Shadows Roasting in the Fire: A Collection of Short Stories

Collection: Story, the first

Author: Keilanch

Author's Notes: This is the first story in my collection. All stories are not in any way connected to each other and may range from absolutely hilarious to astoundingly frightening.These are mainly just musings from my mind that I want to share to all of you. Unlike my other stories, most of these short narrations are not romantically inclined. Hope you appreciate nonetheless.


Sedan


They're laughing.

Boisterous laughter fills the air and I'm laughing with them, but everything is empty. Empty and devoid of emotion, of feeling, of something, anything. Their eyes are lit with amusement and I wonder if I look the same. I wonder if they are indeed fooled by the fake laughter that seems real, or if they choose only to ignore. Because not ignoring means facing the truth and at this point, the truth hurts.

We're walking in a crowded place with strangers all around us living in their own worlds. We're in our own world. We're in our own little bubble.

I laugh. I don't want to burst the bubble.

I like the bubble.

I hate the bubble.

I don't like the bubble and I don't hate the bubble. I don't know what I feel.

Something, anything.

He's gesturing wildly with his arms now and I assume he's in the middle of another silly story, another silly attempt at humor. I have no idea what he was relaying the past so and so seconds or minutes or maybe hours and I wonder how long I've been out again.

I keep doing that. Wandering. Going off somewhere. And it seems like every time I come back, part of me is lost. That bit of my soul is probably now wandering on its own and can't go home.

What is home?

Is there a home?

I smile and they see it and match it with their own. I guess I must have smiled at the right time.

They absolutely have no clue whatsoever. Neither do I.

He's asking me something and strangely, I answer back. My voice sounds perky, ecstatic, excited. A foreigner to my own ears.

They look satisfied with what I just said, whatever it was. The attention shifts from me back to him and I mimic their actions in a way of solidarity. Strange how one second all eyes are upon me, and the next, they forget all about my existence. They pretend I don't exist the same way they're pretending that what he's saying actually matters. Once I open my mouth and relay a story that they deem fascinating, they'll start pretending again. This time, they'll pretend I matter.

Sometimes I wish to be like them so I can also pretend. But I know the truth, even if it hurts.

He's done talking and she's pointing to a nearby fastfood joint and I remember again why we're here in the first place. Why we're walking and talking and laughing. Why I'm walking and talking and laughing along with them.

We enter the place and settle for a nearby empty table. I place my bag down and she asks if I want to order ahead or stay behind and watch everyone's bags for them. I smile and sit down. She walks away.

I look at the low white ceiling and aligned fluorescent lights for awhile and then I look down when my eyes start getting blinded.

I pick my bag up off the floor and hold it close. It's big but not quite bulky and the wrong shade of red, but it's mine.

They start coming back one by one, trays in hand with their orders. I give them my patented smirk, teasing, friendly. Not quite reaching my eyes. They smile back.

He sits down and then she sits down and then she does and I'm the one in our table without an order. She asks why I'm not eating. I tell them I'm not really hungry, but I place my bag down and stand up nonetheless.

There are three cashiers on the counter with only two customers. I turn to the middle and the girl in front of me asks for my order with a polite smile. I look up towards the displayed menu when I already know what I want in the first place. She remains polite and waiting.

I tell her I want the ham and cheese burger with rootbeer. She pushes a combination of buttons and I see the money I have to shed for a piece of bread cut in half, a slice of cheese, a slice of ham, and a plastic cup of fizzing acid. She keeps smiling.

I don't wait long for my order. In a few minutes, I have a tray of preservatives and calories in front of me. I'm still not hungry. I take it anyway.

I'm back on our table and the conversation is once again lively. I give a few comments here and there, flail my arms at some point. I guffaw when they guffaw and give a few high fives. At some point I realize I've finished my food and so have they.

We're done but no one moves to leave.

It seems like the conversation will go on for a little while.

I make sure to look at them, to keep smiling. They do their part and keep thinking I'm with them. I'm already gone.

I don't think they're dumb though. They probably already know that I've been gone a long time. They just pretend that they don't. It's easier that way and besides, they're good at doing that.

Sometimes I wish to be like them so I can also pretend. But I still know the truth, and it still hurts.

The talking seems infinite but it eventually comes to an end. I don't know how I got through the hour and a half. I don't know how I get through everyday.

There are brief hugs and briefer goodbyes and before I know it, we're on our own separate ways. And I'm walking the same way that they're walking even though I can't see them.

It's a long way back home. An hour's worth of public transport ride.

What is home?

Is there a home?

My mind is traveling faster than I do. My consciousness remains stagnant.

Empty and devoid of emotion.

I never wanted to get lost. Now, I can't find my way.

I smile when I remember the laughter, headlights in front of me. Blinding me. I don't look down.

I never really heard my own laughter.

I'm sure I never will.

(end of Sedan.)