The Cost of One

Submitted into Contest #51 in response to: Write about someone who has a superpower.... view prompt

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Fantasy

I lived with my parents in a trailer park outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the prairies of Canada. Both of them were clairvoyant -their memories dipped into the past and the future- which was quite rare. It’s one thing to be able to see the future but to find and marry someone else who could do the same seldom happened. My parents ran a small restaurant on the side of a busy highway. Eventually, the health inspector was called to shut it down. He was a fat man with short grey hair. 

“Sorry to have to do this,” he said in an unapologetic tone, “but we’ve received too many complaints not to!” That made him laugh. 

Most of the complaints were about my mother. It’s not that nobody wanted to hear about their future, but they only wanted to hear the good stuff. My mother told them everything, the good and the bad; some treated her like an angel and others treated her like a demon. 

‘Your daughter will live to be one-hundred-years-old,’ or ‘I’m afraid your husband doesn’t have much time, my deepest condolences.’ I never understood why she shared all her knowledge. My mother was like a saint passing wisdom onto the masses, but they never appreciated her. One particularly nasty old man spit in her face after she told him when he would die, and she just let it happen. Mother always told me that physical confrontation wasn’t the best answer, no matter what kind of horrible thing a person is about to do. We agreed that some people deserved to die, but we disagreed when. She argued a person can only be punished after they do something bad; “People’s essence is a combination of their physical condition and their core beliefs. Both change as time goes on, therefore people change too.” It’s a nice idea, but while the path that people take can change (my mother couldn’t see every moment of somebody’s life) their final destination was set in stone (that she could see with perfect clarity). Sometimes people need to be stopped before they can reach that destination.

After the restaurant closed my father took up drinking, it dulled his brain and robbed him of any mystical abilities he may have had. My mother took up lucid dreaming - remaining alert and aware during a dream- a strange hobby, but one she pursued with vigor by keeping a dream journal and meditating and all that good stuff. It worked too well, and soon she wasn’t able to tell if she was dreaming or not. My parents had lulled themselves into a miserable, half-waking existence. My mother began to see visions of their future, they were going to die soon. She wanted to go out on her own terms. 

“Just drink it, honey,” she said to my father. 

“I don’t want to.”

“Trust me, we don’t have much time.”

“How do you know?”

Mother shot him a serious look. He exhaled a miserable, knowing sigh. 

“I love you,” he said. 

“Love you too.”

The investigation was quick; double suicide. I sold the trailer for petty change and moved into Winnipeg, settling into a building located on south Portage avenue, part of the Downtown area, and found a job as a waiter. 

*

“How was everyone’s weekend?”

Kevin is a young guy with too much energy for my taste, but I tolerate him, he’s my boss. He opens the restaurant and waits for us by the door. On Mondays, he asks how our weekends went. 

“Good, I went hiking,” Mary says. She’s a waitress at the restaurant. 

“Where’d you go?” Kevin asks. 

“Well, just around the park near my house.”

Kevin laughs.

“What about you, Joseph?”

“Not much,” I say, “you?”

“I took my family hiking on the trans-Canada trail, it’s this huge path that goes through the country. We didn’t do all of it, just a day’s worth.”

He claps his hands and our workday begins. 

The three of us clean the restaurant before the cooks arrive. We wipe the tables and ensure that each one has a bottle of ketchup, mustard, and a napkin box. The chefs arrive an hour later and the customers begin showing up for breakfast right away. 

Marry taps me on the shoulder and points to a boy sitting in her section. 

“He’s all yours, that boy creeps me out.”

“Thank you, I really don’t see why you’re so scared of him.”

“Well, why do you want to serve him so badly?”

“He’s strange and mysterious.”

“That’s why I’m scared.” 

She shuffles away to the kitchen, quite briskly for a woman her size. I move over to the booth in the corner, which is reserved for the boy. He calls in quite often to reserve this booth, even though it’s meant to seat four, not one. 

I’ve always wondered what draws him to this restaurant. It doesn’t have much of a theme, or maybe it has too many? The floor is painted like a chessboard, the booths are orange and grey, the walls are lined with photos of martial artists, and there are houseplants everywhere. The theme might just be Kevin, everything was his idea. 

“Hello sir, how was your weekend?” I’m surprised I asked, it’s not like me. 

“Good.” 

There’s a definite tension when we speak, like two strangers, even though I’ve served this boy countless times. 

“What would you like today?” 

“I’ll have three eggs, scrambled.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.”

I turn around and head to the kitchen. Mary stops me next to the cash register. 

“What did you guys talk about?” She asks.

“Nothing.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I asked how his weekend went and he said it was good, why do you care?”

“Is that all? Are you sure he didn’t say anything else?”

“Yes, why are you acting like this?”

Mary rests her big hands on her hips and sighs. 

“You said your mother could see the future, right?”

“Yes, that’s between you and me, remember.”

“Joe…” she begins.

“Mary…” I mick her strange intonation. 

“This is serious. That boy is bad news. I don’t know why, but something tells me he’s going to do something horrible to the restaurant. We’ll have to close and everybody is going to lose their jobs. Kevin will be sued, the chefs will be disgraced and you and I will have a falling out.”

I pause to think. 

“Mary,” I venture, “are you saying that you can see the future too?”

She blushes and nods. 

*

 A week goes by without mention of what Mary told me. I call her from home to talk about the dos and dont’s of seeing the future, as a friend. 

“You shouldn’t smoke, it might damage your powers.”

“I’m willing to take that risk.”

“Fine, but you have to avoid lucid dreams. As soon as you are aware that you’re dreaming wake yourself up.”

“Why?”

“Just trust me, Mary, we need to take some precautions.”

“Fine.”

The line goes quiet, I can hear Mary’s raspy breathing on the other side. We both know that a difficult decision needs to be made. Action must be taken to stop the boy from reaching his final destination. 

“I had a dream about our restaurant last night. It was locked and we were standing outside. We tried to get in, I even attempted to break a window, but nothing worked.”

“Weird.”

“I have some stuff that will get rid of the boy.”

“What?”

“It was my mother’s.”

“We’re not going to poison the boy, Joe.”

“Mary, I think I’m clairevoyant too, my dream means that the restaurant will close soon.”

“Knock off the clairevoyant shit, I was just in a weird mood that day and the boy scared me. Besides, you never said he was in your dream so forget about him.”

I don’t say anything.

“Look, I’m sorry Joe. Just promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

 Mary was just like my mother; gifted, but unwilling to take action. 

“Fine, I promise.”

Sometimes lying was the best course of action. Had my mother just kept her mouth shut and lied to our customers about the future, the restaurant would be open and she would be alive. 

The next day, I sneak a little jar into work. I see the boy and go to take his order before Mary can stop me. 

“What can I get for you?” 

“I’ll have french toast and two hashbrowns.”

He is seated in the corner booth, with the shades up and the sun frying the orange vinyl. He focuses on his food, finishes, pays for it, and stands up. He almost reaches the door, but the poison works fast. 

Mary knocks on Kevin's office and tells him a customer is very sick. The paramedics get called, and people stop outside the restaurant to watch the boy carried out on a stretcher. Kevin’s face turns red, then white. In all the chaos, Mary pulls me aside. 

“Trust me,” I say, “it was him or us. I saw it in my dream.”

“You’re sick.”

“No, I’m gifted, and so are you.”

“No Joe! I read too many books and watched too much TV and didn’t get enough sleep. Then I saw the boy, alone in a booth meant for four, and got freaked out.”

Some appreciation for saving her job would have been nice. After all, fate is a numbers game, and I have just improved the lives of many… for the cost of one. 

*

Mary was right about everything. The boy’s sudden death was labeled as food poisoning. Despite my intervention, Kevin and his head chef were sued by the family and the restaurant shut down. If only somebody more powerful took action, like Mary, none of this would have happened. I haven’t spoken to her for a month, but she never told anybody it was me who poisoned the boy.

July 25, 2020 02:45

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7 comments

Samantha Davis
19:47 Jul 27, 2020

Great job!

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Rosa Rainbowz
22:34 Aug 08, 2020

This is very good, I can't lie. Sorry that I came late. I was very interested in the fact she could see the future, I wish I could too. Clever plot!

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Adhi Das
09:18 Jul 30, 2020

good job:)

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A. S.
21:09 Jul 27, 2020

Good job! I wish you had included a little more inner conflict from the main character, as he was making the decision to try to save the restaurant. Besides that, you did a really good job.

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I. F.
17:09 Jul 28, 2020

Thanks for your feedback!

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A. S.
17:18 Jul 28, 2020

You’re welcome! Would you be willing to read my story “Gone”?

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Great job, Itay!

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