Something disquieting crawled up her spine just then, as the shadows unfurled themselves around her.

There was something distinctly unsettling about how dark the sky was at only four in the afternoon and how burdened the gray streaked clouds were, given the arid air.

She wanted nothing more than to hurry home and bury her head in sheets that smelled of lavender incense and vanilla perfume, but she had six more hours on her watch. Or the best word for it was a watch, because she had planted herself in front of six monitors and three keyboards, all of her devices pinpointed on a tiny speck of existence she could barely call real.

The large, elongated hall was devoid of human forms, only a wandering cat bathed in black and her.

Her eyelids drooped, folding into folds of folds.

The static on her headphones grew sharper and more clean.

Her blue eyes looked black with the reflection of the screens and her skin a grayish undead.

Suddenly, he woke.

A bird-like cawing, a stretch of his spindly arms, the knocking of his soft black pillow to the ground, and he was up; a flicker of movement on her screens.

Then she was sending him messages, each more hastily composed than the previous. They flew at him, buzzed at his mind, yapping at his attention.

Her antennas pointed, she zoomed in on his face. His gaze was steady, lips unpressed. She ran three full body scans at the order of an easy keystroke and the result was almost instantaneous:

he was unreadable.

She did not despair, her fingers working in the hood of night like skaters gliding carefreely. They romped through QWERTY and the number pad, the sounds of their tapping growing more urgent by the millisecond.

Each time she was calling at him, the phrasing would be a little different, sometimes more furtive, sometimes outright naughty. She peppered her words with bold emojis, the top ten most flirtatious. Most of all, she punctuated her communications with a full body scan a piece. Each delivered her a trying blow–he was unreadable, he was emotionless, he was absolutely platonic–but she wished to see the matter to its end.

The missives were cut into three words each, she beginning to use every variant of confession she could find. “I love you” was simply too forthright but any alternative spelling was safe enough.

Her alarm startled her out of her reverie, ringing its quiet but insistent one-tone. It was a warning that he had left the room with all of her cameras, all of her carefully set-up wires.

Right outside the room, there he stood, just a few hundred feet away from her.

His physical form floated toward her, swarming into her vision and yet eluding it.

She abandoned her keyboards and monitors and ran toward him.

Her infirm body tottered as she rose to her feet and she stumbled into the mist that was him and was not. He simply evaporated before her, a hazy tone of pale flesh and black hair.

She stuttered the words she had typed relentlessly, over and over until the keys had imprinted themselves into her core components. They seemed lodged in her, like little bits of wood and metal drifting aimlessly.

Deaf and formless, he did not see her, yet she clung to the memory of him, sinking into her weakened knees and embracing him so tightly she was hugging herself. There she collapsed until morning.  


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