Operator 41 and The Drunkard, Pt. 2
Last updated: April 10th 2023
(continued from "Operator 41 and The Drunkard")
Futile courage. Noon day sun. The thermal blanket. Emergent? Leap of faith. Night shift within the night shift. A mouthful of teeth. 5-star hotel bed.
"You mean the nature of me?" Operator 41 asked.
The distortion contorted in agreement.
41 marshaled courage despite futility. This was a common occurrence. A demonic presence speaking indirectly. Through a glass, darkly. Or from the shadows at the end of a tunnel. After he removed the obstacle, after the first step taken, the entity would hide. Same this time. Turning to view directly, he saw just a mere drunkard.
"Noon day sun," the drunkard muttered.
41 glanced at the rear of the car, where an old woman cradled what seemed a sleeping child. He adjusted the PA and announced through crackling speakers, "Next stop is final stop. Everyone needs to step off. No exceptions."
He eyed the drunkard: bottle in hand, ragged and soiled. The temperature had plummeted. 41 opened the driving seat's first aid compartment and retrieved a fresh thermal blanket. It was reserved for emergencies.
"Noon day sun," the drunkard muttered again.
Operator 41 stood watching, holding the blanket. He looked at the drunkard's hands, noticed that one of the thumbs seemed injured, even dislocated. The drunkard was talking to an advertisement on the wall.
"Noon day sun on a sweet boy's face." the drunkard muttered, slumped in his seat.
41 looked at the lady in the back. She couldn't possibly hear them. The Dissonant Symphony of Despair would drown any information daring to cross back there. He approached the drunkard, knelt down with the blanket in his hands, leaned in and spoke, with a voice as gentle as a caretaker.
"When we get there, I'll help you get off the train and find you a place to lie down. Then I'm going to knock you out, tie you up, and wrap this blanket around your head, to muffle your screams, because then I'm going to stomp on your hand until it doesn't look like a hand any more. Then I'm going to do the same to the other one. Until every bone is shattered and nothing is where it should be. In the morning, as the alcohol leaves your system, you will start to agonize, every second. And you'll never be able to hold a bottle, let alone put your hands on a child, again."
After he finished speaking, 41 noticed the distortion in front of him, grinning. It lasted for a flicker of a strobe. First time seeing one of them not through a reflection. He had been granted access tonight, for the briefest of moments.
"My host wouldn't appreciate that," the drunkard said, as he clutched at his tattered clothes, pulling them close around him.
"Host, you say," Operator 41 glanced at the old lady in the rear. She was now looking in their direction. He stood up and walked back to the booth.
"You couldn't possibly guess right," the drunkard said, his obscure, eyeless distortion back on the dim glass.
"Time for a leap of faith, then," 41 said, eyes fixed on the controls, ignoring the distortion, as he began the process of bringing the train to a stop.
"I saw your reaction, rookie. I must be the first one you've seen in person."
"In person, it says." 41 said while looking ahead.
The drunkard laughed. "I am a thing, alright. But that's just it: I'm a thing in the world. And I will remain the same kind of thing. Regardless of what you do to me. How does that make you feel?"
"You're an Emergent." Operator 41 said.
"Maybe. Or maybe I'm of the other kind, and I'm enjoying my stay at the body of this poor, mentally-ill bastard who, inexplicably, Just. Won't. Respond. To. Medication," the drunkard's distortion said, in a chorus of voices that culminated in a cackle.
41 said nothing.
"Look at me," the demonic choir demanded.
41 gazed ahead as the train began to decelerate. Upon reaching the platform, he pried open the doors and stepped out, waiting for the remaining passengers to disembark. His mind momentarily free from the drunken wretch as he conducted a thorough sweep of each car, ensuring no one slumbered within.
He returned to the car and found the inebriate still there, now asleep, snoring away. With a sigh, he approached the man and shook him awake. The drunkard mumbled some incoherent nonsense about being framed, but to 41's surprise, he cooperated with no resistance.
Outside the train, the drunkard toned down his muttering as he scanned his surroundings, looking for space to sleep. There was no one around. A ramp leading to a closed booth seemed like an OK place for getting some rest. Then he realized that the train's doors were still open. And he heard 41 walking back towards him.
"Leap of faith, then?" the drunkard said.
41 didn't answer. He stood right behind him, in silence.
"Well, get on with it, rook—" the drunkard started to say, before blacking out from the impact.
After returning to the booth, Operator 41 stowed the emergency blanket back in its compartment, untouched. He knew the chances of correctly identifying an Emergent were slim for him, but he couldn't be idempotent tonight.
Starting up the train once again, his subconcious, which had been reluctant to communicate any insights the whole night, suddenly, as if out of pity, gave him a piece of one: "Now look at yourself in the dim glass." He did.
He thanked God for the subconscious. Realm where extra senses reside. Observer within the observer. Night shift within the night shift.
Hours later, the drunkard awoke to a novel sensation in his mouth. On his tongue, floating loosely, all of his left teeth. He accidentally swallowed one before spitting out the rest. As he lay in a pool of his own blood, he felt a sense of strange contentment. He stretched, like waking up in a 5-star hotel bed, and then laid there. Looking up, noon day sun on his face, he decided to pay a visit to his ex-wife.
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