chapter five: Sparrow

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I shut the door and walked away. That guy hadn't been like any pizza deliveryman I'd encountered. I crossed the room and drew back the curtains to peer out the balcony doors. The strange pizza man was walking across the street in a hurry. I was about to let the curtains fall back and go take a shower, but then I realized he had completely passed his delivery truck, and he still had the pizza he'd tried to deliver me in hand.

I cocked my head and leaned in a little closer to the sliding glass door. The man stepped onto the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, headed straight toward the shadowed alleyway there. Then I noticed there was someone else in the alleyway, leaning against the wall, waiting for him. He sat the pizza box down carelessly on the sidewalk and approached the figure, arms outstretched as he began talking to the person.

I squinted, trying to better see the person in the alleyway across from the pizza man. A second later they came out of the shadow, clearly a woman. I could tell by her figure, even in the loose hoodie she wore. The hood was up, obscuring her face in shadow even in the bright sunlight.

I strained to make out any features I could, but she was too far away. She crossed her arms over her chest and paced in front of the pizza man as he relayed some information with fervor. Suddenly it hit me that he was a spy, a sloppy one, but definitely a spy. He and this girl were gathering information on me.

But why?

I ran my tongue over the front of my teeth, and the thought crossed my mind that someone from the council may have found me. I didn't want to think that it was possible, but I had to consider it. I had been on the planet long enough that I could have easily flashed on their radars. Lord knew they had the tech for it. But I had hoped they all thought me dead.

No, I thought, the council would never be so sloppy. But then who was the girl?

I watched a little longer as they conversed back and forth. No matter who they were, they had some vested interest in me that I was sure couldn't be anything good. I let the curtains fall, and I turned to get ready to leave. I couldn't stay at that apartment any longer now that they knew where I was-whoever they were.

Better safe than sorry. It was a human proverb that resonated with me in that moment.

I pulled on my pants quickly and a t-shirt after. Then I grabbed my wallet and my lone bag of belongings that I had been living out of for months. I had learned to pack light with how often I was moving around, though I'd hoped to remain at that Mercury apartment for much longer.

As I wrote up a quick note to the landlord I resolved that I would try to find another place just outside of Mercury, maybe in an upscale neighborhood where they wouldn't think to look for me. Squatters always nested in the seedy areas, but if I rented a loft upstate in all cash I thought they might have a harder time locating me. I could hope so, anyway.

As soon as I had everything I peeked carefully out the balcony doors once more, drawing back the curtains ever so slightly. The girl and the deliveryman were gone, as if they'd never been there.

Good, I thought, I can leave immediately.

I left my note to the landlord and my key in the main office before I left. Then I carefully walked out onto the street after doing a quick check to make sure that they were really gone. Just as I was about to head for the bus stop, a glimmer in the alleyway across the street caught my eye. I darted across the street to see what it was, but it was only a half-empty liter of root beer.

I adjusted my bag on my shoulder and left for the bus, glancing at the watch on my wrist. It was a quarter past four. I was just in time to make the 4:30 bus. I crossed the street again, and I picked up a newspaper on my way to the stop.

Then I opened it to the classifieds to search for the most expensive housing near Mercury, New York.

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