This story is by Rachel Wilson and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that anything was off when the rather short person sat down next to me on the bench where I waited on the 7:15 bus.
A nine-letter word for shady business..
A creature of habit, as my coworkers often joked about me, I barely looked up from my daily crossword. If all went according to my usual routine, I’d be finished with it before the bus even arrived.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”
The voice was so soft; I barely heard it to begin with. When I realized the voice was directed at me, I glanced up.
A pair startling blue eyes captured my attention. They were set in a rather plain face, which was topped with ordinary brown hair tied back with a piece of dark brown leather. My own eyes kept traveling back to the captivating blue ones. I’d never seen eyes that particular shade of blue before. As dark as sapphires, they very nearly glittered like the same stones. Thick brown eyebrows topped the eyes, and the only other remarkable thing about the face was a nasty scar running from the person’s temple, down the cheek, and disappearing beneath the starched white collar of the button up the young man wore.
It took me a moment to remember that the stranger had said something to begin with.
I cleared my throat.
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Are you quite alright?” he asked.
“Yes, yes of course. I’m fine. How are you?” I asked, rather awkwardly, I suspected.
“Wonderful. It’s a stunning day, wouldn’t you say?” he beamed at me, and his previously soft voice pitched in excitement.
I looked around me. The sky was a bit dull, to be honest, and everyone around us hurried here and there, faces stuck in their phones. The miasma of hot city, piles of trash, human and animal waste, and early-morning food vendors was even stronger than normal due to the excessive heat.
“Uh, yeah, sure, I suppose,” I agreed tentatively.
“Well, it’s certainly fitting for such a momentous occasion,” the young man continued chattering, but my attention had been caught by something else.
His ears were pointed.
I glanced at my watch. The bus would arrive in eight more minutes, and I was still not finished with my crossword, and this person just kept chatting a mile a minute.
I tapped my foot.
“Oh, am I talking too much? My brother always tells me that I talk too much, and I’m sure he’s right, but especially on a day like today, I just can’t help it. I wonder what the Council decision will be on reintegration!”
“The Referendum to Reintegrate? The Council is coming to a decision today! Where have you been, man? Every mage, elf, were, and vamp has been talking about it for months!” he looked at me as though I were the crazy one.
“I’m sorry; I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said and looked at the commuters around me, wondering what they thought about the crazy, hyperactive person next to me spouting off about a Council and a Referendum.
The woman next to me looked down quickly and scooted away.
A little girl a few feet away giggled, poked her father, and pointed at me.
“That man is talking to the bench, Daddy!”
“Quiet, Jane! It’s not nice to point,” he scolded and moved himself and his daughter to the other end of the bus stop.
Wait a second…what?.
As I looked back at the man next to me and then to the people around me, it hit me. These people could not see my chatty bench neighbor.
I turned back towards the young man.
He’d apparently been watching me as I watched the others, and he must have realized I was entirely confused, for his eyes rounded.
“Oh,” he said, softly again. “Oh. You’re Lost.”
“Well, of course I’m lost,” I muttered, returning my gaze to my crossword. “I already told you I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The people around me thought I was crazy already, may as well answer.
“No, no, no, not lost. Lost. You’re one of us, but you don’t know about our world. You’re a Lost One. You were overlooked somehow. It’s hard to keep track of all the Beings in the world, you know, especially with so many humans.”
That confirmed it for me. This person was absolutely mad, and I could not respond to him any longer without others thinking the same of me. I stared resolutely at my puzzle.
A six-letter word for hopeless….
“Look, I know this may seem strange, but I am going to need you to come with me. It doesn’t make sense to you now, but it’s protocol,” he began, rummaging in the messenger bag he had slung across his body.
Ah. Futile. Next then. A five-letter word for a stupid person….
“Well, then. There’s only one way about this…”
I glanced up as he moved beside me.
He had a silver instrument in his hand that looked rather like a…
It didn’t occur to me to escape until what felt like electric jolts were already coursing through my body.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even twitch.
The bus pulled up, and the people around me didn’t even glance my way as they moved to board.
As it left the stop, the proverbially nondescript black car pulled up in its place. I only managed to stare helplessly as two large men in oddly styled black clothing got out and approached the two of us.
“He’s a Lost One,” I heard the young man mutter, and then two sets of hands lifted me from the bench and carried me to the car.
The young man slid in next to me, and the two large men got in front.
“It’ll all make sense soon,” he assured me.
Unable to move, internally, I snorted.