Okay,” she said. “Here’s the plan.”
“Best pizza ever,” she sighed, pushing the empty box away from her. “Crust so thin and crisp, mmmmmmmm.”
“Agree,” said Parker, wiping his hands on a paper napkin. “Delicious.”
“I’m too full for caramel corn. After four bags of french fries and an extra large pizza, I don’t think I can anything for at least an hour,” she said, patting her flat stomach.
“You’re as thin as a rail,” he said, looking at her. “How can you eat the way you do and not weigh four hundred pounds?”
“High metabolism, want some chocolate?” she asked, popping a square into her mouth.
“You just said you couldn’t eat anything for an hour.”
“Chocolate doesn’t count. You can eat chocolate anytime, anywhere. It’s not considered food, it’s more like a…safety valve.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“You guys should be happy chocolate exists so women don’t murder you where you stand,” she said grinning. “I’m not kidding.”
“I know. I can tell,” he said, handing her another piece.
Max jumped onto the table, grabbed a small piece of crust and dropped to the floor. Mindy came over and they both ate the food.
“They share,” said Parker, watching them. “It’s sweet.”
“Will they come looking for you?”
“Maybe. Probably. I don’t know,” he said.
“Why would they?”
“I might know too much. I might be too…dangerous.”
“You? Dangerous?” she said, amazed. “You’re like a…”
He had her pinned to the floor. “What you were saying?”
“…big pussycat,” she said, throwing him against the table.
He smiled, she smiled, and then it began.
Twenty minutes later, Lexi was on top of him and he couldn’t move an inch. “Give up,” she asked.
“I’m letting you do this,” he said. “I’m tired from the time change.”
“Worst excuse EVER,”she said, kissing him. “Give up?”
“Absolutely,” he said, putting his newly released arms around her.
“It’s me, Bill” he said, pounding on the door. “Open up.”
Lexi groaned, got up and went to the door.
“What’s up?”asked Parker
“Is that all you two ever do?”
“No we eat and sometimes we sleep,” said Lexi.
“Casey’s dead,” said Bill, sitting on a kitchen chair. “In Vatican City. Head and heart.”
Parker stared at him. “What happened?”
“Lewis is dead as well.”
“Wasn’t he in Spain?”
“Barcelona. He was due back next week. Head and heart, close range.”
“Someone they knew?”
“Don’t know,” said Bill, shaking his head. “Two outstanding…”
Lexi put a cup of coffee and three pieces of toast in front of Bill and sat down next to Parker. “What can we do?” she asked.
“We?” said Parker. “There is no we, there’s only me.”
“So we’re breaking up and your leaving?”
“If there’s just you, then there’s no me, so there’s no us,” said Lexi.
“What did she just say?” asked Bill, petting the cat sitting on his lap.
Parker looked at her and said, “Is this what you meant when you say that men don’t have any idea what women are saying?”
She pulled a bubble gum cigarette out of the pack and pretended to light it. “Anyone want a smoke?”
“Does she always talk that way?” asked Bill, grabbing another piece of toast.
“Only when she’s saying something,” said Parker.
Bill nodded. “We don’t know if more of us are tagged. It’s not looking good and three others aren’t responding.”
“Does anyone have any idea what’s going on?” asked Lexi.
“They think the other side doesn’t want us to stop the orange guy. That and they have billions involved in making sure he wins. All for nefarious purposes, of course. So, the old man said he believes they want to shut us down so things go smoothly. When it’s over they’ll be in control, since the guy is insane. They’ll basically control America.”
“Why can’t you wink in and just kill him?” asked Lexi. “Seems like that would solve your problem. Send me to the future I’ll do it.”
Bill looked at Parker in surprise.
“She could do it, believe me,” said Parker.
“We only think we know who the person is.”
“Then go farther into the future. What’s wrong with you guys? THINK about what you’re saying. Don’t just sit here, DO SOMETHING.”
“She has a point,” said Bill, looking hungrily at the empty plate.
Lexi got up and grabbed the caramel corn and a coffee cake.
“I’m getting the food and coffee because it’s my house, otherwise you could get your own things,” she said.
Bill looked at Parker and bit into a piece of blueberry coffee cake. “What does that mean?”
“It means she’s not our servant and she’s being polite because this is her plate and it has nothing at all to do with gender or sexist pigs.”
“You learn fast,” she said, kissing Parker on the cheek.
Bill’s communication device hummed. He looked at it and put it away. “Two more gone,” he whispered. “There are no suspects.”
“Don’t you know who the bad guys are?” asked Lexi, surprised.
“How do they know so much about your side?”
“Spies, but we can’t prove anything,” grunted Bill.
“Are you guys inept or just not very bright?”
“You mean are we stupid?” asked Bill.
“Your word, not mine,” said Lexi.
“It’s complicated,” sighed Parker.
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” snapped Lexi. “Your people are being murdered. Who’s watching the bookstore?”
The two men got up and grabbed their jackets.
“Really?” she said, shoving them out of the way. “What is WRONG with you?”
She said goodbye to the cats, told them she’d be back soon and said that if bad guys broke in it was okay to kill them. The cats meowed and that was that.
They were in the car and on their way, when Bill received another message. “Johnathan is dead,” he said.
Lexi drove faster, which wasn’t as dangerous as it sounded, since no one was on the street because the snow was still falling hard.
“That might make sense,” she said. “Look, you stay in the car and I’ll go in, that way we can keep the heat going. Do you want anything special?”
“Cheese on the popcorn, plain caramel corn please, and surprise me with something.”
She laughed and slammed the door. It was freezing cold and the snow wasn’t even slowing down. The weather was out of whack. She walked up and down the aisles of the small Nut Shoppe and grabbed whatever looked good. She bought cigarettes made out of gum and lots of old fashion candy. The clerk bagged everything and she paid with cash.
As soon as she got outside a large bald man, dressed in black, grabbed her bicep and dragged her toward the side of the building. Lexie held the bag steady, so as not to spill the delicious contents, pulled a specially made serrated switch blade out of her jacket pocket and shoved it into the man’s neck. She saw his eyes widen, then watched him fall. The blood spurted out of his neck to the beat of his hear as she walked away.
“Is that blood I smell,” asked Parker, when she got into the car..
“Some guy thought he could personnap me. He was wrong.”
“What part didn’t you get? Hold on a second,” she said, and pushed a button on her phone. Someone picked up on the first ring. Lexi gave the address, ordered one ticket to Italy and hung up
“Who was he?”
“No idea,” she said pulling out of the parking lot.
“Did he mention Bill, or me?”
“We didn’t actually have time to chat.”
“Did you at least take the knife with you?”
“Do you seriously think this is my first time? He wasn’t looking for money. He was wearing expensive clothes and had four hundred dollar DG sun glasses shoved in his pocket. He could have wanted information about you, but I doubt it. Maybe he was just looking for a woman to hurt. No matter what he wanted, he’s not getting it. Ever.”
Parker just stared at her.
“What?” she asked, running a yellow light. “Should we get another pizza? I wonder if Danny will make my half with more crust. All he has to do is put the toppings lower.”
“Who and what are you?” he asked.
“I’m Lexi Smith. Born and raised right here in this fabulous city. I was a daughter, until two years ago. I’m a couple of other things as well, including cat lover. Why?”
“Tell me about the other things,”
“Do you believe in magick? Real magick, not the fake stuff.”
“I suppose some people would consider what you do to be magick. I mean you do walk through time, right?”
“Uh, I guess,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like magick to me.”
“That’s the thing with magick. It doesn’t seem like magick when it’s part of a person’s everyday reality. People take those things for granted, just like you do. Magick always seems to be something out of the ordinary.”
“What I do, has to do with time and space. It’s a physics problem. It’s not magick.”
“Anyway, we all have, mmmm…let’s call them special talents, okay?”
“I mean some people are good at one thing and other people are good at something else, right?”
“Yes, I get that, so what?”
“I’m good at sizing up situations and responding before the other person knows what’s going down. Do you understand? I’m saying that I’m fast. Really fast.”
“So you kill people?”
“Sometimes. Like tonight. He was a man with bad intentions.”
“So he had to die?”
“Would you rather I let him live to hurt some other woman?”
“No, but isn’t that the same thing I do?”
She thought about it for a few minutes. “No. I act on a persona level. His death will leave ripples, yes. But he attacked me and I defended myself. No one is attacking you.”
“That’s true. Will they catch you?”
“For one thing, there won’t be a body, or blood, arterial or otherwise.”
“I think you have more secrets than I do,” said Parker, looking out the window.
“Without a doubt,” she muttered. “Does that bother you?”
“I’m not sure. Should it?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Let’s get extra mushrooms on the pizza,” he said, Then he leaned his head agains the window and closed his eyes.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, holding a bag full of books.
“Nothing,” he said, carrying another bag full of books. “How many books did you buy?”
“Not nearly enough. I want to go back tomorrow, please. There’s nothing like independent bookstores.”
“Bill took the papers back.”
“I know. I’ll make him vegetarian chili when he gets back with soft yummy rolls, or corn bread, or maybe he’d like Chili Mac.”
“He’ll like anything, believe me.”
“Good. Someone easy to please.”
“I’m easy to please,” he said.
“I’m stopping for treats.”
“You are morose.”
“I think I’ve spent my entire life doing the wrong thing.”
“No problem. Just don’t do the wrong thing anymore and everything will be okay.”
“But I may have been one of the people causing bad things to happen?”
“How do you do it?”
“It’s all about probabilities. We kind of know what’s in motion, so we do the math and research and then figure out what the most likely thing to happen, might be. If it’s a bad thing, or what we consider to be a bad thing, we try to stop it.”
“Quit your job.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“It is easy. And what were the papers about?”
“A man in an orange turban, or with orange hair, will run for president, in the not too distant future. He’ll destroy life as you know it. He will start a terrible series of events that will lead to very bad places.”
“That’s ridiculous. People might not be all that swift but they aren’t stupid enough to elect an idiot.”
“You’re wrong. People elect idiots all the time. And he’s not just an idiot, he’s insane. He’s an egomaniacal mad man.”
“What’s his name?”
“The seers say his last name has something to do with a bridge game.”
“I play bridge.”
“He will destroy life as you know it and people won’t act to stop him until it’s too late.”
“Logical consequences,” she said. “Then we die.”
“Then you die. Before that happens, however, life will be difficult, to impossible, and your country will be destroyed. He won’t care. You do know that people in this country have been pampered, don’t you? No outside wars have been fought here, no mass starvation.”
“What about my cats?”
“Your cats cats?”
“Yes. What about Mindy and Max. Will they be okay?”
“If they’re outside, they might have a chance. They can turn kind of feral, I suppose..”
“They’ve never lived outside,” she said. “They won’t know how to get their own food and bigger animals might eat them.”
“Amazing,” he muttered. “You don’t care about people, or even yourself, but you’re worried about the cats?”
“We deserve what we get. Whatever happens we’re doing it to ourselves. The cats are innocent.”
“If they’re locked in, they’ll die. But this won’t happen for years, so I think they’re safe. It might not happen at all if we can change who wins the election.”
“I’m getting a cat flap.”
“Cats are wild animals,” he said, looking at the two cats curled up on big, fluffy, pink blankets. “Well, they used to be.”
“I’m going to get some caramel corn at the Nut Shoppe,” said Lexi. “Some Dots and wax root beer bottles too. And how can you come here, where you’d be dead during this timeline, but I can’t visit where you live because I was never born?”
“Because I once was, but you never were.”
“She loves books,” said the old man, appreciatively. “She’s talking and singing to them.”
Parker turned around and watched her pull a book off the shelf and press it to her heart. “Yes, I guess you’re right,” he said.
“You should appreciate that in a person.”
“I do,” he said.
“No. You don’t. You don’t understand or recognize true love when you see it.”
“What about the papers?”
“Bill took them back. Said she cooked for him and he couldn’t break up such a cute couple.”
Parker’s body relaxed. Then he told the old man what Lexi said about playing with the future.
“She’s right, you know.”
“We are designing and controlling the future with no input from the people who are actually living it.”
“That seems wrong.”
“It is wrong,” said the old man.
“Then why do we do it?”
The old man smiled. “We do it because men in the years before our generation deemed it so. You can’t possibly believe that what we’re doing wasn’t done to us.”
Parker stood frozen to the spot.
“I’M SO EXCITEd,” shouted Lexi, putting a book on the counter. “IT’S A FIRST EDITION OF THE SECRET GARDEN. I collect different copies of that children’s book. It’s so important to me. I’M SO HAPPY,” she said, and ran back to the shelves.
“I like her,” said the old man, his eyes, crinkling with laughter. “She’s excited about life. Enthusiastic. She knows how to be joyful. I like her short spiky hair too. Especially the pink part.”
“I like her too but what about what we’re doing? If it’s wrong we should stop doing it because what you’re both saying, in one way or another, is that both sides are at war and we’re using the people who are alive today as our battle ground.”
“That’s exactly what we’re doing.
“Without intervention, they’ll all die.”
“In all probability, they will,” said the old man, nodding.
“Shouldn’t we stop that from happening?”
“Lexi doesn’t think so and she’s living right now.”
“But she doesn’t…”
“She doesn’t what? Doesn’t know what we do? Doesn’t know the ramifications? Doesn’t know what she wants? Do you think you know more about this lifeline than she does?”
“I just know farther than she does.”
“But what you see is only one possibility. You can’t be sure that if you do nothing, things will turn out the way you expect them to, can you?”
Parker shook his head. “Things were never this difficult before.”
“You never met anyone who opened your eyes before, that’s all.”
“Why didn’t YOU say something?”
Lexie put five more books on the counter and ran away. The old man looked at the titles and nodded. “I really like her,” he said, smiling widely.