Opposition Party

16 07 2010

Although he doesn’t move it from its hiding spot for the next several days, thoughts of it constantly bombard him. He feels exposed, like everyone is watching his every move. He tells himself that it is just his imagination, that people are ignoring him on purpose just as they always had. But then he thinks of the artifact. With the artifact, no one could see him. No one could watch him. He could be free of their prying eyes and judging minds. It would make it so he could go back to the way he was before, the anonymous nobody that could easily be ignored. Every laugh, every hushed conversation would no longer be about him.

As he heads home from work he realizes that the opposition party is tonight and the thought of all those people in his house makes him shiver. Kendra is waiting for him with a list of things to do to get ready for the party. She sees his hesitation in taking the list. “Don’t act like this party is a surprise, I’ve been talking to you about it all week.” He ignores her stern comment and takes the list meekly. “What’s gotten into you lately, Olaf? You’ve been moping around the house all week.”

“It’s just a work thing, nothing for you to worry about.” He goes about his chores, trying to clear his thoughts of the artifact and telling himself that the party will be fine. These people are supposed to be his friends, but he knows it isn’t true. His only real friend is Frank and the thought that Frank is coming to the party relaxes him a bit.

The guests arrive one after the other and Olaf attempts to go through the motions of being a friendly host, but he is not successful. He falls back on his instincts. “Well, if it isn’t Sarah and Henry. Nice of you folks to drop by. Hide the Booze! The McKinley’s are here!”

“I haven’t had a drink for two years now, you know that Olaf,” Henry says with his jaw set.

“Hey, don’t get testy, I’m sure your wife will drink enough for the both of you,” Olaf says.

“Typical,” Sarah snipes as she leads her husband into the house.

“We’ll talk sports later!” Olaf calls after them. Another knock on the door takes his attention off the retreating couple. He opens it to find Frank standing there with his wife. “Frank, so good to see you could make it. This party was starting to get dull.”

Frank gives him a short smile. “Hey Olaf, this is my wife Mandy.”

“So this is Mandy. Quite a looker you got there, pal,” Olaf says eliciting a blush.

“Uh, we can’t stay too long,” Frank interjects. “We’re going over to the Jonson’s later. Timothy invited us.”

Olaf feels as if a cold hand has closed around his heart. “So you and Timmy have gotten pretty tight. I see how it is,” he manages with his smile frozen to his face. “Oh well, the night’s young. You’ll have plenty of time to indulge your apprentice after . . . ”

“Actually, we really ought to get going. We just wanted to stop by to thank Kendra for inviting us over.”

“Ok, why don’t you step in for a moment and I’ll go get her.” Olaf numbly walks toward the kitchen. He can feel someone, a presence, staring at him and his nerves fray. A panic sets into his chest as he is certain that everyone in the room can hear his heart pounding. Looking wildly about, he is convinced that even the shadows have eyes and that everyone, everything is looking at him, boring through him with spiteful stares.

He takes a detour down the hall to his room. The artifact is calling to him. It beckons him with promises of escape. It’s the only way for him to hide from them. He pulls it from the back of his drawer and his hand locks around it. He activates it and feels a wave of nausea roll over him. The lighting in the room seems to take on a different hue as if his surroundings are oversaturated with light.

He stumbles back out into the sea of strangers in his front room. Frank is still standing by the door talking quietly with his wife. The other guests, all seemingly at ease, are talking with each other. He still feels as if he is being watched despite the fact that none of his guests can see him. The panic Olaf had hoped to assuage with the artifact, has not lessened. He walks cautiously toward Frank, careful at first not to bump anyone and give away his presence. The snippets of conversation that he catches as he passes through the crowd bite at him. There are unflattering stories with him as the punchline floating about against a backdrop of knowing laughter. Olaf pauses as the buffeting of truth overpowers him with waves of awareness. Although unseen, he feels completely exposed as he realizes that they are all right about him. He is a horribly insecure man, hiding his perceived inferiority behind a wall of disdain for others.

His eyes seemingly lock with Frank’s across the room, but it is an illusion. Frank is apparently scanning the room for him. Olaf’s heart sinks as the realization of his callousness moves to envelope his relationship with his friend. He redoubles his efforts to reach Frank, brushing startled guests in his haste. There is so much to say, so much recompense that needs to be made that he abandons his trifling modality of studied distance from people in order to get to the one true friend he has.

But before he can get there, Frank and Mandy are slipping out the door. The object has increased in temperature; he stares as it becomes visible in his hand. He attempts to let go of it, but his fingers won’t release. An icy chill, colder than a midshift Ceres night, creeps down his spine and he looks up. He sees me. My alien visage repulses him, but he cannot take his eyes away. His mouth drops in horror as he sees the entity that had been stalking him clearly for the first time. He screams but it is too late. No one can hear him; the subject of my study has crossed over into my dimension just as the crew of the Pytheas had so many years ago.

The artifact has at last unlocked the door to this solar system.

The End

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