While moving from perception to perception—place to place, time to time—had been as easy as walking before, now it was painful, like trying to walk with a sprained ankle or sit on a bruised tailbone. My vision blurred, my joints ached, and my stomach churned queasily. But I endured it.

I had to know more.

Nobody downtown seemed to be able to see or hear me, no matter how obnoxiously I tried to make my presence felt. Everything from stealing a cart from the grocery store to smashing a display in the bakery to throwing a package of batteries at a convenience store clerk seemed to pass without much comment.

I returned to the library when my night shift would have began, only to find Mr. Fisher, the Ancient Mariner himself, filling in for the shift.

“Hello, Mr. Fisher,” I said. “Here I am, ready for work. Hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”

Fisher consulted a pocket watch. “Darn it, where is that kid?”

“Why, hello Jonas!” The older man who I had almost stabbed with a letter opener said as he walked in. “I’m glad to see a better caliber of person behind the desk as it were!”

“Don’t expect to make a habit out of it,” Fisher grunted. “I have had both of my night people up and vanish on me. Myra’s been gone for nearly a week, and now Gil. Not so much as a phone call from either of them.”

“Good riddance, I say,” the patron said. “Bad eggs, both of them. The boy, do you know he threatened me with a knife once?”

“It was an accident!” I said. “You try getting glimpses of alternate realities and distance places and not get a little confused!”

“Wasn’t it a letter opener last time you told the story, and a careless accident?” Fisher drawled. At least he was still on my side, after a fashion.

“There was definite malice aforethought on further consideration!” the man cried. “And you know as well as I do that the only difference between a knife and a letter opener is how sharp they are!”

“And the name, and how you use them, and what they are designed for!” I cried. “But otherwise identical!”

“Just like your fishing stories, this gets wilder with every telling,” Mr. Fisher sighed. “I will tell you what, though. If those two don’t start showing me some regard, I’m going to have to let them go. Too bad—good kids, need the work. Gil’s parents give us a tidy sum toward operating expenses every year.”

“There’s a word for that, Jonas. Nepotism.”

“Nepotism is when you only hire your own family members, you old bag!” I cried. “It’s cronyism when you only hire people you like! It’s in the dictionary!”

“I take it that you, then, would prefer to contribute the balance?” Mr. Fisher asked.

The other man became very quiet after that, and soon excused himself.

“You’re sure you can’t see or hear me, Mr. Fisher?” I asked one last time. “Like everybody else?”

Mr. Fisher looked up at the clock and shook his head. “Darn kids.”

It was time for me to go a bit further afield. Surely there was someone out there—someone that knew me very well—who could still perceive me.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements