Chapter 10

Ætherglow #191


“I’ve noticed...that you’re really soft, like these flowers,” you sign.

[Akiko liked that]

“Wow, I...” Her signs collapse into stims. Instead of words, you receive an empathic message, filling you with a storm of feeling--excitement, fear, uncertainty, with an undercurrent of joy--compelling you to stim along with her.

“Can we...” She looks away from you but holds her hand out to you. You take it. She feels as soft as the first time you touched. You look over at her just as the sunlight sweeps over the path and shines on the petals in her hair. Your eyes meet with hers as they glow pink to match the flowers. Your biometric readings become irregular, but soon it sorts itself out--the interface is just picking up her pulse through your nerve endings, and your systems are now starting to sync up, like one organism, though at an unusually high rate.

You continue down the path, and Akiko walks beside you with her eyes closed, looking very serene. But the walk is all too short. The plaza ahead at the residential block is crowded with returning candidates. Feeling eyes on you, you let go of each other. But it seems everyone is ignoring you after all, either catching up with their own friends or hurrying back to their rooms.

You stop at the two towers of the first year building.

“Well I have to go there...” Akiko signs, indicating the second year dorm building next to yours, a shorter, wider, domed structure.

“Yeah... I bet you’re really tired,” you sign. “But, I’ll see you soon?”

“Yes!” she half signs and half stims the word.

“Then, good night Akiko.”

She glances to down her left and to her right, then steps forward and embraces you tight, for a moment. You hug her back, and feel the sides of your heads brush against each other. Night falls on you, and you notice her warmth against the cool wind that blows after it. She lets go of you, looks back to her sides, and waves goodbye to you, before rapidly walking away to her building.

Still feeling a system notice of an elevated heart rate, you figure you should get inside too and unpack the few belongings you carry. Everyone else around you seems unimportant, unreal even, as you make your way to the crowded elevator of your tower.

You suddenly don’t want to be so alone. Having someone to talk to right now could be better.

2254-08-16 13:39:23 Aydan > hey, are you back yet?

You try to message Zeta, but you get no response. Its shuttle must still be in flight.

One by one the other candidates exit to their floors. Yours is one of the highest, with the Lunatics in your low gravity zone. Faceless strangers, they go by one by one. You reach your floor and exit toward your door across the hall, and send the signal to open it.

Just as you do, the door next to yours opens after it. But that room was vacant, nobody ever came in or out of there all semester. You look over next to you. So inconspicuous you didn’t even notice, or maybe she was intentionally obfuscating herself to avoid interaction before now--you see 7.

She looks over in your general direction and gives a timid wave.

1) Say hi to her: 0 (0.0%)
2) Send her a text message: 3 (30.0%)
3) Just wave back silently: 7 (70.0%)
4) Give no response: 0 (0.0%)
Expired 10 months ago (2023-05-29 14:50:25)