late night fiction


There is a sage that appeared one day, emerging from some unknown place. When questioned on his origins, he never found it important enough to answer; the same when asked where he'd traveled and what he'd seen.

All that was in his mind was calm contentment. The people around him saw nothing but wide, glowing eyes as he stared up towards the sky, or stopped in the middle of a path to look at the leaves on a tree. They wondered what was going through his head — the ones curious enough did, anyway. Others were mildly irritated to see a man walking so slowly in front of them, or stopping in the middle of a moving crowd to watch a bird.

See, though he could blend with any crowd of creatures in the world (including humans), the crowd of humans never blended back. In the human city all are expected to be dutifully on their way to somewhere important. None amble or loiter — if you do you are marginalized. The streets exist only to serve the busy or affluent. The cool, air-conditioned buildings are only there for your use if you have official business to conduct. Parks are to be enjoyed by all, but run on the time of humans, and the sage didn't wear a watch.

He wandered the public squares, but they contained more automobiles than humans — they never seemed to loiter there as much as those monoliths of metal and glass.

He never told anyone, but he'd noticed everything speed up as he approached the center of this human city. Even when their mechanical carriages were slow, the humans could be seen inside, their emotions moving fast toward anger, their impatience and intolerance of slowness overflowing.

It was less strange to him, observing this, than it was profound. At the sight of it he saw a time in his past where he was no different. He had lived at that speed, relishing it, feeling comforted in his solitary quest to hurl himself into the future in a seat of a car, right next to his fellow city dwellers. He had lived with and among them, without speaking to most of them.

#stories #thecity #thesage