FIRST CONTACT, ACT I
“Please remove your bags and take your receipt,” the self-checkout machine said in its slow, mechanical voice.
Angela Osbourne did as she was told and hurried out of the store, her eyes firmly trained on the floor just ahead of her feet. Automatic doors parted in front of her and she stepped outside.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!” a voice snapped.
She glanced up at a middle-aged man having a smoke on the sidewalk, and their eyes met. Images flooded into her mind; a wedding, a woman giving birth, horses circling a racetrack, divorce papers sliding across a desk…
Angela looked away. Her hands started shaking and she desperately craved a cigarette, though she’d never smoked in her life. She bit her lip and kept walking, aware of the guy glaring after her.
She reached an intersection and hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she needed to turn left or right; two memories wrestled for the same spot in her head. She clutched her bags to her chest and tried to clear her mind.
She went right. Left led to a bachelor apartment on the west side that smelled of spoiled milk and stale beer, and she knew that wasn’t her life.
Angela’s apartment was on the tenth floor of a secure building a few blocks east. The place had a strict “no soliciting” policy, so she never had to worry about people coming around to sell her a new internet provider or political party.