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Echo

Alexandra Grunberg is a New York City based author and actress. Her work has appeared in Pantheon Magazine, Perihelion Science Fiction, and the Toasted Cake Podcast. Her story "Casting Call" was previously published in Daily Science Fiction. You can read more of her stories at her blog, alexandragrunberg.wordpress.com.
"I think you dropped this."
Connor held out the pencil that had rolled under his desk. The girl sitting behind him took it, staring at him with wide brown eyes. For a moment their hands brushed each other, then the moment was over. Connor turned around to finish his math test, but the girl was unable to finish hers.
That small gesture was all it took.
"Connor, watch it!"
The car swerved back into place. His friends all fumbled to clip in seat belts. Connor checked again, blinking. He was buzzed, but he should not have been seeing things.
"What is wrong with you?"
"I'm sorry, guys, I'm really sorry," he mumbled. "I'm okay now."
"Fine, just get me home. Prom ended two hours ago, my mom's already gonna flip."
There was no way Connor was going to tell his friends that he thought he had seen a girl on the hood.
He looked in the mirror, and thought he could still see her shadow. Then there was nothing. He shook his head and focused on the road. It was probably just his imagination.
Connor walked through the shelves of books in Bobst Library, forcing himself not to break into a run. He had only eight hours left until his final, his last final before he graduated college. He had been here for three hours, just walking aimlessly. He could not stop walking, because his footsteps were echoed by someone who had not stopped following him since he entered the library.
A little clock on the wall chirped out a single electric chime. One o'clock. The footsteps behind him faltered.
Connor took a quick turn to the right, hoping to shake off his pursuer, but was faced with a solid wall of books. He could hear the footsteps coming up behind him. There was nowhere to run. He grabbed a heavy book off the shelf, the closest defensive object he could find, and turned around.
For a brief second, Connor was sure he saw familiar wide brown eyes before his pursuer disappeared.
Connor stood outside the small wooden door, between a fast-food diner and a twenty-four hour drug store. The sign flashed on and off, "MADAME REVE: TAROT, PALMREADINGS, HOROSCOPE," in neon green.
The door opened, and a middle-aged woman in gypsy garb smiled at him.
"You've been standing out there for fifteen minutes. Are you staying, or leaving?"
"How did you know I was here?"
"Nothing supernatural. I looked out the window."
Madame Reve gestured for him to come with her, and he followed her inside.
"I have an issue," he said.
"Does it have to do with your echo?"
"My what?"
"Your echo," said Madame Reve. "The shadow that his been following you."
"Yes!" said Connor. "Can you help me exorcise it, or something?"
"Unfortunately, the girl is not dead."
In the mirror, Connor could see the form of someone standing behind him. It wrapped its arms around him, and he felt a pressure against his chest.
"She has faded. Very long ago she chose to echo you, and she has given up everything that resembles life just to be your shadow," said Madame Reve. "Only she can free herself. But that depends on her still being capable of human feeling."
"Isn't there any way to bring her back into existence?"
"A person can only be a person if you recognize their humanity," said Madame Reve. "She has no humanity left. Perhaps if you had seen her before she began to fade, this would not have happened. But now, I think you just need to accept that fact that you are going to have company for a very long time."
Connor sat in his small study, double-checking his portfolio before the meeting. He ran his fingers through what remained of his hair and sighed. He felt something gently squeeze his hand. He was tired, and the pressure was comforting. For a moment he forgot what she was, and gave the echo a little squeeze back. Then he remembered, and shoved his hand into his pocket.
"Leave me alone."
But though he stayed there for hours longer, until the sun began to creep in through the window as he slept sitting in his chair, she never left his side.
Connor walked down the dark street, back towards his apartment. His boss had thrown him a party to celebrate his fortieth anniversary with the company, but Connor had felt achy and irritable all day. As he turned the corner on the final block, a pain shot down his arm and through his chest. He fell.
In the shadows of the street that fluttered in and out of focus, he could see the form of his echo watching him. Connor could feel her slipping away. It was what he thought he had always wanted, but now that she was actually leaving, he could not bear it.
"Don't go!" he tried to shout. Connor was sure he had made no sound, but the echo still seemed to hear. "I want you with me."
He reached out his hand toward her, and she reached back. Connor felt her hand brush his, and he remembered her, not as an echo, but as a person. He thought he could feel her smile as both of them faded away.
Connor shook his head. He felt like he was in the middle of doing something, but could not remember what it was. The girl stared at him, holding the pencil that he had retrieved from under his desk.
He felt like he had received a shock where their hands had brushed each other. Something about this girl was very familiar to him, very important.
"Hey," he whispered. "I'm Connor."
The girl smiled as she stared at him with wide brown eyes.
"I'm Anne."
The class period was almost over, but neither Connor nor Anne could finish their tests.
That little gesture was all it took.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 3rd, 2013


I have always loved mythology and re-imagining Greek myths. It seems to me like many old myths end in heartbreak, tragedy, or copious amounts of gore. I'd like to think that, in some forgotten version, the characters enjoyed a happier ending.

- Alexandra Grunberg

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