Terminus 2 Excerpt: The Washer by Jessica Cage
She walked down Peachtree Street and had to remind herself that not everything that was as it seemed. Yes, the humans she passed were real but some of them a part of this simulation. There were elementals who had volunteered to return to earth so that they could watch over those who we were sickly. They were a part of the reporting system. If an elemental took a turn for the worst before the healers realized it, one of the volunteers would sound the alarm.
She rounded the corner walking into the Atlantic Station. Apparently, it was one of the subjects’ favorite locations she met a friend there shortly after her arrival, and it became habit. In the middle of the outdoor mall was a small green yard with a large screen that displayed nothing more than ads for clothing. Jakai spotted the woman from behind. Just as Marcus said, her blonde hair blew in the wind, and her full hips spread over the edge of the seat designed for someone with a narrower frame.
As always Jakai would make it seem like a casual encounter. This would be nothing more than a stranger bumping into someone along the way of her normal day. She never pretended as if she was lost or in need of directions because she found that most of the subjects would avoid giving out directions. No she needed an opportunity to get closer.
The brief information provided on the woman only gave a physical description, and general location of where she could be found. No picture, which was weird but not unheard of. Which meant Jakai needed to rely on the woman’s learned habits to connect with her.
“Are they planning anything good tonight?” Jakai slid into the seat next to the woman the screen.
“Excuse me?” the woman asked, her blond hair still moved wildly as the wind kicked up. She didn’t look at Jakai, probably nervous about the new presence at her side.
“I was told that they played movies out here some nights.” Jakai repeated what little she knew of the area. “I didn't catch what film they were showing tonight.”
“Oh, sorry you wasted your time coming out here. Unfortunately, this isn't one of the nights that they're gonna show anything. I just like to sit here and for some reason it brings me a lot of comfort.” She pointed over her shoulder to the building behind the courtyard. “If you want a movie, the theater is just there. I was thinking of catching one myself.”
“So this is like one of your happy places?” Jakai changed the topic focusing more on her than the movie.
“Happy place?” she asked, still not turning her head so Jakai could see what she looked like.
“Yeah, you know a place where you can go just to get away from all of your thoughts. I used to have a couple of those back home.”
“Are you new here?”
“Yeah, I am. I just moved here not too long ago. Brand new from Chicago.” The city was always the location she chose. She liked their pizza and therefore it was her chosen earth-based home.
“I love Chicago. I haven't been there in years though.” The woman spoke of a memory that wasn’t real.
“You should definitely go back again.” She turned and offered her hand tell the woman to introduce herself. “I’m Jakai.”
“Gem.” The woman offered her hand back turning to face her for the first time.
Jakai shook her hand and as she watched the wide smile stretch across the woman’s face her heart stopped. The subject gave her the name that the healers implanted in her brain but that was not how real name. Jakai Knew her name as well as she knew her own.
“I’m sorry?” The woman shook her head. “What?”
“I, uh.” Jakai hesitated as she tried to come up with an explanation for why she just called this woman by a name that was clearly not the one she'd given. “Sorry you just you look so familiar.”
“Oh, I have one of those faces.”
“Yeah, right. I'm sure.” Jakai stood from her seat. “I need to go it was nice to meet you.”
She hurried away from the woman who stared at her in disbelief. Her pulse raced and her hands became clammy with sweat as tears formed in her eyes. She tapped the wristband and waited. Three steps later she heard the three beeps. Two steps later she heard the crunching of potato chips.
“Tell me you didn’t know it was her.” she didn’t allow Marcus to speak before blurting out her thoughts.
“I did. I’m sorry, but that is why I sent you. I figured you would want a chance to have a few last moments with her. I know this is difficult, but if you don’t do this now, you know what will happen, what she will become.” Marcus was only focused on the task at hand not the heartbreak that she was experiencing.
“Difficult? Talk about an understatement Marcus.” Jakai held back the curses that flooded her mind. “I can’t. How could you ever ask me to do this? How could you want me to do this? You sent me here to end her life!”
“I didn't think you would want anyone else to do it.” He gave the simple explanation.
“Marcus I didn't even know she was here.” Jakai stumbled over her thoughts. “How could no one tell me she was sick? How did this happen?”
“I didn't know that it was a secret kept from you.” He paused. “I’m really sorry. I just assumed you knew. I left out her photo and other details so no one would question it.”
“You know I'm not supposed to tell you that information it only makes the job harder”
“Marcus, don't play diplomatic with me right now. How long has she been here? She is my sister!” Jakai’s voice broke with preemptive mourning, but she pressed the issue and when he didn't answer she repeated herself. “Tell me the truth. How long have you known? How long has she been here?”
“Six? Six months?” Tears fell freely as she tried to understand how six months had gone by without talking to her sister. How much longer than that had it been? “How could you keep this from me.”
“I thought you knew. Figured you just didn’t want to talk about it. This job is hard enough without having to consider washing away our own.”
“No. I’m not doing this.” Jakai refused to do what she was sent there to do.
“You know you have to do this. If you don’t they will send someone else.”
“I'm not gonna kill my own sister Marcus. She's my flesh and blood.” Jakai shook her head as she watched a family walking together. They shared ice cream and laughter and it broke her heart.
“I understand that.” he said. “But she is just like the rest. She’s going to change.”
“I don't care. I'm not gonna do this and you can say whatever you want. This isn’t happening. My sister is not going to change and I'm not gonna be the person who ends her life.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “That’s not how this is going to go.”
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Jessica's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022
Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL