• J. M. Aznárez

Deferred Transmission

What an eventful week it has been. Where to begin? There are many things I feel the urge to commit to paper, for fear that the dreams that have been plaguing me might taint them with false memories, or pluck them outright from my mind like the alien stars in that weird, blighted firmament. There are other dreams, not just the sand and withered welkin, but I am in no hurry to write about them, for they are strange and the morning light does not dispel them - thus, I will write about what I am afraid of forgetting, and leave an account of my nightmares for a later date.

My colleague is dead. I know this now. It took me a few days, but I can finally say that I am certain. I would be lying if I claimed not to feel a slight measure of disappointment; so much anxiety, so many hours of preparation, all for naught. In the end my intervention was not needed - although this sparks as many questions as it dissipates, it also, undeniably, brings me no small amount of peace: at last, all is as it should be. I do realise that it has only been a few weeks, but every day that passed with him still living felt like an eternity - there were moments at the bookshop where I could have sworn time slowed down to a sluggish, spiteful crawl, minutes stretching into long-drawn hours. Now he is dead, and things are back to the way they should be, and time behaves normally once more - save for in the dreams, of course.

When he came to work a couple of days ago, I was sure he had somehow figured out what I intended to do. Perhaps, in the few days prior, I had been too careful, too focused on appearing casual and informal - maybe it had come across as forced, and that had given me away. Or perhaps it had been my questions - I tried to keep them as natural and relaxed as I could, but it was possible that I had failed in hiding my interest and the underlying motive behind it. Whatever the reason, it was clear that he was extremely ill at ease around me; he did his absolute best to stay as far away from me as possible, always eager to carry out any task that might mean putting any measure of distance between us. The shop is rather tiny, and quite cramped, so he spent most of the day fetching tomes from the back of the store while I dealt with customers. Whenever we spoke - which was seldom, more so than usual - he desperately avoided making eye contact, and his answers were always short, curt and hurried. Despite his best efforts, however, there were moments - namely situations where customers addressed him directly - when I was able to get relatively good, lengthy looks at him, and it always seemed like he knew, even if I was out of his sight; he acted like he could feel my eyes on him, which visibly disturbed him to a great degree. As much as his behaviour alarmed me - for obvious reasons - I could not help but be amused by it as well; it felt appropriate that he was not being allowed to enjoy the time that he was stealing, this prolonged life that was not his to live. I decided to take it as a sign - a sign that further legitimised my decision and helped to strengthen my resolve.

The next day he did not come. I informed the owner, an old man who had inherited the shop decades ago, letting him know that I could very well manage on my own and that there was no need to worry. I also told him that I was fairly certain that my colleague was down with a mild fever, and that he would be back on his feet in no time.

Of course, I knew better.

He was dead by then. I just knew. I could tell. He had died that very night, and I had woken up with a start…

For in my dream it was I who killed him.

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