Greetings, Stranger.

“You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?” – The Daily Post

It was obvious there was something I wasn’t getting. It was the way he looked at me- with narrowed eyes and a small smile playing on his lips that he tried to hide- that caused me to stay sitting and not inch my way toward the cafe exit. It was like he was… amused, though I couldn’t imagine why considering I didn’t recognize his face. Names were one thing; I was terrible at remembering them. But faces never left me.

And this sharp-angled face, dusted with salt and pepper scruff, was not familiar to me. The green eyes that bore so intensely into mine lent me know clue as to the identity of the stranger or what he was thinking.

But still I sat there, staring expectantly, trying to rack my brain for some inkling of what could be happening. Had I seen him in passing at the university? Had he listened to one of my lectures online? He seemed a bit too old to be attending a party school, but that was only my opinion. Most people thought I was too young to be a professor, so opinions didn’t really matter. Maybe I had stolen his seat and this was his awkward, slightly-creepy way of asking me to move.

Although not probable, I decided this last option would probably get him out of my hair the quickest, so I went with it. “I’m sorry, is this your spot?” I asked and finally broke his gaze to gather up my papers and shut my laptop.

He chuckled. It was low and soft, almost nonexistent, and for a split second I doubted that I’d even heard it. When I looked back up at the stranger to see why he was laughing, I was met with a wide, toothy grin. All perfectly straight, white teeth. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way. It was mischievous, impish almost.

“Did I say something funny?” I deadpanned, a slight tone of irritation coloring my words.

His smile slipped some, though it seemed forced, as he finally spoke. “I’m sorry if I seemed forward.” He shrugged a bit and slid his hands into his pants pockets. “I didn’t mean to spook you. They warned me about that. Said you’re a bit on the skittish side.”

I frowned. The combination of his taunting grin, the way he called me “skittish”, and his posh accent that I couldn’t place frustrated me. He was arrogant, whoever he was.

I turned fully toward him after having put my things back into my bag, and grabbed my cup of coffee. “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I gave him a tight smile and turned to leave, but I could hear him following behind me. “Please leave me alone.”

“Don’t you even want to know my name?” He asked as we stepped through the cafe doors.

“Not particularly.”

“Well how about the reason why I stopped you just now?”

“Look, if this is your way of flirting, you’ve jumped over the line from interested to total creeper.”

“I didn’t know professors even used that word,” he mumbled, and the absurdity of his response stopped me in my tracks. I turned to face him again and he stopped just short of running into me.

“Why are you following me?” I asked.

“Calvin,” he replied.

Puzzled by this answer, I wrinkled my nose at him. “What?”

“My name is Calvin,” he said with another shrug. “Thought we could start things off that way, Professor Anderson.” He paused to allow me to answer him, but I stayed silent, waiting for him to continue. Finally, he did. “I’ve been sent to collect you.”

Collect me?” I scoffed.

“Well, more like recruit you,” he amended. “My employer wishes to see your unique abilities in person, Maria.”

My jaw tightened. The more he spoke, the more every one of my defenses raised red flags. “If he wants to hear one of my lectures-“

“He doesn’t,” Calvin interrupted. “He’s already heard everything you have to say on the human memory. Now he wants to see yours personally. No other person on earth has the ability to remember every single face she has ever come into contact with.”

I stayed silent for a moment as I tried to process what exactly he was saying to me. Somehow, my memory had garnered the attention of someone somewhere, though I couldn’t understand why or how. Different people had different affinities for remembering different things. There were even people with Eidetic Memory that could recall nearly anything in high detail. I certainly wasn’t one of those individuals, and I wasn’t even sure if I could remember everyone I’d ever met. That was a steep claim; Though whoever had taken an interest in me thought that I could….

Which begged the question… who exactly was this man’s “employer”? And how could he know that much about me? Had I been followed, and if so, for how long?

“His name is Dr. Matthew Long, and no, you haven’t been followed,” Calvin said matter-of-factly.

I took a step away from him. How had he known that? I hadn’t actually voiced the question yet.

“There are people with unique abilities everywhere, Dr. Anderson,” Calvin continued as if he didn’t notice my reaction. “People that can do things that we still cannot fully comprehend or explain. You’re one of those people. As am I.”

“Please do not tell me you want to take me away to some school for gifted youngsters in New York,” I sneered.

Calvin’s grin stayed in place. He shook his head. “No, nothing like that. We don’t consider these gifts to be super powers, just abilities. Your memory, my ability to know what you’re going to say, things like that.”

“You’re a mind-reader?”

“No.” He looked offended by the term, though I couldn’t imagine why. “Nothing of that sort. I can just… feel what you’re thinking. Or know what questions you’re going to ask. It’s difficult to explain, really, and sometimes I get things wrong. But not often.” He lifted his head to look at me again. “You should know more than most that the human brain is still a mystery to us all.”

I should know more than most because I’d spent my life studying the human brain, and even though I wanted to turn and run and pretend like Calvin was just some crazy hobo that had taken a liking to me, I couldn’t help but wonder what other aptitudes he might be talking about. The human brain was still a mystery to us, he was right. And people with strange abilities had been documented for centuries: people able to seemingly move or bend objects with their minds, children with autism that could draw entire cityscapes from only seeing it once, men who could do the most complex algorithms in their minds, women who could see the dead….

I had just never considered that I could be counted amongst those strange and perplexing individuals.

“If you’d like to meet some of those kinds of people, I invite you to come to the research center,” Calvin said. He lifted his hand out of his pocket and handed me a business card. “And by research center- don’t worry. I don’t mean a government experimental facility.” He winked.

“I wasn’t worried about that,” I told him as I looked over the card, noting the name and address on it. Dr. Matthew Long, Director of Abnormal Aptitude Research.

“I told you, I get things wrong sometimes,” Calvin said, tapping his own head. “It was nice meeting you, Dr. Anderson. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He took a few steps backward.

“How do you know I’ll show up?” I called after him.

He turned to walk away, throwing over his shoulder, “Reading minds isn’t my only super power, Doctor.”


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