Leave of Absences
By Vox Deruste
“ Hey, Julian!” My attention was jerked away from the computer screen by the voice of my superior. “ Kinda need you to take out the screens from these Chromebooks.” I looked at a stack of partially damaged laptops, partially broken in all but one way. Screens we can take out and use for other laptops later.
“ I’ll get on that Mike.” I took out a screwdriver from a tool pouch and got to take out the screw connecting the screen to the Chromebook.
“ Huh?” Mike said with slight curiosity.
We were behind the help desk of the school library. A makeshift help desk for elementary schools tech. Resetting passwords, fixing computers, and reassigning when necessary.
“ Oh is what just a weird email I got.” I explained.
“It’s probably just one of the emails the district to see if you fall for fishing.” Mike dismissed.
“ Yeah. It was probably just junk email.” I looked down and kept my eyes on the computers. “ You can probably leave early for today. I can take care of this and close up for the day.” I suggested. Mike seemed receptive and shrugged.
“ If you can think you can handle it. See ya, tomorrow man.” I waved him off. I was left alone in the library with a stack of computers on the desk. A box for all the spare parts is on the desk right next to me. A taunting laptop with an email that made my skin crawl. Made up of only a few little words.
Its time. It’s your last day on earth. Come to me or I’ll come to you Alveraz. Sunset. Don’t it difficult.
I felt mocked every time I read those words. A slow rage in my soul that lit my heart afire. They know damn well that I’m aware that my time is short. I didn’t need their notes or reminders.
They could do me the kindness, of at least, let me bring my affairs in order. First my job. My paycheck may mean nothing now but I take pride in my small job. It’s mine, I earned it. I made friends with the staff in these two years. I told them I would not be back here next year.
It’s the end of the school year and the last day for the staff. We had a going-away party yesterday. Cake, booze, good food in a restaurant I grew fond of.
It was nice to say goodbye to everyone before leaving. They know what or why I’m leaving but they’re respecting my privacy about it. Thought I did hear there was a betting pool among the custodians about what it was about. Getting a girl knocked up had the biggest money. I wonder how that is going to go when I’m gone.
I took the last screen out and clock in for the day. It was three in the afternoon. Sunset won’t be for another three to four hours. Honestly, I’m terrible with time. I only have that much time to handle two other important things.
The second thing I’m going to miss? A fusion restaurant on a corner. It’s a cozy little spot, one that I’m walking toward while keeping an eye out around me for a stalker. I live out in a rural area. Farms surrounding the school and town I live in. It’s spacious, green, and quiet. The calming thing when there is still light, beautiful when the sun is setting. Kinda eerie when night falls.
Right now was a transition before full sunset. The edges of the sky had a reddish tint and a slowing growing wave of orange was above the clouds. Warm colors coming down on me. I kept my eyes on the roadside trees and bushes as I walked.
I wondered if Gresitich was going to renege was going to expedite the time, take away my last goodbyes with no word and take me from this world. Sound’s like them at least.
To be fair I knew I could not be here for long. Happy things end quicker than they have to while sadness lingers.
After walking on the side of the road for over thirty minutes I reached the fusion restaurant. It was Sushi/ Taco hybrid. Luckily I didn’t see anyone follow me on the way here but that might mean they’re better stalkers than I gave them credit for.
I walked in and say in my usual seat. A corner spot near a window and a fireplace behind me. A comfy spot that I keep coming back to.
A short stack with dark skin and curly hair walked up to me with a menu.
“ Hey, Manny.” I waved to her.
“ Sad to see you go Julian.” She said wistfully. “ Your usual?” I nodded. “ Nigiri and four beef tacos coming right up.” She said with gusto as I waited in my seat. I thought about who I was waiting for.
I told my girlfriend that I was leaving today. When I told her some time ago that I was leaving, I couldn’t tell her the truth but I could at least give an inkling of it.
We’ve been going on while ignoring that I was leaving this week. It only got serious a few days ago when the first email came. I didn’t tell her about them but I did mention that the time is coming.
We met at the restaurant, saw each other on a special. The only one’s eating meals too big for one person to eat. We shared and kept meeting there for over a year and a half. Today was going to be an anniversary.
It’s going to be our last date. A last hurrah of sorts. I think she knows in some way it was going to come to this. I’m the melodramatic sort who acted like a shit when I first came here.
A strange mix of pride and shame. I was too good to be here but felt like I deserved to be stuck far out in the sticks after blundering my last job. I didn’t want to make routes here, it had a timelimit, why bother reaching out to people here. I’m not going to see them again.
I was an ass. Projecting my own shit on everyone else and pretending that it was justified by my own self-pity.
As I thought more of my old self, I saw the one who dragged that self-pitying ass out of his shell with steel tweezers.
Ada was a rotund woman with black skin and a glossy smile. Glittering dress with limbs wrapped in jewelry. High heels clomping. A permanent smile on her face with glossy teeth. My spirit rosed, for a second I forgot it was our last date and planned out in seconds a picnic with homecooked food.
I wanted it to last forever. Her smile turned toward me and sunset in the distance make a halo effect behind her. Making her skin shine like glass. I smiled wide as she sat across from me.
“ You ordered already baby?” She asked in a sultry voice.
“ Two nigiri and three tacos, just how we like.” Her smile shined a bit more.
“ Just like the first time.” She cheerfully waxed nostalgic. “ Sad that we end it with what started it.”
“ I say it’s fitting….Sad but fitting.” I relented. The chill from my walk was on me again. I shook it off to bring my focus to Ada. I want her to feel nothing but happiness before I go. “ You wer-are one of the best people in my life babe. If I could, I would stay forever.”
Ada had a smile on but I saw a little quiver in her left eye.
“ Don’t make a promise you can’t keept. I enjoyed what we had...only sad part is that no one could measure up to when you go. Who else is going to make me chocolates, carve ice statues for Christmas or serenade me? You leave a big shadow.” I was sad, a quiet smile grew on my face.
“ Your a beautiful, fair and good person. Good himself will handcraft the one you stay with. Even he doesn’t he’s a fool who deserves all the world’s atheist.” Ada gave my joke a soft chuckle. The quiver in her eye didn’t leave but her smile still holds. We toast with our margarita’s as the weather outside became monstrous.
Rain coming side waves, wind picking up tree branches, and biting cold. All so sudden on a clear day.
“ Heh, even the weather hates you leaving.” Ada joked. “ Haven’t seen a storm like that since the gremlins rumors spiked.” I turned to the weather and thought about the force behind it and how the winds sounded like condemnations and warnings. Between the debris caught in it and car alarms.
You’ve wasted time.
Ada seemed unfazed by the weather, nor did she seem able to hear the voices. I don’t try to point them out to her. Gresitch must try harder to scare me.
“ Why are truly leaving?” Ada asked suddenly. My eyes opened wide.
“ What do you mean? I leaving. Simple as that.” Ada was skeptical.
“ If you were just moving we could voice chat. Even if it was permanent.” She pointed out. “ You won’t say anything about where you’re going? Or even why other than telling me that’s my time has come to an end.” Ada inflected a grim, morose tone. “ I’m also sensitive to this stuff. I’m a freaking grief counselor for god’s sake. I know when someone is avoiding the word death.” My face became crestfallen. “ This is the part where you correct me and tell me the truth.” I said nothing. “ Hey...Stop saying nothing...It’s not funny anymore…” The silence continued. “ God damn it! Tell that you’re not dying and tell me the stupid reason the best thing in my life is leaving!” She shouted.
Every part of me wanted to scream the answer. To explain the reason my time is short. To assure her that I’m not dying, that I want to be with her. That this is not my doing.
But the parts that remained anchored to my calmness and logic reminded me the moment I say the truth our time will end. Gretsch would make this all go away, take the choice away, and my place here permanent if I try anything.
“ I can’t.” I said softly.
“ What do you mean you can’t!” She shouted. “ No...No, no, no, no. there better not be no one else!” Ada started to hold her head in her hands. “ Oh god’s that must be it! You wanted to break up with me!” I knew that Ada must have known, deep down that was not the answer. I only ever had eyes for her. But her anger and confusion probably led her there.
I didn’t give her many other alternatives. Though I desperately wanted to.
“ I would never.” I felt the urge, to tell the truth rising.
“ Then tell me the truth!”
“ I can’t.” I ran from the feeling and tried to bite it down.
“ Don’t give me that bull. I tell whole families that their loved ones died and tell them what they need to hear. The least my own love can do is give me the same courtesy.” Her rage crystalizes a bit. Become more focused and sharp. No more yelling. Was she doing that to throw me off? she switched from blind anger to focus much too quickly.
“ I had a limit of time and it’s coming to an end.” I relented. “ I can speak more than that.” I tried to explain but I didn’t need to see the look on her face to know she didn’t believe it.
“ What vague bullshit is that.” She chastised me. “ I would rather you have the balls to tell me to my face that you cheat but this...this!...What do I say about it.”
“ How about that it’s over and that you’re tired.” I heard a low voice say. I didn’t see the source of it but I recognized it. The storm must have hidden how long it’s been.
Gresitch is here.
“ What the h..e..l...l?” Ada started to trail off, her eyes becoming milky white. “ I am tired.” She repeated.
“ And must go home now before the storm gets worse.” Gresitch said again.
“ I must go-” I cut the zombie-like Ada off by grabbing her hands.
“ Must you use brainwashing?” I asked, annoyed that I must ask such a question. I held her hands tightly. “Please.” I pleaded. “ Let me say goodbye before I go.” I begged Grestich.
A small green man walked from the shadow behind me. Long pointed ears and jagged teeth.
“ You constantly try to renegotiate your time here. You are defying the word of your superior. And even now you’re refusing to acknowledge what is suppose to happen.” Gresitch dictated. “ Made a mockery of the rules of the mystic world and the gods!”
“ I was living my life.” I snapped back.
“ And that life ends.” Gresitch looked toward Ada with a mixed pity.
“ Please...Let me have these last moments and I’ll go without a fight.” I pleaded. Gresitch looked toward me and Ada. He sighed into his hands. He stared at me.
“ Fine.” He snapped his fingers. “ you can try to explain things and I’ll allow her the memories but that is it. You leave with me. No fight, no arguing, no second thoughts.” Gresitch laid out with the cold sharpness of his teeth.
“ Deal.” We shook on it and a green chain manifested on my arm.
“ A bit of leverage in case you try to pull some bullshit.” Gresitch laid it thick. I nodded and went toward Ada.
“ The hell is going- What the hell is that!” Ada pointed toward the simmering Gresitch.
“ He is my handler.” I said plainly.
“ The hell that means!?” She loudly questioned.
“ My secrets...have layers of nonsense covered in moronic redtape.” Gresitch groaned at my answer. “ The short of it is...I’m not from this world.”
“You’re an alien.” She asked frankly.
“ No!” I said with quick rejection. “ A magician.” I said with some reservation.
“ Wait your magic?” Ada said with disappointment. “ Wait is he a goblin?” Gresitch nodded.
“ Germanic goblin by the way.” Gresitch said with pride.
“ a pretentious one.” I scoffed.
“ So wait this whole time, I was afraid that you’re cheating me...you were magic and that’s why you’re leaving?” I gave a strained shrug.
“ It is not a wrong assumption.” I begrudge. “ quite accurate on some accounts.”
“ Get to the actual confession or I’m mindwiping here and now.” Grestiched urged me.
“ My mouth felt dry. My palms are sweaty. I’m not exactly human” I try to slowly say.
“ What does that even mean?” Ada said with a scowl. “ You can’t just dump this on me and think that I can accept it. You're trying to pull some Harry Potter bull over my eyes.” I didn’t want to lose her, but I also saw the impatience in Grestich's eyes.
“ I am magical, I was sent here to work a job for a few years.” I looked toward Grestich, he nodded. “ I was sent here to keep an eye out for signs of the apocalypse-”
“ The apocalypse!” Ada screamed out. She looked over to the frozen expression of the waiters and waitresses. Stuck at the moment Grestich made himself known.
“ Don’t bother, everything in here is stuck in time aside from us three.” Ada stared at the goblin. “ Magic, remember.” The green man said calmly. Ada awkwardly walked back to her seat.
“ So my boyfriend was a secret wizard stopping the apocalypse.” She said with a touch of faint sarcasm. “ I don’t know whether to be impressed or laughing over how stupid/ fantastic that sounds.” I shrugged.
“ I don’t blame you for feeling that way.” I said while taking some small sips of my drink. “ And that time has passed. I can’t get into all of it but my term is over.” I said softly.
“ You have to go back.” She summarized.
“ I want to stay...but my job demands I have to be where people need me. This place...was punishment for a bad job a couple of years back.” I bit down the memory. Children running, building on fire, a stupid young magician trying to quench the flame but failing. Death of a partner. “ I rather not speak of it.” I said in a grim tone.
Ada and I sat in silence.
“ So it just ends.”
“ Sadly yes.”
“ And you're gone forever?”
“ Even if I get sent back to earth, it won’t be here.”
“ I guarantee it.” Grestich said coldly.
“ So this is goodbye.” Ada said softly. I nodded. Despite some prodding from Grestich we got to eat in peace, long enough to finish our food, and for one last thing,
We embraced, Outside the restaurant in a quiet bubble that was shield by the storm. Minus Grestich it was wonderful. A quiet sereneness that blocked away everything else as I gave her our last kiss.
“ I love you.” I said as I stood next to Grestich. Ada slumped her head and stared at the ground.
“ I hate that I love you, I hate that you have to leave, What I hate most of all is that I'll never forget you.” A deep pain plunged into me as I heard those words and glared at Grestich. He waved it off and snapped his fingers. A swirling vortex of purple smoke and lights envelopes and takes us away. My only thoughts were of Ada as we left earth.
We appeared in an endless marble hallway with mystics of every kind. Going to their assigned duties.
“ Chin-up.” Spoke Grestich. “ You're free to live your actual life now.” I scowled at him as he walked away from me.