Encounter

A toe-tingling adventure into the strange. A story in which two characters are destroying another world by their actions.

Jimmeny followed his usual routine.  Snap the laptop closed with a happy sigh, flick off the lamp, push back the wheeled desk chair and stretch.  He then rose, opened a cupboard and removed his grey cap, which he positioned over his shortcut hair and with a blown kiss goodbye to his desk—he exited the building. 

He always enjoyed the walk to the library through the busy streets.  Sometimes he would take it at a brisk pace—thoughts of work or home or the book he was reading filling his mind so that he forgot to slow his legs.  Other times, he moved more slowly, ambling along, observing the people he passed, or the dogs barking from balconies or the little weeds growing between cracks in the pavement. 

Today was one of those latter days.  The air felt fresh, despite the smog that covered the city and he was so aware of his surroundings, that he could almost feel his toes tingling.  Jimmeny often thought to himself in sentences, and a version of the previous sentence was floating through his thoughts when he realized that his toes were indeed tingling. 

He stopped. 

And looked around.  He could see nothing that might make his toes tingle.  A mother was passing with a stroller and a little kid clinging to the stroller, grinning and slobbering on his thumb so that drool dripped down his hand.  There was a very old woman too—she was moving very slowly towards him along the sidewalk, an energetic little puppy dancing about her feet.  Then there was a man standing not far off, leaning against a stretch of brick wall between to storefronts.  He grinned at Jimmeny, when Jimmeny looked at him, and tipped his narrow brimmed hat. 

Strange, thought Jimmeny.

The stranger was tall and lanky, which was a contrast to Jimmeny's stocky, soon to be middle-aged appearance. Jimmeny walked on.  It wasn't right to stare at people.  His toes tingled more intensely.  So intensely that he stopped walking.  This time the tingling stopped too.

"Glad to see somebody's finally noticed." said the stranger.  Jimmeny guessed the man was talking to him, even though he hadn't made eye contact since that first glance.  He decided not to make eye contact, and walked on.

The tingling when he moved was overwhelming and it has spread up to his knees.  It was worse than any prickles and needles Jimmeny had ever had.  He stopped again and the tingling went away.

"Are you doing that?" he asked the stranger.  Finally making eye contact—and not very friendly eye contact at that. 

"Not exactly." said the stranger.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Would you like a coffee?"

"What?" Jimmeny was not expecting that.

"There is a nice little coffee shop across the street—you know the place, I'm sure.  The coffee is quite expensive there and I just offered to buy you one."

"Why?"  Jimmeny had been programmed from childhood not to accept things from strangers.

"You want to know what the tingling feeling is all about."

A short man in a black suit walked between them, doing that awkward scrunching, ducking movement that one does when one realizes that one is walking through a conversation.  It is not usual for two strangers to stand talking to one another across the sidewalk.

Part of Jimmeny really didn't want to know what the tingling was about.  That part of him wanted to get on to the library and the rest of his day.  But another, apparently stronger part of him was intensely curious.  So he agreed. 

In retrospect, Jimmeny wanted to go back and pinch himself on the arm, or bop himself on the head to stop him from being so terribly ridiculous. 

They went across the street to the coffee shop.  The tingling in his legs was gone, but there was still the memory of it, whispering at him, willing him on to find out what it was all about.

The coffee shop was very busy and smelt absolutely wonderful.  To a coffee lover, that is, and Jimmeny was, beyond all doubt, a coffee lover.

"I'm Simon," said the stranger, reaching across the table to shake Jimmeny's hand as they sat down at one of the side booths.

The End

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