We've all come into contact with someone we thought looked familiar at one point in our life. Perhaps you even approached them, questioning whether the two of you have met previously. Most of the time, they walk off, shaking their head in refusal. But, sometimes, they stand there before you, staring deeply within your eyes.
I've witnessed this happen to several people as I walked the busy streets of New York City. Someone always runs towards the person, calling out their name only to receive a peculiar glance. Once their gaze ends, the other walks off as if nothing ever happened. As if their memory of approaching that familiar face had been erased.
It's disturbing to witness. I mean, how many times has it happened to me? How many people have I recognized only for them to be unrecognizable seconds later? It was an unsettling mystery I had to investigate.
So I followed one of them, making sure to keep my distance as I did so. The man seemed to have no real destination. It seemed his only goal was to bump into people as they rushed passed him, a look of irritation saturating each of their faces as he did so.
Maybe he was an asshole... no, that wasn't it... perhaps he was some sort of masochist... sure, it was possible. But, all of those thoughts quickly dispersed from my mind as he walked into an alleyway. There, where he thought he was alone and far from witnessing eyes, he sat down cross legged before convulsing. I watched on, although everything within me screamed to help the man. But, everything about him had changed.
There, in the exact place the man once sat, was now a woman. I stood behind the corner, shock enveloping my very being as I reflected on what I had just seen. Peeping around the corner once more, I spotted the woman headed my way. I waited patiently as she walked passed me, continuing her destination-less journey as I followed behind.
Again, she bumped into people, causing countless men and women to yell obscenities her way as she did so. Even though I wanted so badly to turn around, putting all of the strange events of today behind me, I couldn't ignore the gnawing urge to understand. I needed to understand. I needed to know what the hell it was.
Finally, as my thoughts battled on whether or not I should ditch my mission, she walked into a building. Hurriedly, I rushed after her, leaving a little time in between to avoid drawing suspicion. Once inside, I looked around, the hairs on the back of my neck rising as I couldn't find the woman anywhere.
Suddenly, she came into view, her eyes fixated on mine as she approached.
"You followed me," she said.
Her voice was odd, almost robotic.
"How much did you see?" she questioned, ending her pace before me.
I swallowed hard, perspiration forming on my skin as nervousness invaded me.
"What are you?" I asked.
She smiled, tilting her head to one side as if my question was intriguing.
"I'm a preserver," she said, matter of factly.
"Preserver?" I questioned.
"We... manage you," she said, smirking.
I clenched my fist tightly as she stepped closer to me, her expressionless eyes gazing into mine.
"You... humans are expendable because of us. Without management, you'd live far too long. This planet would go up in flames if we let that happen," she explained, lifting her finger to my face.
Her touch felt... strange. It seemed to drain me of energy.
"That's what you were doing when you bumped into those people?" I questioned, my eyes barely able to remain open.
She nodded, her gesture fluid and swift, contrary to her voice.
"Well, I better get going. Perhaps I'll see you in the near future," she said as my body went limp.
When I awoke, I was in that same building sprawled across the floor. Rubbing my face, I noticed something not previously there prior to the blackout; Something that immediately alerted me that that strange encounter was not some imaginary hallucination.
There, on the cheek she had touched, was a small indentation within the skin... a wrinkle.
Written by GreyOwl