Posted Jul 03 2012 - 04:49 PM
With a light tremble, I awoke. The gentle, but continuous shuddering gradually brought me back to my senses, pulling me out of the limbo between my dreams and reality. With a blink I looked blearily around and drank in my surroundings.
Nothing was out of the ordinary as far as I was aware. Nothing had changed since I first dozed off. I was still the same Firix, an Agori previously from the village of Tesara. I didn’t seem any different. I wasn’t a beetle now, nor had the world changed for better or for worse. I was in the usual place. A steel carriage trundled along the rails on the way to the eastern district of Xero Magna, the second largest city of Spherus Magna. Around me, about a dozen fellow passengers sat and did their best to distract themselves from the long and tedious journey. To my left an Onu-Matoran sat poring over a freshly carved tablet. Whether this was the morning news or a work-related document, I couldn’t tell. To the right side of me sat a purple Matoran of whose village I couldn’t hope to name. He had his eyes closed and was settled into a steady snooze. Over to the right side of the carriage I saw the Toa of magnetism who had once reminded me of my belongings on the one time I almost managed to forget my bag. He didn’t get on the train too often, so I wondered to myself just what his business could be, over in the east. Not that it mattered. I doubted I would find out any time soon, and was even more dubious that it would affect me if I did.
But the one passenger who caught my attention was sat directly across from me. A female Agori in vibrant red armour, of whom I couldn’t recall from any of my previous commutes. She seemed nervous, with her hands clutched together tightly and her gaze fixed tightly upon her crimson boots. She shifted uncomfortably on her seat and something began to slip from between her fingers. It glinted for a moment in the light from the windows, then plunged down to the floor.
Before she could react, I had leaned in and caught the glistening object. It felt light and cool in my fingertips. I unfurled my hand and beheld a quaint locket resting in my palm. It was modest, a simple silver colour, but with one red ruby implanted in the centre. I smiled and handed it back to her. She smiled back.
I sat back, pleased with my random act of heroism and tried to distract myself with the sight of the city rolling by outside of the carriage. The sky was a downtrodden grey shade that settled the world beyond into a melancholic stupor. The various skyscrapers whizzed by, all a variety of shapes and sizes. Ever on and on, the carriage rumbled and quaked as it bumpily slid along the rails. And with a dawning feeling of discomfort, I was becoming aware of just how heavy the atmosphere had become.
The Agori was focusing on her boots again. To the side of me, somebody coughed. The clanking of armour scraping across armour intermittently rang in the air. I began to feel my face growing hot under my jade green helmet. Had I created this awkward tension? I had broken the sense of isolation everyone else had united to create, by catching her locket. Was I now meant to extend this interaction? Or cut it short? I didn’t know.
I dared to glance at her face. Like her locket, her helmet was modest, plain. Well-polished, with a few light scratches scattered here and there. The mouth guard was parted to reveal her amber chin. Her lips were straight and tightly pressed together. I looked away before she could notice I was staring at her.
I knew I had to do something. The atmosphere was too thick. Someone had to cut it, or we might all suffocate. I should never have caught her jewellery. If I’d left it, she’d have picked it up herself and that would be that. Everyone would still be keeping themselves to themselves. But I’d formed this loose bond. Now it hung heavy in the air, breaking through the silence. And I had to do something.
So, all that it was that I had to do was start a conversation. She didn’t seem interested in doing so. The burden was on my shoulders.
My duty was to talk to this female Agori. It shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? I’d spoken before. I had moved my lips and words had come out at one point or another in the course of my life. What was the problem now?
“Hi,” I croaked. Oh, Great Spirits. I croaked. My voice had gone hoarse and I crackled my greeting at her. That wasn’t a good conversation starter.
She hadn’t seemed to notice though. She looked up at me and for a moment, our eyes met. She smiled again and nodded politely, before turning back to stare at her feet. This wasn’t going well.
With a cough, I straightened up and readied myself to try again. Then I paused. Did that seem a little forceful? Was preparing myself a sign of aggression? That I wasn’t going to let her get away? But I couldn’t let this bother me. I had to try and start a conversation. The sake of the carriage depended on it.
“Hi there,” I smiled. No croaking this time. Good. She looked up again, that smile dancing on her lips. Maybe this was going to go well. “I haven’t seen you on here before. You going anywhere in particular?”
And with that, I leaned back, at ease with myself. There we go. The conversation had begun and it hadn’t been too uncomfortable.
Now all I had to do was wait for a response.
She sat a moment in thought. I decided she was trying to gauge what would be an appropriate response. Then she sat a little straighter and opened her mouth to begin speaking. Which is when the spiders began pouring out of her mouth. Dozens and dozens of tiny arachnids spilled from her gaping maw like an ebony waterfall, pooling on the floor by her feet.
I shrieked and leapt up onto my seat. I huddled my knees close to my chest and kept my eyes locked on the mass of arachnids that landed where my feet had been just mere seconds ago. I watched in horror as the spider puddle began settling on the floor, a writhing mass of black legs and bulbous bodies.
I whimpered slightly, unsure how to react when I noticed the disdained looks shot at me from my fellow passengers. I froze. Was that rude of me? Was I meant to compliment her spiders? Is she going to develop a complex now that she had trusted a stranger to view her collection, and he had reacted by screaming in her face?
“I…I’m sorry,” I stammered, looking into her face. She stared forward, her pale orange eyes boring into my skull. I was starting to wonder if she was even looking at me, or just in my direction. My mind locked up. I could feel any social skills I once had bidding me adieu and speeding away. But I had to say something. Anything. I was being watched. The audience wanted to see some kind of reconciliation. “I…Uh, that’s a nice bunch of-Mmph!”
A hand clasped itself around my mouth. As it withdrew, I looked down to see the purple Matoran leering up at me, shaking his head slightly. “Don’t mention them,” he breathed.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Don’t mention them!” He wasn’t advising me. He practically hissed the last warning out.
I hated to admit it, but I was confused. The entire carriage was focusing on me, watching every last movement I made. Even the Agori hadn’t averted her eyes. Did my apology not satisfy her? On the floor, the black puddled rolled and shifted. “Don’t mention what?”
“The spiders, you daft nonce. Don’t mention the spi-” He froze and slammed the palm of his hand against his own mouth. His eyes were alight with horror and he shook his head in fright. “I’m sorry, everyone.”
The train entered a tunnel, plunging us into a darkness that was bravely fought off by the lightstones that lined the carriage. All around me, people tutted. I watched as a Ta-Matoran shook his head and sighed with frustration. An ebony armoured Agori across the carriage placed her forehead in her palm. The Agori in front of me hadn’t moved.
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“I’m sorry,” the Matoran said, quietly. He kept his eyes focused on the spider army that was beginning to scuttle over to the edges of the carriage. I looked around and began to wonder when the tunnel would end. The train just kept rolling on through with no sign of an exit appearing at any point. Then realisation dawned on me. There weren’t any tunnels on my commute to work. The uncertain silence was broken as the Matoran breathed quietly again. “I’m so sorry.”
"I have seen my dreams laid out before me, then taken away just as quickly."
"I have been shown fear in a handful of dust."
Chapter four - Desire
Posted Jul 03 2012 - 05:32 PM
Laconic: Though much did not happen, you did a good character study and you wrote a wonderfully messed up ending that made my head spin.
Posted Jul 03 2012 - 11:23 PM
I wasn’t a beetle now, nor had the world changed for better or for worse.
Do I catch a reference to The Metamorphosis here, or is it just my literary nerdliness catching up with me? Anyway, it's still a nice hint at the wacko ending of this piece before it happens.
I didn't exactly get the tunnel thing, but I don't think I need to. Neither am I sure why the spiders thing happened, other than the fact that you needed a most unusual ending. I think you've got a great story here - a common awkward moment morphs into something most unusual. You could definitely go more places with this idea, but it stands quite well on its own.
Good job here.
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