Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Short Story: Pleased to Meet You

I’ve been promising to post a few short stories here, the day has finally arrived to keep that promise. This post proves that it was a “man promise” and not a “politician promise”.
The following short story, entitled Pleased to Meet You, is something I’m entering in the Alan Marshall Short Story Award – this piece is 1065 words long. I wrote the original draft for this a decade ago and I was happy with it after some minor revisions and additions. As this is the first public outing for my work I’d love any feedback you have.

Pleased to Meet You

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“I never used to talk to people.”
“I’m sorry, are you talking to me?”
Sarah was slightly startled by the sudden realisation that there was an old man sitting next to her. She hadn’t notice the old man sit down at the other end of the park bench, hadn’t notice him arrive. This was her only quiet time for the day, her lunch break in the park. Out here in the fresh air she could sit in silence, away from the phone calls, conversations in the next fabric-covered cubicle, the attention seeking of her two young sons and the emotional unloading of her husband. The light breeze, the gentle late autumn sun, peace.
“Oh, I was just telling you about when I was younger. Mint?”
He seemed friendly. Old men and women tend to like having a chat with strangers, in Sarah’s experience. Sarah really didn’t need her quiet time interrupted. She took another bite of her chicken and salad roll.
“No thanks, I have my roll.” she said with her mouth full.
“It started off simply, I was born in a place similar to this. I was autistic for the first dozen years of my life until something happened, can’t remember. Except for the feeling that my surroundings had suddenly taken on a new light.”
She stared at his face, trying to look polite, while masking her annoyance. “Autistic? That must have been hard.”
“It was a long time ago.” The park bench was cold, though the day was warm and sunny. Gentle gusts teased their hair, blowing hers away from her face and neck. Sarah didn’t want to trap herself in a conversation out of politeness, though he seemed so genuine and spoke with a warmth and wisdom that made him somewhat charming.
“It was when I moved to university that I really noticed my thirst for knowledge. I began reading books, papers, journals, attending extra seminars and lectures regardless of topic. The more I read and learnt the more I thirsted for it. Book after book, journal after journal, remembering everything, soon there wasn’t anything on the campus that I hadn’t read or learnt.”
Sarah had been eating slowly, but she sped up now to excuse herself from the conversation.
“I was an anonymous figure on campus, people recognised me but few knew who I was.” He leaned in close, “It wasn’t human interaction that I craved though, it was knowledge.”
Sarah nodded, unsure, although less disinterested. His excitement was infectious.
“When the campus resources had dulled, I went abroad in search of more information. Again the more I learnt the more I craved. And with my knowledge came a gift to think quicker, learn quicker. I loved my books, but books were no longer a resource, my own thoughts and designs were becoming my catalyst.” He stopped, lost in the remembrance of happy times.
“So, what happened with these thoughts?” She heard herself say the words and immediately dropped her eyes to the ground and crammed the last of her roll in her mouth.
“An epiphany. I realised that there was more to the universe than could be possibly be learnt from Earth.”
Sarah regretted the question even more. His lined and sagging face, what little hair he had left, they were the old man. The sparkle in his eyes was just the crazy in him. ‘From Earth’ indeed.
“I invented interstellar travel, well, kind of. You know, it is amazing how easy it is to do something when you know how. Knowledge gives you the power to do anything possible.”
Sarah was about to stand up and leave, but she was slightly annoyed. It was usually peaceful out here alone but he had interrupted that peace. She didn’t need a crazy old man talking to her for the rest of her lunch break.
“Let me guess, you flew around the universe and looked at everything, stopped off at every Martian book store, and library along the way.” It came out mean and malicious, she even surprised herself.
“No. Most of the book stores were full of self help books, or trashy romance novels. I was more interested in history, evolution, science.”
“The bookstores around the universe sound a lot like the ones around here.”
He ignored her sardonic statement. “At some point you know everything that is. It then becomes more interesting to see how different peoples arrived at the same point, or how they developed were others did not. The culture of a society can prove the stumbling block, or the shining light.”
“So you’re saying you knew everything there was to know.”
“Everything important. Well everything I thought was important at the time.”
“So what was next for you, intergalactic quiz shows?”
He laughed, “No. I designed and built the universe, this universe on an alternate plain of reality to my own.”
“Uh ha. And now you’re just down here for a chin wag with your local creations?”
“I’m doing the one thing I never did in life, having human interactions. All the time I spent learning I wasn’t interacting with my fellows. I can’t remember one person I went to school with; not one. But I know the matter constant for creative dimensional flux in time streams.”
“Huh?”
“The way all matter moves through the space time continuum.”
“So you are saying you invented all of this?” she gestured to everything around her with her arms, “Even me?”
“In a manner of speaking: yes.”
She glanced quickly at her watch, “Oh, excuse me I have to get back to work.” She made ready to leave, picking up her bag and jumper. She was annoyed that her lunch, her quiet time, had been interrupted by this crazy old man. Her friends at work were not going to believe this little story.
“Nice meeting you, God.” She said with as much sarcasm as she could muster.
“Nice meeting you Sarah.”
She stopped in mid stride stunned. She turned around to look upon the old man. He was not there, gone as quickly as he had arrived. A mint wrapper blew gently from the seat and landed at her feet.
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