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The Curio Collection

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Stains From a Chicken Salad Sandwich

Karl Dewey entered the canteen on the ground floor of the office building. His office, D. C. and H., of which he was ‘D.’, was on the 9th floor. The main lunch rush had cleared out, and Karl quickly chose a chicken salad sandwich and a diet soda. He paid the cashier without acknowledging him as he rang the items and took his money, with neither really acknowledging the other. Karl took his lunch and left the building. He had a sour look on his face as he crossed the street to the park. He was supposed to be having lunch with his partners, celebrating the signing of a new client, but a matter concerning an old client called for his attention. Now that they settled the matter, he didn’t go to the lunch party. It would be winding down by the time he got there.

Once in the park, he made for a set of benches under a couple of elm trees. This late in the lunch hour, its seclusion would offer some privacy. Years before, it had a lovely outlook over the river, but new greenery obscured the view. The shrubs didn’t bother Karl; the city had traded the view for privacy, which suited him fine at the moment.

Karl sat down on the bench, opened his soda, and took a drink. After taking a sip, he wrinkled his face.

“Blah, warm.”

He pulled out his tablet to watch a wildlife video. After selecting one on kudus, he set his tablet aside and unwrapped his lunch, and started to eat.

In the video, the researchers had just darted kudu to take measurements of it. They discussed what to do with it as they tagged and measured it. Karl felt a sting in his neck. He slapped at the bug he believed was the culprit.

“I wish they’d do a better job spraying for bugs.”

While Karl was chewing another bite of his sandwich, the researchers had found and darted another kudu. He could feel his eyes growing heavy, and his mind wandered like he was in a dream. In this state, Karl imagined what it was like for the kudu.

In his mind, he could feel himself slumping on the bend, and his head nodded forward. The hand that held the chick salad sandwich fell onto his chest before gently dragging it down his tie and shirt before landing on his lap. The sandwich went tumbling out of his hand and onto the ground.

Karl, unable to move, saw the researchers’ approach through blurry eyes. At first, it was a pair of rangers dressed in metallic green suits with a gray ski mask pulled down, so it hid their faces. Each held a rod between their index and middle finger of their four fingered hands. Once they secured the area, they motioned to another.

This one wore the same outfit as the first two. However, this one didn’t have a rod in hand but held a device about twice as thick as a cell phone. It pointed the device at Karl and waved it for a moment before putting it away.

No sooner had this ranger put the device away several researchers descended on Karl. These wore silver or gray suits, but wore the same ski masks. Now that these researchers were closer, Karl could see that the eyes on the ski masks were oval and had a black cover over them. ‘These researchers seem a bit odd,’ Karl thought to himself.

As the strangely dressed researchers pored over Karl, they took his various measurements and samples. One had a short cylinder-type device that emitted a blue beam at Karl and ran it over his body. While this was going on, another researcher put a sleeve over one of Karl’s fingers. Through his bleary eyes, he watched the end of the blue sleeve turn a dark red. The researchers seemed to chirp and click to one another in an odd language during this.

While most of the researchers examined Karl, a pair took notice of his partially eaten sandwich. They took the remains and placed them in a container before scurrying off. Another researcher examined his soda, using a long thin rod to draw some out.

Most of the researchers left after they had performed their tasks. When there was only one gray-clad researcher left, he approached Karl with a clamp-like device in his hand, which he held up to the side of Karl’s head. With an electric buzz, Karl felt like something had shocked him on the ear; the researcher chirped, then disappeared with his fellow researchers. Karl shook his head after a few minutes and looked around. Everything seemed to be as it was when he first sat down. He looked on the ground for the remains of his sandwich, but all he found was its wrapper. Picking up his tablet, he stopped the video before putting it in his pocket. He then grabbed the sandwich wrapper and soda before standing up.

He felt a little lightheaded as he stood as if he was waking for the day. He took a deep breath and shook his head before heading back to the office.

He entered the building and made for the canteen for some coffee. But, again, he and the cashier interacted with the fewest words possible.

He took the elevator to the 9th floor. As he entered the double doors into the reception area of his firm, Ms. Habib greeted him. “Mr. Dewey, I’ve been trying to reach you.”

“I didn’t take my phone with me to lunch. I just went over to the park. Is there something going on?”

“Yes. Mrs. Howe called and said there was a fire in the building next to the restaurant, and it filled the restaurant with smoke. No one was hurt, but she said they were all going home for the day.”

Karl grimaced at the news. He took a sip of coffee before asking, “So I’m left to man the fort? Any appointments this afternoon?”

She shook her head and said, “Except for a couple of interns, it is just you and me. The schedule is clear. You could run home and change your shirt and tie unless you have something pressing. You’ve got something all over it.”

He looked down and noticed stains from his sandwich when he dropped it. “Bah. No, I’ll be fine. I have a spare shirt and tie in my office. Thanks for pointing it out.”

“Not a problem, Mr. Dewey,” she said with a large, friendly smile. “I like your earring. Amethyst suits you. I never noticed it before. Did you get your ear pierced during lunch?”

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