Severance

Original fiction by Cheshire Grin. Don't steal it! ;p


I wanted more than live could ever grant me.

Bored by the chore of saving face.

Today is the greatest day I've ever known.

Can't wait for tomorrow. I might not live that long.

- Smashing Pumpkins; 'Today' -


Magid Avenue slept restlessly through the mid-afternoon. Gusts of autumn wind prowled among the elms that lined the sides of the road, cutting down their leaves and gathering them in rustling heaps on the sidewalk, later to be collected and burned in great pyres.

From inside the house the old man observed all of this. 'It will be cold soon.' he remarked, turning to his companion. The other declined to comment so the old man harrumphed and turned back to the window. A moment later he spoke again.

"I don't suppose you'd reconsider?"

The child sitting at the table smiled. Locks of thick black hair fell into her eyes as she shook her head.

'No Troy. You know that.'

'Hmmpf. Thought as much. Can't be helped I guess.' He stood up gingerly and shuffled into the kitchen, tugging at his dressing gown to keep from tripping over it. 'Want a cuppa?'

'Sure.'

'Tea or coffee?'

'Coffee. White, no sugar.'

As made the coffee he watched the girl from the corner of his eye. She sat almost preternaturally still, her elbows propped against the table and hands folded under her chin, gazing out the window. Her pale face was wreathed in the slightly lopsided but endearing smile that seemed to be the only expression she was capable of.

'You don't look the way I imagined.' He told the girl, handing her a cup and collapsing into a chair beside her.

'I get that a lot.' She laughed, gentle and mellifluous.

The old man looked up sharply. 'I bet you do.'

She said nothing and sipped her coffee. He watched her for a while, a ghost of a smile crinkling his face.

'I didn't know you drank coffee.'

'I don't often get the chance. It's very good.' She brushed back the unruly bangs of hair that buried her face and turned to look at him. He was sparsely built and swayed like a stalk of wheat when he stood. His age showed on his grim face, flesh stretched taut about the skull and fading like old parchment. His eyes were still sharp however and they watched her dubiously.

'I've seen you before haven't I?' The old man asked finally. The girl nodded, fixing him with her unceasing smile. He sat back in his chair and sorted through the pile of letters and newspapers on the table, unearthing a battered pipe.

'Do you mind?'

'Not at all.'

'Good.' He lit up the pipe and sat thoughtfully for a few moments, puffing out smoke like a tired old dragon.

'Have you remembered yet?' The girl asked.

'Yes. It was the laugh that tipped me off. It was the same as under the tree.'

'That's right. You fell pretty hard.'

"Heh. It's been a long time.' He blew out a stream of smoke and coughed a bit, holding on to the arms of the chair for support.

'Yes. It has.' Her smile faded briefly and her eyes flickered toward the window.

'I thought you were a dream.'

'I guess I am.'

'You were very beautiful back then. I wanted to go with you.'

'I know.'

'Has it happened before?'

She arched her eyebrows and stared at him.

'Being seen, I mean.' He said quickly.

'Not very often.'

'Hmm. I've often wondered about you.' He mumbled thoughtfully fishing around for an ashtray. Not finding one he stood and wandered back into the kitchen, knocking out his pipe in the sink. 'Once thought I was crazy, you know.' He said over his shoulder, turning on the tap and watching the water swirl away the ashes. 'Want another coffee while I'm up?'

'No thanks.'

He grunted and began to make his way laboriously back to the table.

'Sorry. I'm feeling a bit dizzy all of a sudden.' He sat down carefully and breathed in deeply. 'Give me a moment will you?'

The girl watched as the old man struggled into his chair. His hands twitched in time with his labored breathing and his nails gouged small shreds of vinyl from the armrests of his chair. After a time he calmed and his fit subsided.

'Goddamn body's fallin' to bits.' He mumbled irritably. 'I'm kind of envious you know. You look just like you did when I was a kid.'

'Of course.' She smiled once more.

'Is there much time?'

'Still a few minutes. Was there something you wanted to say?'

'Don't know. Can't hardly think straight.'

'Does it hurt, Troy?' She looked at him questioningly, her smile caring and sympathetic.

'Not a bit.' He answered through clenched teeth.

'You were a bad liar back then too.'

'I was wondering...?'

'Yes?'

'Do you have a name?'

'No. Not really.'

'Heh. I might have guessed.' The old man started to chuckle until another coughing fit hit him. Doubled over in the chair, he hacked away for several minutes before recovering. Meanwhile the girl stood up.

'It's time.'

'Should I be afraid?' He asked.

'No. No I don't think so.'

The old man looked around his house for a moment before shrugging and standing up. He swayed precariously and took a moment to steady himself.

'Shall we go then?' She asked him.

'Yes. Lets go.' He moved to the front door and opened it. The wind threatened to cut his feet from under him. The girl placed a steadying hand on his arm.

He looked down at her. 'You'll walk me part of the way right? You won't disappear like last time?' He asked, his voice hoarse and barely audible over the wind as they moved out the front door.

She smiled her brilliant smile. 'I wont disappear. Last time was a mistake.'

'I know.'

She laughed her melodic laugh once more. 'Lets go.'

END