Outliers and Misfits is a collection of stand-alone flash-fictions all set in the same universe, a universe where there’s no such thing as normal …
I was in town with my gran – she’s eighty-six and living in a care home, but I still take her shopping every Thursday – when we stopped off at Cafe Mokka for a drink. I had a latte, and she had a cup-of-chino (as she calls them) and we sat at a table near the back, by the loos, in case she needed to go. Anyway, we’d almost finished our drinks, when the woman two tables down from us stood up.
‘Gran,’ I whispered, ‘don’t you think she looks like that actress in that film we watched the other night?’ As well as taking Gran shopping on Thursdays, I go round for movie night on Tuesdays. Last week’s film was a black-and-white from the 50’s.
Gran squinted. ‘That’s her.’
‘That’s her.’ Gran took a shaky sip of her drink. ‘Katherine Douglas. Wonderful actress.’
‘No, Gran,’ I said. ‘That’s not her. She just looks like her.’
‘No, love.’ Gran patted my hand. ‘That’s her.’
Now, Gran’s still got most of her marbles, but she does get confused from time to time, and her carers say it’s best not to go along with it when she does. It’s best just to gently put her right, so I said, ‘Gran, if it was her she’d be the same age as you, and she really doesn’t look the same age as you does she?’
The woman started to walk toward us, which gave me a better look at her. Her skin was perfect, unblemished. Her hair was dark. No grey in sight. Her eyes were bright and clear. As she glided past us, I glimpsed her hands. No wrinkly knuckles. No blue veins. No age spots.
‘She’s twenty-five. Tops,’ I said. ‘She really does look like her though.’
‘That’s because she is her.’ Gran rattled her cup in its saucer.
‘Now, listen here, young lady,’ she said to me, wrinkling her nose like she does when the care home serves kippers for breakfast. ‘Don’t you start patronising me too. That lady is Katherine Douglas. She gave up acting in the 70’s “to do other things” she said, but really it was because people started noticing that she wasn’t getting any older. She’s one of them you know … The Immortals.’
‘People who live forever.’
‘I know what an immortal is, Gran. But there’s no such thing.’
Gran tapped the side of her nose. ‘That’s what they want you to think.’
I couldn’t help chuckling. ‘Maybe she’s her granddaughter.’
‘There’d have to be some pretty strong genes in that family if that was the case. Why don’t you look her up on that googly thing of yours. Find a picture, and when she comes out of the loo, take a closer look.’
‘All right, Gran,’ I said, deciding that going along with her delusion might actually be best for now. Two minutes later, the woman emerged from the toilets and as I looked from her face to my phone and back again, I had to admit, the resemblance really was uncanny.
(The original version of this story was published on the Ether Books app under the title of Outliers and Misfits: The Actress.)