As promised, here’s the next installment of “Disconnected,” my short story I recently worked up for an anthology submission.
In case you missed it, here’s Part 1.
Tristan gasped and jumped about twelve feet in the air, choking on his coffee as Tyler had slammed an unexpected hand down on his shoulder.
“Woah, take it easy bro,” he laughed. “What’s up?”
Tristan sighed, shook his head, and kept moving.
“Hey, wait!” Tyler hurried to keep up. “What’s the rush?”
“It’s early dude, I just wanna get these classes over with, go home, and take a nap.”
“Yeah, yeah I hear you. So what are you doin’ this weekend?”
“Oh, uh, I don’t know yet.”
Tyler was practically running in order to keep up with Tristan, who was obviously trying to shake him.
“Hey, I saw you and Abby chattin’ it up before you left last night!” Tyler said, giving him a light punch on the arm. It didn’t slow Tristan, but he did turn to him and crack a smile.
“Yeah, she’s cute.”
“Cute? She’s hot, man! I’d kill to have a girl like that be into me. She’ll probably be at The Orfo. We’re going there after the game tonight. Why don’t you come?”
Tristan thought about it. “Maybe. How about I just see you if I see you?” he shrugged, his arms out to his sides, palms up in offering. He’d finally turned to face Tyler as he’d reached the door to the Communications building.
They found themselves in the same position they were in less than twenty-four hours earlier. Tyler gave him a sympathetic smile.
“Dude, come on. We all had such a great time when you were out for Drew’s birthday that everyone’s always asking if you’re gonna come hang out again.”
This was a lie. Everybody had given up asking. Everyone except for Tyler.
“I mean . . . what happened?”
Tristan took a pause and dropped his head. This always made him so uncomfortable.
“Yeah, alright, I’ll see you there.”
Tyler just looked at him, knowing full well he wouldn’t be seeing Tristan anywhere later.
“Great, bye.” He gave him a quick wave and walked off.
After his first two classes, Tristan made his way to one of the computer labs to kill time until his third. He let his backpack slide off his right shoulder and hit the floor with a thunderous BOOM. It caused a few students to jump and look up, to which Tristan raised his hand in apology and gave them an apathetic, close-lipped smile.
He sat down and got right to it. He figured he’d try to get some of the homework he’d just been assigned done so he wouldn’t have to worry about it over the weekend. And he could tend to other, more important, things.
He opened up his e-mail first. He had no new messages, so he opened up a word-processing document to start outlining his paper that was due next week. He was about halfway through when he realized that his e-mail tab was flashing behind it, to display that he’d received a chat message. He minimized the word-processing doc and saw the messenger was a series of eleven numbers. Was someone trying to call him via e-mail? It was possible, but nobody he knew would try to get in touch with him this way. Besides, there was a sentence typed in the chat box:
Continue to deflect the distractions.
Tristan furrowed his brow.
He glanced around the computer lab, and everyone seemed either highly concentrated or highly bored. He turned back to the message.
“What is this?” he wondered. He looked up again and examined a few of the more intense faces in the room a little more closely.
Maybe it’s just some stupid generic message from the school . . . pops-up on all the computers after a certain amount of use?
As soon as he thought it, he knew that wasn’t the case. He clicked out of the message box, gathered up his stuff, and headed quickly for the exit, not even bothering to send himself the start of the outline he’d written. He decided to bail on his last class and head home.
When he got in, he dropped his stuff on the couch and placed his hands on his hips as he stared at the coffee table. He rubbed at the stubble on his chin as his mind wandered back to that bizarre message. His phone buzzing in his pocket interrupted his thoughts. His eyes widened, and he whispered “What?” as he read the message that popped up:
We have felt your devotion.
The message looked like it came from an e-mail address. It was another set of eleven numbers at ymail.com. His first thought was to go check the chats under his e-mail account to see if the numbers matched up. But before he could, his phone started buzzing again, and he didn’t recognize the number.
He gulped as he answered it.
“Hey Tristan, it’s Abby.”
“Oooh. Hey, Abby,” he said, letting a little nervous laugh escape.
“You sound relieved?” she asked, cheerfully.
“Kinda.” He smiled in spite of himself and sat down on the couch. He put his feet up on the coffee table and placed a hand on his forehead.
“How are you?”
“I’m good. Done for the weekend, thank God.”
“Yeah, right? Me too. Didn’t go to my last class.”
“Tsk, tsk,” she teased. He laughed, and they chatted briefly about how her senior thesis project was going. They were the same major, but she was one year ahead of him. Before he knew it, he’d settled into the couch and was relaxed and content. It suddenly dawned on him just how much so.
“So, are you going to The Orfo tonight? After the basketball game?”
And just like that he tightened up again.
“Uuuhh. Maybe. You?” he asked quickly.
“Probably. You should come!” she said, prodding. He wondered why people couldn’t just let him be. Why’d she have to ruin it? He searched for something to say.
“OK, how about this—I stop by your place after?” she asked.
His eyes brightened. Well this was a departure from everyone simply begging him to hang out.
“Yeah. OK, that sounds good,” he said with a little smile on his face. He looked around his condo and realized he’d have to do some cleaning later. Most people would say it looked fine. But not Tristan.
“OK. I’ll give you a call then when I’m on my way?”
“Sure, I’ll be here.”
“OK, see you later,” Abby said, cheerfully.