TITLE: THE THIRTEENTH SUBJECT
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
Being a good guest is a lot easier when the host isn’t around. There’s no small talk or awkward pauses and no one feels obligated to observe social niceties. You can eat spaghetti and meatballs on a cream sofa, feet on the coffee table, Dr. Pepper in hand, without someone fidgeting beside you on the armchair. Not that I do that or anything. I am an excellent houseguest. I place every pot, remote, and throw pillow exactly where I found it. It’s not so hard; I have a pretty good memory where these things are concerned. Other things, not so much.
Every surface and door handle gets a good wipe down. I even go grocery shopping, replacing what I used. It’s more than leaving the space how I found it. It’s about erasing all evidence of my stay. The trick is not being seen or heard by the neighbors—or having the owner walk in on you ducking in through a window. Like Charlie did.
I spit a wad of toothpaste into the sink and open the faucet wide to blast away the suds.
Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal. This time: two pairs of footsteps, wheels on a tile floor, whispers. I cut the water off and freeze.
“Please, keep walking. Keep walking,” I chant as if the words have any power to keep the couple from entering my temporary living quarters. Their home. Deep in the apartment I wait, motionless, straining to follow the sounds emanating from the hall.