Category Archives: Fiction

Epizootic

“I learned a new word today,” she said. They had been silent for a few minutes so it startled him when she said it. They were both enjoying the summer sun and the controlled chaos of Trinity Bellwoods Park.

“Oh yeah?” he replied. He opened his eyes and sat up, sweeping off the grass that inevitably stuck to his hair, arms and shirt. Whenever she said that she learned a new word, it would always be an unspoken challenge between the two. He was no walking Oxford dictionary, but he had a decent vocabulary. So did she, of course. “What would that be?”

She also sat up, also sweeping the grass off of herself in a similar fashion. “The word is…” she paused a moment, perhaps trying to make sure she got the pronunciation on her first try. “Epizootic.”

A short word, but a fun pronunciation. He asked her to repeat the word, then said it to himself phonetically. “Ep-ih-zoh-aw-tic…” He shook his head. “Nope. nothing.”

“You can probably figure out the definition if you think about it,” she said. “But I’ll tell you anyway. It’s the animal version of an epidemic.”

“Oh, I probably could have figured that out,” he said. “I was just so flustered by not knowing the word.”

She laughed. “So in other words…”

“Yes,” he said with a sigh. “I lost.”

***

He met her two years ago, and he had his high school to blame. Growing up in the small town of Paisley, Ontario, he was surrounded by people who were happy with their lots in life. As he progressed through his four years with no interest in school sports, he found himself increasingly uneasy talking with some of his classmates. What were you in a small town, if not an athlete?

Not to imply that Saugeen Shores Secondary School was a scene from some teen comedy, but sports were always a big deal. He instead found a passion for chemistry, taking to learning the periodic table by atomic number, by heart, by the time he was in his final year.

On encouragement from his teachers, he applied to the University of Toronto’s chemistry program and got in easily. His friends were a little shocked that he would within a year be making the transition to the “big city.” He had no such qualms. He wanted to get the hell out.

His first visit to Toronto (to tour the campus, of course) was a little terrifying. The subway wasn’t too complicated, but once he got to St. George Station he got a little confused by which exits led where.

Things went a little better once he moved in. He took to his studies with vigour, as always, but he made more of an effort to be involved with extracurriculars. He ended up, on a whim, getting involved with a U of T theatre group. The first production he had a role in was As You Like It, as Duke Senior, a role his friends described as “eerily suited to him.” Apparently he always had an air of authority, even when he didn’t mean to.

In third year, he met her. She tried out (and got) the part of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. He did not get the part of Petruchio, but he still worked up the courage to talk to her after her audition.

He wasn’t sure how to describe what drew him to her. She just had an air of confidence in the way she presented herself, from the casual, barely-there makeup around her eyes to the way she had hair piled up on a bun. During her audition (she recited Hamlet’s most famous speech) her eyes could look like they could well with tears one minute and blaze with anger the next. He wasn’t nearly so poised, which was probably why he was interested. Maybe he could learn a thing or two.

“That was really cool,” he said, somewhat choking on the words.

“Oh thanks,” she said, without looking up.

“What got you interested in this play?” he asked.

Now she looked up. “I don’t know,” she said after a few seconds. “I just felt like it.”

“You felt like auditioning for a Shakespeare play?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “Can’t believe they liked me so much.”

“Wait, you just had Hamlet’s ‘To Be or Not to Be’ soliloquy memorized?”

“Everyone has something they know by heart, I’m sure you do,” she said.

“That’s true,” he said.

“That was an invitation for you to tell me what that is,” she said.

“Oh, well, I know the periodic table by heart, from atomic number 1 to 118.”

“Get out!” she said, a smile forming on her lips. “Prove it.”

Without hesitation, and now in his element, he began listing the elements. By the time he got to “cesium,” she told him to stop and that she believed him.

She glanced at her watch and apologized, saying she had to leave. But she asked him to hang out, an invitation he wholeheartedly accepted.

They met a few days later, deciding to hang out the cheap way (they were students, after all) by going for a long walk. They decided to walk to Exhibition Place, which at least an hour on foot, and so they had plenty to talk about on the way and back. She was studying history and had done extensive traveling in the year she took off before applying for school.

She spent a few months in Asia before taking a brief detour to Oceania, then headed west to Europe. By the time she was back in North America, she felt like she had to relearn customs.

They learned a lot about each other, that first real meeting, and it quickly became something more. When he finally asked her if she would be his girlfriend, she laughed in his face. He was hurt for a minute, until she clarified the reason for her laughter. “I didn’t think we had to formalize it. What is this, 1895?”

As they spent more time together, he grew to love her devotion to vegetarianism and her unabashed love for NewsRadio, and she grew to love his habit of mumbling to himself when deep into writing up a lab report and his tendency to eat slices of pizza crust-first.

***

“Say it one more time,” she said. “I don’t hear it often enough.”

“You’re really relishing it,” he said, and she didn’t disagree. “I lost, I didn’t know the definition of the word, congratulations.”

“Well thank you,” she said, doing a mocking bowing gesture (the best she could accomplish while still sitting on the grass).

“How did you come across the word, anyway? Sounds like a word I should have known, not you.”

“Came across it in some research I was doing today,” she said. Just a month ago she got an archiving job at Robarts, and when she was finished a task and had some downtime she’d skim articles for interesting factoids to pull out later. “In 1990, something like 10,000 cormorants died from Newcastle disease. It was seen as pretty bad, but it might have been even worse 100 years ago, when it wiped out a slew of Scottish livestock.”

“You really learn a lot of strange things,” he said.

“It’s what I do,” she said. There was another lull in conversation, this one lasting at least five minutes. He looked around the park, from the baseball diamond (currently hosting some adult softball game) to the dog bowl, a naturally lower-elevated part of the park where people take their pets to play in a large but enclosed space.

“Hypothetical question,” he finally said, to start a new train of thought. “If you had to pick one current world problem to be the cause of the apocalypse, what would it be?”

“Hmm, good question…” she said. She closed her eyes and ran her hand through her hair. “It’ll be something to do with Russia. Maybe Putin will overplay his hand and some country will get offended and then BAM, some other country will get spooked by the tension and launch a nuclear missile. I just know it’ll be something really stupid like that. It’ll be a few minor events that suddenly add up to something huge, like when Princip killed Archduke Ferdinand.”

“That’s a kind of cynical view of our world leaders, if you ask me,” he said, considering her answer more as he spoke. “I mean sure, they make lots of bad decisions, but I don’t think anyone would think to start a nuclear war.”

“Maybe not now, but it’ll happen, I’m sure of it,” she said. “What do you think will be the cause of the inevitable end of Earth?”

“I’m not sure if this counts, but I think it’ll be whenever the volcano at Yellowstone National Park erupts. I read somewhere that it’s had a sort of typical pattern of eruptions over its thousands of years of existence, and it’s basically been dormant for a lot more years, mathematically, than it should.”

“It’ll erupt someday, so what?”

“So what?” He did his best not to strike a professor-ly tone but he couldn’t help it. “A massive eruption could send huge clouds of ash up to the sky and blot out the sun. We’ll all live in misery for the brief time we’ll be able to survive without sunlight. I see everything going all Walking Dead, minus the zombies, of course.”

“So nuclear war or massive volcano. Fun options,” she said.

“I worry about our conversation topics sometimes,” he replied. Suddenly they both heard a shriek. They looked over to see what was happening. A small crowd had gathered.

Deciding to join the herd, the two walked over and saw three birds lying dead on the ground, with no visible wounds.

They looked at each other, and mouthed the new word in unison.

Elevator

Today I’m acting on a prompt from DailyPost, which fits quite well because I was looking to write more fiction today. And what did I find on my WordPress reader but a suggestion to write fiction based around the idea of meeting a stranger on an elevator. So here goes.

—–

She was a little bit nervous. She looked at the address she had taken down on her phone. This was indeed the building. It stood mightily tall, so many stories high that she thought the word “skyscraper” might be a bit of an understatement.

She swept her hair behind her ears, took a deep breath and walked up the stairs to the doorway. It was a revolving door, as she might have expected from such a huge place. Regular doors were apparently for poor people or something.

When she got into the building’s lobby she was even more intimidated, but she stopped herself from being petrified with fear. It was only a job interview, for god’s sake. Her livelihood was at stake here.

She wandered for a minute or so before finally finding the elevator. It was a little before lunchtime for the offices in the building, so the lobby was fairly empty. She double-checked the floor number, got into the elevator and punched in 34. Just before the elevator doors were about to close, she noticed a man who was clearly trying to make this elevator. She pushed the “door open” button to make sure he got in.

“Thank you,” the man said as he got in. She noticed he didn’t push a button. She hoped that was because he was going to the same floor as her, otherwise she could have very well just let a possible sociopath into the elevator with her.

She stopped thinking about it, though, and decided to focus her attention on the elevator display panel. She watched as the digital numbers started increasing. She steadied her frayed nerves, trying to look as calm and put-together as possible when she stepped into the office that would be her testing ground.

Her thought process was interrupted by a gruff jerking sound. She looked around in bewilderment and saw that the display panel was stuck at 29. She thought it might have been a brief glitch, but no, the elevator was not moving.

The man beside her didn’t move a muscle, not seeming the least bit concerned at all about this. She hit the emergency button, but nothing happened. She frantically started pressing other buttons but none of those did anything either.

“You’re only going to make it worse if you keep on like that,” the man said suddenly. His voice was soft but powerful, as though he were a politician who could silence a room with the sweep of a hand.

“What am I supposed to do then,” she almost yelled. “Sit here and do nothing?”

“Well not nothing exactly,” the man replied. She decided to finally get a good look at him. Had she been paying more attention to him when he got onto the elevator, she would have immediately noticed that he wasn’t an employee of any offices in this building. She knew this just by looking at the way he was dressed.

He had on a beret, the type of hat that men would have worn in the 1920s or 30s. As clothing he had a bizarre ensemble put together, involving a white dress shirt worn with a bow tie, a blue vest over the shirt, and long grey dress pants. His shoes were not dress shoes but sneakers. Who in the hell was this guy?

“Are you going to say anything else?” the man asked.

“What do you want me to say?” she replied, suddenly feeling defensive.

“You’re wondering who I am, aren’t you?”

“Wouldn’t anyone if they say you dressed as you are?”

The man chuckled. “I suppose so. I guess I need to be a little more inconspicuous when I make an appearance.”

“Appearance?”

“Ah, well, I’ll get to that eventually. So tell me a little bit about yourself.”

She was bewildered. Was she being hit on right now? This was not the time nor the place. “Why should I tell you anything?” she finally said. She was more pissed off now about the guy beside her than the fact that she was trapped in an elevator.

The man sighed. “Alright, then I will. You just recently received your MBA, and you’re  going to interview for a job at the marketing firm on the 34th floor.”

She tensed a little bit. “Anyone could have guessed that,” she said.

“Well I suppose they could, but they could also guess that you already work here,” he replied.

“Yeah, and you guessed correctly,” she said. She was keeping her guard up.

“Okay, what else…” he paused for a moment as though he was taking some time to venture through her thoughts. “You have a huge collection of unread books at home. You’re always buying them but never actually read them. You most recently bought Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, didn’t you?”

Now she was alarmed. “How the hell did you know that?”

“Oh come on, you watch enough science fiction and fantasy, can’t you guess? I know everything about you.”

“So you’re not human?”

“I might be. But that’s up to you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“What do you want it to mean?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she said. “Why are you here?”

“Well, I did ask you a question a little back. We can move on if you answer it.”

“You want me to tell you about myself? But you know everything about me!”

“I do,” he said. “But I still want me to tell you about yourself.”

“What good will that do?”

“A lot more than you know,” he said. “I’ll wait,”

She decided to be stubborn. She wasn’t just going to open up to this random, possibly supernatural being. She still didn’t get the point of telling him things that he already knew. She tried again to hit the emergency button but came up empty. She pounded the wall harder than she meant to and shook her hand, which was now aching and a little red.

She sat down on the elevator floor and hugged her knees. She wasn’t someone prone to claustrophobia, but the finite dimensions of the tiny lifting device were starting to make her a little more nervous.

Ten minutes passed, with her not saying a word and the man remaining motionless in place.

Finally she couldn’t stand it anymore. “I was born in the neighbouring city, but I never really enjoyed it there,” she began. And before she knew it, she was spilling her guts to this man. It was as though someone had pulled the plug on a bathtub full of water and it was all rushing into the drain at once. She didn’t at once stop and consider whether the happening in her life was too private and detailed all of her successes, failures, relationships and fights.

She finally got to the present. “And now I’m just nervous about this. I feel like I don’t have a good enough portfolio, and that they’re only interviewing me out of pity.” She stopped and took a few deep breaths. She couldn’t believe how relieved she felt to expel her life story like that.

“But you have a good portfolio,” the man said.

“How can you say that without even seeing it?” she asked.

“Well, what did your supervisors at school say about it?”

She had to think back. He of course already knew this, but she had to dig up the memories. “Oh right… When I showed it to Gellhorne, he said it was among some of the most creative work he had ever seen.”

“And what about when you showed it to Higgs?”

“Higgs said… She said that between her and me, I had more potential than anyone else in her class that year.”

“You’re right, she did say that,” the man said. “So what is there to be nervous about?”

She was stunned. It was as though Socrates had come back to life. “I… I don’t have anything to be nervous about,” she said.

“Exactly,” the man said. “It’s too bad it took you so long to get that, I didn’t think it would take so long.” As soon as he finished saying those words, the elevator began to move again.

“Did you…” she stopped her question there. She was beyond the point of disbelief now.

The elevator reached the 34th floor, and she stepped out. The man waved, and she gingerly waved back, still a little shaken by what had just happened. She looked at her watch. Less than a minute had passed since she stepped onto the elevator. What?

She looked back to see if the man was still there, but the doors had already closed and the elevator was now presumably heading back down to the ground floor.

She looked around and saw the sign that said “Craig & Barnes & Associates” and then knocked on the door.

A short woman opened it. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m here for the interview with Ms. Barnes?” she said.

“Oh yes!” the woman brightened. “Come right in. Ms. Barnes has said a lot of great things about your work and told me she can’t wait to meet you.”

“Oh, that’s great!” she said.

A minute later the woman (presumably a secretary) came back with Barnes.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Barnes said. “Come on over to my office and we’ll begin the interview.”

The Day Before (Short Story)

He glances at his digital watch. It’s one of the higher-end digital watches available on the market these days. Aside from telling the time and the perfunctory stopwatch, it also lets you know the date, even a very brief air temperature reading. His watch tells him it is May 11, 2013. Tomorrow, he remembers is Mother’s Day.

He remembers he needs to buy something for his mom, and quick. He isn’t sure he can pull himself together. But then he hits himself on the head and tells himself that no good is going to come from moping around. Only doing will let him accomplish his goals.

He looks at himself in the bathroom mirror. He has dark circles under his eyes. He hasn’t slept in over twenty-four hours. His father insisted he get some sleep, and he tried, but now he’s still awake. The scene from yesterday is too terrible to get out of his head.

He splashes some cold water on his face. It stings, but it’s a jolt he needs. He takes off his day-old clothes and changes into a fresh t-shirt and jeans. He walks down the stairs and pours himself a drink of water, which he thirstily gulps down. Then he grabs a bag, throws on his shoes and gets in his car. He drives to the nearby mall.

The mall is the biggest one in his area, and when he arrives the parking lot is probably at least three-quarters full. There’s obviously a lot of last-minute shoppers. But the mall is always very busy.

He parks his car and glances at the enormous pairs of doors that beckon him inside. Sighing, he takes a deep breath and pulls open the doors. The mall floor is just packed with people. Many, unsurprisingly, are men and their wives or girlfriends trying to find that perfect, but probably elusive, gift. There are many fathers alone with their children.

He wonders if these fathers always spend time with their children or if they’re together solely because the father can’t come up with any ideas for Mother’s Day gifts. He ponders for a moment, but then has to start moving lest he block the insane flow of human traffic.

He figures the first thing he should get is a card. He doesn’t know where the nearest card store is, so he checks the directory. When he looks, he realizes the mall has four different card stores. He knows what malls always want to offer choice but this is kind of ridiculous. Sighing, he goes to the nearest one, as he intended. He notices the employees are looking especially haggard today, as they’re probably ringing through more cards than they can count.

He takes a few minutes strolling the aisles before he finds one he thinks will be good. He thinks getting a funny card won’t really be appropriate right now. He settles on something a little more serious, but also more filled with emotion.

He has to wait in line for a good ten minutes or so. The line has to be coordinated by a staff member to that it doesn’t block aisles or anything like that. Eventually he gets to a cashier. She says “Hi” but then gets right to scanning the card.

“Busy day. huh?” He says.

“Oh yeah,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“Well, I hope this doesn’t wear you out too much. Just remember something better is coming soon.”

She smiles. “Thanks,” she says with a genuinely pleasant look on her face. He pays for the card and leaves. Finding the gift won’t be as easy, but he thinks he knows where to go.

He finds the store that sells fine candles. The store naturally smells like a million different things: vanilla, rhubarb, coffee… the list goes on. He wonders if the store just sells any basic candles. After asking an employee of the store, he discovers that the scented candles are all placed at the front of the store to bring customers in.

He buys exactly six of the same candle, pays for them and leaves. His work here is done.

He drives back home.

It’s dark outside now. He lost all track of time in that mall but also in his worrying. Well, he won’t have to worry much anymore. He looks at the card he bought and writes down a long and thoughtful message for his mother when she opens her card. The doctors said she would probably be in a coma for some time, possibly forever. But he knows that he alone can fix this.

Card written and sealed, he gets out his six candles and places them in a hexagonal shape around him. He’s careful to make the shape as symmetrical as he possibly can. Everything needs to be perfect. Then he takes a lighter out of his pocket, steps back into the hexagon and then begins to light each candle. As he was instructed, he sits cross-legged in the middle of the hexagon and calls out for help with his mind.

At first, he thinks nothing is working. He is about to give up when he hears a sound that resembles someone slicing through something. He looks around in bewilderment and then finally sees the thing take form. It isn’t how he expected the thing to look. He wasn’t exactly expecting the horns and trident, but he certainly wasn’t expecting the tall, slim, human-looking entity that stands before him.

This newly-conjured thing wears a gray suit that is tailored so closely it’s though the suit is actually the creature’s skin. A wide gray hat covers the thing’s eyes. The creature has a grin on its face.

“Well, this is new,” the creature says with a voice smooth as an ocean wave rolling over a rock. “I don’t usually get calls like this.”

“I know a guy,” he says in response to the creature. “He knows about you.”

“Oh? Who’s that? Ah, why bother. I’m getting too sloppy with keeping my secrets close to the vest,” the creature says.

“Anyway, can you help me?” he asks.

“Perhaps,” the creature says. “I’ll need to review the footage.” With a sweep of his hands, the creature manages to make the whole room look like a giant movie screen. He isn’t ready to see what’s about to come next, but he knows he must.

The creature watches intently the scene from last night. There in the film is his mom and dad. The creature looks on. Mom is crossing the street at a proper green light, as she’s supposed to, when a red truck comes speeding through the intersection. The truck collides with his mom, she goes flying through the air and hits the pavement with a large thud. A loud cry goes up from all around.

“Ooh,” the creature says, wincing with what is probably mock pain. “And it wasn’t her fault at all. Well, I can heal her condition completely. Of course, there’s the method of payment…”

“Whatever it takes,” he says with an air of finality.

“Your life.” The creature says.

“Fine,” he replies. The creature’s eyes widen.

“What? You aren’t even going to consider changing your mind?”

“Nope,” he says. The creature sighs.

“Too bad, emotional turmoil is so much fun to watch.” The creature pauses. “Well, let’s get this over with. Any last words?”

“Yes. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.” The creature snaps his fingers, and then he slumps over. The candles go out, and the creature disappears.

Over at the hospital, a woman suddenly wakes up as though from a nightmare.

Nurse!” The man looking over her screams. “SHE’S AWAKE!”

Spectrum, Part Three

Lewis was feeling a sense of accomplishment tied into a sense of deep existential dread. He now knew his place in this made-up world of Spectrum. He was the only person who was supposed to have seen and believed in Owen, and his almost proving Owen’s existence to the man at the pier had forced Owen to right things.

Lewis spent a day resting, his shoulder wound slowly scabbing over. He didn’t want to wait around too long. He needed to go and finish what he had started with the death of those two priests.

“Lewis, you’re not back to full health, you must rest another day at least,” one of the doctors said. Lewis pounded his fist on the ground, but he knew being the hero would not be easy. If he was to take on a possibly supernatural creator, he would need all of his strength.

His resting period eventually finished, and as soon as the doctor pronounced him ready, Lewis was up. He tapped his foot patiently, waiting for the Victoria to hit land. A few hours later it did. Lewis ran off the boat and led one of the horses off with him. He hopped on. It was then he noticed how hot the mainland was; being at sea made everything appear cooler. He grabbed the hem of his shirt and lifted it over his head.

Then he spurred the horse forward. It was time to visit Mount Alpentine.

He felt like he couldn’t get there fast enough. The horse was galloping, but he knew the horse would eventually tire, so he didn’t spur his companion to go any faster. While he crossed the landscape, whizzing past the cheering faces of those who believed in his cause, his mind raced.

He thought back to one of the many proclamations No-Face had made to him. “You know as well as I do that you’re in love with him.” The him being Owen. Lewis knew this was correct, something he dreaded. He thought back to his childhood. His devotion to the Creator as a child was unrivaled. Every morning he had prayed to Owen, and he was always telling his parents about what he was going to do when he and Owen inevitably met.

He remembered the exact moment when his devotion reached a fever pitch. A traveling choir, originally from Heartland, had stopped by the little farming town where he grew up. The choir was immaculate, dressed much better than the dirt-stained farmers who inhabited the place.

The choir sang through a few devotional hymns, but it wasn’t until they started singing Psalm 21 that Owen began to feel something. The song was pure and beautiful, as though heaven itself had created it. And during the climactic moment of the song, Lewis was sure he had seen a shadowy figure, three times as tall as the choir, appear right behind it. The figure didn’t really have a face or anything defining, but it did have a violin. Lewis nearly screamed but contained himself. The shadowy image disappeared after a few seconds.

Lewis had told his parents what he saw, but neither they nor anyone else had seen what could have only been Owen.

Lewis was now nearing Mount Alpentine. He knew the end was coming. He felt a searing pain in his hand and saw that it was bleeding. He had been holding the reins so tightly that the skin had split. Taking a deep breath, Lewis held onto the reins with one hand and tore a piece of fabric from his shirt (which lay behind him on the horse) carefully, to use as a gauze for his hand. Dying of blood loss would be a pathetic way to go.

When he reached the base of Mount Alpentine, he knew this journey would have to be made alone. He began a slow trek up the mountain, taking the path to avoid any excess energy spent. Eventually, he passed by the garden formerly occupied by Imelda. He stopped for a second in her garden, taking in the impossibility of it all, before he climbed higher. He passed by No-Face’s lair. He couldn’t see the monstrous bird anywhere- he hoped the thing was dead.

As he walked up, he could hear the faint sound of the violin again. As he climbed higher and higher, the sound became more and more pronounced. He soon reached the summit’s path. Unable to contain his energy, he began to run, only to trip and fall.

“Clumsy, clumsy,” he muttered to himself. “I can’t even keep my shoes tied.” Taking extra care to prevent them from tripping him up again, he made his way higher up. Finally, he reached the top.

He looked around, seeing nothing. He was confused. The violin was now almost booming it was so loud, but he could not find the origin of it. Then a whooshing sound made its way through the air, and from a distance Lewis could see a big shadowy figure start to materialize. It was exactly how he remembered it looking when he saw it as a boy. Then the violin appeared too.

Lewis stood for a moment, completely mesmerized. The shadowy figure, who could only be Owen, was deep into whatever song he was playing. His shadowy head held the violin close to him while his bow arm wailed on the strings. Lewis didn’t know what to do. How could he kill him?

Then Owen stopped playing, and his shadowy form shifted. He materialized again in front of Lewis, this time appearing as an ordinary human. Owen didn’t say anything. He only looked Lewis straight in the eyes.

Lewis’ hand was shaking. He knew what he had to do, but his heart was pounding in his chest and Owen knew it. Owen was betting on the chance that Lewis was too soft. Lewis had  had no problem maiming No-Face, killing the priests, slaughtering soldiers who had crossed him. But when it came to facing the object of his affection, all things melted away.

No, he thought to himself. I have to do this. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his weapon of choice. An iron spike.

Owen still didn’t move.

Lewis gripped the spike tighter than he had the reins of his horse. He gulped. “Your light is spent!” he cried, as he drove the iron spike into Owen’s eye. Owen didn’t even make a sound as he stumbled backward and fell of the side of the cliff.

Lewis’ heart was beating faster than ever as he looked over the side, watching  Owen’s body sailing ever downward. Eventually, he saw the vultures swoop down. Lewis waited for something cataclysmic to happen. He had just killed the Creator. The author had been removed.

He was sure Spectrum would start to disintegrate along with him and everybody else. Owen had created him, so surely his death would un-create him, no? Lewis waited and waited, but nothing happened. He was alive, and everybody else seemed to be alive as well.

He quickly made his way back down the mountain and went over to where Owen’s body lay. The vultures seemed to elect not to peck too much at him, as though even they too were in awe of their creator.

Lewis sat down next to Owen’s body. He drew with his finger over one of Owen’s shoulders and noted his tattoos. This was the man who had created Spectrum. He was a man like anyone else.

Tiring of this, Lewis got up and began to walk back to his home. No need for a horse. He walked and began to notice Spectrum’s scenery up close, as though everything had gotten more vivid. He walked by a marble statue that had weathered with age and covered with moss. He looked up at the sun, holding his arms wide. He held out a thought, hoping there was someone higher than Owen who might now pick up Lewis’ dropped strings of destiny.

I am a good man. I am yours.

Spectrum, Part Two

He didn’t really want to kill them, but he knew that blood was the only answer to this. It was the only way that anyone would take notice of the participated-in tyranny that was Heartland, and more so the tyranny of Owen, wherever he might be, assuming he existed.

Lewis didn’t doubt Owen’s existence, though. He was sure, somewhere, Owen was watching over everything. He was probably even willing Lewis to rebel. But why? And how much power did Lewis have over his own actions? Was Owen guiding him toward an endgame?

Lewis looked around for a place to hide the bodies of the two priests. He spotted a small cave a few steps away and was about to drag them over when he heard a loud squawking sound. He looked up and saw a horde of vultures descending from wherever it was they lived. They immediately began pecking at the bodies. Lewis sighed and hopped onto his horse. He supposed the other two horses would wander off by themselves soon enough.

He knew the path to Heartland, but he wasn’t going that way. He began to follow the route up the mountain. The climb wasn’t too hard for the horse, as the inclines weren’t too steep.

The next part of his plans was to eliminate the symbols. First stop, Imelda. Local lore spoke of her as “The saddest bitch in all of Spectrum.” He didn’t know her story, but he supposed he might find it out when he faced off with her. Would there even be a fight? Who knows.

On his way up, he fished through his bags and retrieved the weapons still hidden. No need to conceal them now; he’d need to be ready for anything that came his way.

Soon he arrived at a large plateau. Contrary to everything on Alpentine he had seen so far, the plateau was lush with vegetation. There was a fountain in the middle and Lewis could even hear birds chirping. He didn’t even question the logic of it; this was only more proof that Owen was the divine creator of Spectrum.

Lewis looked around to try and spot Imelda. He didn’t even know what she looked like. His wondering didn’t last too long, though, as a woman stepped out from behind a tall bush. It wasn’t some kind of dramatic “This is me” gesture, but simply her being bored of standing where she was. She didn’t even notice Lewis and horse standing there. Lewis would have remained silent and tried a sneak attack on her, but then his horse neighed loudly, snapping her to attention.

“Oh,” she said. “A farmer.”

Lewis was confused. He was sure she would be trying to kill him, but instead she stared at him blankly.

“What was it you farmers were supposed to have? One hand on the plow, the other hand on the–”

Lewis cut her off. “I am not here for that,” he said quietly. “I am here to help create a liberated Spectrum.”

“By doing what, exactly?”

“That is my business,” Lewis said. “Now will you surrender quietly or shall I need draw my cutlass?”

Imelda laughed. “You’ll get no argument from me. Owen has been so painfully boring lately. Nothing has been happening for some time now. The ink has dried in the well. There’s no action.”

“This place is a narrative mess,” Lewis agreed.

“I’ll be on my way, then,” Imelda said. “You might have a little more trouble with No-Face, though. He talks a lot.” With that, Imelda swept up her skirts, walked to the cliffs and leaped. Lewis nearly gasped, but then noticed that she was sliding gracefully down the mountainside.

No-Face would be next. He had no hope in hell of reaching Cockatrice- it was near the top of the mountain where Owen lived, and he didn’t mean to go as high as the summit just yet. He needed to take action first.

A bit of a climb later, Lewis reached another plateau, this one much darker than Imelda’s lair. It was physically dark, rather; it was as though a storm cloud had chosen this particular spot to park itself. All the lay on the rocky plateau was a table. Near it stood a monstrous-looking bird. This was No-Face? Lewis figured Owen must have a thing for birds.

“Welcome, Lewis,” said No-Face. “You’ve gotten rid of Imelda, and without a fight. Well I’m sure you must feel proud of yourself. After all, what have you done with your life since being born? You’ve plowed the fields year after year. You’ve gotten strong, but your life has no purpose, just like all the rest of the inhabitants of Spectrum.” Lewis was trying to interrupt him, but he couldn’t form the words. He wasn’t nervous; he physically couldn’t speak. Whenever No-Face talked, he couldn’t.

“And now you want to try and take down Owen? Ha!” the laugh was more of a squawk. “You know as well as I do that you’re in love with him.” The statement felt like a knife to Lewis’ chest. “You won’t be able to kill him anyway, even if you felt differently.”

Lewis couldn’t take it anymore. Charging forward, he quickly found himself face-to-face with the bird. Before No-Face could even figure out what was happening, Lewis had grabbed him by his beak and thrust his right arm upward at a high speed, cracking the beast’s jaw with a sickening crunch. No-Face let out a cry of pain and fell over.

“You’ll never speak again,” Lewis said, glad to be able to talk again. His two targets had been hit, and he could now proceed with the next phase of his plan. He hopped back on his horse, and as he headed back the way he came, he was sure he could hear the tune of a violin. It was faint, but it was there.

He reached the base of the mountain, and then headed to the nearby port. He looked around for the best place to make his speech. He saw a pub just a few steps away. He walked over to it and looked in. Filling the pub were sailors and generally the type of men Lewis was looking for. He cleared his throat, expecting everyone to quiet. No one did. He decided he could only get their attention with noise. He walked up to the bar, ordered a stein of ale. When he received it, he immediately smashed it on the floor. Everyone looked up to see what was happening.

“I have just come from Mount Alpentine,” Lewis bellowed. This silenced all, though he could hear a few skeptics muttering “Loony” and other such things. “I have spurred Imelda down the mountainside. I took No-Face by his beak and broke his jaw; he’ll never speak again.”

“Prove it!” shouted a man near the back of the place. “We seen plenty o’ folk who come in braggin’, but got nothin’ t’back up their words.”

Lewis smiled. He pulled out the part of No-Face’s beak he had snapped off. It raised a gasp from the crowd. “I am seeking to change Spectrum for the better. I plan to sail to the nearby islands and deliver a simple message. However, I will need men who will accompany me. I need ships.”

“Well what’s yer message then?” the same man asked.

“Oh Heartland…” Lewis began, pausing for dramatic effect. “Up yours.” This raised a raucous cheer from the crowd. Many men came up to him, offering their services. Before long, the men had found Lewis some proper armour, and several ships had sailed off. The ship Lewis was traveling on was called the Victoria.

The inhabitants of the various islands at first did not take kindly to the intrusion, but soon they were caught up in the fervour of “Heartland, up yours” and pledged allegiance to Lewis and his cause.

Eventually, though, it led to a scenario that Lewis had been hoping to avoid. As he went from island to island, he gradually began picking up more and more people. When they stopped at a pier to restock on supplies, he saw a man speedily exit the boat and go near the water’s edge. Lewis knew something was wrong.

He quietly followed the man, who probably didn’t know he was being followed. Finally, though, the man turned around.

“Don’t come any closer!” he cried. “I am afraid of the man I’ll become if I lay my life down for a people who I don’t even care for.” Lewis knew what was at the heart of this. The man wasn’t convinced that Owen existed, and further, he doubted that, if he were to die in the struggle, that anyone would remember him.

Ignoring the man’s warnings, Lewis stepped closer, putting his face near the man’s. “No, I’ve seen his work upon the panes of cathedrals, in the sweat of the workers and the flight of seagulls.” Or at least, that’s what he tried to say. The soothing words were lost in the roar of battle horns. Ships had appeared as if from nowhere, and from nearby trees came hundreds, perhaps thousands of shoulders. Eyes wide, Lewis stood frozen. Suddenly he heard a thwmp sound, and before he knew what was happening, a spear had lodged itself in his shoulder.

Grunting with pain, Lewis dove into the water to avoid being hit by any more weaponry. His ships had had the good sense to set sail as soon as they saw the enemies, so Lewis’ agonizing journey back to the Victoria was more painful than it should have been. He finally reached the boat, and the captain pulled him aboard. A doctor immediately saw to his wound.

Up until that spear, Lewis had felt invincible. With that sense of security stripped away, Lewis felt more and more that he was indeed a puppet on a string. He knew it now. Owen existed without a doubt. But whose story it was was still up in the air.

Spectrum, Part One

The following story could turn out to be a total disaster or it could be decent. It remains to be seen. As a disclaimer, the story isn’t completely mine. It’s based off of the work of one of my favourite musicians of all time, Owen Pallett, who put out the wonderful Heartland three years ago. I implore you all to go and buy it from your local record store, it’s ridiculously good.

The story of Spectrum is based on my interpretation of Owen’s lyrics. I know I’ll probably misinterpret some of the lyrics, but that’s a risk I’m taking. Here goes.

***

He was standing at the edge of his field. “Come tornado!” he yelled.

And then he was standing at the edge of a bridge, numerous soldiers standing with him. It was the middle of the night. “The way will be lit by the bridges we burn,” Lewis said to them, raising a cheer from the men.

And then he snapped out of his dream.

Another day.

Lewis didn’t need to be woken up by that familiar sound every morning. No one needed roosters to wake them up in the morning; the hiss of Cockatrice, from somewhere high up in the mountain, was loud and frightening enough to stir anyone from their slumber.

His muscles ached. They always ached. It was at the point where Lewis felt like no pain meant he had done something wrong. Just as he got out of bed, he heard Cockatrice’s cry. He plugged his ears, and his wife quickly opened her eyes as well.

Lewis pulled on his clothes and then glanced out the window. There was the sun in the sky. He couldn’t tell any longer whether it was yellow or red. He had repeated the phrase “The sun is red” so many times that his mind could no longer tell what was what. His wife had not fallen back asleep, but instead decided to stay in the bed a little longer. She said nothing, but Lewis knew that every action was more or less spending energy, and all energy needed to be conserved, Lewis was a farmer, as was everybody else in Spectrum. Everybody except for those in the Heartland; but rarely did a farmer ever venture there, with its priests and holy officials.

Mount Alpentine loomed far away, a mountain that rivaled the legendary Mount Olympus in its height. At the top of that mountain, it was rumoured, lay Owen. No one knew what he looked like or whether he existed, but the existing folklore said that it was Owen’s will that moved all beings of Spectrum. All citizens prayed to Owen before doing anything of consequence.

Lewis certainly didn’t feel like a puppet on a string. But maybe the legend was right; maybe his continually darkening thoughts were all created by the Creator.

He walked over to his wife, who had just gotten out of bed. “Today’s a planting day,” Lewis said. “I’d better get started.”

She wrapped her arms around him, and his around hers, and she kissed him. “Whatever you need to do.”

Lewis walked into the mail hall. His daughter was already seated, awaiting the day’s breakfast. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said. He returned the greeting and lifted her up into the air, making her giggle. Then he put her back down and told her breakfast would be ready in a few minutes. He went outside, got a fire started and cooked a few eggs and sausages over the heat. He brought it back in for all to eat.

“I’ll eat later,” he said, deciding to finally start the work. He was a strong man, but even he couldn’t afford to slack off. He went to his shed and retrieved two big bags of seed, each weighing a few pounds.

He got to work on the first field. As he began doing the repetitive task of digging, planting and re-digging, his mind began to wonder. He wondered about where his son was now. Several years ago he had been called to the Heartland, for what purpose no one really knew. They hadn’t physically spoken in many years, naturally, since commoners weren’t allowed in. Every once in a while the family would receive a letter from him, but his letters became increasingly incoherent as the years went on. At this point, the word “sorry” was included in his letters several times per page along with a slew on non sequiturs.

He had planted three out of his four fields, several hours later, when he heard his wife’s voice.

“Lewis!” This was strange. What could his wife possibly need?

Lewis glanced back at his work so far. One field left. He walked back to the house.

“What is it–” he stopped dead in his tracks. Standing beside his wife were two men in long, white robes. What were priests doing out here?

“You are Lewis, are you not?” One of the men asked. He was a good head taller than his companion, which was the only real distinguishing feature. Both had shaved heads.

“Ay,” Lewis replied. “What business do you bring here?”

“You have been summoned to Heartland,” the shorter priest said. “You are to take up a clerical position in the capital. Your pay will be a great increase from your present work. However, the job must be done alone and immediately. We will allow you one hour to pack your things.” There wasn’t a choice in the matter. It was go with them or… Probably be killed.

“‘Scuse us,” Lewis said, bringing his wife into their bedroom. As soon as the door was closed and the priests were out of earshot, they began to talk in whispers. His wife was already crying.

“I know the way this sounds,” Lewis said. “But I must leave. You know how this goes.”

“I do,” his wife said between sobs.

“Worry not,” he said. He held her close to him, so close that she could no doubt feel his heart beating. He pressed his hand over her lips. He spoke his next few sentences louder, so that the priests waiting outside would hear him. “I will be his baron. With him I have an ending. With him I have completion.” And then he whispered a final phrase into her ear: “And the cover of night.” He took his hand off her mouth.

His wife stopped crying. “Do you mean to…”

“Yes,” he replied. “I may be gone for weeks, months or years, but I will return to you.” He kissed her once more and then began to gather what few clothes he had. At the bottom of his meager sack he put in his cutlass and a few small knives. His bag packed, he opened the door to where the priests stood at attention.

“Have you made your decision?” The tall priest asked. As if there were a choice.

“I have,” Lewis said. “I will go with you.”

“A smart choice indeed,” the short priest said with a smirk on his face.

“How are we to get to the Heartland?” Lewis asked.

“We shall go by horse. We must traverse part of the way through Mount Alpentine, but worry not. We shall not be going too high, or the horses would be useless,” the short priest answered.

Lewis nodded. “Let us go, then.” He paused. “Oh, one moment. Let me say goodbye to my daughter.”

“Of course,” the tall one said. He seemed to be at least a tad bit more sympathetic than his partner.

Lewis scooped up his daughter in his arms. She had been silent the whole time, being far too young to understand completely what was going on. “Daddy is going to be gone for a while,” he said. “But I need you to be a big girl and help out your mother, okay?”

“But when are you coming back?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I will come and see you again. I promise.” He kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll see you soon, okay?” His daughter wrapped him up in the tightest hug he’d ever gotten from her.

“Alright, let’s go,” Lewis said. The priests nodded, and the three of them left the house. Lewis hopped on the back of his best horse, and the priests hopped on theirs. “Lead on,” Lewis said. The priests began heading off toward Mount Alpentine, with Lewis following closely behind.

As the hours went on, Lewis remained silent, but the priests eventually began to talk amongst each other.

“Did you hear about those sons to the altar of the Eternal Sound?” The tall one asked.

“Oh, yes, gruesome indeed,” the short one said.

“How many were there?”

“Three. A darn shame. They were smart boys too.”

“This was all Owen’s will?”

“Naturally. Are you questioning his precedence?”

“No, not at all. It is all part of a plan, I am sure.”

“Yes.” The conversation ceased after that. After taking a brief stop to eat, the company arrived at the base of Mount Alpentine a few hours later.

“We will be taking the Low Path,” said the tall one. “It is fairly flat, but with a few inclines. The horses may need a bit of nudging, but they will take us across.”

Lewis got off his horse.

“What are you doing?” the short priest snapped.

“I have never set foot on Mount Alpentine before. I must pray here before we continue. Come, pray with me as well.” Lewis could hear Psalm 21 going through his head. The priests were suspicious for a minute, but then seemed to be impressed with his piousness. They too joined him in kneeling, and repeating the phrase: “Laudate dominum.” Lewis chanted as well, and as soon as he saw that the two priests had closed their eyes, he began to quietly rummage through his bag. He pulled out the cutlass.

I’m sorry, he thought to himself, before he drew the cutlass in several quick slashes across the necks of both priests. It was over so quickly neither man had a chance to even cry out.

Lewis’ plan was in action.

Some other place

A short story inspired by a conversation I had yesterday.

***

It was as though someone had shattered a ceramic plate over his head. In that moment, he knew something special was happening? How had he not seen her before?

She was unusual. Taller than most girls he had ever met, just a shade shorter than he was. She was dressed immaculately, as though she were about to head off to Vanity Fair‘s Oscar after-party. Her clothes had clearly been tailor-made, fitting her to a tee. She wore a ruffled white shirt, a smart blue blazer with matching pants. Her black dress shoes were simple yet elegant. She wore her sleek, black hair long, the hair spilling a little past her shoulders. When she turned to his direction, he noticed her dark-brown, almost black eyes, which sparkled with some kind of emotion. He didn’t know what it was.

He didn’t want to stare in her direction too long, and he quickly pretended to be interested in the history books in front of him. He was surprised when he looked up and saw that she had walked right beside him.

He didn’t know what to say, he was speechless for the first time in his life. She filled in the silence.

“Have we met before?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” he said, struggling to form the syllables. His throat felt like it had seized up, and forcing each word felt like torture.

“Hmm,” she said, frowning. Had they met before? He felt like he would have remembered seeing someone like her. That moment of impact had been unlike anything he had ever felt before. “What’s that book you’ve got there?”

He had forgotten. He looked at the book he had in his hand. Still unable to speak, he showed her the cover.

“Oh, To Kill A Mockingbird. A classic!” she seemed to like his book choice. “I’m picking up Brave New World, I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet.” He nodded.

“I don’t mean to be forward or anything, but would you like to grab a coffee with me?” she asked after more silence.

“I’d love to,” he finally said. They paid for their books separately, and then they headed off to the nearby coffee shop. They turned out to both have an affinity for dark coffee. They sat down at a chic wooden table.

The “moment of impact” over, he finally found himself opening up. They talked a little bit about their lives. She had just finished law school and was on track to becoming an associate at a downtown law firm. At first she went into law because her parents wanted their daughter to be a high achiever, but she eventually grew to love the way of the law and the ways around it.

He, on the other hand, didn’t feel as accomplished. He had been working in the marketing division of a soft drink company. One of his commercial ideas actually made it to air, though it didn’t have a very long run. He was alright with his position, though.

They talked for over two hours, now almost breathlessly filling in the gaps as though silence was poison. They finally reached an agreeable silence. They got up, she gave him her number and her his, and she kissed him on the cheek. “We’ll see each other soon,” she said.

As she walked out the door, he finally registered what he just happened. He had never felt this charming in his life.

He stood in front of the table for a minute or two in quiet contemplation until another customer politely asked him if the table was free. He nodded, apologized and then left the shop with a spring in his step.

When he got back to his place, he immediately bragged to his roommates about his stroke of what he considered very, very good fortune. His roommates didn’t believe him for one second. He had been unlucky in love for so many years they had collectively lost track of the last time he had a girlfriend. He protested, but he felt like the boy who cried wolf.

He knew he had met her. He hadn’t hallucinated her presence, and he remembered her paying for something at the bookstore. The cashier hadn’t been talking to empty air. Of course, he could have hallucinated the whole episode. It was a possibility.

To allay his fears that he had dreamed it, though, he decided to see if he could find a trace of her online. She had an unusual name, so it might not be too difficult to find her. He started with a few Google searches and found nothing. He figured it was quite possible to go through law school without making headlines.

Next he tried Facebook. He typed her name into the bar, and one person with the name came up, except it wasn’t her and was actually someone from Malaysia. Now he was getting paranoid. What was going on?

He glanced at his phone. He had taken her number. He decided to give her a call. After three rings, he thought she wouldn’t pick up, but she did. There she was.

“Hey, it’s me,” he said.

“Oh, hi! I’m go glad you called,” she said. “Why don’t you come over to my place tomorrow night? I’m a good cook.”

“That sounds great,” She gave him her address, and the next night he found himself walking over to her lush condo in the east end of the city. She answered the door basically as soon as he knocked. She led him inside and gave him a mini-tour of the place before bringing him over to the kitchen where dinner was cooking. She was making a pretty fancy-looking pasta dish that smelled heavenly.

He needed to prove to other people that this was happening. He mumbled something stupid and asked her to lean in for a photo. They snapped a shot together.

The night went fantastically. Her dish was indeed delicious. It incorporated oysters, which she explained was an aphrodisiac. He didn’t know if that was true; he didn’t think it was possible to feel any more passionately what he felt.

It wasn’t too long after dinner and drinks (he had brought a bottle of wine; together they downed the whole bottle) that things got intimate. Soon they were at each other’s clothes, and soon they were in bed and holding each other tightly, as though letting go would be the end of them.

Eventually, he had to get up and go to work, and she had a final round of interviews to attend at the law firm she was hoping to work at. Their night together had been one he would never forget.

When he got home, he triumphantly showed his roommates the picture of her that he had taken. They all saw it and were surprised that he was telling the truth. “She’s something alright,” one of his roommates said after they all picked up their jaws from the floor.

The next day he got sick. The fever seemed to come out of nowhere, and it was nasty. For a week he was bed-ridden. given to episodes of sweating and high temperatures. He always had a roommate staying by his side, helping him out in shifts. During that week, he asked them to let him know if anyone called or texted. A few people did, but not the woman he was hoping to hear from again.

After that crushingly frustrating week, he was feeling a lot better. At least he was feeling better physically. He was hurt that she hadn’t called. He finally decided to call her and see what was going on. He feared the worst.

“Finally!” she said when she picked up. “I’ve been calling you every day for the past week, but you never picked up.”

“Huh?” he was confused. “My roommates checked my phone every day and they never mentioned any calls. I was sick all week,”

“What?” now she was clearly confused. “That makes no sense. This makes no sense. But I believe you. Anyway, let’s meet up again. How about I come over to your place?”

“Sure,” he said. He secretly hoped at least one of his roommates would be around at first so he could with certainty prove that he was dating this woman.

When the night came, he waited on the couch expectantly. He was watching the news but not really absorbing any of it, his mind racing with excitement. She said she’d be there by quarter after six at the latest. He glanced at the clock. It was now 6:30. Then 7.

He decided it was about time to see what was going on. Maybe she’d been held up on a bus or something. He dialed her number.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she asked. Not even a greeting. “I was standing in front of a closed-down apartment in a sketchy part of town. I texted you three times and you didn’t respond. I eventually gave up and went home.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” It was his turn to use the phrase. “I know what my own address is, it’s not closed down. And I didn’t get any texts from you.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said, and hung up. He was stunned. This could not be happening. He was starting to wonder if his entire life was a nightmare. Suddenly an idea struck him. It was an inkling, but he had to corroborate it. He phoned one of his roommates.

“Hey, can you do me a favour? You’re in the east end right now, aren’t you?”

“Yes, that’s where I work,” his roommate said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Can you tell me what you see at this address?” he gave his roommate the address where had spent the night a week-and-a-bit earlier.

“Why am I doing this again?” she asked.

“Because you can get a six-pack out of it?”

“Fine,” she said, sighing. Beer was a legal form of currency in his household. “I’ll tell you once I get off work.” She was set to finish her shift in about an hour, her shift being the late one.

An hour-and-a-half later his roommate called.

“The place is a butcher shop, kinda grimy-looking.”

“Oh…” he think he got it now. “One last thing, could you get a picture of it, with the address clearly visible? And then text it to me?”

“Sure, I may as well since I’m here.” His roommate hung up, and a minute later he got a text with the picture.

Then he forwarded the picture to his pissed-off, possibly ex-lover. He waited a few minutes before calling her.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” she said.

“Did you see the picture, though?”

She sighed. “Yes. Why should I give a fuck about this picture?”

“It’s your address.”

“No it isn’t. There’s an apartment there, I live in it, remember?”

“Well now we’re both claiming to live in apartments that don’t exist, aren’t we?”

There was a long pause on her end. “So what, you think we’re both lying to each other?”

“No, I don’t,” he said. “We’re just in different places.”

“Duh,” she said, “We live in different parts of the city.”

“No, I don’t mean something that simple. I mean we’re living in different universes.”

“You’re fucking insane,” she said.

“I can prove it,” he said. “Did you tell anyone about when we first met?”

She paused again. “A few of my best friends, why?”

“Did they believe that it happened?”

Another pause. “No.”

“Did you try and find me on the internet as proof that I existed?”

“…Yes.”

“And did you find any shred of me online?”

“…No.”

“And there we have it. I did the same for you and couldn’t find you at all.”

“So what do we do?”

“Isn’t obvious? I’m coming to see you. And I’m not leaving.”

***

And that night, one of the strangest disappearances the city had ever seen took place. His roommates returned home to find him gone without a trace. All of his belongings were gone as well. It was as though he had never lived there at all, except for a few bits of junk he had left behind.

His roommates called the police, and MISSING posters went up around the city. The marketing firm he worked hadn’t seen him, nor had his parents or anybody he knew. His disappearance made the news for a few days as people tried to figure out how the man could just vanish. The police, after a fruitless search, called off their resources after about a month. This was probably going to be a cold case, the police assumed.