Consequences Part 18

December 23rd, 2011 by Wordsman

Peter moved to sit down, but then he remembered where he was.  The woman may have been fine sitting on the subway station floor, but she wasn’t wearing a suit (also, she was handcuffed to a garbage can).  He felt bad for her, though not yet as bad as he felt for himself.  He had nothing else he needed to be doing, and that song was still in his head . . . somewhere . . . probably.  He figured he might as well listen to what she had to say.

“I’ve been here for seven months.  All this time, I’ve been trying to get people to go on an adventure.  And you know what I’ve finally realized?  People don’t want to go on an adventure.  No one in this crowd does, anyway.”  She indicated the stream of subway passengers with her nose.  “It’s like I’m a beer vendor, and it took me more than half a year to realize that I had set up shop outside an AA meeting instead of at a baseball game.”

“Yeah, I can think of much better places to look for potential adventurers.”  Space Camp.  The first day of an Introduction to Archaeology class.  Wal-Mart.  “Why didn’t you try asking for help in a more normal way?”

“Because I have an abnormal problem.  And I don’t know if you noticed, but apparently I’m not very popular with the police.”  She rattled the cuffs.  “And how about you?  Are you an adventurer?”

Saying “no” would have felt like a betrayal of the Speech he had given that morning, so Peter did what any good lawyer would: he didn’t answer the question.  “I’m still not convinced that what you’re selling is an adventure.  Waltzing into the police station and trying to make off with a key doesn’t sound like much of one to me.”

“I know.”  She groaned again.  “This just came up today.  Now I don’t even have the thing that no one wants.  That crazy policewoman confiscated my beer and replaced it with week-old fish.”

“But it wouldn’t have been that different, would it?  It still would have involved this . . . crazy music stuff?”  He couldn’t help but be somewhat intrigued by the suggestion of adventure, so long as he wasn’t the one that had to go on it.  For a moment he was slightly glad that the only thing he could use his flute for at that point was to inspire pity.

The old woman eyed him carefully.  Despite her months of practice, she was not at all good at manipulating people.  She was no better at working angles than she had been in high school geometry class.  But even the guy batting .167 gets a hit now and then.  “You don’t believe, do you?  You were actually under the spell of the Beherrschunglied, and you still don’t believe.”

Like 82% of Americans, Peter was not comfortable discussing his beliefs with strangers (those who are, though they make up only 18% of the population, occupy 95% of the volume).  “If you keep saying things like ‘under the spell,’ I’m going to believe it even less,” he replied awkwardly.

“No,” she pressed, all the while thinking, Don’t screw this up don’t screw this up don’t screw this up.  “You’re not the type to be convinced by words.  You need to see it in action.  That’s the only way you’ll know for sure.”

An alarm went off in the back of Peter’s head.  He hadn’t had very good luck with alarms that day.  Or with things at the back of his head, for that matter.  His eyes narrowed.  “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing despicable.”  She shrugged, demonstrating that shrugging is yet another thing you can’t do comfortably when you’re handcuffed to a garbage can.  “I’ll teach you the song, and then you can go out and try it.  If it doesn’t work, then I’m a crazy old woman and you don’t have to worry about anything I say.  If it does, you can command the person to do something completely harmless like wave at you and be done with it.  No keys or police stations involved.  What do you say?”

Peter said nothing.  It sounded like a trick.

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