Flash Fiction: “Grim”

“Okay, what’s your problem?” said Sonya, coming to a dead stop on the sidewalk and wheeling around.
A tall guy in a black trench coat, five paces behind her, pointed at his chest, looked over his shoulder and then back again. The universal “Who me?”
“Don’t come the innocent,” she said. “I clocked you ages ago, been following me all night.”
He shrugged.
She stepped forward. “And this isn’t the first time, is it? I saw you last night.”
The look of puzzlement on his face gave way to a smirk. “Extraordinary,” he said.
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means you.” He just stood there, smiling at her. Vacant.
“What are you? Some kind of God botherer?”
He laughed. “Sort of.”
“Why are you following me?” she said.
“It’s my job.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I do wonder, sometimes,” he said, letting the words hang in the air.
“Fuck this,” said Sonya. “I’m going. I catch sight of you again, I’ll make you cough up a ball.”
The city. No shortage of weirdos. Especially once you went the wrong side of midnight. At the end of the block, Sonya made a point to look back. Just in case. Trench Coat was nowhere to be seen.
But, she wasn’t going to take any chances. Half out of precaution and half out of being too wired to go home just yet, she got to the end of the next block and pushed through the door in to Lenny’s, pulling herself into her usual booth and ordering a coffee and Danish as she did.
“Those things will kill you,” a recently familiar voice said.
Trench Coat was sitting directly across the table from her in the booth. “Jesus Christ,” she yelped.
He threw his head back and laughed out loud.
“Everything okay over here?” Lenny said, arriving over with her Danish.
“Tell him you broke a nail,” said the guy.
“What?” she said, incredulous.
“I asked you if everything was okay,” said Lenny, laying the plate down in front of her and pouring a coffee.
Sonya looked up at Lenny and then at Trench Coat, who sighed, raised his hand in front of Lenny’s face and snapped his fingers repeatedly. Lenny didn’t flinch, didn’t even register the guy’s presence.
“Nothing,” said Sonya to Lenny. “I just, ah, I broke a nail.”
“I’ll never know that pain,” the old man said. “Disgusting, I know, but I bite mine down to the roots.” With a chuckle, he turned and hummed his way back to the counter.
“How did you do that?” she said.
“That?” said the guy. “Was nothing. I didn’t do anything special. You, on other hand…”
A group of partygoers pushed through the door into the coffee shop, passing their booth, heading for a spot in back. A straggler gave a double-take as she passed. “Hey, good night, girlfriend?” She moved to slide into the seat, next to the guy.
“Wait,” said Sonya, putting her hand out to halt her.
The girl looked in at the space where Trench Coat sat. “Oh,” she purred. “ Who are you waiting for? Anyone I’d know?”
“No one you’d know, Anna.”
“Not for another couple of decades yet, anyway,” he said.
Anna didn’t hear him, just gave Sonya an exaggerated wink and moved off after her friends.
“She can’t see or hear you,” said Sonya. “No one can.”
“No one except you,” he said. “Which is very unusual, unheard of, actually. Extraordinary, as I said earlier.”
“Who are you?”
“More like what.”
“What am I.”
“And what are you?”
“A collector.”
“Of what?”
“You’re talking in riddles.”
“I suppose I am. I apologise,” he said. “I’ve never had to explain myself before. Never been afforded the opportunity.”
“You want some?” said Sonya, cutting her Danish in half.
“I’d love to,” he said. “But I can’t eat that.”
“You off carbs?”
“I’m off everything.”
“So what do you eat?”
“I don’t eat anything. Like conversation, I’ve never sampled food either.”
“Are you for real? How much did I have to drink tonight, and what was slipped into it?”
She downed the half of the Danish she’d cut in two bites and saw the way the guy was watching her. “I know. I eat like a savage. My mom always said I’d choke to death.”
Trench Coat shook his head. “That’s not the way you’re going to go.”
“You seem very, very sure of that.”
“I’m certain.”
“You know how I’m going to die.”
“You asked me what I am. Knowing how you die is part of it. Being there when it happens is the rest.”
Sonya took a sip of her coffee. “Right. I get it. Aren’t you supposed to carry a sickle or a scythe or something?”
“Yes. Clutched in my skeletal hands protruding from my black cloak. That’s me.”
Sonya took another sip of coffee. “You’ve been shadowing me the last two days.”
He just stared at her.
“You’re here to collect me.”
“I was.”
“But tonight… has been… enlightening.”
He slid out of the booth and fastened up his coat. “Eat all the Danish you want as fast as you want. I’m putting you to the back of the queue.”
“Not too far back, I hope.”
Trench Coat smiled. “I’ve enjoyed this exchange. If you see me again, it will be only to continue this chat. I have a lot of questions.”
“Me too,” said Sonya. “Me fucking too.”

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