It all started when I left the coffee shop. With the last of my caramel latte sloshing around in my cup, I make my way back to the office.
It was a clear day, the noon sun high in the sky and blazing down on the hot tarmac. I take a last, grateful sip of the cold drink and throw it aside. I’d walked a few steps forward when I realised that something was amiss. I hadn’t heard the sound of the cup hitting the street.
I stop and look back. There was nothing in the place where the cup should’ve been. Had it been carried away by the wind? But it was a still day. There wasn’t a trace of breeze. I decided to dismiss it as my imagination running wild and move on.
Mulling over the end of another uneventful day, I walk down the road to my little studio apartment and see a little figure standing motionless next to the door.
I walked slowly down to the door and see that it’s a woman. She’s slightly shorter than me and dressed in a flabby shirt with her hair in a loose bun.
“Can I help you? “ I ask, squinting down at her in the dim light of the overhead bulb.
“Are you Tara?” she asks with a small smile.
“Yes…I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“Oh no. But I wish you did” she says mysteriously.
She holds out her hand. “You can call me Gaia or Tonantzin or, if you prefer to keep it local, Bhuma Devi. It’s nice to meet you Tara.”
I don’t quite know what to say to that.
“Cat got your tongue?” she tilts her head slightly.
“What? I’m sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong person. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to..uh..go. “ I push the door open and slam it shut behind me. I run up the stairs and almost run right into the woman from the front door.
“HOW ON EARTH DID YOU DO THAT?” I yell, frightened out of my wits.
She bursts out laughing. “Funny you should ask” she gasps, holding her stomach.
“I’m going to call the police.” I say as I whip my phone out, slightly panicking now. “Oh, don’t bother dear. You won’t receive any signal. I’ve notified the clouds and they’ve promised me they would block your phone’s reception.” She smiles cheerfully as it was her regular hobby to corner strangers and block their connectivity. But dammit, unbelievably she’s right. I look ay my phone now, which is flashing the ‘No Signal’ sign.
“All right. How much do you want? “ I ask, defeated.
“How much do I want of what? “ Her expression changes.
“Money of course!”
“You think I’m a petty thief? Actually, that’s ironical, given your position…” She trails off.
There’s a minute of silence where I’m too dumbfounded to say anything.
“Who are you then? And what the hell do you want?” I’m desperate. I can’t enter my apartment knowing she’d be lurking around.
She gives me a benign smile.
“I’ve told you that, haven’t I? Tara, I’m the Earth. This my human form.” She says, spreading her hands dramatically.
I raise my eyebrows. “Okay, nice try. But it’s too early for Halloween and that’s a terrible costume.”
“So you don’t believe me then?”
“Of course I don’t.” I scoff.
She sighed. “You leave me with no choice. Open the door.”
“Open your apartment’s door Tara. Just do it, it won’t kill you.”
Feeling like I’ve got nothing to lose, I insert the key in the lock and push the door open and switch the light on.
What I see inside almost makes me lose my mind.