Thursday, January 22, 2015

1/22/15

Friends In Another Life
By John Laneri


A voice in Todd Martin's head spoke incessantly – never ending, yet prompting him to heed its message and appear for another interview at the Mercantile Office Building.

Once there, he moved hurriedly across the lobby, toward the elevators, wondering if the woman lurked nearby. She always seemed to be close whenever he heard the voice.

Had she willed him here, he asked himself, or had the Masters and their population of avid spectators summoned his presence for another life or death struggle?

For reasons he did not fully understand, the Masters, as they called themselves, had determined his fate years before. He knew them only as people of a distant world whose population thrived on viewing mortal combat between a man and a woman.

Still uneasy, Todd stepped into a crowded elevator. It stopped on three to let several passengers out. They were followed by an attractive woman with dark hair who quietly entered just as the doors were closing.

She was of medium height, wearing a tailored pants suit and stylish heels. A single whiff of her musky fragrance though, heightening his caution.

He edged back, knowing that his counterpart was a lady of disguises.

Once he reached the sixth floor, they were alone.

She moved to the control panel, her stylish heels tracking across the floor, then looking over her shoulder, she smiled and asked, “Where to?”

He indicated eight.

“We're getting off on the same floor,” she said in a soothing voice. “What a nice coincidence.”

Todd started to say something, but suddenly, she turned and charged him, locking her legs firmly around his body while directing her pointed nails toward his eyes.

Struggling for balance, he turned away to protect the eyes then spun around and slammed her against a wall, releasing the leg hold.

“You're a wicked bastard,” she snarled, as she sprang to her feet and again sent her fingers searching for his eyes.

“Stop... this insanity,” he demanded, as he pushed her away.

“Never!” she screamed. “I hate you with all my heart. You're the reason why I've been unable to live a normal life for all these years.”

“We're both being controlled by the Masters. Don't you understand?”

“It doesn't matter. We fight to the death. That is the rule,” she said, as she twisted to the side then aimed a spiked heel toward his groin. “I knew you were vile when you violated the rules and used a weapon to knife my leg. I still suffer constant pain.”

“Believe me, I suffer the same pain as you. It's one of the rules we were forced to accept. And besides, you're using spike heels for a weapon as we speak.”

“The shoes are merely an edge to even the odds.”

“If you say so... but you need to understand that we've been brainwashed into hating each other by the Masters. They're controlling us. We've never had reason to be enemies. We're nothing more than pawns in a galactic game that's being orchestrated and viewed from a distant world. You heard the Master's voice years ago just as I did when we interviewed for that job.”

“The worst day of my life,” she replied, as she whorled around and threw a wicked kick toward his head.

“Listen to me. It's the hatred that keeps us going. It overrides all of our other emotions. Neither of us has been able to live normal lives since our fighting began. But, I do think that once we stop our combat they lose their control.”

“How do you know?” she asked, as she continued circling in a defensive posture.

“I don't... but I think the misdirected hatred keeps us in constant conflict with each other.”

“So what?” she asked, as she landed a jab to the side of his head.

He shook it off saying, “Ask yourself, why do you hate me?”

She laughed. “As the lady said, let me count the ways.”

“Stop playing with words. Relax... try to control your inner self. Think about something pleasant, something good.”

“What if I don't want to?”

“Do it anyway. Do something to calm your inner turmoil.”

“I doubt that I can.”

Many tense minutes later, while she continued to feint threatening moves, she gradually relaxed then stepped back and took a deep breath, keeping her eyes firmly directed to his.

“We need to find a neutral place where we can talk.”

“Can I trust you?” she asked in an uncertain voice.

Todd lowered his guard and replied softly, “You have to, if you want this business to stop. Once we get to the first floor, we need to walk across the lobby like normal people. Then, we'll find a quiet coffee shop where we can be talk... agreed?”

She cautiously edged near him. “I'll try, but I'm still not sure I can do what you're asking.”

Once in the lobby, they stepped off the elevator and looked about. As they started toward the exit, he noticed her features relax. Moments later, he began to experience a renewed sense of contentment deep within his soul.

It was a feeling he had not known in years.

***

On returning home, Todd was unsure as to why he had gone to the Mercantile Office Building. He did remember that shortly after arriving there, he met a woman in a local coffee shop.

She had dark hair and was of medium height, wearing a tailored pants suit and stylish heels. Strangely, he detected a musky scent about her that reminded him of someone he had known in the past.

He was not exactly sure how or why they met. He just knew that they were drawn together as if they had been friends in another life.


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John's writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.


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