For Her

The house was always silent except for his quiet and her cats. He was aware of how much he sighed, and the cats…the cats were always darting underfoot, jumping up onto the furniture, counters, and tables, and peering around corners.

Flowers and plants were everywhere. He’d told everyone to send money to her causes in lieu of flowers and that shit, but…well, here they were. Here he was.

She was always trying to get him to eat healthy. The ‘frig was lousy with salmon and salad ingredients. Sighing (but what else?), he prepared the salmon per the instructions, sharing some with the cats, who were enthusiastic in their enjoyment, and made a salmon Caesar salad and poured a glass of wine for himself. Eating, he told himself, for her, chewing and swallowing the despised flavors, washing it down with wine.

For her.

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Double Think

Seven triple four began doubting his mission. The Kazmo believed he had a special insight into where the other versions of him resided. The Kazmo were correct, although it wasn’t as easy as they perceived. The silver machines didn’t know or understand that many of his other versions were fakes. Usually existing for about fourteen minutes, triple four suspected these other versions existed to distract the Kazmo and their resources.

That fact scared triple four. If he was right, his other selves knew about the Kazmo and their project.

They probably also knew about him, too, then. But if they knew about him, it could be that the fake others might only exist in his perceptions.

What he needed was a way to figure this out. If he couldn’t, he didn’t have a reason to exist.

Beneath the Surface

Heat, humidity, and the long day induced weariness. Sitting on a bench in city hall’s shadow, he looked across the plaza. The crowds were thinning. Most of the holiday action was drifting into the restaurants or up into the park proper.

A middle-aged blonde woman danced with a child on the plaza stones. Each was dressed in purple and white clothes, and laughed, twirling their clothes as they spun around.

Deeply inhaling to swallow sad memories, he smiled. Sean’s passing had ripped his marriage apart. After the divorce, he’d remarried, but he’d never had another child. There’d been two, but both were gone. Sean was the end. He missed the laughter and movement that a child brought to a scene.

###

“Dance, mommy, dance,” Laurel shouted. Laughing, Melany recalled her childhood dance lessons and pretended to be a ballerina. After applauding, Laurel mimicked her movements.

Melany caught a glimpse of the man on the edge of her vision. Sitting on a bench, he looked like he might be drunk. She didn’t like the way he stared at them, like a predator. 

Pretending she was out of breath, she collected Laurel. “Come on, honey. We’d better go find the others and get something to eat. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”

“Yes, I am hungry.” Laurel took her hand and began marching away with giant steps.  “Come on, walk like this.”

Giving the man one final dirty look over her shoulder, Melany followed her daughter to safety as the man finally looked away.

The Course of Love

He was pleased to be going out with her. He’d met her at the coffee shop. She was a barista, and he was a regular. Three years older than her, it turned out. She was a student in her final year. He’d just graduated and was taking some time off in the area. Her eyes, gleaming jade and almond-shaped, felt like a laser cutting through him when she looked at him. She is it, he thought, with a wildly hammering heart. It turned out she was very funny and intelligent, studying English Literature, with plans, she said, “To be a CEO.”

They went to Louie’s for dinner, a safe place, none too romantic, with plans to zip over to Aqua to hear LEFT and dance after dinner — “We’ll see,” they told one another” — but then, sitting opposite him, laughing as she brushed a strand back off her face with a thumb — isn’t that endearing? — and her nails lack polish or gel, interesting! — he looked down at the table. She put her hands down, palms first, on the table, moments later.

She was speaking, but it was like light and sound left the room. Her hands on the table looked like giant spiders with long, slender legs. Thereafter, he couldn’t look at her without seeing her hands and noticing their resemblance to spiders. He didn’t understand at all, but it made him physically ill. It was easy to tell her, “I’m sorry, but I think we might need to call it a night. I’m not feeling well.” Then, as if his body felt that his declaration needed validated, he slapped a hand over his mouth, raced to the bathroom, and violently puked.

Looking at himself in the mirror as he washed up, he wondered, why? Perhaps he’d been drugged.

The next day, he went in for his usual coffee. She served him, concerned about the previous evening. He couldn’t look at her. All he saw were her spider hands. When he saw them, he immediately felt like he was going to be sick. Sighing, he left without drinking his coffee. He’d need to find another coffee shop.

It all saddened him. He’d liked that coffee shop, and he thought he loved that woman. A few days later, at The Roasting Company, he met another young woman. He felt madly in love with her, which shocked him – what kind of fool was he, falling in love so quickly and easily? – and he was leery of dating after spider hands, but she asked him out, telling him with a smile that he thought as intriguing as Mona Lisa’s, “Don’t worry. You’re in my hands now. I’ll take care of you.”

Her words startled him. He wondered if there was connection, but then dismissed it as silly, and accepted with pleasure.

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