• Sahar Abdulaziz

The Buzzer Rang

The buzzer rang. Sandra rushed to the door sure it was Steven, but instead, found an older man planted on her doorstep. Though a warm summer night, he wore a long, heavy dark raincoat and a serious expression. Not even the slightest hint of a smile graced his lips.*

"Reginald ZA-HOR-SKY," enunciated the man as a greeting. "Sorry, I'm late. Busy night.” He glanced down at his clipboard while flipping through a sizable stack of papers. "I'm here for my pickup."

"I'm sorry, you're here for your what?" Sandra asked, remaining safely behind the locked screen door.

"My pickup," he repeated louder.

"I'm sorry, but you must have the wrong address."

"Uh, I–don't think so," he said, rechecking his paperwork. "Isn’t this 376 Cherry Lane?"

"Yes, but I'm not expecting–"

"Are you Sandra James?"

"Yes? " Sandra’s hand searched for the door knob. "How did you know my name?"

The old man scoffed. "It's not like I'm a psychic or anything. It's on the paperwork." The old man lifted his clipboard up and pressed it against the screen a bit too close for Sandra’s comfort. A faint, but strangely sweet aroma whispered past her cheek. "See?"

"There has to be a mistake,” she insisted. “I don't have a package."

The old man huffed. "Not a package, lady–a pickup–I'm here for a pickup.”

Sandra appeared confused.

“Ah, don't tell me you didn't get the call?" he grumbled, running his gangly fingers through his short, cropped hair. "They're supposed to call."

"I didn't get any call and I don't know what you're talking about, so if you would just excuse me," Sandra stepped back to close the door.

"Ah–you can't do that," belted out the old man.

"Of course, I can," snapped Sandra, shoving the door closed and bolting it shut. As she turned, she jumped back and screeched. "AHHHHH!" Impossible! But there the old man stood–in his raincoat, still holding the clipboard.

"There's no need for all that screaming."

"How did you?" Sandra gasped, clasping her neck, her heart beating in her throat. "I locked you outside. How did you–how could you–you couldn't have–"

"Why do they always react like this?" griped the old man, shaking his head. "Look, Lady–Sandra. I don't want any trouble, okay? I have my instructions. That's it. End of story."

Perspiration pilled on her forehead. She inched away.

"Look, I'm sorry you didn't get your phone call,” he said. “total office screw-up for sure. And don't you worry, I plan on writing up a complaint. But for now, let's just get this show on the road."

Sandra's eyes darted around the foyer.

"Don't even think about hitting me, Lady," said the man, his eyes fixated on hers.

Sandra froze. "How–?"

"Not rocket science. Isn't that's what you folks do? Hit, blow-up or kill whatever you don't understand."

"I want you to leave."

"As soon as I fill my order."

"WHAT are you talking about?" Sandra screamed, half-hysterical. “I don't have anything."

The man reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a straw composed of metal. "Breathe into this," he said, waving the cylinder at her. "Come on, come on, I don't have all day. Breathe into it and I'll be gone."

Sandra winced. "You want me to breathe into that thing?"

"Breathe in and I'll be on my way."

"This is absurd," but Sandra decided to play along. Anything to get this strange apparition to leave. "All I gotta do is breath into that thing and you'll go?"

"That's it. Easy-peasy."

"You swear?"

"On my life." The strange old man wiggled the tube again. "Any day now–”

Sandra snatched the straw, slowly lifted it to her lips and blew.

The man frowned. "You gotta do better than that. One more time. Come on, make it a nice big one."

Sandra side-eyed him but blew harder. "Here," she said, thrusting the straw thingy at him. “Now get out of here."

The old man quickly capped the tube and slipped it into his pocket. He jotted something down on his ledger, ripped off the bottom half and handed it to her.

"Your receipt," he said. Then, as promised, he disappeared. Vanished into thin air, leaving nothing in his wake but that weird sweet smell.

Seconds later, Sandra gripped her head and staggered to the couch; the paper clenched tightly in her fist. Once seated, she spread the paper open on her knee with her shaky fingers to read.

"LAST BREATH, INC. would like to thank you for your cooperation. Please note: Your body recovery has been scheduled for Friday, August 12th, 2018. Time undetermined. Please finalize any and all last affairs by said date. No extensions permitted. LAST BREATH INC., thanks you and wishes you a nice rest of your life."

August 12th? That's tomorrow ... The wall clock read close to midnight.

... Steven finally made it home early morning.

“Sandra?” He called, exhausted after another draining, long shift. He passed the living room and spotted Sandra sprawled out on the couch. “Honey?" he whispered. "Why aren't you in bed?”

Steven came closer, leaned down, and was ready to plant a soft kiss on her lips. “Hey baby,” he whispered. “Sorry I'm so late but the ER went nuts tonight and they were short-staffed so I–” Steven hesitated. “Oh my God.”

* Story Starter: Complete The Story/Piccadilly

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