A new and dangerous mission for Eustace Benjamin

A Changeling was in Eustace's kitchen.  The beasts of countless tales of horror had haunted his dreams since childhood, and now he was having an intellectual discussion with one.  Nevertheless, his body trembled with fear.  The muscles in his legs cramped, and he then realized that they had been quivering all along.  He plunked himself down, heavily, into one of the stools by the counter and put his hands to his eyes to clear away whatever weird hallucination he was suddenly experiencing.  Changelings sought only to kill and to maim, they didn't sneak into the average potato chip shmo's apartment and ask him for help.

Did they?

Eustace continued rubbing his face with his hands.  Through his fingers, he asked, "Should I be afraid?"

"Terrified, but not of me."

"Riiiiight.  The terrible government conspiracy."

"I swear to you I am telling the truth."

"But why?"

Terry's eyes blinked with incomprehension, "Why, what?"

"Okay, so you're telling the truth.  Maybe you are and I should believe you, or maybe you are just trying to screw with my head.  In either case, my question for you is: why ME?"

Terry looked lost for a moment; she gazed aimlessly at Eustace's forehead, and there was a brief flash of fear inside him as it occurred to him that the maybe the Changeling was simply looking him over for the tastiest parts.  His inclination to be creeped out by her eyes only intensified when he got the impression they were looking through him, rather than at him.  Finally she answered, with a slight shake of her head, "I don't know why exactly, but something about you believes -- or is ready to believe."

Was it Eustace or was the air slowly being sucked from the room?  All at once it appeared as if the weight of the world (or multiple worlds, perhaps?) had settled directly upon his shoulders, and his lungs strained with the responsibility of it all.  Eustace wasn't a man of action, not at all.  He wanted only to be left alone so he could live out his boring days without experiencing so much as a hint of excitement.  These thoughts that Terry was introducing into his mind were wrong.  Dangerous.

Eustace got up and paced around the kitchen, unconsciously patting his head with both hands, almost apologetically, as if he were allowing the mind-readers some solace by letting them know these new thoughts of rejecting the herd and embracing individuality were foreign to him and the little places inside his skull.  He was compliant, damn it!  He was the very essence of passive obedience for God's sake.

Terry, for her part, only watched silently as Eustace paced a circle in the floor and repeatedly muttered, "No, no, no, no..."

"Eustace," she offered, "it has to be you.  I'm sorry, but there's no other way."

The End

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