Ignorance is Bliss, Part 2
Ray stared at you like a deer looks at an oncoming truck for over a minute, not blinking, not understanding how you could be there. Even after that minute passed he wasn't sure how to proceed. Experimentally, he closed his eyes and turned away, but he knew you were still watching him. Ray tried humming a tune quietly to distract himself, and when that did nothing to stop you, he even tried working. It was the most productive twenty-three minutes of his life. N
"Will you all just go away? Leave me alone!"
He shouted it to the room filled with his coworkers, who looked at him with shock in their eyes, and a ready defense on their lips. Ray stood at his desk with his fists balled, doing his best to loom over you and get you to stop reading about him. But it didn't work. You just sat there, continuing to read. D
You were not afraid of him.
"I, uh, I'm in a play," Ray explained. "Sometimes I just..." He realized that in his vocabulary he would never find the words to make what he'd just done even remotely acceptable. "I'm gonna take an early lunch."
Ray left the building, followed by a torrent of whispers and rumors, none of them very complimentary. He knew this, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but couldn't figure why. He walked, shaking, to his car, and struggled with the lock. "You piece of shit, open! Fuck this." He punched the door and stalked around the car, opened the passenger door without any problem, and crawled awkwardly across the seat into the driver's side. "Never locking this fucking car again."
[Hey, are you free? Let’s hit the bar for lunch.] Steve would be free. As far as Ray could tell, Steve really didn’t do anything to make a living, one just appeared for him out of thin air, asking damn near nothing from him in return. The bastard. O
A text rang through only seconds after Ray sent it. [ 4xShizzle, mai Friendizzle. Cum git me]
Ray would never know if Steve sent texts like that to piss him off, or if that was simply how he texted. Either way, it was the worst, and he needed to stop. Regardless, Ray was on his way, keenly aware that you were watching him but pretending he didn’t see you there. He honked the car’s horn when he arrived and waited, staring straight ahead and keeping his thoughts to a minimum, just in case you could read them. You can’t, but you haven’t Manifested a Power, like he had. He didn’t know that. N
Steve stumbled out of the front door, still wearing his pajamas. It had been over a year that Ray had seen him dressed in clothing made for real people. The kind of freedom he had, the kind of freedom that allowed him to do the things he did baffled and annoyed him; Ray realized that even if he had the kind of money and free time that Steve did, he wouldn’t know what to do with his time, and would slowly go crazy under the -
“Get out of my head.” He nearly growled it.
Steve slid into the passenger seat, closed the door behind him, and recoiled. His head swayed as if he’d been punched between the eyes and couldn’t seem to recover his sense of balance. “Wow. Can we, uh, take my car?”
“What? No! What the hell is wrong with my car?” Ray struck the steering wheel. “See? It’s just fine.”
“She is not fine. She needs an oil change, and doesn’t know where this attitude came from, but she wants you to stop taking it out on her.” Steve placed his hands gently on the dashboard. “It’s alright Xarthon, he doesn’t mean it. He’s under a lot of stress at work. He loves you.”
“Wha- What the hell are you … Who is Xarthon?”
“Your car. Xarthon, Destroyer of Worlds. That’s what she likes to be called, anyway.”
Ray stared at his friend for a long moment, his eyes darting to you and back to his friend. Ultimately, he decided not to press the issue, and started to drive.
“So what’s up? You seem stressed.” Steve produced a plastic bag full of green grapes and set to polishing them one by one on his stained flannel pants.
It was a long moment before Ray could figure out how to answer that question. “Do you ever feel like you’re being watched?”
“Is this about the whole NSA spying thing? Because I have got to be honest with you, that’s mostly harmless.”
“I don’t care about the government spying on me -”
“Good,” Ray said, “You’re pretty boring.”
“Other than the fact that your used bandwidth on porn is nothing short of impressive, anyway.”
“Your computer likes to gossip over the internet. Don’t worry, people don’t know that much about you, as a person, I think you’re safe.”
“Stop. Just stop talking.” Ray glanced over at you to try to determine if you were still watching. You were.
Ray drove in silence, passing the street the bar is on several times before turning toward it. He pulled into the parking lot and made to park.
Steve started to laugh.
“Don’t park in that space.” He giggled more until he could continue. “Park over there by that Mini.”
“What the hell is the difference?”
“Well, for one, Xarthon wants to jump that Mini’s chassis, and for two… doesn’t like Korean cars. She’s a bit of a racist.”
“Oh, you’re very funny,” Ray said, parking next to the Kia anyway. “You know what, fuck you, and fuck Xarthon. I’m not in the mood today.” He got out of the car and stalked away toward the bar.
“He didn’t mean that.” Steve gave a final pat on the dashboard before following.
Under several malevolent fluorescent bulbs attemping to ruin the eyesight of everyone in the building, Ray had already begun drinking. His eyes held a far-off stare; he was searching, remembering. For the first time in his life he was exploring his Power.
“Can I get a beer, please? Whatever you think is tastiest.” Steve slid a ten dollar bill across the counter and winked to the bartender.
“I Manifested today, Steve.”
“That’s great! I mean, you’re thirty two, so you couldn’t possibly have just Manifested, but that’s fine. What is your Power?”
“I… I don’t know, but people are watching me.”
“I told you, the government -”
“Stop, Steve. This is different. They appeared this morning. They’ve been in my head, they’ve watched everything I’ve done,” Again, his eyes darted to you, looking apologetic, “even now, they’re here.”
“That’s… interesting?” Steve had his beer half-raised to his lips, but he paused to look around. “Nobody is here, man.”
“Yes they are. I can feel their eyes on me, judging me. It’s like they’re waiting for me to do something, but I’m just disappointing them.”
“Heh. Maybe it’s like you’re in a movie or something, like The Truman Show, only it’s about you. The Ray Rogers show.” Steve took a large swig from his beer. Some froth stayed on his lips.
Ray looked at you, as if waiting for you to confirm this. Receiving nothing, he searched his thoughts, thought back on the rest of the day, and realized that he could look backward in little peeks. He discovered in his mind a false memory of events that had taken place, with people he didn’t know and events where he hadn’t been present.
“What if that’s it? What if I’m a character in a story?”
Steve considered his friend and gulped down some more beer. “That’s your power? You’re in a story? That’s ridiculous.”
Images raced through Ray’s mind as he stared at you. A fat Latino and a skinny white guy yelling at a little girl. A couple skipping rocks on a pond. Chuck laying in the grass with a broken neck. People he didn’t know doing things that would bore him. Alex’s party on Saturday.
Him, waking up this morning and masturbating.
Images and events scattered all around town, but all inexplicably connected. All leading to him, and yet… not.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense. I’m a character in a story… and I know it. That's my Power.”
Steve replied with something sarcastic, but Ray ignored him. Something had become very clear that disturbed him. Throughout his entire childhood he was taught that everyone is the main character of their own story. That everyone is important and special in their own way. It was nice to believe it, but in Manifesting Ray learned something that upset that optimistic world view.
Ray thought back over his false memories, seeing people appear sometimes once, sometimes a few times, but the focus never stayed on one person. Ray came to the only conclusion left to him:
Ray rogers is indeed a character in a story, but he is not the main character. Ray Rogers is not special in any way. Ray Rogers is nothing more than a cog in a narrative machine.
Ray Rogers ordered another drink and slumped in his chair, feeling suddenly that his entire life had been built on lies.
“Welcome to the Ray Rogers Show,” he said into the drink that appeared in front of him.
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