“There Are A Ton Of Magnets In Heaven.”
Lorena stepped out onto the street, a phone pressed to her ear and a bag open in her hands. She made various noises to indicate she was listening while she searched through the contents of that bag. Her entire face was pressed against the mouth of it, her brows lowering by the second as she continued her frantic search.
“Uh, huh.” She said, with more force than before. “Okay, fine!”
She hurried across the street, still searching for her keys. She stopped when she reached the other side, pulling her phone away from her ear to look at the screen. Confusion replaced frustration as she stared at the black screen.
“It’s the magnets.” A voice said behind her.
Lorena spun around to find an unassuming man in a tweed jacket. He held a clipboard in his hands and pressed his wire glasses higher on his nose. He gave a hesitant smile which she ignored.
She turned back to her bag, dropped her phone into it, and kept searching the contents. The quiet of the city, an oxymoron if ever there was one, seemed to elude her.
“That’ll be the magnets too.” The man said, stepping up beside her. Lorena paused her search to glare at the man. She stepped back several feet to put distance between them. An uncomfortable chill filled her, the same warning her body always felt whenever a pushy man came too close. She could never be too careful, living around so many people. Young women like her showed up in the obits every day, yet another innocent taken down by a predator.
“Please leave me alone,” She said, her voice betraying her. There was a waver in it. She’d never been attacked before, but it had come close a few times. There were people on the street though, passing all around her. They were quiet, quieter than anyone in the city tended to be. Their silence disturbed her almost as much as the man who took another step towards her.
“I’m Jacob Mills,” He said.
There was a squeaky quality to his voice that made it seem like he might be nice, innocent. Lorena pinned him with a glare. Her parents had warned her when she was young and they had all lived in a one bedroom apartment that was always twenty degrees warmer than it should be even with the air conditioner on. They had warned her about people who wanted to do harm, who pretended to be kind only to stab you in the back when you weren’t looking.
Lorena had met several of those, including an old boyfriend who’d stolen her tv and couch instead of shooting her a text to break up. It was he who had been on the phone, demanding they meet up for coffee so he could explain. So they could ‘work it out’.
Probably he just wanted the video games he’d forgotten when he’d disappeared.
“I’m not interested in whatever petition you want me to sign,” Lorena announced. She started moving down the street in the opposite direction from where her car was. Heading to her car would mean turning her back on the man, and she still couldn’t find her keys.
So she went the other way, passing him and ducking into a department store instead. They had cameras. If nothing else, she would be avenged.
“Ms. Barns!” That squeaky voice called out again and she spun around, red in the face. She pinned the man with her best death glare as he stood in the entrance of the store, the automatic doors parted on either side. “Please, you have to listen to me.”
“How.” She said, her voice flat. She glanced at the nearby registrar where a woman was working, passing shirt after shirt under the scanner for an impatient looking teenager. Lorena raised her voice so the cashier could hear her. “How do you know my last name and why are you following me?”
“Because of the magnets!”
Lorena stepped back, lips pressed together and eyes wide. The cashier wasn’t paying her any attention, and the teenager only gave them an irritated glance. Jacob, or the man who had called himself Jacob at least, stepped into her space again. “Ms. Barns, you have to come with me now. You’ve done your time on earth. Heaven awaits your presence.”
Lorena didn’t pause to consider how soothing his voice had become, or the way his pencil was still poised on his clipboard like they were in a business meeting. She bolted forward, towards the man, her hands raised to push him out of the way and get back on the street. She would run as far as she needed to run to keep this insane man from ‘sending her to heaven.’.
Lorena reached him, ready for the fight of her life. She wondered if the cashier or teenager were calling the police yet, prayed that they were. Bracing herself, she had one hand aimed at his face and the other at his chest. She brought her knee up at the last minute as well, to cover all her bases. Instead of watching him fall back and crumple under the pain, though, Lorena soared right through him.
She stumbled through the open doors, stumbling into a fire hydrant before catching her balance. She turned, just enough to see the man she’d walked through. He was standing five feet from her, pencil poised, a small frown creasing his brow and tugging at his lips.
“Ms. Barns.” He sounded like he was admonishing her, disappointed in how she’d reacted. She had a sour taste in her mouth, the scenario played through her mind over and over. He hadn’t stepped aside, she was sure of it. She’d gone straight through him, and yet he was standing beside her all the same. The realization of what that meant came crashing down on her. She was supposed to get heart disease or diabetes, but not this.
Schizophrenia didn’t run in her family.
“Please.” She whispered, closing her eyes against the vision. Her hands trembled and she felt like a swell of ocean water was dragging her under, clawing at her esophagus and stinging at her eyes. She was drowning in it, in her own mind, and there was no escape from that. “No.”
“Ms. Barns, if we don’t make the next train then you’ll be here a long while. We need to get a move on.” Jacob was impatient, but now that Lorena understood he wasn’t real, she didn’t mind ignoring him while her breakdown overtook her. “Lorena Emilia Barnes, please!”
“Go away.” Lorena murmured.
She turned away from him, started walking down the street to her car. Desperate to go home and curl up under a large blanket, she started searching for her keys again. She wanted to go to sleep, to forget this whole day and wake up tomorrow with that blissful nothing that always put her at ease in the few moments before she remembered all her worries.
“I get that being dead is a shock,” Jacob said, his voice placating and plaintive. He was right next to her and Lorena could almost feel his hand on her shoulder. She shuddered, wondering how her mind could be so strong that it convinced her an imaginary person was touching her. “Lorena, come on. We need to go before they slice you open. Come on.”
“I can’t.” She said, though something in her wanted to follow the figment. Curiosity maybe, or that instinct that came whenever she drove near a cliff. The urge to throw herself off, though she knew that never in a million years would she be stupid enough to follow that urge.
“Fine.” Jacob sounded fed up now. He grabbed her arm, a hard squeeze that almost hurt, and pulled her along. Lorena stared down at the hand around her arm and jerked away. He only held tighter and pulled her towards the street. They stopped just on the other side of the parked cars and Jacob tugged on her arm a little to get her attention. She glared at him, but he only pointed to the road. Her eyes followed his direction and fell upon a messy scene.
There were two ambulances, and people running back and forth between them. A car sat in the center of the scene with a dark smear of blood up the windshield. Next to the car’s tire rested a neat black bag toppled over, a wallet, some lipstick, and a chain of keys spilled out onto the ground.
“You’re dead, Lorena Barns,” Jacob said, his voice steely now. There was something about him that had changed, his unassuming appearance looked formidable now. “You’re dead, and it’s time to go.”
Lorena was still staring at the gruesome scene when he pulled her away. She fought to get out of his grasp, but Jacob Mills was stronger than he looked. He pulled her back onto the sidewalk and towards an alley. Lorena fought to get away. She screamed. She looked people right in the eye and shouted at them to get help. No one noticed. No one cared. She was pulled into the alley without anyone daring to raise a finger or give a curious look. They all stayed quiet, too quiet, and Emma vanished into the void.
The darkness that wrapped around her was only momentary. The next thing she knew, she was standing in the underground with dozens of people milling around, waiting for the next train. She stopped fighting, just long enough to ascertain which stop she’d been dragged to, but there were no signs here. Only the people and the tracks. Before she could bid another escape attempt, a train flew into view.
She stared at it, wondering when they’d upgraded the technology.
“It’s floating.” She said, to no one in particular.
“It’s the magnets,” Jacob answered. “Lots of magnets in heaven. Too many. Had to make use of them somehow.”
Hey there! If you’ve lost your keys and you’re phone’s dead, maybe check the area for magnets. Or creeps trying to send you to heaven. It’s always best to be on your guard!
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