Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 684
Summary: Millie isn’t all that smart. That doesn’t stop her from seeing what she isn’t supposed to see.
It was a Tuesday, Millie remembered that much. Other than that, she couldn’t really be sure if she had imagined it all or not, because until she saw the ugly little man in the grease-stained coveralls and figured out what he was doing, she had always been sure that the Reality Tinkerers were just an urban legend- some crazy junkie’s hallucination told again and again until some of the more mentally unstable started to believe it. And, really, who would believe that there were funny little men who popped into reality just long enough to fix some strangeness that physics couldn’t explain before popping out again just as fast? And, who would believe that these strange little men appearing was some sort of evidence that the world wasn’t what it seemed, but some kind of illusion- a lie- a virtual environment, as the crazies called it. How would anyone sane buy into that? But, there he was, bent over a strange, swirly place in the sidewalk at the back of the alley. The swirly sidewalk looked a bit like a piece of fabric would if you laid it flat, pinched the center, and twisted it until there were curved ripples spanning out from the center- only in hardened cement. If Millie were smart- which apparently she wasn’t- if she were smart, she would have just kept on walking- chalked it up to that extra blueberry daiquiri she’d had at the bar and gone home to sleep it off. Unfortunately, Millie, being not smart, just stood there in the dark street, mouth agape, watching the Tinkerer screw a brace and bit into center of the twisted concrete.
After he pulled the tool out of the hole he’d drilled, he spoke low and calm, without even looking up, “I’m not here, girlie. Just go on home, drink some a water, take some aspirin, and go to sleep.”
And, Not Smart Millie should have listened, but instead, she edged closer and watched the man drop a grommet into the hole in the ground and screw a ridiculously large orange handle into the grommet until it squeaked tight. “Still here, huh?” he asked her, looking up now.
Millie could only nod, awed by the strangeness of the swirly concrete and by something vaguely unsettling about the ugly little man himself.
“Well, if you’re not going to go home and pretend you didn’t see me as you’re supposed to, then come over here and count the revolutions as I fix this. If I don’t get the count right, they dock my pay,” he said gruffly and he waved her over.
She stepped over to him, nearly tripping on the curved ridges in the sidewalk where it was swirled around the ridiculously large orange handle. Upon closer inspection, the Tinkerer was even uglier than she had thought. And he smelled very odd- not bad, exactly- just odd, strongly odd and oddly strong, as if he smelled in neon colors.
“Here we go then,” he warned, then he gripped the ridiculously large orange handle with both hands and turned. As he did, the concrete slowly unwound until it was flat- well, flat-ish. After he was done, and the ground looked like any other lumpy piece of old pavement (save for the ridiculously large orange handle) he asked her, “So, how many?”
“Uh-” Millie answered smartly, having not even remembered to count them.
“Of course,” the Tinkerer nodded, “seven it is.” Then he pulled a clipboard from thin air, clicked the thumb of his empty hand twice as a pen appeared in it and marked down, Seven Revolutions, No Complications or Escalations. He unscrewed the handle from the grommet, popped the grommet from the nickel-sized hole in the ground, packed all of his equipment into a large black tool box that Millie was sure hadn’t been there before, and looked to her. “If you’re smart, honey, you won’t go telling everybody that you saw me. Just go back to your life and pretend that you went straight home tonight,” he advised. Then he popped out of sight.
Millie, of course, told everyone.