Word Count 499
The Curse of a Blessing
by G. Ackman
Darian had been blessed (or cursed as he believed) with this ability since his earliest memories. He had been a 5 year old who always knew where his shoes were and a teen who never lost his phone. Those were the positives about this. But they were far outweighed by the negatives. The mere touch of another’s hand and he knew – he knew all the silly ideas and fanciful crushes – and he knew all the nasty, hateful secrets that everyone keeps submerged beneath the surface of their own consciousness, those secrets we rarely even acknowledge to ourselves.
So Darian learned early on to avoid all human contact. He never shook hands or engaged in that overly effusive “man hug” back-slapping thing. He always wore gloves and long sleeves. But yesterday a chance encounter on a crowded el led him to this. He so rarely took public transportation because of the exponentially increased danger of touching someone, but a car whose repair bill exceeded his disposable income made the trip by el into downtown Chicago a necessity.
He boarded the Blue Line at Oak Park and just as he feared, it was already crowded and there were 17 more stops before Division Street, where his doctor was. At Grand Avenue, just 2 stops from his, he began to breathe a little easier. He had avoided touching anything recently touched by human hands, had not made eye contact with anyone, and had kept his gloved hands in his pockets. Then it happened. The tall man in a black leather jacket got on at Grand and sat right beside him. Darian pulled his arms in a little tighter towards his sides, but the crowded seats made that difficult. Just as he started to get up to head towards the door to exit at Division, the tall man reached for his briefcase and his hand grazed Darian’s jeans-clad leg. The briefest of touches, but that was all it took. Sometimes when emotions were especially strong, clothing was no barrier. This was one of those times.
Startled and overwhelmed by the array of violent images that pulsed through his brain, Darian stumbled out the doors and onto the platform, down the stairs, and stood at street level looking either drunk or crazy. He wasn’t either one, but he wished he were.
The man still sitting on the Blue Line train with its ultimate stop at O’Hare airport had a dirty bomb in his briefcase and intended to set it off in the crowded terminal. Darian didn’t get a look at the man’s face, knew nothing about him except his malicious intentions, could not make himself be believed if he were to report it.
Doctor’s visit forgotten, Darian began walking north out of the city. Could he get far enough fast enough? He found he didn’t really care. Thousands of people were about to die and he was powerless to do anything to stop it. This“blessing” of his had now landed him in absolute hell.