Author: Mirateski PM
You smile crookedly as he exhales smoke. Open-ended Second-person narrative exerciseRated: Fiction K+ - English - Mystery/Fantasy - Words: 1,278 - Published: 05-02-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3018799
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Someone is smoking in your room. You walk through sweet-scented fog, and breathe deeply of the aroma around you. A nurse ducks in to tell your guest that there's no smoking in the hospital, but before she even finishes 'excuse me' he is gone, as if he never existed at all.
"I was watching you," a deep voice murmurs. You turn and see a man. He's old, probably in his forties at your best guess, and his dark brown hair is silvering at the edges. The eyes he turns on you are sharp, though. They look into you, and you feel vulnerable.
"Why?" you ask. He chuckles. It's a deep, sonorous sound. He smiles at you, and the corners of his eyes crinkle up at his happiness.
"Because I like you," he responds. "That's all."
You're walking down the street. It's the middle of the afternoon, so it's busy. The smell of car fumes touches your nose for the briefest of seconds, but is soon gone. At an open window, you pause. Voices.
"I'm afraid I can't make a call one way or the other at this point." You think you recognise the voice, but there's no face for it. you can't see who's speaking through the gauze.
"But can't she hear us, at least? Isn't there some way to know?"
Your mother. Always a worrier.
"Of course I can hear you," you call through the window, amused. There's no answer, though. The window is closed and latched by a hand that you only catch a glimpse of for a few moments, so you shrug and keep walking.
"Part of me thinks you're the one finding me," the man remarks. He's sat on the rickety old picnic table in the middle of the park, and it sways back and forth slightly as he talks. You think that perhaps he's doing it on purpose.
"I never look for you," you argue. He nods, and it's a wise, understanding nod. He reaches into one of the pockets of his coat and draws something out. It's a necklace, one with a heart on the bottom.
"I found this. It's yours," he tells you, holding it out on the end of one finger. The heart sways in the breeze. You don't even remember losing it.
"Thank you," you tell him, touched, and reach out and take it. The heart is latched, one of those designed to open up and reveal images. You pop it open with a skill born from years of practice, but the photographs have blurred and aged so you can no longer see the faces. He pulls a cigar from another pocket, lighting it with a click of a plain, cheap lighter, and takes a deep puff of it. You smile crookedly as he exhales smoke.
"This is the second time I've met you," he remarks. "You know, most people don't ever see me even once." You frown in confusion. "But you've built a whole world for us to talk in." He grins, around the butt of the cigar, which is leaking smoke. "I kinda like that, kid."
"Who are you?" you ask. He shrugs.
"Whoever you want me to be," he replies.
"But who is he?" your mother argues. You don't hear her. You're lying on your back on the grassy hill, fancying shapes out of the clouds that pass above your head. "Not one of her friends, surely?"
"We don't know, ma'am. He comes in to see her every Thursday. 5pm on the dot, leaves before we come around to tell people visiting hours are over."
"But who is he?"
"You can look at the sign-in sheet, ma'am, but we don't know anything else."
The clouds look like birds, flying above your head.
In your hands you hold a camera, one of the old ones that prints Polaroid photographs. He looks up in surprise as you run up to him and press the shutter down, and watches with an eyebrow raised as you shake the picture to make it show up.
"What's this for?" he asks. You grin.
"For the necklace," you reply, holding it up. The photos have gone. "I wanted something I can see." He laughs, taking the camera from your hands as you examine the photograph. "These are too big, though." He nods, watching as you hold the picture up to the light and squint at it.
"They are at that," he agrees, and snaps a picture of you. You look over in surprise, the first photograph still held between thumb and forefinger. "Come here." You approach as he puts the printed photo on the wall, then pulls you into a friendly hug, an arm around your shoulder, and holds the camera out with the other and presses the button. He gathers up the photographs as you run your thumb over the closed locket. "Here," he tells you, holding out tiny versions of the photographs that you only just took. "I found them in my pocket." You cast a wary eye over his coat. So big, so many pockets. You imagine he could find anything in them.
You fiddle with the locket and he leans against the wall, watching you. You hear someone passing behind you, her heels clacking on the ground beneath her feet.
"Are you bored yet?" he asks as you hang the complete locket around your neck.
"Bored?" you echo, surprised. "How could I be bored?" He shrugs, casting his eye around the area. Suburban, the wall behind him leads to a neighbour's garden. Not many people are around in the streets. It's nearly sunset, after all.
"Bored of waiting," he elaborates. "You've found me three times now. I do visit you more, but you never see me then, do you?" Almost unbidden, you think of smoke and fog. "I suppose I expected there would be something more the first time," he continues, shrugging. The coat shifts as his shoulders move, unknown things in pockets going chink.
"I think this is interesting," you remark. "It's like hide and seek." He laughs. You do like it when you can get a laugh out of him.
"Hide and seek," he echoes. "Alright. Can I make you an offer instead?" You smile, an invitation for him to continue. "If you're not bored, will you at least humour me?" You consider it.
"Maybe this once," you allow. There's the smell of smoke from him, a musky scent, a pleasantly sweet sort of smell. You ran through that fog, once. You could see the headlights cut through it, and tried to keep pace with the cars that drove along the road. You couldn't, of course, but it was sporting when they drove so slow.
It was like hearing them rumble outside a window, in another life.
"Gone? How can she be gone?"
"I don't know, ma'am. Her gentleman friend was here to visit her again. I went in to tell him not to smoke and he disappeared. She was gone, too."
"Well, can't you find him on the cameras? Don't you have his details? She's helpless, for God's sake! Call the police!"
"That's just the thing ma'am. We can't find him. He doesn't seem to leave from anywhere when we look at the cameras, and they were six storeys up so he couldn't have jumped.
"It's like he was never there at all."