Tourmaline

Here’s another post for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge here. Do I only come back for flash fiction challenges? Maybe. You don’t know that. Anyway, story after the break.

They’re called “tourmalines”. People who suddenly change. Nobody knows why it happens. One night you go to bed, completely normal, and the next, you wake up different. Different face, different hair, different… everything. It scares people, and why shouldn’t it? To wake up one day and none of your friends or family recognize you is a scary thought. Worse still, what would you do if it happened to your spouse? Your kids? Your own mother?

Some say it’s a mark. Like the Devil has gotten to you, or that God has marked you as a sinner. Funny how marks from God are never good, huh? It’s not a mark from God, though. It can’t be. The people, the tourmalines, look exactly like everyone else. You’d never even know they were one unless you knew them before the change, or they told you. What kind of cruel god would mark a person in a way nobody else could see, but made you unrecognizable to everyone you love? The way they talk about God, he’s cruel, but this is sadistic even by those standards.

On the other hand, some people view it as a gift, a way to start over. If life hasn’t gone well, suddenly changing everything about yourself can seem like the perfect solution. After all, if nothing about is the same, you can just pick a new name and get away from anything chasing you. How are bill collectors going to find you if you’re a different person, right?

I was one of those people.

I am a tourmaline. I’ve told nobody, but, before the change, I had a wife and a kid, and a mountain of debt. My wife never knew, but I owed a lot of people. We had never joined our accounts and never filed a joint tax return. I had insisted on it. My debts were mine alone, and I was afraid about what would happen to her if she ever got associated with them. Things were bad. So bad, in fact, that when I woke up a tourmaline, I slipped out before my wife even woke up. I didn’t leave a note.

No, it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. That’s what I tell myself anyway. I have no idea what they’re doing now, or what they think happened to me, but it has to be better than what would’ve happened if I had stayed. I have to remind myself of that every now and then. To satisfy my curiosity, I occasionally look them up online, but I never contact them. I never do anything that would out me as the man I used to be, nothing that would help them find me.

So far, it’s worked pretty well. Nobody from my past life has ever contacted me, not my friends, or family, not even my old boss. I’m not able to get new papers since I don’t have anybody who could vouch for me, so I’m an “undocumented”. People either assume I’m an immigrant or a tourmaline, and the effect is the same either way. My potential bosses give me a suspicious look, but hire me anyway. It’s always under the table, jobs that the documented won’t do for less than they’re willing to take. It’s hard work, but it keeps me alive, and it’s the price I have to pay to keep my family safe. Up ‘till now, it’s been worth it.

A few minutes ago, there was a knock on the door. Through the peep-hole, I saw them. Two big men, dressed in black. They had guns. Through the door, they yelled my name; my old name. I baracaded the door with everything I have.

They found me. I don’t know how, but they found me. Maybe it was that online “fingerprint” I’ve always heard about. Maybe I wasn’t careful enough. It doesn’t matter anymore. They’re breaking down the door. It’s only a few more minutes before they get to me. This is my apology. My love, I hope this reaches you.

I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt you. I had to disappear. I hope you understand. I’ll almost certainly be killed, but at least you’ll still be alive. I did everything I could to protect you. I only hope it was enough.

I love you.

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