Nyr jumped at the loud sound of a bus horn and looked quickly over his shoulder. He was walking on the sidewalk, far from the curb, but the fear that he still might be the cause of the disruption grabbed his attention as much so as the loud noise did. As he turned, he could hear the sound of a small intake engine as a motorcycle roared down the road, weaving in and out of traffic at terrible speeds. The ex-priest held his breath, waiting for but hoping against the cyclist misjudging the next turn, or for the truck he slid behind to suddenly stop and cause a collision. He wasn’t the only one. Nearly everyone on the sidewalk who had heard the bus horn was standing still, watching and waiting for the unthinkable to happen, no one saying a word. Would they be spectators to an accident? Have front row seats for vehicular manslaughter? At the next corner, with the light a steady red, the bike flew through the intersection and took a sharp left turn down the next street.
“Crazy kid,” an older woman said at length as she resumed walking down the sidewalk. “Anyone who parades around that recklessly deserves to be have his head cut off by a road sign.”
Several people voiced similar opinions as they continued on their way. It seemed to Nyr that while he had waited and hoped the young man on the bike would avoid catastrophe, several of the others had been anxious to see an accident in person. It was depressing in a way--knowing that people looked forward to seeing others in pain.
He chose to ignore it and went on his way. He was practically an expert at filtering information in one ear and out the other. People were good at heart, that much he would always believe, and such knowledge made any situation easier to accept. Worry had caused a heavy knot to settle in his stomach, though, as his thoughts passed from the spectators to the biker himself. What kind of man cared so little for his life that he risked it so carelessly? Nothing in life was so precious that it required life itself to take a back seat. Nothing Nyr had ever known of, anyway.
He said a short, silent prayer for the biker then chose to forget him. He had other things to think about, anyway, such as the people in his new workplace.
Though not prejudice, Nyr had had very little interaction with people who weren’t of his own culture. The Arcadians were a mystery to him, and as much as he wanted to be included and fit in with his new coworkers, an invisible wall seemed to exist between he and they. Jin was a great help in discovering the subtle differences, the nonverbal signs they gave to each other but that kept all others at a distance. It wasn’t intentional, Jin had explained, it was just the way they had always been as long as Jin had known them, which was well over a year now. They were nice men, though, and their shared meals together had become the thing Nyr looked forward to most at the end of the day.
It was often at those meals that the strange distance between the Arcadian’s and the others was most evident, however. If it suited them, the conversation could suddenly be in their native language, completely alienating Nyr and Jin from the topic. While it didn’t happen at every meal, it was a common enough occurrence that Nyr had noticed the pattern it followed. It mostly came up when the conversation turned to Du’shan and it was generally Du’shan who made the language shift. He was a very guarded individual and the others seemed more than happy to oblige his need for heavy discretion. Similarly, at lunch, when Ath’ran was more likely to be present, their boss seemed more than happy to discuss certain aspects of his family, their health and happiness being a few of the more approachable topics, but other than that, there was little that was anyone else’s business.
Perhaps that was true. Still, Nyr had been privy to a great number of dark secrets and confessions of immorality as a priest, and though it was something he had never been very fond of in practice, that he was not trusted with the simple details of his co-workers lives made him feel rather unwelcome. Were it not for Riyad Shihar’s kind smile and cheerful hello every day, he might have quit at the first sign of exclusion. However, knowing they were kind and did not intend to be rude, Nyr eagerly attended every meal with anticipation of being let into the circle.
He was determined to fit in, though the voice of reason in his head was quick to remind him of all his faults that would keep him from doing so. He wouldn’t give up without a good try, though, and to that end he headed to a nearby coffee shop to purchase breakfast for his coworkers. It had become a sort of tradition in the weeks since he’d started: every Sunday he would wake up early, his body too accustomed to his old routine to allow him to sleep past five, and head down to his favorite corner bakery. Though he always arrived during the early morning rush, which meant longer lines, he was assured fresh food and drink as nothing ever sat too long in a pot or display case during that time.
Church bells were beginning to ring, signaling the end of the weekend and calling the faithful to mass. Nyr would not be answering their call that morning or any morning in the near future. It was not because of any crisis of faith in the teachings, but with the order of priesthood he had left. Having read the book so many times and preached from its pages for several years, he felt no need for the weekly reminder and no longer desired the fellowship of the flock. They would ask too many questions: why he left, when he would be coming back. Such questions had no easy answer and were selfish in origin. Too often it seemed he was seen only as a man of God and no longer counted as a human being.
Had it been God’s plan for him to remain at the church, Nyr believed He would not have sent the Surge to him and thus sent him to the Protectors of Antiquity.
As Nyr rounded the corner and spotted the small café, he noted the presence of a motorcycle parked on the sidewalk. The man with the death wish must have gone into one of the nearby shops, he assumed, as he came closer to the bike. It was in almost perfect condition, all the metal bits cleaned and polished to a shine. There was some obvious damage to the casing, places where dents had been hammered out and the like, but overall it was beautiful. The biker obviously loved something in life, and it seemed to be the very bike he cheated death on. What a sad sort of irony. Still, Nyr had never seen a personal method of transportation up close before and his fingers itched to touch it. He stepped around it, deciding it best to leave it well enough alone, and entered the café.
Inside there was quite a line, though most everyone seemed content about it as they read over the news on their datapads or chatted with their neighbors. It was a happy, bustling place and Nyr enjoyed being a fly on the wall as he listened to them all.
It wasn’t long before he was next in line and with smiling patience the woman on the other side of the counter took his long order, prepared all the drinks and put together a large box of pastries for him. It was more expensive than Nyr had thought it would be, but no cred was better spent than when it went towards someone else. He stepped aside to pay, letting the man behind him step towards the counter where a young man waited to serve him.
“Just a large iced cha,i please, and an apple cinnamon muffin.”
Nyr found himself frozen. He knew that voice. Not three weeks earlier had he spoken to the Protectors of Antiquity about that voice.
“Anything else for you today, sir?”
“No, thank you. That’s all.”
It was the Surge. The Surge was standing just to his right. If he turned his head, he’d see his face. If he followed him out the door he could speak to him.
“Sir?” The young woman’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Was there anything else?”
Nyr looked up at the server and forced a smile. “Oh, no. Sorry. I’d best get out of the way and let you help someone else. Thank you very much.” He took the drink carrier and box of pastries and stepped out of the way. As he did so, he turned his head, chancing a long awaited glance at the face of the man he’d many months waited to meet.
The enigma of the Surge vanished forever.