Last Line: “And just as fast as everything had stopped, there was a large blue flash, and everything went black.”
Word Count: 2,133
“Well, you can’t fire me because I quit!” Ruby yelled as she chucked her nametag to the ground. It was cliché, but she was too angry to think of anything better than that. She had put the Bible in the fiction section as a joke, but unfortunately, her boss didn’t find it very funny and fired her, saying that was “the last straw.”
Mr. Parquada simply rolled his eyes and resumed stocking the shelves. Ruby stormed out of the building and rented a bike to ride home. She didn’t feel like walking the hour home or hailing a cab today. She rode in a straight line down the street until she reached the edge of Central Park, where she turned right.
As Ruby passed the coffee shop, she felt something vibrating in her pocket, so she stopped.
"Ruby Thompson speaking," She replied as she walked into the coffee shop.
"Heyyy Ruby!" The person on the other end exclaimed, "It's Dennis!"
"Dennis!" Ruby smiled for the first time all day. Dennis was Ruby's favorite cousin. Granted, he was the only one even remotely close to her age, but they still had some common interests and talked often. She sat down in an arm chair in the corner of the shop, "Did you get a new phone?"
"Yup. Thought it was time to replace it."
"Your old phone was hardly a year old!" Ruby said, and Dennis laughed on the other end, "Anyways, how are you?"
"I'm great! Super great!" Dennis paused for a moment before continuing, "Guess what?"
"I'm coming to visit you!"
If Ruby had had a drink in her mouth, she would have spit it out, "Excuse me?!"
"I thought you'd be happy to see me."
"I am! I totally am." Ruby lied.
"You don't sound happy," Dennis said, "Look, Rubes, I haven't booked a hotel room yet. I don't have to come."
"No, no, no, you can come," Ruby rubbed her chin, "I'm just really busy with school, and softball, and the play we're putting on in July. Plus I need to find another job!"
"I can help you!" Dennis exclaimed, "And I can go to your games and help you practice!"
"I appreciate it, but-"
"No buts, Rubs. I'll come next Friday."
"Dennis, I have finals and-"
"I won't be a bother! I promise."
Ruby sighed, "Alright. See you then."
"Bye!" Dennis exclaimed before hanging up. Ruby put her phone back in her pocket. How was she going to handle Dennis coming over? Ruby exited the shop and resumed biking to her apartment, but before she arrived, it started raining. Luckily, Ruby always kept an umbrella in her backpack. She pulled it out, opened it, and continued.
About two minutes from her home, a man in a polo shirt passed by Ruby, "Watch out for the weirdo up there."
Ruby stopped and faced him, "Excuse me?"
The man pointed in the direction he was coming from and repeated what he said, "Some messed up chick in an old dress."
Ruby hesitated a moment before responding, "Um, thanks for warning me." She continued biking. Ruby was expecting a random woman to come and jump on her, but thankfully, that didn't happen.
Ruby turned the corner and saw the lady the man had warned her about. She wasn't weird at all, just out of place. The woman was hunched over, sobbing hysterically, holding her hands to her face. The only thing that seemed weird from a distance was her Victorian-era dress. The thing looked like it came right out of "Little Women."
But the closer Ruby got to the lady, the weirder the woman became. She was mumbling something in between her tears and was shaking uncontrollably. Ruby spotted a bag that seemed to be from the same era as her dress near her feet.
Ruby hopped off the bike and approached the lady, "You alright, miss?"
The woman didn't respond. She just kept on crying. Ruby asked her again, but received nothing but nothing but silence.
Ruby cleared her throat, "I like your dress, miss."
The woman took her hands off her face and looked up at Ruby. She would be pretty if her face wasn't so tear-stained, Ruby thought. The woman managed to squeak out, "Thank you," before looking down and continuing to cry.
"Do you need help?" Ruby asked. She had to ask again to finally receive an answer.
"Where am.." the lady stopped to blow her nose, using a cloth handkerchief, "..am I?"
Ruby couldn’t help but laugh, “You’re in New York, miss!”
“No, I am not!” the woman started crying harder.
“Yes, you are. The Empire State Building’s just visible over there.” Ruby pointed just above the building on the corner, where the spire of the Empire State building could be seen.
The lady didn’t respond. It had started to rain harder and harder, and Ruby began to worry about the poor woman, “What’s your name?”
“Why do you need to know?!” the lady yelled. A person across the street began to stare.
“Because I want to help you. Now, what is your name?”
“Why are you showing me compassion?” the woman yelled again, “Are you working with Mr. Flinnbaker? If so, I will absolu-”
“Miss!” Ruby exclaimed, “I have never heard of a Mr. Flinnbaker and I am trying to be nice! Now, please, tell me your name so I can help you!
The woman crossed her arms and sniffed, “Abigail.”
“Excuse me?” Ruby leaned towards Abigail and cupped her hand around her ear.
Abigail frowned, “It’s Abigail! Please just help me!”
“Of course,” Ruby said, “I’m Ruby.” She held out her hand for Abigail to grab, but Abigail slapped it away and stood by herself. Ruby picked up Abigail’s bag with one hand and carried the umbrella in between them with the other.
Abigail was crying the rest of the way to Ruby’s apartment. Ruby could hardly believe what she was seeing and doing. Why would someone wear a dress like that, with a matching bag, in the rain? And why was she crying?
Abby couldn’t think. Well, yes she could, but she didn’t want to. It only frightened her. This Ruby girl told her she didn’t know who Martin was, but something told Abby she was lying. Ugh, Martin. That dirty bastard! He tricked her into taking that train and now she didn’t know what to do, where she was, or how she got onto that bench. All she had was a letter, but she hadn’t read it yet.
Ruby opened the door to the building. Her apartment was on the ninth floor, so they would have to take the elevator. Abby watched curiously as Ruby pressed a button, then let out a small gasp as the huge metal doors opened.
“How did you do that?!” Abby exclaimed as Ruby walked into an elevator.
“Open those doors!”
“I pressed the ‘open’ button. How else would I open it?” When Abby asked what it was, Ruby added, “It’s an elevator. Are you stupid or something?”
“Stupid? I am certainly not stupid!” Abby was on the verge of crying even more, “But that is not an elevator and I will not be deceived into thinking it is!”
Ruby snickered, “Then what is an elevator, m’lady?”
“It carries things up and down in factories and they do not look like that!”
“Welcome to 2019, Abigail,” Ruby said, “Now, I’ve been holding these doors open for you. Could you just get in?”
“2019?” Abby gasped, “That’s not possible.”
“It is very possible.”
“I can’t believe it! Are-”
“Just get in the damn elevator, will you?”
Abby sighed and took one step into the elevator, then paused for a moment, then took another step. Ruby let the doors close behind her before pressing the “nine” button.
When the elevator started rising, Abby backed into a corner. Ruby just watched and asked, “Are you sweating?”
Abby looked at the screen showing what floor they were on, “What is that?!”
“Do you ever stop asking questions?”
“What is that?!” Abby repeated. She was crying again.
“I told you, you don’t have to cry.” Ruby opened her arms and motioned to the inside of the elevator, “this is an ele-”
“No, that!” Abby pointed to the screen. It was at seven now.
“That says what floor we’re on. My apartment’s on nine.”
“Oh.” was all Abby managed to say. The next five seconds until the doors opened were filled with silence. Once the doors did open, Abby was quick to dash out of the elevator, and Ruby followed behind her.
“Well, this is strange,” Abby said, looking around the hall.
Ruby sighed, “What now?” She was beginning to regret bringing Abigail home.
Abby ignored how rude Ruby was and continued, “Usually there is not one big hall connecting the rooms of a house. I prefer things to be more open!”
“You think I own this whole floor?”
“Why, yes. Do you not?” Abby replied, “I suppose only one side could be big enough to live in.”
Ruby laughed, “Are you serious?” When Abby said she was, Ruby pointed to door 904, “I own that. Heck, I don’t even own it.”
Abby opened her mouth to speak, then closed it and waited for Ruby to open the door. Ruby pulled out her keys and unlocked the door, “You coming?”
Abby slowly walked into the room, but stopped at the end of the door. Ruby followed behind her and turned on the lights. Abby gasped and darted about the room.
“What is that?!” Abby exclaimed when she saw the oven.
“The oven,” Ruby said. How did she not know what an oven was?
“You’re lying,” Abby said. She bent down and tapped the glass, “What’s inside?”
“It cooks food. You put the food in and-” Ruby started to explain it, but Abby had already moved to the next object that piqued her interest. This time it was the Alexa.
“What does this one do?” Abby asked, holding up the black tube. She pressed the volume up button and smiled when it lit up. She started to press the volume up and volume down button repeatedly, amusing herself with the lights, “What a lovely little tube!”
“It plays music, tells jokes, it can turn on and off the lights, all sorts of things,” Ruby explained, “Hey Alexa!”
Abby screamed and dropped the Alexa when it responded with, “Good afternoon, Ruby.”
“Don’t do that!” Ruby scooped up the Alexa and placed it back next to the couch, “Watch. Hey Alexa! Turn off the lights!”
The lights shut off and Abby screamed again, “What is this sorcery?”
Ruby told Alexa to turn the lights back on to see Abby crouched down on the floor, crying yet again, “Are you OK?”
“No! I am most definitely not OK!” Abby replied.
“How come?” Ruby asked. She was super confused. What was even happening?
“How come?!” Abby stood up and faced Ruby. Her face was still red from crying, “I’m upset because I don’t know where in hell I am! All I know was on a train, there was a huge flash! All I have is my things, a letter-”
The mention of a letter grabbed Ruby’s interest. Maybe it would explain why Abigail was so bizarre.
“-and I am so, so scared.” Abby continued to cry. Ruby sat down next to her and wrapped her arm around Abby’s shoulders.
“Hey, it’s alright, everything will be fine.”
“Are you sure?” Abby asked.
“I’m positive,” Ruby lied. She took her arm off of Abby’s shoulder and pointed to a door past the couch, “Now, I’ll get you some water and you can go rest. You can use that bedroom.”
Abby picked up her bag, but Ruby quickly took it out of her hands, “Why don’t you just take what you need and we can unpack when you wake up?”
Abby agreed and set the bag down on the table. She opened it, pulled out an off-white nightgown, and closed the bag, Ruby grabbed a cup and filled it with water before handing it to Abigail.
“Thank you,” Abby said meekly, “for your hospitality.”
“It’s no problem.” Ruby responded. Abigail turned and entered the spare bedroom, slowly shutting the door behind her.
Ruby waited about a minute before reopening Abigail’s bag and rummaging through it. She had to find that letter!
Ruby could have gagged. The smell coming from the bag was truly rancid. Finally, Ruby pulled out a plastic bag containing a white envelope. It was the only clean thing in her bag. It had “To Abigail Strinbrall” typed on it in black ink. Ruby opened the plastic bag and ripped open the envelope. She unfolded the letter and began reading.
What could this tell her?