Working on a new story . . .
I'm working on a new story . . . slowly . . . for my Ewha position keeps me occupied . . . but here's a short scene:
The subway lights abruptly flickered out, drawing me from my thoughts as the car dimmed, lit only by its emergency lighting's uncanny glow. The train was halting, but the station was also obscured, likewise cast into semidarkness. As the doors slid open, a blast of cold wind chilled the car, and I could just make out two forms entering together, an unlikely pair, one impossibly tall, the other impressively short. The forms moved in my direction and settled down in the unexpectedly empty seats to my left and right as the doors slid again shut, the train swiftly moved forward, and the lights flickered back on. The two, dressed in overcoats better suited to Siberia, and brushing from their shoulders what surely couldn't be snow, looked out of place, not just in Korea, but any place on earth they might appear together, for the short one's hands were small, like himself, with stubby fingers but long, hard nails, whereas the tall one wore an immense moustache and revealed hands with long, thick fingers that would surely bunch into fists such as never seen on living men. I could only goggle at the overcoated pair. The whole time, they were speaking what I recognized as Russian, and I caught the word "tovarishch," which surprised me. Did Russians in these post-Soviet times still call each other "comrade"? Sensing that I was listening, the two fell silent and looked me over. A few long moments passed before the short one addressed me in Russian. Figuring he was asking if I spoke the language, I replied, "Nyet." He smiled with teeth that looked like an accident in a graveyard and switched to English.As you perhaps have noticed, I like to write intertextually . . . which is not the same as plagiarism . . .
"You appeared to be eavesdropping," he said in a cultured voice, his English flawless, no trace of Slavic accent. "Like Eve herself."
"Right," added the tall one, also in perfect English, but lower of pitch. "Eavesdropping, while Adam talked with God."
Taken aback and flushed with embarrassment, I looked at one, then the other, and asked, "Are you missionaries?"
"I wouldn't think so," purred the short one.
"I would," the tall one countered.
"In short, we are and aren't."
"At length, though, we are."
"Are," insisted the tall one, adding, "and we have a message. How odd . . ."
". . . of God . . ."
". . . to choose . . ."
". . . to lose."
"Felix culpa," I murmured, though taken even more aback.
"Ah," said the short one, apparently acute of hearing, "a sharp fellow. You know Latin?"
"Some," I admitted.
"Then," the tall one suggested, "you will know carpe diem."
"Of course," I said. "Seize the day."
"Such was our job," he said. "Seize the day. Day after day, we seized and took."
"We were looking to take a door once," the short one added, "in the London Underground -- mind never where, exactly. But a door can be tricky, leading in or out. Better to ever be of two minds about a door, as the unfortunate Mr. Beeblebrox learned. He ought to have talked it over with himself first. Two heads are better than one. My tall friend and I likewise once erred in our haste. We neglected to confer with each other and subsequently took the wrong door -- or it took us. Hell of a time getting back in, wouldn't you say, Vladimir?"
"Hell of a time," he agreed. "The gravity of our situation was nearly fatal, but Kropot and I were lifted up and given a new job."
"By Ketch, Hare, Burke and Ketch," added the short one, now identified as Kropot.
"An old firm," explained the giant, Vladimir. "Far from here. Out of business now. Sad, that, but the final job was consummated."
"My friend means it was finished," explained Kropot.
"I do," agreed Vladimir.
"Now," announced Kropot, "we work freelance."
"We do," Vladimir confirmed.
I leaned back in my seat while they studied me in sudden silence, as though I were some oddity that almost roused their curiosity. I sensed that an object of their curiosity were no position to be in . . . but my own curiosity was stirring. I was less sure the two were Russian. But they had been speaking Russian together. Were that a trick? A red herring dragged across a trail? But why try to fool anyone? And what sort of jobs were they talking about? Were they spies? Ex-KGB? They were definitely foreigners, strangers to Korea, yet something about them was familiar. I looked at one, then the other. The two were so utterly different. Vladimir, impossibly tall and rangy, his nose as long as a cold stare. Kropot, impressively short, stocky, his countenance as snub-nosed as a Cobra thirty-eight. They continued to observe me in silence, as though to leave an opening. I stepped through and asked, "What sort of freelance?"
They seemed to have been waiting for that question.