Author : Nick Lewandowski
Lucy sat at her usual table, skimming the news on her phone.
It was therefore some time before she noticed The Crazy Man.
Youngish, with rumpled clothes and dark, tortured eyes. All together he looked like someone who spent a great deal of time on airplanes, particularly trans-continental flights, and therefore found it exceedingly difficult to get a decent night’s sleep.
Drug addict or artist, she decided, though he was awfully patient for a drug addict.
“May I help you?”
“Lucy Curtis?” he spoke with an accent Lucy didn’t recognize. Vaguely Eastern European. He rolled the “L” gently and pronounced the “U” like the deep “oo” in “loose.”
“May I ask you something?”
“Have we met?”
“Perhaps. In a manner of speaking that is to say.”
Lucy set her phone down.
He took the seat across from her without asking permission. When he spoke next his voice was hushed. “I am something of a writer hoping you would listen to my idea for a story, to see if it would be well-received from your demographic.”
“Young women with radiant eyes.”
Had he been clean-shaven and had his breath not smelled suspiciously of refined ethanol Lucy would have been flattered. That did not stop her from blushing furiously.
A strange thing to do in front of a drug addict-cum-writer.
“What would you say,” he began, “if someone told you a story about a woman. A woman very much like yourself, who a certain young man loved very much. The most important difference between this couple and yourself being they understand their world, their whole universe, in fact, is just one in an infinite series of universes.
So when a terrible accident takes this young woman’s life her lover will travel from world to world, universe to universe, that is, seeking the variation that is most like her, hoping he may once more bask in the glow of her smile, if only for the briefest moment. Because only then will he find peace.”
At the end of this breathless monologue a heavy silence hung in the air between them, like a corpse dangling from a hangman’s noose.
Somewhere behind them mugs clinked on a tray.
The young man stared at her with his dark, tortured eyes.
By now Lucy had gotten the distinct impression he was neither a writer nor drug addict, and whatever the real purpose of this conversation might be it was certainly not market research.
She smiled weakly. “It sounds lovely. Very romantic.”
His expression softened. Some of the color returned to his face. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
He reached into his coat and removed a small, ornate pistol.
Lucy’s jaw dropped. Her mouth and lips began forming that fat “O” shape that is a pre-requisite for all full-throated screams of terror.
“Thank you so very much,” the man said, so softly this time that his lips hardly moved and truth be told it was more a long sigh of relief than an actual sentence.
He squeezed the trigger just as Lucy started screaming.
A bolt of lightning (in retrospect that’s what Lucy believed it most clearly resembled) shot from the barrel. For a brief moment the man became a black, vaguely-human form shrouded in pale red light.
Gradually the glow receded.
When it had faded out entirely Lucy was out of air. She was not finished screaming, really. Not by a long shot considering she now had a charred human skeleton for company. Her vocal chords simply refused to resonate any longer.
And worst of all, she realized, he was SMILING.
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