As the bus barrels its way through the thin traffic, I feel it. It calls me, as it has before, but different. Stronger, more important. No longer Come, come, come, but rather Come, come, quick! Come and erase and make gone! I lean against the back of the bus seat, and it embraces me, the rough fabric and thin foam a poor protection from the hard metal frame beneath.
The first, the only, time I listened to… …to this Need, this nagging insistence, I found myself at a stuffy coffee house, talking to an angry waitress with eyes the color of amber held up to the sun. I had gained no pleasure from her complaints, from her miserable hate of life. Since then I had felt The Need twice, and never like this. Before, it had been like a fine sunny day, the type of which begs for a picnic beside a stream. Now, it was like the hot, sticky air before a storm, a warning. It jeers rudely and says play it safe, go with your gut or you could lose everything.
The bus jars to a stop, ancient brakes protesting such quick and ill-mannered use. The driver glares out the glass door at a figure in a rain coat, then hauls heavily at a large lever, forcing the door to fold open so the raincoat-person can enter. The Need harries me. It tugs and pulls and paces angrily, wanting to be listened to, and finally I listen, despite my better judgment. I walk to the front of the bus and turn to the driver.
“I’m getting off here,” I say, but The Need thinks I can do better, and so I try. “I just remembered something I promised to do for someone.”
The driver looks at me, face scrunched up like someone whose just eaten something with a foul aftertaste.
“I don’t want any,” I say, though I paid to go another few miles. I step off the bus and before both feet have touched the pavement the door closes, moaning in relief. I hurry to the shelter of the bus stop, and am grateful that by the time I reach it the bus is screeching around the next turn. It means there’s no one around.
I fall into myself, mentally speaking. I hide without cover. At some point in my life, sometime when I was too old a boy to be allowed play and too young a man to be allowed to think, I found I could make myself invisible. Not the Sci-Fi novel kind of invisible, but to peoples’ minds, so that before my image could make it to them their brain filled it in like any blind spot. I do this now, and set off down the street.
The soles of my ratty running shoes play a staccato tune on the sidewalk. Tat-at-at-ah, tat-at-at-ah. The rhythm fills me with a tense sort of calm, a certainty that I am doing right and that it won’t be seen as such and that I won’t care because I’ll know. I don’t know how long I keep up the steady jog or where it takes me, but I feel something inside of me grow and stretch and thrill and I know it’s time to slow down. The street I’m on runs perpendicular to Main, and is covered in old row buildings painted in gaudy pastels, salmon red and clay yellow and a stinging color that didn’t deserve the name blue. A street musician on guitar is drowned out by a festive Spanish song sounding from one of the buildings. It is this one that houses the subject of my Need, of this I am certain. I slip into a deserted park long enough to drop my mind’s disguise, then study the building. It’s a restaurant.
I enter the restaurant and am quickly seated at a booth near the back. The waiter sets down a tattered menu, some warm tortilla chips and a bowl of watery salsa. I place my order immediately, a glass of water and a steak, cooked medium. My eyes search the nearby tables, questioning. Finally The Need trumpets- there! The man’s fingers drum nervously against his table, and his eyes dart. They catch mine, and freeze. He doesn’t know what my Need wants, but I’ve no doubt he feels it as I did before, pulling at him to come talk to me, be near me, simply interact!
I smile, knowing and inviting, and he gets up, taking his plate of bland tacos with him. He smiles back uncertainly.
“Sit,” I say. He does, and after a few moments we begin talking. We discuss The Need first, though I do not tell him all that mine wants. We share with each other. He tells me his name is Dan. He says he’s just passing through, on his way from his parent’s house to his college, where he’s in his junior year. Growing up, he had a dachshund named Ralph and an old nameless parrot. I sit patiently, waiting for my chance to satisfy this newly awakened beast inside of me. Then, it happens. He leans in, and whispers.
“I know what this means. This- Need? Is that what you called it? You have a secret. A power, you might say. I’ve met others like us. So, what is it?” The words fall from his mouth like some sort of odd rain.
“It,” I say carefully “would be easiest just to show you. Somewhere away from these fine people around us.”
He nods, rising from the booth. “Of course!” I leave money on the table, well more than enough for the both of us, and we take the back exit, into the long, deserted parking lot that serves all of the buildings in this row. My hands hang loosely onto the only weapon I could find, my steak-knife. I feel myself readying to strike.
In a second, everything changes. I find a myself against the wall, a hunting knife resting on my throat. Dan smiles, a cruel and mocking smile full of some sort of malicious excuse for pity.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and I know deep in me that part of him means it. “But I Need this. The world Needs this.”
I lock eyes with him, and for a second we share in this brutal Need, then he presses down and I go to nothing.
- Title: The Need
- Artist: Jellybeans Toes
- Description: I'm trying to start a novel right now in which a few people with magic discover there is a sickness going around through them that makes them want to kill each other. While I haven't made much progress in that, here is a short story based in the same world. Comments and criticism loved.
- Date: 07/21/2008
- Tags: need power magic