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He twitches his ring finger, watching the string connected to it jostle, the vibrations running down its length before quickly dispersing. He twitches it again, giving it a little tug this time like a cat half-heartedly playing with a shoestring. The string catches on a pile of mail on his tabletop, knocking over expired coupons and credit card offers.

He sighs, low and controlled and wholly irritated, and lies back on the sofa, arm dangling over the side.

Everyone says that when you see a shooting star, you can see your red string. A wish of the heavens come true. Just a glimpse, they say, a hazy mirage brought on by desert heat only visible when you tilt your head just right. Some lucky people, they say, can see it stretch a few feet out into the world, a gossamer line of spider thread leading to the sweetest prize imaginable.

Well, well, well, it looks like he won the lottery because he can see the whole damn tangible thing.

He thought it was a fluke, last night, when he joined the masses for a shower of lights cascading down from the heavens, glowing and small and beautiful like fairy lights on the open ocean. Not everyone has a soulmate and not everyone needs one— even if you do have one, time and circumstances and life wear down the edges of the puzzle until the pieces fit loose and messy and the picture's hardly a picture at all. But call him a stickler for tradition or just plain curious, he went.

In a sea of people gasping and crying and scratching their heads, he saw nothing. Maybe the slightest hint of red against the dark, dew dropped grass, but that could've just have easily been a trick of the light. And some people don't see that tie that leads straight to the heart, perfectly content to weave their own strings and make their own soulmates. Or just live life alone, experiencing it with themselves and leaving the world how they entered. Whatever, he doesn't judge.

He thought he was one of those people, had almost accepted it even though a cobweb of disappointment settled in his chest, a byproduct of years of being told that what makes life worth living.

Then he woke up and tripped over himself, rolling quick enough to get a bruised shoulder instead of a broken nose. He spent actual, literal hours this morning untangling his houseplants, his cutlery, his furniture, his mail. He's still not done, either.

"Go pick up the mail again," he says to himself. "Go pick up the mail like a responsible adult and go finish untangling everything so you don't break your neck when you leave for the store tomorrow."

He was supposed to go to the store today, but, well, things happen. Like a tangible string. He really can't get over that one— it's funny, in a weird sort of way, because he called his mom in a frenzy, heart beating out of his chest like a monkey pounding on a gong, and she didn't see anything out of the ordinary walking around her own home. He had stopped at it last night to share a cigarette and drop off some papers he photocopied for her and she hasn't called back since.

So either she's busy dealing with a similar mess or it's just within a certain little radius his appears. Like a C-list superhero.

He laughs a little. "Stringman, to the rescue," he whispers, giggling again at his own joke before the reality of the situation descends, a lovely haze of smog dampening his mood.

Right, yeah, the mail.

He pushes off the sofa, grumbling a little as he rubs the blossomed spot of purple on his shoulder, and tries and only semi-succeeds in not tripping again as he navigates the mess clinging to his coffee table, his armchair, his lamp— why does he have so much furniture? Who needs this much furniture?

His foot catches on a line strung across the archway into the kitchen but he stays upright, trying for a moment to follow where it leads to maybe unhook it but quickly abandons that. Instead, he crouches down and wonders why he didn't throw all of this away sooner. Well over a baker's dozen envelopes all addressed to one Malik Clark destined for the garbage as soon as they arrived.

He takes a second to sort through them one last time, just to make sure there isn't anything actually important in there, but stops. A glint of silver catches his eye, something that must have fallen off with everything else.

A scissors. A little pair of scissors still out from opening a package the other day.

It couldn't be that easy. Could it? No, no it couldn't...


He picks up the scissors like it's a holy artifact, almost lost in its reverence. He places one foot on the ground, wrapping a piece of the string around his finger to pull it taut, and hovers over it with the scissors in the other.

A moment of hesitation flickers to life but the annoyance of the morning snuffs it until his head's filled with smoke.

He closes the blade and it passes right through.

He blinks, once, twice, and tries it again. And again and again until he throws the scissors halfway across the kitchen and fights the urge to scream, biting the inside of his cheek.

Of course it's not that easy. Why would anything like this be easy? Most people who see the stars and have the heavens grace them with a wish get a spark, a glimmer to keep them going, hunting, or a faded imprint to ignore. He gets a mess.

Does the person on the other side of this get to see theirs like he does his? Is there even a person on the other intangible end leading out his front door? That would be par for the course, at this point— all this trouble for a fat lot of nothing.

Except, except, that's just what his mom told him last night, watching the now-empty sky as cigarette smoke curled from her fingers. Her best friend found her soulmate and they hit it right off— she, on the other hand, met hers one dreary morning on the way to work. Their eyes met and electricity jumped between them, but that's all it was. A what-if. They exchanged numbers, talked a little— still do, actually, but that's as far as it went, as far as either of them wanted to go.

Maybe, just maybe, there's something on the other end worth finding. Or maybe there's not. Either way, there's a string currently overtaking his house and he really should do something about that.

After that, he can worry about what lies outside his door. Maybe, just maybe, he won't land on his face if he goes to look for it.


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Abigail Haworth · ago
This is an interesting alternative perspective compared to the normal soulmate stereotype