"Your name is Farha this time."
"You know what to do?"
"Yes, I'll get started right away."
Farha swipes her phone to end the call, fingers easily gliding over the smooth surface.
Another day, another name, another identity. If I succeed, the cycle continues...
Farha walks into a dingy little motel and requests a room. Before noon, she's set up. Computers line every wall, blue light floods the space, filling every crevice. She spends 20 minutes coding, before opening her phone to call a saved number,
"Hi, yes, I just wanted to confirm my ticket for the butterfly expo? Yes, I just registered, I'm supposed to have a gold ticket, it lets me into the butterfly breeding convention I believe? Ok, great, see you then."
Everyone has guilty pleasures, I'm just glad this one’s PG.
Farha leaves the room and boards a bus; crowded, stinky, and filthy. There're at least 30 people, hair uncombed, unswept, clothes too tight and short or too long and unfitting, and a putrid scent of alcohol mixed with tobacco wafts through the air. Farha notices one clean-looking person, a girl with hair gelled back into a tight ponytail, and she's reminded of herself when she was recruited. She's changed a lot since then... but she still has a lot to learn.
“Excuse me, may I sit here for a second?” A pregnant lady asks.
“Sorry, yes, please, I’m just getting off.”
Farha evacuates her seat and gets off at the stop closest to the museum. The bus sign looks worn down and old, the metal post holding it up is bent, as if a visually impaired pedestrian was biking without his glasses.
Anxious to complete her task, she speed-walks, nearly tripping over the sidewalk cracks several times, but she knows she can’t run, she can’t attract more attention than necessary, her tattooed arms and voluminous hair already garner more than needed. She sees the museum up ahead and easily slides into the conference, looking around to find her target.
Where is she?
It’s a big room, one in which a voice could easily carry. A wide room with chairs spread out in an unbecoming, haphazard, unaesthetic fashion. A busy room filled with well over 100 people.
Where did all these people come from? Who’s actually interested in butterfly breeding? Weirdos…
She notices every guest is holding a glass, tall, small-mouthed, with long stems, as they walk around and mingle. Needing to blend in with the other guests, she grabs a delicate glass of lukewarm orange juice from the table set up with drinks.
Ughh, lukewarm. Who drinks lukewarm juice?
“Hello, what breeds have you been experimenting with?” A sweet, small, round lady asked, voice as soft and pure as freshly fallen snow.
Startled, Farha tightens her grip on the glass, knuckles losing colour with the intense pressure. She turns around to look at the stranger, tiny with long auburn hair tied back in a tight plait, a home-knitted shawl hanging off her shoulders, a colourful blouse, fitting for a circus.
This is the target? No, it can't be.
But Farha takes another look at her ID tag, Alverta Waters
She’s no threat; old, sweet, as fragile as wedding china, and sweet like candy.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you new to this? I shouldn’t have assumed…” Alverta apologizes.
“No, no, it’s alright, you just startled me is all.”
A tiny smile emerges from Alverta’s lips, trying to break the tension which was as thick and dense as clay.
“Your name is Alverta Waters?”
“What a pretty name, pardon me for saying but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that name before…”
Please let there be another Alverta here, maybe they’re friends. This lady can’t be a terrorist, a threat to national security. Her smile warms me up like a cup of hot cocoa and her voice reminds me of wind chimes, swaying gently in a light summer breeze.
“Yes, it is quite unique.” She responds cheerily, a tight-lipped smile present on her doll-like face, cheeks rosy, skin glowing, eyebrows drawn on too high.
She’s just a normal old lady. One who tries with her appearance, sure, but still, an old lady, nice, friendly, charming. I look around, analyzing everyone’s id tags, searching intently for another Alverta. I turn back, my heart sinking knowing that I have to act now, there’s no other option.
Farha continues a light conversation, sipping her sweet orange juice every so often in an attempt at normalcy, trying to drag Alverta’s attention to something in the distance, but Alverta never breaks eye contact. As time goes on, Farha’s mental clarity slowly decreases, and she sees coloured spots cloud her vision. Feeling fatigued, she excuses herself and finds a chair to sit in.
Just a 5-minute break, then I’ll get back to the mission. That grandma isn’t going anywhere.
The keynote speaker makes their way to the front of the hall and the guests rush to find their seats. The noise of scraping, squeaking, creaking, cheap chairs fills the room. The once raucous and highly spirited hall was suddenly quiet. The unprofessional nature of the attendees, luminously clothed, morphs into a relationship alike to a professor teaching his students. Alverta sits beside Farha, the chairs uncomfy, with a plastic backing. Farha feels her throat start to close up, her breaths are shorter and faster, more air goes out than in. She feels her blood boil and her body starts tingling.
Alverta leans over to whisper,
“You thought I was actually interested in this? You’re obviously new because otherwise, you’d know, nobody’s ever who they say they are.”
Farha turns her head with the last molecule of energy she has and sees a wicked, toothy smile take over Alvertas face. The teeth are yellow, rotten, and triangular. They seem alien to the persona she had kept up; the pretense, the lie. Alverta takes the orange juice out of Farha’s hand and pours it on the carpeted floor; beige is stained orange and shakes her head. Farha starts spazzing, her body flailing every which way, falling out of her chair, splayed on the ground.
“HELP! HELP! SOMEBODY HELP! THIS LADY IS HURT!”
Alverta screams, gathering a crowd of concerned enthusiasts. While the butterfly breeders swarm around Farha's writhing body, her murderer slips quietly away, never to be heard of again.