The Light Bearer (short story)
‘He’s all yours’, the colonel said, giving Werner a stern look and a mobilizing pat on the shoulder. No need to say more, everything had already been discussed when he’d been drafted for this job, which, until last week, he had no idea even existed.
The pale young man slumped in a metal chair also had no idea such job existed or that he’d be dragged in front of an extractor. He shuddered when the colonel slammed the door, but made no effort to open his swollen eyes.
Werner eased himself in his leather chair, sitting up straight and trying to look every inch as impressive as colonel Weiss. He had only the fuzziest of ideas what he was supposed to do, but, at least, he could try and command a bit of respect from the prisoner in front of him. Technically, he was not a prisoner as there were no formal charges against him, nor could there be any. He had not committed any of the hundreds of crimes detailed in the books Werner had studied in the Justice Academy. It was just that the High Commander hated any sort of public disorder and his security chief, colonel Weiss, was there to make sure people like this Karl Holt were dealt with before they became a real problem.
According to the file, Karl was quite an ordinary young man, who lived alone in a rented room and worked as a delivery boy for an apothecary. The problem with him was that wherever he went people considered him extraordinary enough to stop in the middle of the road and stare after him, mouths agape. It was nothing Karl did, he just hurried along with his green shoulder-bag, oblivious to the puzzled looks that followed him. The beat officers on Long Street, which crossed the city splitting it in two perfect halves, had noticed such strange happenings several times before they determined it was something weird enough to be put in their daily reports. It was an issue that warranted careful consideration, officers Bull and Rawlins were not keen on making complete fools of themselves bothering their superiors with such utter nonsense - fat old ladies, middle-aged employees, mothers with babies in push-chairs, even said babies, all staring in wonder after an apothecary boy. But, as they witnessed the same incident over and over, they came to the conclusion that it fell under public disturbance, in the strictest sense. The citizens, not all, but still a good number of them, were clearly disturbed, although, upon questioning they would strongly deny noticing anything unusual about the delivery boy, which they were sure they’d never seen before and, no, of course they didn’t know him. They might have crossed paths before, could be, but who really pays attention to random people? They could not even tell the color of his shirt or whether he wore a cap or not. ‘Still, why did you stop?’ the patrol officers pressed on, as they knew citizens were devious sneaky bastards who won’t tell you anything if they think they can get away with it. The first to mention the light was an elderly gentleman shuffling along with his rheumatic black dog. The animal probably welcomed the unscheduled stop and would not even dream to investigate the cause. ‘What light are you talking about?’ they wanted to know. The confused old man found himself at a loss for words. No way he could describe the light that seem to walk with the delivery boy, like he was engulfed in a ball of bright white light. Not quite blinding, that would be too much to say. ‘It just stands out against the gray street’. The gentleman sensed he’d spoken too much, just mentioning the street seemed gray to him might imply he was somehow unhappy with it. Maybe it was the High Commander’s fault the skies were not painted a stylish light blue every morning, was that what he was trying to say, perhaps?
The officers took to following the delivery boy on his daily errands, but, try as they might, they saw no glimmer of light, not even a spark, but others did and stopped and stared after young Karl.
Werner examined the prisoner, who, sensing the course of the investigation had shifted and nobody was about to throw a punch at him, started to relax, settling himself more comfortably in his chair. He struggled to open his dark-circled eyes, spying at his surroundings, yet without glancing directly at the man sitting on the other side of the desk. He’d been interrogated for three days in the basement, which was the colonel’s private domain. Werner knew the colonel’s men could be very persuasive, but throughout the ordeal Karl Holt had maintained, and shouted, and cried, and begged, and swore on his mother’s soul that he was innocent and had no idea what they were talking about.
Another approach was needed, the order from above said, and the one who could extract the truth from the prisoner was Werner Schmidt. Everybody assumed Werner had been assigned to the Security Department for his perfect grades and his astounding thesis dealing with the various methods of rehabilitation of the criminal population. Werner thought so himself and felt more than a little pleased with himself, but what had granted him this coveted position were his psychological finesse and a remarkable ability to sense the smallest whitest of lies. As far as Karl Holt was concerned Werner had a feeling it was all an exaggeration of some zealous beat officers, but, on the other hand, he knew he was expected to deliver on his first assignment.
‘I’m sure you’d like to stretch your legs a bit. Why don’t you get up and pour yourself some coffee, the pot’s right there by the window’.
Being friendly was always good strategy and he wanted to see for himself if the stories about Holt were true. The young man did as he’d been told and went to pour himself a cup of coffee which he gulped down instantly, then looked at Werner to see if he was allowed another. Werner nodded and kept his eyes trained on him, but all he could see was a badly bruised young man, limping around the room, with no aura and no orbs floating around him.
(to be continued)
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