He sat, dead-eyed, with his hand on his chin. “I know.”
And, with those two words, she sputtered. “How…?”
He smiled at her and leaned back in his chair. She could not say for sure, but something seemed to move behind him—something huge.
“I know things, not to worry,” he replied.
“I’m worried,” she said. “This is a secret. I can’t have it getting out.”
“It’s not widely known, not to worry. Almost no one knows. I just came across it as…”
He studied his nails, something yellowish glimmering in his eyes.
“…as a point of curiosity.”
“No, but you need to tell me how you know this. Who told you?”
He tapped at his temples, then sighed. “Yeah, okay. I suppose I can show you how it’s done—or tell you at least. You can’t see things the way I do.”
“Stop being so fucking mysterious,” she said, rising in her chair slightly. “I am here to know something, not to be played with. You’re the person who knows shit, but you shouldn’t know that about me. I don’t care how powerful you are.”
“I’m sorry to say it’s not up to you, though.”
He waved out his hands, and vague, expressionless faces peered in from the sides. Hard to see if looked at directly, but prominent in all other ways.
“I am not me—I am more than me. Conversations, moments, candid and honest and open—I am there, despite privacy. Information, from all over, it comes back to me. You may be able to keep a secret, but others don’t. Others can’t.”
“That’s an invasion of—”
“Yes, it is. It is an invasion of everyone and everything. I see all the pain. I see the hypocrisy. I see where you fail—I see where you lose it all.”
The darkness formed into tentacles. Stretching and roiling into the walls. His eyes were moon yellow and glimmering with intent. His fingers drummed on the table. She opened her mouth to say something, only to stop. Fear gripped her, but also intelligence worked at the problem.
“So, you already know what I want to know?” she asked.
“So, what’s the answer to it?”
The man splayed out his fingers on the table. “I need info for info. Can you supply?”
“But, you know everything already, don’t you?”
“I know all that has happened so far—but I need more people to be my ears.” He smiled at her. “It’s people who act as my ears.”
“You need me to…fuck, do I have a choice?”
“There’s always that—but, basically, no. You never did.”
He waved out his hand, and the table had a piece of large, old parchment on it. A pen dripped pure black from its tip.
“Sign it away—what you never had.”
She stared at the pen. Swallowed. Then, her eyes narrowed, and she stared at him.
“You know I’m not going to sign it.”
The man smiled at her.
“People are so easy,” he began. “They don’t think they act on patterns and stimuli, but they are cogs and clockwork. People don’t surprise me much, not really. They do what they clearly said they were going to do, just nonverbally. They say it with their bodies, with their eyes, with their previous opinions. Cause and effect—that’s all. They hate having secrets and would gladly spill them if they felt like it was safe to do so. They’ll tell you everything if they think you already know or know of something worse. In fact, you’ve already given me all I needed—you may go.”
After an angry breath, she stood up, her gaze lingering.
The man chuckled. “Yes, she did keep the record you gave her—and it does mean what you think it means.”
The anger faded, replaced by something akin to hope.
“I won’t ask how you know that,” she said.
He nodded at her. “You are learning. I’ll be seeing you soon. Both of you.”
She chuckled. “Sure. Yeah. Sure you will.”
As she walked away, he glanced down at the paper—as her name slowly appeared.
“It wouldn’t help if they all knew that they were mine, now would it?”
Special thanks to: Bob Gerkin, Collin Pearman, Dylan Alexander, Jerry Banfield, and Michael The Comic Nerd.
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