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I wrote this a couple of years ago, around Halloween. It is flash fiction, and weird fiction (of course). And if you lived in San Francisco during a certain couple of decades, you might recognize the Mystic Eye, which was an occult bookshop not far from City Lights. Enjoy!

It had been a deep dark gray outside, overcast and you could taste the water in the air. By lunchtime, the skies opened and the deluge began. Of course I was on my way back to the office without an umbrella, and so when the water began to come down in sheets, I barely missed getting hit by a car as I crossed the street, so I ducked into the first doorway that offered cover.

Standing there, I realized it was the entrance to a shop…one I hadn’t noticed before, though it certainly seemed like I should have. “The Mystic Eye” was one of those candle and esoterica bookstores, complete with silk scarves and tarot cards and various kinds of incense. I stepped into the shop to keep from blocking the door, in case any customers might want to get in or go out.

A frail looking woman looked up from the book she’d been reading, sitting behind the counter.

“Feel free to sit and read until the storm lets up” she gestured to the several comfortable overstuffed chairs in residence and added “There’s hot water for tea and some tea bags over there and the wifi password is ‘Minerva_2#’ if you need to get online.”

“Thanks!” I was thrilled, since I had my laptop with me, I could at least get some work done.

She went back to reading.

It felt a little odd, no one else but me and her were in the store. But the storm was going strong, and it was nice and quiet. I booted up my laptop and went to get a cup of green tea.

When I sat back down, the laptop was rebooting itself after having done some updates. I must’ve been behind or maybe there was some new release of one of my applications. I rarely paid any attention, just hitting YES and I AGREE as quickly as possible to get through it all and back to work.

I checked my emails, updated a couple of items on my website and did a neat blog post. The storm let up, and I packed things up and went on my way. I thanked the lady behind the counter and she just waved at me without looking up.

The next day working from home, was when I noticed the new icon. “StyxChat” with a red flame on a black background. I popped it open and there was a chatbox. Normally I would have just gone to the Applications Listing and uninstalled the thing, but I was curious.

So I typed in “Hello”.

Almost immediately I got “Hi”, right back.

Me: Are you a bot?

It: No Melissa, this is Dad.

Me: Seriously?! My Dad is dead.

It: Yes, I know. I died on October 17 of an aneurism. You wore your ugly black and blue dress to my funeral.

Me: Stop F**king with me, who is this?

It: When you were 6, you kept throwing your left shoe out the car window whenever we went anywhere. When we asked you why, you said it was for your friend Toni to find you. Your Mom started duct taping the left shoe to your foot.

Me: Dad???

It: Finally! Yes it’s me.

Me: But how?

It: You loaded the StyxChat, right?

Me: I guess so, but ??

It: It lets you talk with the dead.

Me: But how?

It: Do you remember the rainstorm yesterday?

Me: Yes

It: That car didn’t miss you.

Me: ??

It: You’re dead, too, Melissa.

Me: I don’t believe you…

I slammed the laptop closed. I looked around. Really looked around, and everything was kind of watery. Like when your glasses are still wet and everything’s distorted.

I opened my laptop up again. The chat window was still open.

Me: What do I do now, then? If I am dead.

It: What do you want to do?

Me: I have a choice?

It: You always have a choice.

Me: Can I come see you and Mom?

Behind me I heard movement, and they were there.

“We thought you’d never ask.”

They were the only things in focus. And I cried as I hugged them both. It was them, it was really them.

“If I really have a choice…I don’t want to be dead.”

They looked at me.

I heard them crying “No, no, no” as I felt myself hurtling backwards in a spin that made me want to vomit.

I blacked out, and when I came to, I was sitting behind a counter, reading a book with very strange signs and sigils on the pages. Outside the rain was coming down in sheets.

A soaking wet young woman stepped into the shop. And for an awful moment, I knew she was me, and then it passed like the thoughts that slip away when you go into the kitchen for something.

“Feel free to sit and read until the storm lets up” I gestured to the several comfortable overstuffed chairs in residence and added “There’s hot water for tea and some tea bags over there and the wifi password is ‘Minerva_2#’ if you need to get online.”

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