The Society #1

The Society (working title) is a novel-length urban fantasy story taking place in a near-future America where some humans are born with latent powers to manipulate the elements. The main character is Jesse Sullivan who is almost 22 years old when a tragic event reveals his powers that must be hidden before he is discovered. This excerpt is taken from very early in the story.

When Jesse stepped off the train platform, he tapped on his watch and quickly asked the virtual assistant to call him a car. Most rideshare drivers floated around the rail stops, so Jesse’s requested car pulled up in less than a minute. It was a navy blue sedan being driven by a large, bald man. He rolled down his passenger window and asked, “Jesse Sullivan?”

Jesse quickly nodded and slipped into the back seat. This universal sign—sitting in the back seat—in ride-hailing meant that the driver shouldn’t feel that a conversation is necessary. If someone immediately got into the front seat, then perhaps they would want to talk about their day or the crazy thing their roommate did recently or have a deeply divided discussion on politics.

To avoid this at all costs, Jesse closed his door and placed his earbuds back in his ear. The driver must have not seen Jesse do this because he poisoned the silence by saying, “Having a good day?”

Jesse made a show of taking out one of his earbuds to respond, “I’m sorry?” Obviously, the driver wouldn’t ask any more questions after repeating his first, because anyone would have seen Jesse take out his earbud to answer a question that he clearly didn’t want to respond to in the first place.

“I asked if you were having a good day?”

“Yes, it’s fine. Just heading home.”

Jesse quickly put the missing earbud back into his ear just to clarify that this was not a ride that would require conversation or any sort of relational empathy. This was a transaction. The driver would take Jesse to his home. Jesse would pay him (through his mother’s credit card). Nothing else needed to be said.

“I thought it was going to rain.”

How? How could anyone be this unaware? It is as if all social cues were lost upon him. Jesse took out the earbud again but did so slowly to emphasize his apathy for answering this question.

“What?”

“I thought it was going to rain. It looked like it was going to rain, but it’s just stayed cloudy.”

“Yea.”

Again, Jesse was forced to replace the earbud in his ear as the driver stayed stone-faced thinking about weather and other banal things. Jesse kept waiting to see if he would try and strike up the conversation again, but after a few seconds it seemed the driver had given up on his quest to promote the awkward, unnecessary conversation.

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