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Sooth

Laura Rikono lives in North Borneo, where she edits scientific papers, collects tropical fevers, and treads carefully when in the forest.
You think it strange. Why can you not simply appear unannounced at our understated office in the quiet, yet fashionable, district in the oldest part of town? You think we would be aware of your coming and would sweep open the door with a smile saying, we have been expecting you.
No. First, you must pay and then you must make an appointment. There are no negotiations and no postponements. You arrive at the appointed time and you wonder if you must press the doorbell. Yes. You must, for we are not a parlor trick.
Welcome to Sooth. At the threshold, you glance at the security features, the detectors and the cameras. You wonder why we need the like and yes, we agree, they are uncouth. We greet you and usher you through, giving you the briefest moment to marvel at our perfect lobby before we bid you to ascend the stairs. Have you noticed the great oil on our wall? A vast seascape, a raging black-blue ocean, a little pale sailing boat perched on top, skillfully clinging to the waves. You tap your thumb against the old wooden banister as you climb.
"Good day." Dr. Jin says in toffee tones as you slide into the seat, facing him across the desk. "Welcome to Sooth."
He too has a nautical painting on his cream wall. His is of a lighthouse, tall and slim, red and silver, standing firm against the onslaught of waves. He notes you staring at it and smiles. You are drawn to his face. He is a perfect match for his surroundings. Sculpted face, impeccable facial hair, quick and friendly eyes. He holds out a manicured hand, palm up, and raises an eyebrow. You touch your palm to his for two long seconds for an exchange of material. He blinks, then slides open the dark blue leather-clad book in front of him. You furtively examine his face as he bends over it, trying to see what he might be seeing. His long fingers play with themselves in the air, then sweep down to touch the book.
"Interesting." he murmurs. You really want to ask what he sees, but fear that your valuable seconds will be exhausted by such vague and foolish questions. And you have so many questions. So many questions to ask the Great Sea, the vast and teeming mound of data that this man Dr. Jin is sailing, expertly navigating the maelstroms of every single quantifiable bit there is and has ever been.
He raises startling eyes that flash flecks of copper.
"You may ask," he says.
You have so many questions. When will I die? Who will I love? How will my heart be broken?
So many questions. None of which should be answered, for such knowledge is against nature. Instead, you smile your own smile of knowing. Dr. Jin returns it with a smirk that has grown patient.
"I have just one," you say. "Did you foresee this?"
The elevation of those eyebrows as you drive your sharpened thumb bone through his jugular suggests that his immediate future has taken Dr. Jin by surprise.
You think you have won. You think you have changed things. This is why you allow them to take you away, smiling beatifically like the martyr you will probably now become. Except, they take you down, really quite far down, and then they process you. That is to say, they render you down to your quantifiable bits and cast you into the Great Sea, scattering your bits among the depths and adding your yourness to it. Suddenly, you are surprising no more.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018


I hold a weekly game club for preschoolers. In the beginning, newcomers to the group would sometimes surprise me with their sheer savagery, and the class would collapse in shock and disarray. Since then, I think I have seen every behavior possible in a four-year-old, and thus I know how soon even the most aggressive tearaways can settle into a game, learn to be kind, and become calm enough to Walk With Scissors. Comprehending the behaviors of adults, on the other hand, might require something more vast.

- Laura Rikono

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