VICtim of prediction
“What’s your name?”
“And Tom, what size?”
“You mean medio.”
“Is that what you call it now?”
“It’s medium in Spanish, because our beans are grown in Bolivia.”
“Well Tom, that’ll be two fifty-three.”
As I waited for the pimple-faced teen to give me my change, we both knew it would be a few seconds: just the right amount of time to ask America’s most impersonal question.
“How’s your day going?”
“Good, how is yours?”
That’s what I should have said—what I would have said, under normal circumstances.
“My horoscope told me I’m going to die today, but it’s been wrong so far, so things are okay.”
The cashier froze with his hand halfway in the register drawer and he looked at me. He opened his mouth, still processing a response. My glance lingered on his bright blue braces.
“Oh. Well, have a good rest of your day.”
As I turned around, the people standing behind me looked at me with expressions of confusion, disgust, and impatience.
“Hope none of you guys are a Libra!”
An older woman looked like she was going to faint. Or die, potentially—depending on her sign. I walked into a corner of the room and tried to become invisible. As soon as the barista announced my name, I grabbed my coffee and left the café, opening the front door to a perfect day. Robins chirped on the black power lines, stark against the blue sky.
“I can’t die today. It’s too beautiful for tragedy.”
Then, I heard a horrible screeching to my left. By the time I swiveled my head, the milk truck jeered onto the sidewalk and had taken down the cloth awning on the storefront beside the café. I leaped into the street, milliseconds away from becoming road kill—or, rather, sidewalk kill. The vehicle crashed into the lamppost just next to where I was standing, bending the black pole at a catawampus angle. Smoke wafted from the vehicle’s hood. A man in a stained white suit stumbled out of the driver seat, holding a milk carton filled with dark liquid. After a reverberating belch, he fell in a developing puddle of spilled milk. I caught a glance of the cashier through the café window: face slack, jaw unhinged, and skin white as the milk pooling on the sidewalk. Shock suffocated me and I forced myself to exhale, coughing on my stale air.
The piercing sound of a police siren echoed through the streets, which meant I’d be a witness if I hung around, and I wasn’t interested in spending my last day alive testifying. My mind flashed through all the places where I could avoid death: the library (far away; easy to die in transit), the mattress store (weird place to loiter), a restaurant (could get food poisoning), the art gallery (a massive painting could fall and crush me), the park (A headshot by a Frisbee could cause internal bleeding), my apartment (where I could die bored and alone), or the rug store (probably doubling as a drug laundering operation where I could get caught in the middle of a bad deal). I opted for the mattress store.
Mattress Maniac was only a few blocks away, so I maintained a steady speed along the sidewalk. Every few seconds, I’d check behind my shoulder to be certain that there weren’t any more rampant milk trucks. Once I got to the mattress place, a bald man with a bushy moustache greeted me. He wore khakis and a navy blue polo far too small for his beached whale body.
“How ya doin’? I’m Angelo, and I’m happy to help ya in any way I can.”
“Hey Angelo—Just browsing for now, thanks.”
“Okay—hey, jus’ lemme know how I can help.”
I found the corner of the store furthest from the street and eyed the mattresses, pretending to be interested. If anything, the mattresses sparked my interest in how comfortable casket bedding might be. Every mattress in the corner was way out of my price range, despite most of them being half off. Most of them had adjectives like royal or ultra-premium, using materials that sounded like exports of a foreign galaxy. I noticed Angelo was no longer standing in the front of the store.
“She’s a beaut, this one,” whispered a garlic-infused voice behind my left shoulder, “with the Hevea latex and a continuous coil system, this ultra-premium royal Falsetto is the best thing we got in the store.”
I jolted around, skipping a few heartbeats.
“Oh, yeah. A beaut,” I said, trying to steady my breathing again.
“Tell you what—I’ll give it to you a quarter off.”
“Thanks, but I’m not sure if I’m interested in a mattress today.”
“Heh, that’s what everyone says, but ‘yer in a mattress store, ain’tcha?”
“I just don’t know if I can afford one right now, you know?”
“Okay—Thirty percent, but that’s as high as I’ll go.”
“I’m really just browsing—just doing some research, really.”
“Research, huh? Okay, big shot. Comin’ in my store to check out the mattresses so you can buy a cheap one online? I seen your type ‘afore, ya goddamn millennials.”
Angelo pointed towards the door.
“Git outta my store.”
I didn’t want my life to be ended by the hands of an upset salesman, so I walked out. I wasn’t sure where to go next, so I sat on a bench a safe distance from the street and the mattress store. After pondering my options, I dialed Tabitha. She had a good voice of reason.
“Hey Tabitha, it’s Tom.”
“Oh, Tom—Sorry… I must’ve lost your number. What’s going on?”
“Not much. Y’know, still a banker.”
“Okay. Well, I’m about to head to a meeting, is there a reason you called?”
“Sorry—yeah, so my horoscope today said…”
“Wait, you’re calling me about your horoscope? Are you seriously doing this again?”
“Well, it said I’m supposed to die today.”
“You know those things are utter bullshit, right?”
“I was walking on the sidewalk and almost got ran over by a milk truck.”
“You’re playing into this way too much. Also, what kind of fucked up writer tells people they’re going to die?”
“What if they’re right?”
“You’re not going to die today, Tom. Goodbye.”
She hung up.
That didn’t answer any questions. Feeling defeated, I looked at the ground, immediately focusing on a small dog-eared card. I peeled it off the pavement—it was a black card with a white icon of an eye inside a triangle. The address was only a few blocks away, and the price was reasonable enough.
The address brought me into an alleyway wedged between two brick buildings. A homeless man slept on a flattened cardboard box beside a large green dumpster. It was hard to tell which the rancid smell was coming from. I scanned the alley for any dark figures waiting for me with a shank, but there didn’t seem to be anyone. Above me, there were no dangling pianos or precarious potted plants—just a simple strip of sky. At the end of the alley was a bright purple door with an eye painted over the view hole. A dream catcher hung on the small striped awning. I knocked on the door, and before I could finish my third knock, a small woman opened the door. She was so short and opened the door so quick, that I almost knocked on her face.
“You vunt to know your vuture?”
She wore her dark brown hair in a bun with a bright yellow headband covered in sequins. Intense black makeup shaded her eyes and her lips were an unnatural shade of bright red. A conglomerate of gold and silver necklaces hung around her neck, featuring everything from ornamental crosses to feathers and bones.
I reached back into my wallet and gave her the two tens.
“Ah, zank you for zhe tip!”
The everyday version of me cared about losing five bucks, but about-to-die me didn’t give it much thought. I followed her inside, ducking under a rusty overhead pipe before reaching a room wallpapered in tapestries. A large circular table stood in the center of the room, clothed in a bright red tablecloth. On top of that lay a crystal ball the size of a basketball. It had a slight purple glow to it, and the thick swirling smoke inside was reminiscent of a lava lamp.
“So… vut do you vant to know?”
She sat in a wooden chair across the table.
“I’d like to know my future.”
“I just want to know what you see.”
“Let me zee…”
She closed her eyes, stretched her fingers around the smoky orb, and started making a humming noise. Her eyebrows danced in the rhythm of her dancing fingers, gravitating around the crystal ball. Then, all her movements stopped with a sudden jerk. Her eyes opened, looking right at me.
“Zees says zat you veel come across great vealth, and you veel find true love, but you will have difficulty in the path ahead.”
“Well, my horoscope said something about death, what about that?”
Her eyes looked up from the crystal ball, uninterested. She looked back towards the crystal ball, closed her eyes, and started rubbing her temples with her pointer fingers.
“Yes. Death… it comes to you, or someone near. Today, maybe?”
“Can I do anything about it?”
She squinted back into the crystal ball a few moments before shrugging at me. For a few moments, I looked at the table tapestry’s geometric pattern, thinking about saying something profound before making my exit. I’m no good at that sort of thing, however.
“Do you have a bathroom? I think need to go throw up.”
“Use zee alleyway.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
I walked back through the narrow hallway, opened the door, and strolled over to the dumpster to spill my guts. Lucky for me, it didn’t wake the homeless man.
When I got home, I started pacing my house. I checked all the stuff I’d eaten recently in the fridge, but nothing was more than a few days out of date. In my storage room, I had a long bundle of rope, but I wasn’t good enough at tying knots for it to be a possibility. My door was locked and had a chair resting against the knob, so it would be more unlikely for someone to break in. I duct-taped the entire tile floor of my bathroom to make sure I wouldn’t slip. I unplugged all my electronics using oven mitts. For dinner, I ate a package of crackers with two gallons of water, in fear that I might lethally dehydrate myself eating saltines. After drinking both gallons, I ended up eating another sleeve of saltines in fear that I might have overhydrated myself. At the end of it, I felt ready to explode. After dinner, rolled myself in bubble wrap and lay on my couch, staring at my ceiling. My heart pumped so fast, I was almost certain I’d die of a heart attack.
After a few hours of lying in sweaty bubble wrap, I decided to go find my newspaper from the morning. It was balled up in the trash, but after unfolding it, I read a small line of text on the top of the first page.
Due to recent complaints, we have adjusted our formatting.
I flipped through the newspaper at lightning speed, bringing me to the horoscope section. My eyes scanned the horoscopes—the formatting had indeed changed.
‘You’re going to die,’ it read atop of Libra.
There weren’t horoscopes written above the signs, like they were usually formatted. Instead, my horoscope was now written below Libra, with the new changes.
My true Libra horoscope read, ‘You’re going to have a very stressful day.’ I opened my large kitchen window and climbed onto my fire escape, swaying side to side with each footstep. The entire structure creaked with a metal whine. I didn’t worry.
“I’m not gonna die today!”
Directly across from my apartment, I locked eyes with a man watering his rooftop garden. The green hose hung limp in his left hand, guided by the steady stream of water. His right hand shook, clutching his chest. His mouth was agape, but he didn’t scream. As he fell backwards, the hose dropped in an upright position against an empty planter, creating an arc of water into the small rectangular square of soil.
Must have been a Virgo.