“I’m home Linda,” Erica called as they entered the small, him house that was apparently where she lived. “Wait here,” she ordered, putting her books onto the bench and disappearing through a door. Libby sat down on the first step of the staircase, while Mark stood awkwardly, staring at the dingy wallpaper. Voices came through the doorway, mostly muffled but intermingled with the scent of frying fish. Time passed and the voices stopped but Erica did not reappear. Mark tried whistling briefly, quickly abandoning the attempt as Libby stared at him in surprise. He shifted to replaying the strange events and conversations of the day. So, Libby was a Banshee, Erica the class Swot was a witch and he was going to die violently. He was surrounded by dead birds, parsley and mysteriously erupting chimneys. He could see Libby, but Libby couldn’t see how he could die…
"Wait a minute," Mark said, frowning. "You said something about an assignment?"
"Yes," said Libby, attempting to clean her face with a hanky slightly dirtier than her skin.
"But it wasn’t an assignment to cry for that old man, was it?"
"No. We don’t only cry when we’re on assignment. The assignments are a reward, a privilege." Her voice became firmer as she spoke these last words, almost as if she were reciting a catch phrase.
"Why was crying - I mean wailing – for my death an assignment?"
"There are some people who are more important," Libby began. Mark perked up and straightened his shoulders. "Not necessarily because they are intelligent, or good, or even important as individuals…" The image of a flower crumbling at the touch of frost would be a good metaphor for Mark’s face as he heard these words. "In every age, a person acts as a crux in time. Well, really a few different people now. It would be too much responsibility for just one person, since the world is so big. Time, history, politics, football scores... everything is shaped around that life, however unimportant it seems."
Libby sighed at the incomprehension on Mark’s face. "Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect?"
"Nevermind," Libby said, "We wail for certain important people, like you. Except you’re different and I don’t know why."
"But what’s this about insects?"
Erica hurried out of the kitchen. "The fish and chips are ready. Come on in and we’ll work after we eat. I might be able to see something…"
"Are you going to use a crystal ball?" Mark asked excitedly.
Erica shot him a look of disgust. "That’s just a myth."
They entered the kitchen. As Mark sat down at the table, he thought he saw a large black dog moving down the road, its feet never touching the ground.