Never Talk to a Pollster

Crowded shopping mall, illustration for urban fantasy story "Never Talk to a Pollster"

An Urban Fantasy Story

The crowded corridor made it hard to breathe. “This was a bad idea,” Brian thought, his palms sweating. With Christmas lurking around the corner, holiday shoppers were packed into Bonnet Circle Mall tighter than meat in a sausage casing.

A couple in matching red coats and puffball hats shoved past him, nearly knocking him to the ground. As he struggled to regain his footing, he considered turning around and just getting gifts for his twins online. He could blame the Post Office for everything being late. “No, Brian,” he said to himself, “you’re a dad. You have to bring home gifts today. Good dads don’t disappoint their kids.”

The crowd parted to avoid something in their path: a silver-haired woman with a clipboard standing between the fountains and the escalators. She waved at people passing by. “Excuse me, sir? A moment of your time? Ma’am? Do you have a minute to talk?” The crowd averted their eyes, pretending not to notice her. Apparently no one wanted to take her survey.

Brian was tempted to pass her by as well, but his memories of late nights at a call center wouldn’t let him. “You should help her out,” he said to himself. “That’s tough work. Marketers should stick together.” He forced a smile and approached the clipboard woman.

Even up close, it was difficult to judge her age. Her skin was flawless, radiant. Despite her hair color, she could have been fifty or fifteen. She returned his smile. “Hello! Do you have a moment to take a brief survey?”

“Sure,” he sighed, “why not?”

A bowl of chocolates appeared in her hand. “Candy?”

Brian blinked. She must have pulled it from her purse. Or she might have, if she had a purse. As strange as it was, he took a piece of chocolate anyway. Best to not be rude. “Thank you.”

“You are most welcome!” And with that, the bowl simply vanished. “Let’s get started. First, can I have your name?”

“Yes, it’s…”

The woman shook with laughter, her clipboard clattering to the tile floor. Her skin took on a blue glow, shining like an azure firefly. A pair of translucent wings sprouted from her back. With a loud “pop”, she shrunk to the size of a large moth. She raised her wings and fluttered into the air. As she vanished into a vent in the ceiling, she called out, “I’ll see you again soon! I have such plans for you!”

He shook his head in confusion. “Did that really just happen?” he thought. “It must be the stress from struggling with crowds all day. Or low blood sugar. Or a daydream.”

His phone buzzed in his pocket. The school. “Hello,” a woman’s voice said, “This is Betty, the school nurse at Hawthorn Middle. I’m calling about Ella and Adam. Is this Mister… um… Mister… I had it written down here a second ago! Sorry. I’ll call you back.”

Furrowing his brow, he tossed his phone into a nearby trash can. “That was odd. Oh well.” Grinning, _____ stepped out the door.

A blue and silver bus pulled up to the curb. _____ climbed aboard. The bus was full of smiling faces and new friends. _____ didn’t know where they were headed, but something told him the woman would be there. She was all that mattered now.

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