FADING • by Kaolin Imago Fire

Your heart is beating from almost missing the bus. It’s anger, a little, at the driver who didn’t open his door to your knock, five seconds before he pulled away. And it’s relief, a little, the surprise of optimism paying off — that he’d been held up at the next stop, only a block and a half away, so that you could board normally there. Many worries dissipated then.

You take a seat by the driver, who says something to you that neither of us pay any attention to, though you, for a moment, wonder if he recognized you from the block before; but then, your mind is on other things. You’re thinking of jokes, and your love, about what you’re looking forward to completing at work tomorrow, and the beer you’re going to have with your friends on Friday. You don’t realize it, but you’re happier than you’re ever going to be again.

Hmm — am I thinking too loud? You looked up and did a just-slightly-longer-than-polite look about the bus. But I think that may just be you — a little odd. That’s nice. It’s a horrible thing to slowly devolve to the lowest common denominator of your food. In any case, you didn’t see me — that’s trivial enough. You won’t see me until I’m ready, and you need just a tad bit more mental marination. Really, you’re quite well done; I could have taken you then. But.

Perhaps I do toy with my food too much. Who’s to say? A harmless addiction, right? Like your guilty pleasure of smelling the whiteboard markers at work. You don’t sniff them, you’re nothing like a junky; you’re not really doing any harm. It just makes your meetings a little more pleasant. This is like that. I’m making our meeting a little more pleasant — for me. I’m certainly not going to spoil my meal, and you’re not about to “get away”. This is my own little guilty pleasure.

Perhaps that’s seeped through a bit. You look up and see me. Our eyes lock and despite the instinctual urge you have to look away — you don’t. Despite my apparent age, you feel the slightest hint of sexual stirrings, but that’s not my doing; the human body responds strangely to intimacy, does it not? I smile, and you… you begin to hear the slightest echo of my thoughts, now. You shrug it off as blood pulsing in your temples, but I dive in for the kill. I am in your head, and I am in control.

We think, together: how wonderful your wife is, the little things she does just for you, even when some of them make her feel a bit uneasy; and the things you do for her — despite misgivings, you have a sense for how much they mean to her, even if you know you can’t really comprehend them. But maybe you can — at this moment, you feel closer to her than you can recall — her flesh is your flesh, you can feel her sitting within you — you can almost — understand — her every little foible. That fills you with joy, and I take it. We remember long midnight walks and romantic dinners, talks of future children. That warms your heart — I take it. Your friends: you have good friends, and they’re all a little bit jealous of your relationship, but you’re comfortable with that; they love you, too, and you’re comfortable with that. I leave you your comfort, but it won’t be much. The taste of coffee is on the tip of your tongue, and you swirl it around, and it feels… so… good —

I disengage slowly, as the taste in your mouth sours and then fades. Worried, confused, you remember the pleasant smell of whiteboard markers, and yes, they are good. They are good for a moment, and then I take them, too, and you’re left with the acrid smell of burning rubber. I’m taking all your joys, and you see them fading, but it’s harder and harder to care. Life is like that, sometimes. Friday, your beer will taste like formaldehyde, but you’ll hardly notice by then. The ones who loved what I have taken will stay with you, or they’ll try, at least. I would feel remorse, but that’s what I’ve left with you. It will fade, in time, and all you’ll have left is ashes. And then I’ll need to find another soul full of hope.

Kaolin Imago Fire is a conglomeration of ideas, side projects, and experiments. Web development is his primary occupation, but he also develops computer games, edits Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine, and occasionally teaches computer science. He has had short fiction published in Strange Horizons, Tuesday Shorts, Escape Velocity, and Alienskin Magazine, among others. He invites you to try your hand at Twitter-sized fiction at http://twitfic.com/.

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Every Day Fiction

  • “And then I’ll need to find another soul full of hope”.

    Unfortunately, that reminded me of the syncopated punch line of an old joke (“what’s the difference between a Salvation Army lass and a girl in the bath? One has a …”). That left the ending on rather the wrong note.

  • G. K. Adams

    Well done. Subtle. Nothing overt. Interesting use of first and second person pronouns. It took me a second to get the point of view.

    I enjoyed this piece.


  • There have been a lot of “emotional vampire” stories appearing online lately, which, I admit, dulls my appetite for them. However, this is the best written I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Really an expertly drawn tale.

    (LOL @ P.M. – I’d forgotten that one!)

  • I enjoyed this very much. I think the pacing was perfect. I like how you set it up. I like the reveal. Thank you.

  • Joyce Chng

    This is a fantastic piece. Very visceral.

  • Asakiyume

    *Very* scary and well done. A grown-up’s Dementor.

  • I found this to be extremely well written, but, it left me wth a BIG question: Exactly what was he/she? Psychic vampire? Dementor (like someone else suggested)? The man’s own breakdown in sanity? ???????? I hate unanswered questions. 5 stars for the writing. . .2 for the dangling question mark.

  • Jen

    I usually don’t like stories written in the second person, as their difficult to write and not always done well, but I loved this one. I don’t even mind that were not exactly sure what theneing narrating the story was. Though the paragraph talking about food tasting like ash, made me wonder if it was a ciagrette. Five stars.

  • Wow! Awesome stuff, Kaolin! Seriously!

  • Like Jen, above, I don’t like stories in the second person, but this one was nicely told.

    4 stars from me 🙂

  • Gustavo

    Great one, Kaolin! Beautifully created piece of ambience and evil.

  • @P.M.Lawrence ~ I hadn’t heard that joke. Thanks 😛 Sorry the line ruined it for you. 🙂

    And thanks all for the comments =)

  • Nancy Wilcox

    Very nicely done. And creepy as all get out, too.

  • Well, if you liked that joke, you might like these:-

    – What’s the difference between a bad archer and a constipated owl? One is a shooter who can’t hit and the other is a …

    – What’s the difference between an obese person and an old maid? One is trying to diet and the other is …

    P.S., the allusion didn’t ruin the story, it just introduced a different note for the ending.

  • I liked it Kaolin. I was a little thrown by the second person POV at first. Then I really got into it. An interesting twist on vampires. Sucking joy instead of blood. As gloomy as I would expect from the Gloomy Utter Doom editor. 😉 Just teasin’ ya.

  • Kaolin

    @Ann: Thanks 😛

    I think this was actually written in NFG’s heyday, lost and forgotten for a while and then given a good grind and spit-polish. 🙂

    It is a bit gloomy, though. I suppose. 😉 Love seeing what people are reading into it–that it managed to resonate in that way.

    Hey, have you read issue 5? I’m wondering what people think of my upbeat bookend. 😀

  • Anthony

    I’m a few days late getting to read this, but I’m glad I got back to it. Definitely one of the better stories I’ve read on this site.

    I can think of a few stories / books I’ve read in second person that have pulled the trick off — portions of Norman Partridge’s “Dark Harvest” come to mind — and this ranks right up there. I know it’s not an easy style to write in, no matter the length of the fiction.

    The repetition of “I take it” was great, and for some reason the word “foible” made me giggle slightly — that whatever this Thing is, it makes use of such a rarely-used word without sounding archaic.