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Note to a Stranger

Davian Aw's writing has appeared most recently in Ares Magazine, Plasma Frequency, and Every Day Fiction. He also has the dubious honour of winning the 2012 Lyttle Lytton contest (for crafting the worst possible opening sentence to a novel in under 200 characters). Davian was born and bred in Singapore, where he currently lives with his family and a pet cactus named Arthur. This is his first publication in DSF.

We met in the space the mundane shops go, in those unscheduled moments when others take their place and old Uncle Joe popping by for a snack finds the 7-Eleven replaced by Maerlyn's Magick Shoppe.
When the 7-Eleven went, I went with it. The air grew rich and heady with magic. Chocolate bars and packaged nuts jostled each other on the shelves. The Slurpee machine twirled out sigils behind its glass. The spare change on the counter took flight in dance, gleaming in the golden light flooding through the windows.
Across the misty fog that swirled above the sepia landscape, I looked out from the doorway and I saw you standing there. You were adrift on an islet of reality across the amorphous plane: strikingly normal in your work uniform, looking out from the storefront of your chain bookstore, Christmas sales splashed on huge red posters (UP TO 70% OFF!!!) as though anyone there in that strange new world might be lured in for a look. There was snow gathered at the window's edge. I wondered what country you were in.
You waved, and I waved back. You smiled, and I fell in love.
I like to think you loved me too, or our eyes wouldn't have met for as long as they did. I wanted to tell you that you were beautiful; but my voice made no sound in that still, still air.
Then the fog rolled over and the street was back. There was traffic on the road, a customer coming through the door, and old Uncle Joe slowly walking away with a thick book cradled in his arms.
I never got your name.
I never got the chance to find out what would have happened if I'd stepped out that door in that other place; and if you had done the same, perhaps our worlds would have released us into the mystery of that other realm's embrace, to float forever in its golden peace past fleeting doors to elsewhere.
I wonder if you remember me. It's been a very long time. Old Uncle Joe's now eight years old and getting younger by the day. "I wish I knew," I tell him when he asks about that other shop. Sometimes I buy him candy because it makes me sad to see kids cry.
I wish I could see you just one more time.
I never got the chance to say goodbye.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Author Comments

I've always wondered what happened to those shops that got replaced by magical ones in so many stories, and what the people inside at the time would have experienced. I had a few ideas floating around that eventually coalesced into this, hours before the new year on the last day of 2014, in a last-ditch attempt to produce one more story before the year was out. It's one of the fastest things I've ever written.

- Davian Aw
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