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by Joshua Scribner

“You don’t want to do it?” Carmen said to the flashing red man. 

They were at the mall. The man had moved off to a little nook with a water fountain, which was about as good as privacy as Carmen thought she would get.

It was hard not to show her anxiety.  She had stopped growing at twelve, and was now a tiny thirty-year-old.  The man she had walked up to was over six feet tall and at least 250 pounds. 

He looked down on her and spoke with a gruff voice.

“Do what?”

He didn’t know he was flashing red.  No one did, except Carmen, just as no one but her knew her right hand was flashing white.

“You don’t want to harm that couple you’ve been following.  And I know you’ve been following them, because I’ve been following you.”

He stared hard at her.  “Why would you follow me?”

Carmen fought back the urge to walk away.  “Something inside you is calling for me.  She held out her flashing hand.  “Just take my hand, and you’ll understand why.”

The man studied her for a few seconds, shrugged, and then swallowed her hand in one of his.

Carmen felt the familiar electricity and watched as the man’s flashing light faded.  When his light was gone and the flash of her hand had turned red, she pulled back from him.

With tears in his eyes, he said, “I’m not really mad at them.  I mean, she left me for him, but I’m not mad at them.  I’m just hurt.”

Carmen got into her purse and pulled out the right card.

“Listen,” she said.  “Your anger was deep-seated.  It had to do with something you’ve been carrying around for a long time, probably since childhood.” 

The man nodded, and the tears streamed down his face. 

“Take this card, and call this man,” Carmen said.  “He only charges what you can afford, and he’s good.  The anger you just let go of can build back up.  So call him today. Tell him Carmen sent you.”

The man nodded.  “I don’t know what you did, but thank you.”

“No problem,” she responded.  “But I have to hurry off now.”

Carmen left him standing there.  She had to get rid of what was in her hand before it got into her mind.  She had to find someone in need of the man’s anger, like someone who needed to escape an abuser, or maybe someone who just needed to stand up to their boss. 

She was surprised when her left hand started flashing white.

“This has never happened before,” she whispered.  “I have to take again, before I give?”

She saw the answer pass by her.  It was man flashing green.  She followed him at a safe distance.  He was an older man, dressed in expensive clothes.  He approached a few different young women, one by one, and appeared strike up conversations with them.  He was ignored, sometimes politely, sometimes not.

Carmen met up with him at a rack of shirts he was pretending to go through at JC Penny’s. 

“Hi,” she said.

“Well, hello there,” he responded, looking her over.

She simply held out her hand.  He hesitated only a second and then took it. 

By the look on his face, he knew something was happening.  He didn’t pull away, though.  No one ever did. 

When his green had drained, she pulled away.

His face was shocked and a little ashamed.

Carmen said, “There’s always a reason I’m brought to people.  Something inside of you needed me to remove your lust.”

The man looked away, now definitely ashamed.  “I waste so much time hitting on young women.  I hate it, you know.  It’s just that the feelings overwhelm me.”

She opened her purse and got out a card.  “This man can help you, but you have to hurry.  Those feelings will rise up again.”

The man nodded vigorously.  He seemed relieved.  She suspected he would seek the help.
She moved away and left the store, her right hand flashing red and her left hand flashing green.  She didn’t move far before things got stranger.

She always felt something like a magnetic attraction to the person in need of her touch.  She felt that attraction now, but it was between her two hands.  She stopped where she was and brought the two hands together.  She felt the electricity run through them for about five seconds, and then both of her hands turned a darker shade of green.  She thought red and green normally made yellow, but wasn’t stunned that her hands didn’t obey the normal rules of color.

She got to walking again, feeling something coming from somewhere.  She thought of the mixture she had made.  If you took lust from someone and placed it in another person, it wouldn’t make the second person lust for the same thing as the first.  It would enhance the lust the second person already had for something in their life.  The effects of adding anger differed from person to person too. 

It took her about five minutes to find two people flashing white light.  They were a man in a woman, standing together, but apart, at the counter in a coffee shop.  They both appeared bored and sad.

Carmen laughed lightly as she walked in.  She walked up behind them and grabbed the woman with her left hand and the man with her right.

When she was finished giving the color to them they looked at her with astonishment. 

She whispered so they both could hear but the busy barista could not.  “That ought to spice it up.”

She walked away.  Outside the store, she glanced back to see the man was whispering to the woman, who had started to blush.  The woman smacked the man on the butt.

“Glad to help,” Carmen said and then made her way out of the mall, with neither hand flashing.

Joshua Scribner is the author of the novels Mantis Nights, The Coma Lights and Nescata.  His fiction won both second and fifth place in the 2008 Whispering Spirits Flash Fiction contest.  Up to date information on his work can be found at  Joshua currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. Contact Joshua.