Challenge #02356-F166: Strange... on a TrainsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #fiction8 months ago

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"May I scare you?"
"What?"
"May I scare you. I want to scare someone but just doing it outright would make me feel guilty. So, I was hoping someone would give me permission to scare them." -- Anon Guest

"Well, it's going to be a bit more difficult than jumping up at me and yelling 'boo'," said Mae. "I know it's coming, now. Jumpscares can't work if they're anticipated."

"Oh, I know this," said the amenable stranger. "I have an entirely different plan."

Mae had to giggle. "Well, if you think you can do it, go for it."

The amenable stranger cleared their throat. "Mortality. We live with it every day. We move forward in our plans with no concept that our days, hours, and minutes are numbered. We expect tomorrow. We never expect that tomorrow may not exist for us."

Okay. This wasn't scary yet. Mae kept smiling.

"We live in a universe where life is unlikely at best, and uncertain when it does exist. As I speak to you, the planet we live upon encounters five near-misses with asteroids capable of wiping out this entire city. Every day, you trust complete strangers to be certain that the vehicle in which you travel arrives safely at its multitude of destinations. Every day, you trust strangers not to poison the food you buy from their hands. Every day... you trust strangers to let you live."

Well, okay. That was unsettling...

"And every year, you vote for people who insist that the corporations who own the businesses that serve you... should be allowed to pay those very strangers less and less. Every year, you trust power-hungry maniacs to look after your best interests. Every year, you ignore the clear signs of corruption in the environment around you because it hasn't effected you. Yet."

No. That wasn't... but it was. This amenable stranger, never breaking eye contact, never blinking, was telling the truth. Mae felt her heart accelerate.

"By the time it does effect you, you will be amongst the powerless. You, too, will be forced to obey or be forced into situations that you would honestly believe that strangers - strangers who trusted you - deserved because they were powerless. They, too, believed in trusting strangers. Just like you do."

She did. She did. She trusted so much. She trusted so many. She believed in trust... She trusted the sky not to fall. She trusted the barista to not add arsenic to her order. She trusted that it would all work out in the long run.

"You cannot trust the people in charge, they do not think about you. You cannot trust the powerless, since they can't fight for you. You cannot trust anyone you don't know. You cannot trust anyone you do know. They all have your secrets." The amenable stranger dropped their voice to a whisper, yet it still carried above the noise of the subway as it moved from one station to another. "You are alone."

The lights went out.

Mae screamed.

The amenable stranger was grinning when they came back on. "It worked, yes? I scared you?"

"Yes," said Mae. "That was very frightening." Some obsessively polite part of her spewed out, "Thank you."

"Oh no, thank you," said the amenable stranger. "It was quite the educational experience."

For both of them, as it turned out.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Forgiss]

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