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/.