Can You Feel It?

by Mitchell Harding

written 4/8/98

      The man ran down the street, his feet slapping the pavement in harsh contrast to the calmness of the bright Florida day. His body violently pumped air in and out of his lungs, desperately trying to fuel his crazed flight. Passing strangers tried to discover the reason for his mad dash. Some called out to him as he ran by, others scanned the sidewalk for pursuers, but the purpose of his sprint remained a mystery. Surprised tourists sporting garish clothing hurried out of his way. A few tried to snap a photo, or capture him on video, entertaining fantasies that the man was a wanted criminal, or incognito celebrity involved in some sort of scandal. A gaunt black man pushing a hot dog cart moved to intercept his passage and was narrowly avoided. The running man navigated the crowd and abruptly ducked into a bustling shop. Pushing his way to the back the man found himself in alley behind the store. Quickly he made his way down the alley until he found a small restaurant that appeared to be open. Looking around to confirm that he was unobserved, the man slipped inside.

      After his eyes adjusted to the dim interior, the man surveyed the room before him. The place was not busy in the early afternoon, with most of its patrons still at work. He scanned the occupants of the room. A scrawny white kid, maybe 16, sat in a corner booth watching him sullenly. Two middle aged women were chatting at the bar, obviously tourists.
      And her. She sat at a small table against the wall, out of the way. Staring right at him. Piercing brown eyes. His gaze met hers and they locked together. Who was she? She looked Italian, maybe. Why was she staring at him so intently? Christ! He had to think. She smiled slowly at him, and took a sip of her drink, maintaining her level gaze.
      Unsure how to proceed, and very uncomfortable about that, the man slowly approached her table. Normally shy he surprised himself by sitting opposite her at the table. She surprised him by only raising an eyebrow.
      "Look," he began, trying to keep his voice calm, "This is all very strange for me. I--Well, I'm not sure how to begin. I'm--"
      "I know," she interrupted, "You don't need to talk about it."
      "You can't know. No one does. It just happened. I--"
      "A lot of men are shy around women. I'm used to it."
      "Thatís not it at all. I'm not shy--I mean, I am shy. But thatís not what I'm talking about. The strangest thing just happened to me, and I can't stay here long. I probably shouldn't be talking to you."
      "My name is Nora." she said abruptly.
      "What? Thatís a lovely name. It suits you. But listen, Nora, I've got to get out of here. I don't even know why I stopped to talk to you..."
      "Shhh. Don't talk about it. It was meant to be. I can help you."
      "You don't even know what happened to me!" he protested.
      "It doesn't matter. Can't you feel it? The connection?"
      He paused. Yes, he did feel strangely drawn to her. It was a completely alien experience for him, spending so much time in the lab and so little time with other people. He tried to bring his analytical faculties to bear, but came up short.
      "Yes, I feel it." he finally responded.
      "Good. Come with me."
      With that she took his hand and drew him to his feet. She led him to the back of the restaurant.

      "I know a place we can go." she explained, and led him into the kitchen. As they entered the kitchen, two men walked up behind them quietly. Nora turned around and faced her new acquaintance. She put her arms around him, and as they kissed the man noted a strange feeling within him. He slowly collapsed to the floor as the drugs took effect.
      "Good job, Nora." one of the men said, "I don't know how you do it."
      "Itís a good thing we recovered him so soon," the other man said, "Otherwise there would've been hell to pay."
      "Yeah, thanks guys. Itís too easy with men. Especially these technical types. They think life is like the movies. That scene in there† how likely is that in real life? Look at this guy. He has never experienced true love in his life, yet he thinks heís going to make some deep connection with a strange woman in a restaurant. This was childís play. Men like that are pushovers."
      "You're right, Nora. The guy is a sap. I can't imagine being that gullible. The corporation had better hope I never go AWOL like that† couldn't catch me that easily."
      "Of course not. You're special. People like us, we're better than the rest. Thatís why we're paid to catch this sort of guy." Nora replied, looking into his eyes.
      "Yeah. Looking at this guy I can't help but feel superior. Why do losers like this think that they can make it away from the company? The need the company to survive. This guy couldn't survive a day on the outside. Sometimes I wonder how well I would do, on the run. A hell of a lot better than this, I bet."
      "You would, Nathan, because you've got brains. You've got creativity. This guy had brains, but he was like a machine. I'd hate to go after you--if I caught you it would only be through luck. A guy like you...I can't help but feel drawn to. We're two of a kind, can't you feel it?"
      The man looked at Nora in silence. She was beautiful, intelligent, and was the best at her job. He looked into her eyes, her captivating brown eyes. Yes, he felt it. Very much.
      "Yes, Nora. I feel it." he said and drew closer to her. She looked up at him invitingly, and he bent to kiss her. Before he could even contact her lips he slumped to the floor. The remaining man stood behind him, syringe in hand.
      "Good work, Michael." Nora commented. "The company can't tolerate that sort of thought."
      Nora stood over the bodies of the two men confidently. She looked down at them silently, then looked up into Michaelís eyes. She smiled slowly and raised an eyebrow. Michael studied her in the silence.
      "No, they can't." he agreed tersely. "No, they can't."

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