Number 23

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
More magical realism... You might begin to see a theme... This one was for me.

Submitted: June 10, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 10, 2015



You hear a song. Its a simple song, nothing out of the ordinary. But, you seem to be the only one that can hear it. You find that strange, but again, not out of the ordinary. You hear things quite frequently. It is also strange that you thought that someone else would be able to hear it, because no one is near. For all you know, it is playing all around you, not just in your head. But the real problem is that you aren't important. You just watch the turning of the tides, and watch the passage of time slip lazily past your eyes, observing the important ones. But the most important thing about you is that you don’t mind being unimportant. You have always liked watching. You are good at scanning a room. You are good at watching.

Now he on the other hand, yeah, him, he’s one of the important ones. You will watch him now. But first you scan the room, getting an idea of the setting. The high walls and slowly ascending chairs, an army of them, divided into battalions. He is sitting in one of these. He stands out, because he is the only one in the room. One pale face among a sea of faceless chairs. Fluorescent lights hang from the ceiling, which you find odd. The walls of the lecture hall are of a pleasing design, a nice maple color in simple geometric patterns. But the ceiling is concrete, industrial lights hang and pipes run along the edges. Ducting sticks out slightly off centered. You can tell that this bothers the lonely man, but you are not sure whether he is bothered by the odd ceiling or the asymmetrical heating duct. But that is not important. You are here to observe the turning of the tides. You do not care if he is perfectionist. But he is, by the way.


The song continues in your ear. It is relaxing but out of place in the tense environment around the turning of the tides. He sits, in the same chair. That particular chair is in the C section and has a number 23 engraved on a small metal plaque near his hand. He pokes at the plaque, scratching at the engraving with his fingernail. He is obviously very nervous and very alone. He doesn't know that it is the turning of the tides however, and he just anticipates something unknown to you. You get closer. Well you drift closer. You do not have a form. You float in the air, unseen. The watcher is not to be seen. You are not to be seen. As your vision closes around him, you accept the fact that he is a man in his early twenties. The slightest beard adorns his angular face, and his eyes pierce out from under dark, lengthy hair. He bites his lip, and continues to scratch away at the number 23 with long fingers and clean clipped nails. His clean pressed shirt and button up jacket give him a very elegant look. The only thing that strikes you as off about him, is his expression. He looks so alone and so afraid, not a look that you associate with his elegance.

You feel a tension in the air thicken around you, and you see him straightened his shoulders, before looking around at the visitors that had entered through a door that you did not see before. You know that you have nothing to fear, but as the song begins to fade from your ears, you become frightened. The figures approach the rows behind the man. He is visibly trembling, shaking so violently that the chair he is perched upon begins to rattle, sounding his approaching death. The shadowy figures resemble humans. But you could never know. Your sight can not begin to comprehend their true form. They draw ever nearer, as the boys chair continues rattling. You can feel an intensity from the figures, and you know that what is going to happen will turn the tides. They come near enough to reach the boys face, and extend their arms, such that their clawed hands are scraping the end of the boys elegant nose. He stops trembling, only to open his mouth. Something is drawn out of his gaping maw, an iridescent cloud that looks neither liquid nor gas. It floats on the air in to the clawed grip of their figures. The boy collapses on to the chairs. You know that he is dead. You continue to watch as the figures advance upon you. Now you are truly frightened. You know that they know you are in the room, and you know that they cannot harm you. They extend their clawed grip towards you in a fashion similar to that of the young mans. The iridescent cloud drawn from the boy is released from their fingers, a floats towards the origin of your vision. It obscures the room and the figures.

You wake in a chair. It is a quite comfy chair. Your eyes are adjusting to the reflection of light off of a distant thing that you can’t quite see yet. You look down and see the number 23 near your hand. You realize that you are in the same chair that the boy was in. You also realize that you are the boy. You feel the angularness in your chin and feel the stubble that you saw killed only moments ago. You begin to hear a faint splashing, and a song on the wind. As your ears and eyes adjust, you begin to hear the song louder, and you see a radio, sitting near you in the sand. The same tune that you heard earlier is playing from it, only this time, you know that it is real. You see that you are at a beach, and the tide is low. The sun reflects golden off of the water, as it completes its slow descent into night. Your eyes finnish adjusting, and you see the expansive beach, extending for miles as far as the eye can see. The sand is in your shoes. You kick them off and smile, as the sun descends lower. Waves crash and the song continues to play on, much longer than it should have. But you don’t mind. It completes the beautiful scene before you.

A man sits next to you in chair number 24. He is old, with a long beard and squinting eyes. He looks to be kindly, and he offers you his hand. You take it and shake without saying a word. He brings a bottle to his lips and offers it to you. You take it and partake in the beer. It cools your sore throat, and you become perfectly happy. Then he begins to speak to you.

“I see that you are enjoying the turing of the tides and I am very glad. It is a beautiful event. The waves crashing down, the sparkle off the clear blue water.”

You nod. You cannot speak. You only desire to listen, as is your way.

“We found you two, and we hoped that you would enjoy it together. Its not quite as good if you don’t have a friend.”

You don’t understand, but you smile.

You continue to sit until the sun goes down. You don’t know if the old man is still there or not, but you don’t care. You are not alone. You don’t feel alone. The full moon is out now, and it sparkles off the high tide in a whole new way, reflecting off the water against your eyes. Your smile has not faltered. You sit in chair number 23 for quite a while, unsure of how to continue. The song begins to soothe you to sleep.


© Copyright 2019 Akari Helbrin. All rights reserved.

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