E only eats until everyone falls in line. Then she sets aside her fork and stands, placing her napkin on the chair behind her.
“This was not an intended outcome for me.”
I set my fork down now; my stomach turns over.
“In the beginning, there were three. We made another in our images, taking a bit from each of the three.”
Does she even know she’s parodying the Bible?
“You may call me E. My two cohorts you may call Cindi and Stipple, as you are accustomed.” She pauses with deliberate precision. She turns her body toward the end of the table opposite me and holds out her hands like a prayer. “You surely remember one another, but as many of you are meeting me for the first time…,” another pause before she nods and says, “Blight, a young woman of nearly 17 years, full of spirit – welcome.”
Blight looks down the table. Only her unease diminishes her proclivity for sass.
“Wicker, female, 22 years old, and loyal watchdog – I admire your diligence.”
Wicker’s jaw works furiously. The woman obviously knows each of us and already named Stipple and Cindi as cohorts. I believe I would have felt as fiery as Wicker looks.
“Glow, nineteen-year-old recovering meth addict, who chose a name that he would never forget – clever.”
And so she went down the table as if reciting:
- Otis, newly 19, a man with a knack for hiding in plain sight – useful
- Fields, 21, a fellow high in intelligence – ever appreciated
- Breeze, 19 years of age with a fundamental standard of fairness – necessary
- Caliente, so much more descriptive than Cali, but nevertheless approximately 22 and a calming force in this group
- Crash – at 20 years of age profoundly fierce to match her beauty and charm – exquisite
- Helium, just crossed over to drinking age and blessed with an enviable technological prowess – better ours than any other’s
She says all this without interruption, examining each in turn. Then, as if nothing has been unleashed, she sits, refolds her napkin across her lap, and resumes her salad. Some faces at the table are cryptic. Others show a vicious need for more information, quickly.
Waiters bring out soup and bread, carry away salads. Whether the others have noticed the absence of introductions for Pye or me, I cannot know.
Even the most angry of us eventually picks up a spoon, for that is what E does. She pushes her somewhat empty soup bowl forward and stands again. She unnecessarily clears her throat. We remain keenly aware of her.
“I trust you comprehend the gravity of this meeting. You understand, of course, that I know your birth names, your birthplaces, your hometowns, your parents, and your last-issued grades. You may think I now have more information about your old lives in a dossier than you have remembered on your own.” She takes time to make eye contact with each person present. “You may be correct.”
As if timed – probably signaled – waiters appear with trays of shellfish. And there was soup and there was fish, our third course.