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by on September 15, 2010

I’m minding my own business, reading my book and waiting for the bus, when she sits down next to me. I look up from the paperback and our eyes meet. She smiles; I smile back nervously.
“Hello, ” she says, putting her hand on my knee.
I flinch a little at the unexpected touch, then stare at her, confused.
“Hello,” she says again, more slowly. “You do understand me, don’t you?”
“I, um, yes.” I look around at the two others waiting at the stop. They don’t seem to find this new arrival unusual. “I understand you. It’s just… Well… You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Ha ha! No,” she laughs, retrieving her hand. “Indeed not,” imitating my accent. Her eyes dart left and right and she leans in towards me, steam from her coffee misting my glasses. “I thought that you’d be able to see me. The real me, I mean. I saw you from across the street – you’ve got the look. You see lots of things that other people don’t, isn’t that right?”
“I, er…” I fidget in my seat, as I often do when flustered. “I see. I mean, yes, I see you. And they don’t?” I say, nodding my head at the tweed-clad lady and the supermarket-suited gentleman.
“Perception field.” She waves her hands around with a flourish, like a magician performing a misdirection. “Hides us from almost everyone. Almost,” she says, lightly elbowing me in the ribs. “Keep it to yourself, won’t you? You’ll only make yourself sound crazy if you try and tell people.”
Before I can stop her, she plants a peck on my cheek and skips off, her tail wrapping and unwrapping itself around the lamppost.

  1. Really like the slow unwrapping of the plot – it starts off so everyday and the unexpected intimacy of ‘hand on knee’ distracts from the oddnesses at first; but slowly you begin to realise that something is a bit off – with only the last sentence giving you the ‘ahh I see – I was right ‘ feeling.
    Also like the implication that we are surrounded by ‘others’ often – kinda cute.

    I think you get the lead character’s uncertainty with how to deal with the situation really well – the nervousness etc although in some spots I think you try too hard: ‘I fidget in my seat, as I often do when flustered’ would have been better as just ‘I fidget in my seat’. Similarly I think ‘She waves her hands around with a flourish, like a magician performing a misdirection’ is less good than ‘She waves her hands around with a flourish’. Or maybe just in a minimalist mood today.

    • Thanks, man! 😀
      I wanted to get that slightly unsure of what’s going on thing happening – seems it worked!

      Re try too hard: yeah, I think I agree. The rest of it is so plain-spoken, the two more descriptive bits seem a little off.

      • I fear I disagree. I don’t think those extra descriptive phrases are unnecessary, I think they work very well to establish the character of the speaker – hesitant, unsure of himself, a bit fussy. You’re seeing the encounter through his eyes, and his perspective is slightly pedantic. He notices details – his paperback, the steam from her coffee, the clothes of the other people present – so his observation of her magician’s hand-wave and his own tendencies fit right in. This makes it thematically very tight, because the whole point of the encounter is the fact that he does see things other people don’t. It also sets up the last sentence beautifully – the speaker is so fussy with all the other details, the fact that he’s held the tail in reserve until the end is a particularly effective jolt.

        I’ve commented all backwards, like. I really liked this: a tight, effective piece of writing, well-observed and beautifully paced. And amusing. I like the way she “skips” off, she has a slightly sinister insouciance which comes across very well.

        • Thanks!
          Rethinking the descriptive bits, I am.

          Glad you liked the skip.
          The vibe of the departure somehow felt important.

  2. parfles permalink

    I’m with Docinatrix. I love this – the language is great, and the descriptive bits work. I would like to particularly mention the dialogue – I’m a dialogue fundi, and this _works_, this is _real_, it is how people talk. The personalities – the teasing lady of mystery, the shy-and-sweet main character – come across beautifully, and I feel your writing is tight and awesome here.

    I really enjoyed the slow reveal and the growing sense of mystery. I look forward to his further adventures – there is more that he will learn of that other world in time, I’m sure…

    • Thanks, Parfles.
      Glad you like the dialogue. I often find myself thinking WWPD when writing speaky bits. 🙂

      > Teasing lady of mystery, the shy-and-sweet main character.
      I guess I’m writing what I know! 😉

  3. Our Hero is sitting at a bus stop when a strange woman sits down beside him and begins to quiz him over whether he can see and understand her. She is protected by a “perception field”, through which he can naturally see. She is in some way not human, and has a tail.

    I thought that the dialogue was fun and amusing; I also enjoyed the holdback about her tail. Unlike Docinatrix, I like to think that he only notices the tail at the end, when she moves off.

    I have some nitpicks:

    > Ha ha.
    A very small nitpick: I’m not a fan of onomatopoeic laughing. I never find it natural. Also, although it’s sometimes clear from context, I usually need to think about if the person is merely saying, “Ha ha,” or actually laughing.

    > steam from her coffee misting my glasses.
    I felt as though the coffee magically appeared. This is the first time that it’s mentioned, and (for me) it’s mentioned in a way that feels as though I should have known about it.

    > I saying, nodding my head
    “saying” should be “say”

    • Thank you, Rude!

      Re tail: the picture I had in my head was that she’s very diferrent. The tail isn’t the only thing that makes her look a bit odd!

      With you on the ha ha. That bit felt a bit empty when writing it, but looking at it again, it doesn’t need the ha. Ha!

      I’m not too worried about the coffee. It’s in the scene for me as a typical bus stop thing, and I’m not sure how to work in “She was carrying a coffee” in.

      Re Saying: typo! Fixed. Thanks!

  4. nantalith permalink

    I thought this was so cute.

    Though, when she skips off, which I like, her tail is wrapping and unwrapping around the lamppost. It sounds a bit like her tail has stayed behind while she skipped off – sort of like a gecko that looses its tail, it keeps twisting around.

    I also liked the dialogue.

    • Thanks!

      Geckos from outer space!

      I think I may be starting to get the hang of this dialogue thing.

  5. cbraz permalink

    I love this. It is a beautiful magical-realism kind of story, full of lovely ideas like the perception field and people it doesn’t affect. I love the characterisation of both the main character and the girl.

    I was slightly distracted by the fact that she was holding a cup of coffee and then waved her hands around with a flourish not long afterwards. It felt a bit like a continuity glitch, which shows you how visually I was reading your piece 🙂

    • Thank you!

      Re hand waving: right you are. Would have been a slightly wetter encounter than is detailed above. Ahem. I may update this for the print version :).

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