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Authors: Milo James Fowler

Alienated

BOOK: Alienated
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Alienated

 

5 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milo James Fowler

 

 

Alienated
©
2012 Milo
James Fowler

 

"Insight"
© 2011
Milo James Fowler;
originally appeared in the
Shelter of Daylight
anthology

"In His Eyes"
©
2012 Milo James Fowler;
originally published by
Kzine

"Reverie"
© 2011 Mi
lo James Fowler;
originally published by
The Gloaming Magazine

"Mo's"
©
2011
Milo James Fowler; originally
published by
Residential Aliens

"Doppelgänger Mine"
© 2011
Milo
James Fowler; originally published by
Fried Fiction

 

All rights reserved.

 

This eBook or any portion of it may not be reproduced
or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author—except
for brief quotations in glowing, 4.5-star reviews. (Your reward will be waiting
for you in Heaven.) The stories contained within this eBook are works of
fiction. All material is either the product of the author's overactive imagination
or is used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or
dead) or to actual events is entirely coincidental—and worthy of further
investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication:

 

For Sara, for making me feel human

alien

 

adjective – belonging or
relating to another person, place, or thing: strange; relating, belonging, or
owing allegiance to another country or government: foreign, exotic; differing
in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility

 

noun – a person of another
family, race, or nation;  a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized
and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country; an extraterrestrial

 

alienated

 

verb – caused to
feel isolated or estranged; caused to become unsympathetic or hostile; socially
disoriented

 

Insight

 

 

 

 

Her
fingertips trace the sunburned curves of his face, gliding through coarse
stubble, neglecting nothing. She frowns at times as her fingers make the
journey. Then she smiles, parts her lips as if to speak. But no words escape.
She is silent as she travels.

"Well?"
The man behind her is dressed in black, his face and head clean-shaven. Gold
rings pierce both ears. He stands leaning to the right, holding a clipboard.
"What do you think, Michelle? Is he the one?"

She
frowns, disturbed by this interruption. Her fingertips linger on the face of
the young man before her.

"Wait,
Jax," she murmurs. "Another moment." 

Her
fingers slide down from the man's temples again, feeling the shape of his broad
jaw. There she stops. She nods to herself and removes her hands as a pleasant
smile spreads across her moist, full lips.

"Yes."
She nods. "He is the one."

"About
time." Jax circles a name on the clipboard with a black marker and turns
away, his sharp boot heels echoing in the bare studio. "I'll let these
other jokers know they can beat it." The door to the outer office slams
shut behind him.

"Does
this mean I get the job?"

Michelle
faces the voice of the man before her. They are alone here now, in a silence
neither one seems to find uncomfortable.

"Yes,"
she says. She inclines her head to one side. "What is your name?"

"Chase."
He shrugs with a half-smile, and his clear blue eyes continue to study the
woman sitting across from him.

Despite
her youth, a few streaks of grey have trespassed through her black hair, cut to
brush her delicate shoulders. Her complexion is fair; she wears no jewelry. A
dark, form-fitting bodice and full skirt slims her already slender figure.
Hiding her eyes, she wears wire-rimmed sunglasses.

"Sorry,"
Chase catches himself staring.

A
slight smile plays on her lips. "Have you ever worked as a model
before?" Her voice is tranquil and melodic, like faint elfin music on a
summer's night.

"No.
But I know I can do it, whatever it involves. I need the money—"

"You
have the job, Chase. I was just curious, that is all." She releases a sigh
borne not of impatience nor intolerance, but of contentment. "Have you any
family here in the city?"

"No."
He clears his throat, a self-conscious tick.

She
nods to herself, as if she already knew the answer. "The hours will be
long for you here. At times, they will pass excruciatingly slow. You may be bored
out of your mind."

He
chuckles. "I think I can handle that. My-uh last job just about killed me.
Construction."

She
nods. "You are very strong."

He
chuckles again. "Well, I'd like to think so."

The
door from the front office bangs open. Jax returns, boot heels striking the
floor without mercy.

"Okay."
He consults his clipboard. "Your name's Chase—is that it?" He fixes
his sharp eyes on the young man.

"Uh-yes."
Chase gets up from the stool. "Yes, Mister—"

"Just
call me Jax, kid." He looks down at Michelle. "Have you explained the
deal to him yet?"

"No,
Jax." She sits on the stool between the two men, her gaze set on a point
midway between the floor and the far wall.

Jax
sighs, dropping the clipboard to his side. "You know it's a modeling
job—right, kid?"

Chase
nods. "That's what I've been told."

"All
right." He gestures toward the woman seated between them. "Michelle
here, she's a sculptor. One of the most gifted artists in the country—
the
most gifted I've ever come across. We've got a benefit showing of her work
slated two nights from tonight." He points at Chase. "And you are
going to be part of her crowning achievement." He glances at his watch.
"So be here tomorrow at sunrise and plan to spend the next forty-eight
hours of your life pent-up in this fire trap."

Chase
nods, shuffles his feet.

Jax
rests a hand on Michelle's shoulder, and she turns to face him.

"I've
got to run, girl. A jerk across town still thinks I'm his agent."

Inwardly
she cringes, seeing him in a dark strip club with two unfamiliar men in suits,
the three of them arguing over unpaid debts. But she says nothing. He would
never understand such a vision.

He
gives her shoulder a light squeeze. "I'll take you home on the way."

She
hesitates. "I was hoping to get to know Chase a little better."

Jax
pauses, glances at the new model. "Excuse us."

Chase
nods and moves away, pretending not to hear anything more. He approaches an
unfinished sculpture that stands alone by a large bay window overlooking the street
below.

"Alone?
Are you crazy, Michelle?" Jax hisses into her ear. "We don't know
this clown!"

"I
will be fine."

He
curses under his breath. "I'm not leaving you alone with a stranger."

"You
are forgetting something, Jax."

"Yeah,
what's that?"

"I
know. I can see—"

"Don't
give me that crap. You're blind as a bat and you know it."

"I
can see, Jax," she replies, undaunted. "I can see the good in people,
the Light." She smiles. "Chase is a shining star."

He
releases a long sigh of exasperation. "There's no reasoning with you.
There never is." He shakes his head. "All right, Michelle. You're a
big girl. You're on your own here. And you've got my number." His heels
clap across the floor as he leaves without another word, slamming the door
behind him.

Michelle
remains seated for a moment in the silence, the womb of all her creativity.
Then she rises to her feet.

"Have
you found it, Chase?"

He
turns from the sculpture at the window. "What?"

She
faces him across the studio and smiles. "Yes, I thought you had."
Judging each step before making it, she starts toward him. "Tell me, what
do you think?"

He
looks the sculpture over one more time, his gaze traversing every line and
crevice. "It's beautiful," he says without reservation.

The
attention to detail is incredible, as perfect as Michelangelo's
David
—a
life-sized sculpture of the human body, every feature portrayed with stunning
realism. It looks as if it could come alive at any moment and begin walking
around the room. Only it has no head.

"You're
almost finished?"

"Yes,"
Michelle nods and comes abreast of it, and her fingertips trace the swell of
its white marble chest. "We should have it completed by the benefit, I am
certain."

"We?
You mean—"

"Yes,
Chase. This is why I need you." Her fingers crawl up over the rough
plateau that is the base of its neck. "You will give it a head,
Chase."

He
stares at her.

"What?"
She steps toward him.

"I—I
don't know." He scratches at his neck. "I guess I feel honored."

A
smile forms on her lips. She seems to watch him for a moment. "Well, then.
Shall we begin?"

"Tonight?"

"Yes."

"But
I thought—I mean, Jax said—"

"Jax
does not run this studio, as much as he would like to think so. I work when I
feel creative. And right now, such is the case. So, if you are with me . .
."

He
grins another half-smile. "Let's do it."

Michelle
gathers her supplies together, and in no time she is mixing the ingredients of
her art, bare hands moving with familiarity through what looks like a bowl of
grey batter.

"Cement?"
Chase chuckles, knowing better.

"It
is a clay I concocted during my last sculpture—quite versatile."  She
wipes her hands off on a stained and ratty towel. "Chase, would you turn
off the lights, please?"

"Of
course." With a puzzled frown, he heads over to the switch beside the
office door and flicks it, plunging the studio into darkness.
"There." His voice echoes.

"Thank
you."

He
faces the sound of her voice. One step at a time, one foot in front of the
other, he makes his way back to the rough planks of her work table. Pulling out
the stool across from her, he sits and waits.

"Back
so soon?" She no longer wears her sunglasses. Her milky-blue eyes stare
ahead, vacant of attitude or regard.

"I-uh,
followed your voice."

She
smiles. "That's the trick." She reaches for his face as would a
hungry prisoner for a lone scrap of bread. "Are you ready?"

He
leans toward her and closes his eyes as her fingertips fly across his forehead
and chin, jaw and nose, barely skimming the surface as they check his facial
features once more.

"Ready
as I'll ever be."

Again
she smiles, her lips wet.

She
returns to the bowl of batter and both hands dive in to pull out large globs
and drop them onto the wooden platter set before her. With face upturned and
eyes closed, she works through the clay, building a steady momentum until her
hands are moving faster than would seem humanly possible. And as Chase looks on
in wonder, the shape of a head begins to emerge.

Minutes
pass, maybe hours. There is little sense of time here. Then just as suddenly as
she began, she stops her work and sighs with a smile of pleasure.

"There."
She wipes her hands on the towel.

"Is
it finished?" Chase asks, straining to see in the dark.

"No,
not yet. The final result seldom resembles my first few attempts. But this is a
good start." She touches the wet sculpture, her fingertips feeling the
shape of the eyes and lingering there. "Yes. A very good start."

"What
will it be, once it's done? The whole thing, I mean. I-uh, couldn't really tell
if it was going to be a man or a woman."

A
broad smile spreads across her lips. "Good. That is my intent." She
touches his hand across the table and inclines her head slightly. "You
see, this sculpture . . . I want it to be neither gender—and yet both. I want
men to see their souls in it. I want women to see their strength. I want it to
be a mystery. Like an angel."

In
her mind, she can see it complete, glorious and beautiful, glowing in the
darkness. But its perfection is short-lived. She sees it crash through the bay
window with an explosion of shattered glass and plummet to the black street
eleven flights below. She sees it crumble, dashed to pieces. But she sees its
face—Chase's face—left intact: white, lifeless, staring back at her.

"What
will you call it?" he asks.

She
catches her breath and blinks. "
Us
," she whispers, fighting to
clear her mind. Not every vision comes to pass; this she knows from experience.
They are potential futures only. 

She
pats his hand as would a mother. Then she turns to clean up for the night,
collecting the supplies and returning them to their assigned steel cabinets
along the perimeter of the studio. Stumbling in the darkness, Chase does what
he can to help.

"Michelle,
why do you work in the dark?"

She
faces him. "To prove something, Chase."

He
watches her.

She
almost smiles. "To prove that even in darkness, there can be Light."

He
nods. "I-uh, I used to be afraid of the dark—as a kid. Used to scare the
hell out of me."

She
folds the towel and sets it in a bin to be washed.

"Are
you now, Chase?"

He
pauses. "No."

She
nods to herself. "I am glad."

The
door from the office bangs open wide. Loud voices fill the studio, men's
laughter. A blast of white floods the room as one of them flicks the switch.

Chase
squints in the sudden light. Behind him, Michelle releases a stifled cry. He
whirls to find her with both eyes shut, hands groping across the table for her
sunglasses. She fumbles with them, struggles to put them on.

"Michelle—"
Jax stands frozen just inside the studio. He sways a little on his feet.
"I thought you'd–uh, be done here by now."

She
remembers the day they first met in that coffee shop on Third and Elm. She would
never forget the spark that radiated from the core of his being, his desire to
share her art with the world. His Light knew no bounds. But where that bright
flame once kindled, now there is only a swirling abyss of confusion and mixed
desires. And she knows, deep down, that she is the one to blame.

"What
are you doing, Jax?" There is a slight tremor to her voice. She steps
forward, taking Chase's arm for support. "Who are these men with
you?"

BOOK: Alienated
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