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May 8, 2013

Abel Lacor stared down into his mug of coffee. “I hate written stories. Once something is written its dead. You know?”

Abel offered a weak, “uh-huh,” knowing that she would have continued regardless. He stared down at the restaurant’s paper menu.

“When you tell a story you invest yourself in hearing it. It’s collaborative. Once you put it down on paper its dead. It can’t change.” She took a sip of water before going on. Abel looked down at his mug. He dipped the swizzle stick into it and raised it. He watched as a single drop plunked into the coffee.

     Hydromancy he though, searching for something as the liquid rippled. Everyone else seemed entirely rapt in the girl’s thesis. Abel just wondered. It couldn’t be true could it? Translations still existed going from one language to another, must change something. Even the mental picture created by the words had to be different didn’t it?

He dipped the stick back into his coffee. He pulled it out of the cup and let it drip onto the menu. The black spot grew as it soaked into the paper. She went on, Abel watched the brown blotch expand as she said important sounding words. “Authentic,” she said. The stain spread wider. “True representation of the real,” wider. The spot stopped expanding, nestling up against the sharp edge of a big, black inked, B. He stared down at it, following the curve of the serif on the B and followed it around the outline of the letter.

“What do you think, Abe?” The words hurled him back to reality. He had been so intent, watching the spot writhe and shift. He snapped upright. He locked eyes with her and she smirked at him, clearly enjoying the fact that she had caught him not paying attention.

Abel ran his hands through his hair. “Does it matter?”

She looked at him quizzically. “Does what matter? Realism in art? Of course it does. If you’re not exposing truth what’s the point?”

“Well I mean, isn’t it more important what someone gets out of the story? Like if we get two different things out of it isn’t that a cool thing?”

His feet felt suddenly heavy. The weight traveled up his legs to his stomach. He hated these conversations. He knew what was coming next. “Well of course it’s important,” she said. The weight made its way to his chest. “You just haven’t had as much time thinking about narratives as I have,” The weight pressed on his shoulders now. “The author makes choices to show us a fundamental truth about the world.” Her words, delivered with practiced pedagogy, added to the weight. He felt like he would, and wanted nothing more than to, fall through the floor.

“I guess,” he muttered. He looked back down. The weight had moved up to his head and he felt his neck strain under it. If there is a God let the earth swallow me whole, he thought. It did not.

“Well if there isn’t a fundamental truth why do we read or watch or listen to anything ever? Your world must be incredibly boring.” Her words piled, heavier and heavier, on his neck, his shoulders, his head. He looked back down the coffee was stagnant now. It had gone as far as it could go, bound by the heavy black ink lines. He stood up, left money for the bill and walked out. The whole table seemed shocked by his actions, and whether she had actually been silent out of surprise at Abel’s actions had, or he simply had no desire to hear here he was not sure. With every step though, every foot of space that he put between she and him the weight got lighter. By the time he stepped out into the night air he felt almost normal. He jabbed his hands into his pockets and looked around and smirked to himself, thinking about what kind of universal truth he had just exhibited.

The night air was thick and black and wet. As Abel walked farther, out of the meager light of the downtown sodium streetlamps and closer to his apartment, he watched as the black, new moon sky crept closer and closer. No longer held at bay by the orange light of sodium bulbs the hot, black night air poured down over every surface. His eyes adjusted, quickly enough but it was still difficult to see through that heavy, hot, black liquid night. With the light gone it was heavier now. Starlight made it possible to see his way, but the night air seemed unwilling to yield. It coated everything, outlined it in sharp black. Abel stopped and traced the outline of a tree. The air around it seemed thicker, more stagnant. He traced the line around the tree and along the ground. The line continued along the ground. More trees were bound by it. Kept static in their shape by the thick outline and the utter stillness of the night. The stillness made something inside Abel stir. He started walking again as he traced the line along the ground. He followed it to his shoes their brown leather running up against the thick black outline.

He picked up his feet and watched as the ink black night air seemed to fill in the space his foot vacated. He planted it again and watched the blackness wash back over his foot. Run he thought, and he did. The hot ink night lapped at him as he pushed through it. It clung to him as he pushed on. He became aware, in his periphery, of his hands flashing in and out of sight as he pumped his arms. He looked down as he ran, looked at his arms and legs and hands and feet. They stabbed at the darkness as it attempted to reign in his body. He punched and kicked at it, propelled himself forward. The shape fights the motionless ink. He ran harder.

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