Extract from a draft chapter / short story experiment
A tall heavyset man descended the steps of the Tel Aviv promenade with his hands cupped around a choc-mint ice cream cone, protecting the treat from the ocean breeze. The man’s hiking boots crunched onto the soft sand and he glanced along the beachfront. His hazel eyes settle on a teenage girl with olive skin and a dark ponytail by the retreating surf’s edge. The girl stood alone with her head bowed and her hands tucked into her Armani suit’s pockets. The man sighed and trudged through the loose sand towards the solitary figure. Two steps onto the hardened damp sand he paused as delicate fingers grasp his right elbow. The man turned to find a lithe female soldier greeting him with a gentle smile.
‘Shalom, I’m Rachelle,’ the soldier said as she offered her hand.
The man smiled and shook Rachelle’s hand. ‘Shalom. I’m Dov.’
‘An Australian accent?’ Rachelle asked.
‘Yeah,’ Dov replied.
‘Welcome to Israel.’ Rachelle turned to the surf. ‘A beautiful sight.’
Dov followed her gaze. ‘Always relaxing.’
‘The water’s nice too,’ Rachelle added.
Dov shook his head. ‘Very clever.’
Rachelle adjusted her M-16’s strap. ‘May I see your ID? The girl’s also, if you have it.’
Dov pivoted to shield the ice cream with his chest, and retrieved two passports from his jeans’ pocket. Rachelle flicked through the passports, then she sighed and slipped the passports back into Dov’s pocket.
Dov raised an eyebrow. ‘Is something wrong?’
Rachelle shrugged. ‘Am I right to think your friend is an Israeli orphan and you travelled here to care for her?’
‘How did you get all that from two little booklets?’ Dov asked.
Rachelle smiled and patted the emblem on her shoulder. ‘A part of my job is discovering secrets.’
Dov glanced at her arm and groaned. ‘The Intelligence Corps.’
‘And no jokes, please.’ Rachelle peered back towards the surf. ‘Actually, your friend was a big hint. She is distressed and alone, and only you moved to help her.’
Dov shrugged. ‘We’re both a little anxious, but Freyja’s not alone.’
‘So you don’t see it.’ Rachelle tucked her hands into her pockets. ‘Maybe that’s because you’re like her.’
‘No riddles, please,’ Dov said.
Rachelle gave him a faint smile. ‘A rare kind of loneliness afflicts your friend. More painful than most can understand. Unfortunately, the more someone tries to hide such loneliness, the more it drives others away.’
‘Maybe that is true for normal people,’ Dov said. ‘If such people exist in Israel.’
‘They do, and you are right. Normal people cannot survive around those like Freyja. The presence of such complex beings unsettles them, perhaps belittles them.’ Rachelle gestured to the other beach patrons around them. ‘Here, a pretty girl would not be alone for more than a minute. Yet your friend is almost invisible.’
Dov scowled. ‘Freyja never told me she felt alone.’
‘It’s relative,’ Rachelle said. ‘Sometimes one kind of loneliness can cure another.’
Dov glanced back at Rachelle. ‘You’re well-versed on this. Were you an orphan too?’
‘I still am,’ Rachelle replied.
‘Sorry about before,’ Dov said.
Rachelle shrugged. ‘Buy me an ice cream next time and we’re fine.’
Dov glanced down as melting choc-chips touched his fingers. ‘We may not get that chance.’
‘Ah!’ Rachelle gasped. ‘I’ve kept your friend waiting too long.’
‘You wish to join us?’ Dov asked.
Rachelle smiled. ‘With luck we can both help your friend.’
Dov nodded to Freyja and continued his journey. ‘So, why do you think I’m alone or like Freyja?’
‘I guessed,’ Rachelle said. ‘Your stature and clothing suggest ex-army. The SAS perhaps.’
‘The Commandos,’ Dov replied. ‘SAS Selection was beyond me.’
‘This lowly reservist would be last to criticize,’ Rachelle said. ‘There is also a distance in your eyes. Your battles were too unsavoury for evening news.’
‘Afghanistan was intense,’ Dov said.
‘That hell would make the troubles of a normal life a joke to you.’ Rachelle gave Dov’s arm a light squeeze. ‘Yet, without your resilience to rely on, Freyja may have wilted not blossomed.’
Dov laughed as they arrived by Freyja’s side. ‘Interesting choice of words.’
A beam of luxlight from the window illuminated the centerpiece of Blackburne’s quarters like a spotlight; an imposing throne fit for the king of the dead. Its back was turned toward the door, so I crept my way around it for a closer look. I almost expected to find Blackburne, himself, seated upon it, as if expecting me. Thankfully, for now it was unoccupied. It was a twisted thing of dark metal, and it definitely wasn’t something that came from Earth. It had been forged here of spare parts, much like the city. The spires that made up its stiles and lined its backside were so sharp, they could draw blood, and it sat perched on four metal clawed paws like a dormant monster. It seemed the throne room of After was a private place where the king could sit and ponder. Alone.
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