The One That Got Away

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Giles has the man right where he wants him. He’s not a man, of course—at least on the inside—but something much worse, something dangerous. As more than a man himself, Giles easily recognizes the creature for what it is. Trailing twenty or thirty feet behind, Giles watches as the man sits down at a bus stop and pulls out the L.A. Times.

He angles around to get a better view, and once the man is clearly within Giles’s sights, he pulls out the leather notebook and pen he always keeps in his right pants pocket, opens to the next blank page, and begins to write.

It’s a binding, something he’s practiced a dozen times before in his own private language. Of course, the language isn’t important, only that the meaning of the words is clear and concise enough to capture the creature’s essence, to draw it out from the fabric of reality and into the pages of his notebook.

He starts with the more superficial details and works his way in, capturing all the nuances of the man’s behavior as he thumbs through the pages of his newspaper. If Giles does his job properly, the man won’t realize what’s happened until the binding is nearly complete, and by then it will be too late.

The man is already starting to fade like the end of a silent film when Giles hears a horn, followed by the sound of two cars colliding, and he turns to gawk at the accident. His concentration is only compromised for a moment, but a moment is all it takes. When he turns back toward the bench, the man is gone.

Giles’s heart stops and his mouth runs dry. It takes him a few moments to process what’s happened, to truly appreciate how badly he’s screwed up.

The man is gone. The man. Gone.

Oh, no.

Giles starts riffling through the notebook, checks to see if perhaps he’s written enough to complete the binding after all. But of course, he hasn’t. He can feel the man, floating between two realities, angry and disoriented.

What have I done?

Giles has, until now, considered himself to be a careful man. And yet, after allowing himself to be distracted, the man got away. Now, all he can do is stand beneath a bright yellow sun, the late afternoon heat rolling off his neck and shoulders, and wonder what he’ll have to do to finish the job before the man can hurt anyone else.

To read the whole story, pick up my short novelette Inkbound  here.

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