A Novel – One Chapter Per Week
Week 02, 2019
The phone rang.
It surprised Kathy. She did not receive many calls, and when she did she would anticipate most of them, both the caller and the time. It would flash in her consciousness minutes, sometime hours before the call, depending on how long the caller might have been thinking about dialing her number.
The fact that she was surprised told her that it was Jim.
She could never anticipate him.
She picked the phone up from its cradle, “hello,” she said.
“I need to see you,” said Jim without preamble, in his typical-tone, dry and detached, as mirthless and remote as Mount Everest.
“Café?” He asked, pensive and hesitant.
The single word was a question; would she, could she go out. It was also an imperative; “you must see me now,” she heard it as.
It was a statement of need.
“Yes.” Kathy replied, “hungry?” She asked, trying to mask the concern welling up inside her.
Jim hung up the phone without further comment, and without answering her.
His manners were brusque and abrupt as usual, but there was something else hidden in his tone.
There was a note of concern approaching fear.
Kathy gathered her things and got ready to go.
She did not have to ask where. They only ever met in one place.
It was secure, safe as private as she would get.
She did not have to ask when, the time was always right now.
She hurried out the door to meet him.
He was in line when she arrived and she took her place next to him.
“Small coffee…please;” Jim orders, perfunctorily.
“Soy chai, thank you;” says Kathy.
They sit together at a table by the window of the storefront, in a booth with the sun to their backs beaming down on them over Hennepin Avenue.
It was clear to Kathy that there was something urgent happening with Jim, but nevertheless they carried out the mechanics of their routine as if it were a normal day.
An ordinary visit between the two of them.
They read the morning newspaper and surveiled the crowd. In that regard, at least, it was a morning like any other.
The café was busy.
They were together, and they were not together at the same time. They were both in the crowd of people, and completely isolated from it simultaneously.
It was not unusual, detachment had always characterized the way they interacted with each other.
It was both intimate and strange.
It was the way Jim related to her, and it was something Kathy never questioned.
Time passed in silence, it became more than usual.
They are quiet, then Jim began to weep.
Kathy did not notice immediately.
If Jim were any other person in the world she would have known he was crying before the tears even fell.
When she saw him, she was quietly alarmed.
She had never seen such a display of emotion from him before.
“What is wrong with you?” Kathy asked, sounding scared and judgmental at the time.
Jim said, “nothing at all.”
He just looked at her, looked through her for a long moment.
He would not say why, could not. He has nothing but Lies to offer her.
Kathy looked at Jim for a long time, observing him, which was not beyond the norm.
They often spent long periods of time together in silence. It was a characteristic of their friendship.
She could not read his thoughts, but she was adept at reading his body language, the smallest movements of his features, a facial tick, the sweep of his gaze, his breathing.
They spoke to her in volumes.
She watched him as he sat at their table with the newspaper folded in his hands. She watched intently, until finally she asked him, “Jim…what is wrong?”
“I cannot say.” He said, as he looked past her, not meeting her eyes, but at the same time inviting a greater degree of scrutiny from her.
“Why not?” Kathy asked, a bit more insistently.
She was normally circumspect, but in this moment she did not care if she pushed boundaries that she would have otherwise respected,
“You would not understand, if I did…I’m not talking about it,” he replied, even as he locked eyes with her and paused.
There was a tone of finality in his voice, as if to say, that is it, you will not get anymore from me, but I want you to remain curious. There is something going on, something you cannot know about.
“I do not get it.” She responded. “Why did you ask to see me today and in such a dismal mood, if you did not need something from me?”
Kathy wanted very much to be needed by Jim.
It was a part of her conditioning.
Of all the people she had ever known, everyone who had ever exploited her for one purpose or another, she believed that Jim was the only one she had spent time with that simply wanted to be in her company.
“As I said…you would not understand, even if I told you. I am in the middle of something intensely personal, regarding a project I have been working on for a very long time. We have never spoken of it, but the anticipation of its realization is more than I counted on.”
“That is all I can say about it, at the moment.” He said, seeking closure.
“I apologize.” He offered, “what I am on the brink of accomplishing is…terrifying.”
Whatever was going on with Jim, she knew he was not actually terrified. She also got the impression that she would know soon enough what it was.
Jim wanted it to be a surprise…needed to surprise her, and she was open to that.
She like surprises.
Kathy sensed the emptiness inside her friend. She did not require psychic powers or telepathy to feel it. She only needed the normal human attribute of empathy.
Today there was something hollow inside him, where normally what she found in him was an active awareness, quick and sharp, with nothing escaping his attention.
Every moment that he had ever shared with her, he demonstrated a degree of perceptivity that outstripped her own.
She knew that he was not gifted in the same way that she was. The two of them had never spoken of it, but that was something she knew.
Nevertheless he was unique, like her, they were both unique in their different ways, like aliens from different civilization making friends on a world that belonged to neither of them.
Her time with him this morning was dismaying to her. She wanted to comfort him. She wanted to shake him up, or trap him in a conversation that would force him to reveal something.
He was elusive.
He could see the play she was making from a distance.
It left her with the sense that she was the one being played.
Kathy never felt disadvantaged. Not since she was a child.
She was always holding the cards, but that was not true in consideration of her time with Jim.
He was the master and she was the pupil, always, like Abelard and Eloise.
There was something in Jim’s behavior that reminded her of the times when people who had been deeply involved in her life were saying goodbye, like her parents, and those few of her teachers that she had genuinely loved.
Of course she knew what was happening with them before they ever said a word.
That was her gift.
Nevertheless they behaved a certain way, and had specific mannerisms that formed a pattern over time.
Kathy thought she saw that pattern reveal itself in Jim today, and just the thought that she might lose him filled her with despair. It activated a spirit inside her that forced her to want to discover the truth and challenge the things she did not want to happen, so that they would not happen.
Now that she was here, sitting at the table across from him, Jim was unsure of his motive.
There was confusion.
There was nothing in his plan that required him to see her today. He had tested every contingency and knew what the tolerances were for the things he needed her to do when he was gone.
There was something else happening in him related to why he asked her to see him, something unfamiliar, and he had to consider if he might be feeling guilt, or shame over what he was about to do.
Jim had to ask himself; what difference would it make seeing her today?
The plan he had enacted would proceed.
He could not tell her what was about to happen.
It was vital to the plan that she be taken at unawares.
Tens of thousands of years of evolution had brought him to this point, had brought both of them to this moment; selective breeding, careful manipulations of the genetic code, his endless patience had brought them both to this point.
The last few decades had been the most delicate, guiding her, educating her, defusing threats all around her, bringing her to this moment, bringing both of them to the crux of this situation.
He could not help but to get lost in reverie, the moment he had been striving for had come.
The distance he had journeyed since the time he had awakened to his purpose, that distance in both time and space was surreal.
His fate, the very real prospect of death, the fate of the galaxy hinged on everything that would transpire between him and Kathy in the next few days.
Timing was everything, and like everything it was fluid, in motion, subject to change by external variables.
The plan must come to fruition exactly as he had devised it, the plan was a line of continuity cutting through trillions of possibilities
He had to trust his insight, if he did, he knew that all of the potentialities he had been striving for would become actualized.
He and Kathy, both of them would become transcendent, each in their own way, each to their own end.
It was clear to Kathy that he had something to say to her. She sensed it was bad news, bad for her, bad for everyone.
If it had been anyone other than Jim, she would have known. He would not have had to say anything.
She could have read his mind.
There had been moments when she felt as if she had a glimpse into it, but what she saw and felt in those moments confused her.
It was as if he really were an alien, but at the same time he was the most grounded being she had ever met.
He knew things about the history of the world that only someone with abilities like hers could possibly know.
There were times when she had to ask herself if she was the alien, but the voices inside her confirmed for her that she was not.
She was human, she was fully human, a daughter of the Earth.
Jim gave off a variety of visible signals that told her much about what was going on with him. There were things he had to say to her, things he wanted her to do for him, not at this moment, but in the days ahead.
Something terrible was about to happen.
She felt that Jim had a role for her to play, and that she was vital to the plan he had spoken of.
He said as much.
She got the sense that she would never see him again after today.
It made her want to retreat within herself, to revisit all of the memories she had of Jim, or someone like him, memories that went back thousands of years.
The clues to what he wanted from her were within her.
She had to find them.
She could not remain in this state of liminality forever.
They sat with one another for several hours.
They spoke little.
Jim relaxed, he enjoyed being with Kathy, the rhythm of her mind, his thoughts in syncopation with hers.
It felt like he was home, and it was the closest thing to his natural state of being that he had ever experienced during the long years that he had been away.
Jim’s heart and mind were fixed on the coming conflict, on the resolution of his life’s work, of all the plans that he had carefully prepared.
He had plans within plans, and there were contingencies he tended to that were as intricate as a spider’s web.
Despite the anxiety that he was feeling, the existential weight of his preparations, the loss he was contemplating, the devastation that was coming to this world. Despite it all he was able to maintain his calm.
His body was engineered for it.
This is not to say that he did not feel the beginnings of panic, or fear, but that his body regulated those impulses with a speed that bordered on the instantaneous.
Jim had these last few hours, he wanted to spend them with Kathy.
He loved her as much as he was capable of love.
She represented the realization of his deepest purpose, pride, and the satisfaction of ambition.
In Kathy he not only found what he had had spent his long life looking for, his project with her was also like the unravelling of a mystery, or the assembly of a puzzle.
She was beautiful, wise, intelligent, funny; these qualities were completely unnecessary to his design for her, and yet they delighted him.
He could soak up her visage all day long, which is exactly what he intended to do on this day, this day that was his crucible.
In a few hours he would be gone. His plan for her would be on a glide path.
The way was well prepared.
He would soon enter a place where time itself was meaningless, but events would be turning here on earth that had to be measured to the second, and he would not be here to oversee it.
Kathy had to play her part, she had to be unaware that she was doing it.
When the vital moment struck, she had to be blind to what was happening, she, who could see everything.
Part One, Jim and Kathy
Chapter One, A Private Sorrow
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #OneChapterPerWeek
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