“Wait, come back!”
A few people on the street turned to look, but Ryan was already running.
His entire life the man in the suit had been there. He’d been watching, writing, and waiting. Ryan’s parents had called him an imaginary friend – the first indication he’d even gotten that the man in the suit wasn’t visible for everyone.
Then today, Ryan had walked into a store, and the man had spoken. “Thank you.” Then he’d turned, and he’d walked through the wall.
So, of course, Ryan chased. The man in the suit wasn’t running away, just calmly walking through the crowd. Literally through them – people passed through him without noticing he was there. Ryan, however, was a fully corporal human, so found himself shoving up against the crowd.
The man in the suit continued, ignoring Ryan with the same dedication the man used when he had been observing him for the last thirty years.
Thirty years of hell. He hadn’t been able to keep a girlfriend – as soon as things got intimate, the fact that this creeper was standing there watching him caused Ryan to just stop, which always lead to fights. People thought he was weird because he was always glancing at something none of them could see – cute when a cat did it, creepy when an adult did. Sometimes even sleeping under that watchful gaze was a nightmare.
Ryan would be damned if the bastard was going to walk off after all of that without an explanation.
The man turned into an alley, and Ryan was grateful to duck out of the crowd. Thankfully, the man in the suit had always preferred to avoid walking through matter when he could, and this held true now.
“Stop! Just…stop! Please!”
The man…hesitated. The first reaction of any kind Ryan had gotten in thirty years.
“So you can hear me! Please, what’s going on? Who are you? Why…why are you leaving?” It shocked Ryan how pained his voice sounds on that last question. The man watching his entire life, it had been hell…but the idea of him no longer being there was every bit as bad.
“You weren’t supposed to see.”
The man’s voice was hoarse, same as the earlier thank you. Like he hadn’t spoken in thirty years – which, to be fair, was true.
“Well…I did. I’ve always seen you!”
“Yeah. That caused a lot of confusion, to be honest.”
“Confusion with who?”
“Home office.” He sighed. “I shouldn’t be talking to you. I can’t imagine how hard this has been.” A pause, and he finally turned to face me, thoughtful. “Or…actually, I guess I can, I’ve seen it.”
“So…what’s going on?”
“You’re going to have to be okay with not getting answers to most of these questions, Ryan. I’ll give you this – one question, one answer. That’s all you get.”
“Only one question.” Ryan made sure to keep his voice flat, so that last word couldn’t be construed as a question.
“Yes. More than most people get.”
Question after question began to race through Ryan’s mind. But he needed to ask the right question, if he was only going to get one.
Finally, it occurred to him. The question that would get him the most answers, and really, at this point, the only one that mattered.
“Why are you leaving?”
The man in the suit smiled. “Good question. And because my prediction was right – you were the one to find it. Even with me present you’re whole life, it was still you.” He saw Ryan’s face, saw the confusion on it, and actually laughed. “Sorry for being vague, it’s been awhile since I spoke to anyone. You’re one of over a thousand people who match some of our criteria for possible Finders. And…well, check your left pocket.”
Ryan felt it. His heart started pounding when he felt something in there. He hadn’t bought anything at the store…what was in his pocket? He fished it out.
It was a marble, one he had been looking at when the man had spoken. He must have stuck it in there without thinking.
“A marble?” It was a stupid thing to ask, and the man in the suit chuckled.
So he did. What he thought were flecks of glitter in there were…they looked like stars. The swirl pattern in the center? Looked like a galaxy. It swelled to fill his entire vision as he did.
“You found a nanoverse. One of the few the Creator left behind. It’s been drawing you for years, since your birth, really. And now that it’s been found…now that you’re the Finder…my work is done.”
He had to tear his eyes away from that field of stars. The man in the suit turned to walk away, and Ryan couldn’t help himself. “What happens now?”
“I told you, only one question. But I’ll give you some free advice.”
Ryan took a deep breath to steady himself. “Okay.”
“Don’t put it in a drawer and forget about it. You’ve got a pretty amazing thing there, Ryan. And in spite of the fact that I kind of accidentally turned you into a nervous wreck…I think you’re going to do some pretty amazing things with it.”
Before Ryan could ask more – what he was supposed to do with it, what that meant, what the hell was going on – the man in the suit turned and walked through a wall.
None of this made any sense, and Ryan felt like he needed a million years to process what was going on. Instead, he barely got seven seconds before a gun cocked behind him.
“Put down the nanoverse, Finder, and you might get out of this alive.”
Support "Small Worlds"
Bio: Author of Small Worlds and its sequel, Strange Cosmology. Will be updating regularly until it's caught up with the main series, then will go to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. If you don't want to wait, you can check it out at smallworlds.blog.