Middle Feet, Continued (week 1 winner)
Little feet take many steps and barely leave a mark. Big feet, no matter how few steps they take, are sure to tell you where they’ve been. My feet? They fall somewhere in the middle.
I was a precocious child, or so they tell me. I walked and talked early and often. I burned through toys and puzzles, getting bored quickly which led to mischief. By the time I was seven I understood that I was different from other kids and not necessarily in a way that enamored me to the adults. By the time I was in middle school I’d stopped caring.
Carefree twelve year olds are, in a word, dangerous. It’s only the clarity of hindsight that allows me to say that from here. At the time? Well, again, I was dangerous.
My lack of care protected me from the normal prepubescent and pubescent angst. I drifted through those years blissfully unaware of the impact I was having on those around me and oblivious to the struggles of my peers. Maybe things would be different now if I’d been more affected back then, and maybe the now was destined to be no matter what.
Feet, in particular my feet, have a tendency to follow paths. My feet walked me right into adulthood without need or want of much in the way of connection. I took care of myself and only myself. I didn’t ask anyone for anything at anytime for anyreason.
I’m sure you will understand, then, why I didn’t jump into action when I found Gransene sitting on my doorstep.
I could have invited them in, or asked if something was wrong. Hell, I could have called the police and let them deal with Gransene. If I’d cared, there were plenty of options available to me. But I didn’t care. When I opened the door and found them sitting there I did what any logical, precocious, disconnected being would do. I closed the front door and left through the back instead.
Yes, I took the briefest of moments to determine that nothing was immediately wrong. There was no blood, for example. No cries of pain or fear. I suppose if there had been I would have made a different choice. Probably. Instead, I closed the door restoring the barrier between them and me and went about my day.
Gransene wasn’t my responsibility. I wasn’t attached to them anymore than I was attached to anyone. They had appeared in my life a few months before they appeared on my doorstep and with just as much notice. I had walked into a shoe store in search of a pair of bright yellow shoes. The style didn’t matter, just the color and fit. I’m sure you have similar urges from time to time, and on that day my focus was on finding a pair of shoes in a bright enough yellow – nothing more, nothing less. I’d satisfied similar urges at this particular store and walked in reasonably certain I’d be able to complete my task quickly.
When you go shopping, are you looking for random strangers to glom onto you and bring you news from another realm in hopes that you’ll help them slay a proverbial or literal dragon? No, of course not, and neither was I. Gransene was sitting on one of those little stools that only exist in shoe stores. The aisle they were in was the aisle that had what I thought might be the perfect pair of shoes. I promise you, had I been on a different quest or on no quest at all there is no way I would have chosen to join them in the same air space.
Gransene, though I didn’t know their name at the time, sat there on that stool in the middle of the aisle. They were muttering something that wasn’t necessarily in English and I’d decided I didn’t care what they might or might not be saying. I was, after all, there for the shoes. It wasn’t until I reached out to take down a pair that looked promising that Gransene stood up and put their hand on my arm.
I froze. I don’t do strangers, I don’t do mutterers, and I certainly don’t do muttering strangers who make physical contact without direct invitation. Gransene looked me in the eye and I felt my heart speed up.
“You’re the one.”
I wasn’t sure if this was some incredibly awkward pick up line or an accusation born of mistaken identity but, as if I were in a movie, I looked over my shoulders – both of them – before responding.
“You’re the one.”
I felt myself heating up from my neck outward and was unsure of how to read that particular sensation. I was used to floating around people without them having the most impact on me and here was some stranger who, with a single sentence repeated twice had me feeling feelings and heating up. All I wanted was my yellow shoes. I decided, as any misanthropic human would, to pretend they weren’t there or at the very least weren’t stable. I walked past them and reached down to grab the yellowish shoes on the shelf.
That was when they touched me. Hand to arm, skin to skin. They reached out and put their hand on my arm and stopped me in my tracks.
“You’re the one.”
Their hand was cool and dry on my hotter than usual skin. I stared at their fingers because that was easier than looking them in the eye. Their fingers were long and pointy, with nails that tapered into what looked to be painfully sharp points. Or rather, into points that would feel painfully sharp to anyone who ended up beneath them. There was an odd contrast at play between their delicate and soft fingers and those angry nails.
Instead of letting myself get lost in figuring out what was going on or engaging with them any further, I slipped my arm out from underneath them and left the store. No pair of shoes was worth that sort of drama.
The second time I encountered them was when I learned their name. I was skirting the edge of an outdoor performance of some play without much intention of stopping when I saw them sitting on a picnic table. Not at the table, ON the table. They were sitting in the center of a picnic table off to the side of where the production was happening, but they had their back to the activity. They had their legs folded and one hand up towards the sky with the other reaching out in front of them. No one was anywhere close to the table for obvious reasons, and yet it looked like they were gesturing towards someone.
I wasn’t going to stop. I even thought about turning around and walking the other direction. And yet I found my feet walking me right up to them, putting myself in their line of sight, and saying, “what’s your deal?”
They didn’t move or blink, they just looked at me. I stayed there for more minutes than I should, watching them stare at me with their arms up and out. My feet seemed to think I was where I belonged so I stood there, waiting for them to say or do something.
Eventually, they blinked three times and tilted their head. “It’s you.”
“You’re the one.”
My feet decided it was time to go and I turned to walk away. They reached out and touched my arm again, and their skin was cool and their nails were still dagger sharp. The difference was that this time I didn’t pull away.
“What do you mean and, pardon me, but who the fuck are you?” Tact was not something I typically brought to most situations.
They closed their hand around my arm and gave it a small squeeze. “You need me.”
“Oh, no. No I don’t.” I moved to pull my arm from their grasp and was surprised at the strength with which they held firm.
“You do, and you’ll realize it eventually.” They let go of me and blinked three times again. “Gransene.”
Even though their hand was gone I still felt them wrapped around my arm. The coolness stayed and I seriously thought they might have left a visible mark on me. They hadn’t – I checked – and that somehow was more disconcerting.
“What is that?”
“Gransene is me. I am Gransene.”
I put my hands up, backed away, and let my feet lead me away from Gransene and their coolness.
The third time I saw Gransene was the first time their existence was challenged. I was sitting at a bar, alone, the way I like it, when I saw Gransene sitting in a booth in the back corner. They didn’t have a drink or anything else with them. They were sitting on the seat this time rather than being perched on the table top. If I’d been standing I’m not sure I’d have stayed.
This is part of the 2022 500-Word Short Story project. Comment with “Tell me more” if you’d like to vote for this to move to the next round.