It’s National Short Story Day. As such, here’s an excerpt from one of my own.
Kkel had just caught himself staring out the window. Lost in observations of life moving past, keeping pace with pedestrians, being outpaced by vehicles. The long, low, orange hued, lines being drawn across the cityscape by the slowly setting suns were bathing the view in a desaturated haze as they reflected off steel and glass. He had unintentionally slipped into this unfocused stare, instigated by the sudden onset of an unusually pensive mood. Indecision was creeping across the corners of his mind and it wasn’t until he felt a kick to his shin from under the table that he realized how quickly he’d fallen down that hole.
“Stop ignoring me.” The voice was soft, the tone playful. It carried with it the most subtle of inflections. A carefully concocted verbal recipe of playfulness and demand, articulated to in a way designed to challenge him into realizing what he had been doing. He slowly rotated his head, his chin resting in his palm, pulled away from the malaise that had started to crawl through him, and looked into the eyes of the woman sitting across the table. They were intensely dark, but they reflected and played with light in ways that made them glimmer almost unnaturally. She returned his gaze, a teasing grin peeking out from behind the coffee cup she was half hiding herself behind. He couldn’t help but smile back. “What?” she asked. He continued to look into her eyes, watching them flicker with an obvious mischievousness. He shook his head a little and chuckled. “Never.” It was more of a whisper than actual speaking. “Never what? Speak up.” He sat a bit more upright and rested his elbows on the table. “I could never ignore you.” Neither of them broke eye contact. They knew where the conversation was going. Both aware of its lack of any real substance yet acutely aware of it’s significance.
The simple reality was that all he’d been able to do was think of her. She had recently managed to derail his life in a way he’d never anticipated and despite all his talents for anticipation and pattern recognition, his ability to see avenues of outcomes and look across time lines, he had been completely blindsided. Trying to get himself back on balance, trying to get his sense of foresight back, was proving to be futile. He found himself constantly distracted by thoughts of her. Their friendship was already well established. Technically they worked together, although they rarely saw each other in that setting, but recently he’d started to develop intensely passionate feelings for her, feelings that he was having a hard time reconciling with. Not the feeling themselves, per se, but the idea that someone could overwhelm him so easily with just her presence had him feeling like he didn’t even know who he was anymore. Not that he ever really felt he had, but his life had been on a pretty stable track recently and this sudden injection of control loss had him reeling.
One of her most powerful abilities was the ease at which she could strip him of his words. Anyone who knew Kkel knew that words were his standing defense against the world. They were his armor. Words were how he manipulated his environment, or at least the people in it. They were his method for avoiding unnecessary action, for derailing conflict, for achieving balance. A barrage of precisely chosen syllables, strung together in purposefully crafted words and phrases, could prove more deadly than any hail of gunfire or could disarm an opponent faster than any CQC technique. They were the keys to every locked door, the code to every closed mind and channel. Words were control.
And she took them all away, and with them, his control. He was forced to face the tyranny of inaction. Forced to make moves he was unsure of. To make decisions without exploring and analyzing all the possible outcomes. He had to make choices without meticulous study. He was so far out of his element, so far away from knowing what the right thing to do was, so far from who he thought he was, or had believed he was becoming.
“That’s not true, you ignore me all the time.” She gently kicked him under the table again. They both knew it wasn’t true, but she liked putting him on the defensive, liked making him verbalize his truth. “When have I ever ignored you?” he said, smirking a little, knowing there was no real answer. “You just were!” she put her coffee cup down. She was playing at seriousness, but her posture, her pure expressive nature, betrayed her. She never took her eyes from his. “And stop looking at me like that.” She pointed a finger at him with a barely managed scowl etched across her face. “Like what?” He leaned back and crossed his arms. “Like you’re studying me…”
Those words were, in fact, not far from the truth. He was well aware what was supposed to happen next, but it didn’t. He knew it wouldn’t. Reality was rushing back. Though the all too familiar sensation of static flooding through his brain overwhelmed his senses, short circuiting his memory, it was not something he had yet grown accustomed to.