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Quick Contact

Judith has a bad habit of touching people. She brushes against them randomly, and it freaks people out. Her colleagues act civil with her, but they talk behind her back. Say she’s sexually frustrated or obsessed with subtle human contact. She must be in serious need of intimate connections. They chuckle behind cupped hands.

The new manager feels sorry for her. He remembers her bumping into him in a fairly wide corridor on his first day. She apologized, and it never happened again, inclining him to think it was simply a matter of wanting attention. With all the rumors going around, however, he takes it upon himself to speak to her about it. No HR involved. That might alarm her. He doesn’t want to scare away his best employee, all peculiarities aside, of course.

He spots an opportunity late one evening. The longhand of the clock inches close to nine, and the office basks in the eeriness of sudden inactivity. From his office, he sees Judith hunched over her desk, typing on the keyboard like a madwoman. Her skin turns blue to white, then blue again as she switches tabs on her computer.

He prepares two cups of instant ramen in the office kitchen and sits across from her. She continues her aggressive typing for a while before glancing at the food and setting her work aside.

“Are you about to fire me?” Judith asks.

He chokes on a mouthful of noodles. After a few gulps of water, he coughs and says, “No, no. I just want to talk to you.”

“About why people here avoid me?”

“No. Well, yes. Not to attack you, but to empathize. I sincerely think they’re overreacting.”

She stirs the bowl with her chopsticks. “They’re not. I do it on purpose—the quick physical contact. I need to.”

“Why?”

“It’s the quickest way to identify a shapeshifter.”

The elevator chimes in the lobby. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, retrieves a dagger from under her desk, and turns to face the door.

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