It has been two years today since the release of Gods From the Machine in 2014. To celebrate the anniversary of its release, I decided to write a short story! Inspired by Haruki Murakami, I present:
The Color Red
One cold, early morning there was a man walking to a bus station on his way to work. This was the same routine as any other day, he would take the same bus one way in the morning and then repeat for his trip back in the evening. However, on this particular day something in the air seemed different, almost as if the world had been coated with a hazy, dream-like quality. Perhaps it was the good sleep from the night before. He had been running himself ragged recently from juggling between working into the wee hours of the night and reading his new novel. He loved reading. Doubtless, for whatever reason there was a slight spring in his step.
He was an average man of average height and build. He wasn't ugly but at the same time he wasn't handsome in the way most women dreamed their better half would be. In short, he was nothing particularly special. That was the summation of his life: perfectly adequate in its inadequacy.
Despite his shortcomings, he was a big romantic, a firm believer of fate and love. Perhaps it was naive to be in his late twenties and still caught up in such a tired notion (divorce was prevalent and etc.), but the slightest chance that true love could exist, why couldn't it exist for him? Why bother living any type of life it there was nothing beautiful or sacred left to believe in? Some people were religious fanatics, others chose to set their faith in intangible objects like cars or money, what was the difference?
Which is why, everyday without fail he carried a book with him wherever he went. He loved reading, especially novels with snippets of adventure and romance. To him, it was a sweet escape from the mundane reality of his own life. He didn’t have much going on you see, no girlfriend or any real friends left. Most of his friends had gotten married and moved onto the next plateau in life. If there were any sort of ranking system he was surely at the bottom he mused to himself. At least for now. One day he would find the girl of his dreams and they would certainly live happily ever after. If it could happen in a story, then why couldn't it happen in real life?
He increased the pace of his walk as he was quite excited to get on the bus for his daily commute, eager to finish the final chapters before he arrived to the painstakingly boring office. He arrived at the station a few minutes earlier than usual and he noticed there were three people sitting on a bench. The first two were an elderly couple huddled together for warmth, next to them was a young woman wearing a black hoodie that covered her face with the exception of a few red hair strands poking out.
Interesting, the man thought to himself. He had never seen her before. Perhaps she was new to town, which was the only logical conclusion to draw as retired old people who could only begin stories with, “Back in my day”, lived in this small town. He was the only young person, at least the only one who took the public transit system.
He thought he ought to strike a conversation, throw a few witty lines here and there, but before he could attempt to woo her the station filled and his nerves got the better of him. All around him was a sea of white hair and the smell of extra-strength Bengay. He lost the girl with the red hair, which was really quite a shame as he had always envisioned his dream girl to possess red colored hair. But perhaps this was for the better. His luck with woman was terrible to say the least and she didn’t seem the type to share any common interests.
He rewound backwards to his unusual obsession with red. Why was it so important for his dream girl to have red hair? Maybe all the Spider-Man comics he read growing up gave him some kind of color fetish or complex or whatever the hell it was called. He pondered this briefly before shaking himself back to reality just as the bus in front of him pulled to a stop.
He got on and took his usual seat in the back corner, setting his briefcase neatly by his side. He opened his book and immediately dove into a world of fantasy. He loved reading, especially because every story was always something new and unexpected. Like the great Columbus sailing into uncharted waters, these books were adventures waiting to be explored.
This new book he had been reading was an epic series that depicted demons and angels with a demonic protagonist falling in love with a girl from the human realm. Strangely enough, she also had red hair. The book itself was beautifully written, with fast paced action and a romantic plot that rivaled Romeo and Juliet. He thumbed through the last few pages and upon reaching the ending almost threw the book across the bus in frustration. The ending left him wanting more, but the author had yet to announce a release date for a sequel.
“Whatcha reading?” she asked. Her hood was down now and her red hair cascaded along the sides of her face, framing her natural beauty.
“Huh?” He could feel a lump in his throat. “It’s uh, Gods From the Machine,” he said. Where did she come from? Though he didn’t mind her presence one bit.
“I thought so!” she clasped her hands together in joy. “I just finished it last night, the story was amazing!” she said, flashing a smile.
That was all it took. Soon they were talking and laughing like the only two people in the world. No awkward introductions or lame lines, they just clicked. They conversed for what seemed like hours, talking about superficial things such as their likes and dislikes to deeper topics like their wildest dreams. He never wanted it to end. From the moment he saw her there was a strange feeling of comfort and he understood. It was her all along. She was the one he had been waiting for his entire life. What a stroke of luck to find his soul mate
So when the bus came to a halt in front of his office building and the door swung open, he knew he couldn’t leave without knowing he had some way to come back to her. He wanted to hold onto this feeling forever.
“Listen, I’m not very good at this, but before I go I must know your name,” he said.
She smiled her perfect smile and opened her mouth. Just before the words could escape her lips the sound of a horn blaring woke him up in a startle. He was alone, covered by the veil of dusk. The alarm clock beside his bed continued beeping, the numbers flashing bright red. He turned away to face into darkness of his empty wall, Gods From the Machine rolled off his chest and to the side. He remained still in that position for a while, staring silently into the abyss.
When it was time for work he trudged slowly to the restroom to brush his teeth and change. There was no spring in his step, no faint glint of promise in the air. It felt like every other day, mundane and predictable. As he stuffed his briefcase full of work documents he reached out for his book. He stopped short and decided to leave it behind. From then on he never bothered to bring another book with him ever again. Instead, every day he got onto the bus and sat in his usual spot, waiting for a chance to see the color red.