26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
I try to stand and chase after her, but the ground isn’t solid enough to hop on one leg. “Come back. Please.”
I fall on what feels like a beanbag chair. Who would use those for flooring?
“You should stay on our mat. I mean,” she cries, “your mat.”
“Can you knock that off for a minute? I’m confused, hungry, and broken. I don’t know how long it’s been since I ate. My stomach is churning, my head is swirling, I’m a mess. And now I’ve upset you, a very nice stranger who tended to my leg.” I’m hoping she wasn’t lying about that.
With much effort and great care, I crawl to where I last saw her light. Feeling in the darkness, I rest my hand on what I hope is her shoulder. “Please forgive my rudeness. I should not take my frustrations out on you.”
Dad voice. It’s the same tone I take with my children when they’re crying irrationally. “I bet you’re a very sweet person. Maybe even very smart?”
She sniffles, the sobbing dying down. “My mother did see to my education.”
“Good, good. Education is important. Are there lights in here? Other than the ones on your clothing?”
“You do not like the,” she makes an inhuman sound.
“Is that was this glowing is? It’s very alluring, sure. But I like light, to be able to see where I am.”
She moves past me. I watch her glowing trail. Then my head explodes as brightness stabs my eyes. I feel her hands on me a second later.
“What is wrong, Attie of Earth?”
“Just a bit more light than I expected. I really wish you knew what coffee and aspirin are.”
“Mother warned me that some Earthlings are difficult to please. But we have not gotten to the parts she talked about. You are much stranger than expected. I hope that my saying so does not offend you.”
I laugh. It hurts my stomach to laugh, but I don’t hold back. “Being difficult. We have that in common at least.”
She helps me over to the mat. The floor isn’t made of beanbag chairs. It looks more like rock filled with green liquid and pebbles. The mat, however, has “Property of Roosevelt High School” stamped on it. It’s a blue square with a drawn on, large, white circle and a small, faded rectangle in the middle.
“Are we supposed to wrestle?” I sniff the wrestling mat. It smells like vinyl and sweaty gym socks, as expected.
“You were to accept or reject me as your trophy.”
I look at her, really look, for the first time since the light came on. Why I cared more about the floor and the mat than her, I don’t know. The outfit she’s wearing gives me pause.
“I have daughters. They’ve taught me not to judge circumstance based on clothing. It’s something I still struggle with, I admit. But they’ve made good points about clothing just being for survival, fashion, or art, not something veiled in meaning for others.”
“What are you saying?” She looks down at herself. After tilting her head, she twirls in a circle. The black cloth lights up. It’s harder to make out the beauty of the lines with the overhead light on. Still, I stare longer than I should.
“I’m asking what you meant when you said I was to accept you as my trophy.” I have a feeling a hard conversation is coming.
Do you believe that certain articles of clothing always have implied meanings, and if so, what?
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