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By: Dean Koontz


More Alone Than Any Girl Has Ever Been

Having announced his intention to kill her in a conversational tone of voice, Rainer Sparks said, “Oh, should I have whispered such an incriminating threat? Have I endangered myself? Well, actually, no, I haven’t. Do you know why?”

She would not show fear. She said, “I’m sure you’ll tell me,” and took a sip of her beer.

“Pretty Makani, being so brave. You didn’t read as deep as you thought. For eleven years, I had only the power to see their problems with a touch. But five years ago, another trick sprouted from the first. Don’t know why or how. Don’t need to know. I can’t become invisible, none of that hokey H. G. Wells crap. But when I want people around me—in a room, on a street, in a park—to leave me alone, all I gotta do is think my disinterest at them. Then they become disinterested in me. It started on a beach. Two skanks were coming toward me, a pair of sevens on a scale of ten, neither of them up to my standards. Would’ve been tedious, getting rid of them without a scene. I thought, Just leave me alone, little bitches, and damn if they didn’t stop fifteen feet away, confused, looking around like they didn’t remember where the hell they’d been going, like they didn’t even see me anymore, and just wandered away. I’m totally good at it now.”

He wanted her to react.

When she didn’t, when she met his stare in silence, he said, “They don’t see me or hear me—except when I want them to. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they see and hear but don’t compute what they see and hear. As if I’ve hacked their brains and edited the flow of sensory data. I can edit you out of their awareness, too, Makani, even lovely you, or anyone who’s with me. Would you like a demonstration?”

He had nothing to gain by lying. “I believe you.” She already grasped the greater threat that he now posed and was trying to anticipate what he might do next.

He gave her the demonstration that she didn’t need. Raising his voice, he said angrily, “You lied to me, you bitch, you’ve done nothing but lie to me!” As he spoke, he snatched up his half-empty glass and threw the remaining beer in her face.

Less because of the beer than because she thought he would throw the glass after it, Makani startled, flinched—then surveyed the restaurant. No one seemed to have heard Rainer’s outburst or to have seen what he had done. Conversations continued uninterrupted. Waiters glided through the room, carrying trays of drinks and food, as overhead the sharks hung unmoving in their hunting postures.

“They’re not like you and me,” said Rainer Sparks. “We’re deep, and they are not. We know, and they don’t. They’re pawns, and we’re power. We could have been so much to each other. Tragic that you find me so despicable.”

He wanted to see her shrink from him in fear, perhaps even bolt for the door, but she would not give him the satisfaction of her terror. She had ridden twelve-foot behemoths in Waikiki. She’d night-surfed quaking monoliths at Pipeline, a crazy-girl adventure with a storm coming and thunder at her back. She’d been in Newport Beach when a hurricane, tearing up the Mexican coast, had pushed ahead of it monster waves that perhaps ten percent of the surfers in the world would dare. She rode them and survived the Wedge. Maybe Rainer would kill her, maybe she had no hope, but she would never cower or beg for her life.

She picked up her napkin and blotted her face. Finished, she folded it neatly and returned it to the table before she said, “So will you kill me here and now?”

Whatever reaction Rainer expected, this was not it. He cocked his head, and his thick golden hair fell over one eyebrow. His grin was quizzical. “Do you have a death wish?”

“Sometimes I’ve wondered about that. When beaches have been closed ’cause there were great whites in the water, I’ve paddled out anyway, if there was even just barely decent wave action. I’ve surfed in thunderstorms when the sky was full of fire and the sea danced with its reflections, on lonely stretches of coast where no one would have been there to help if I’d been struck by lightning. But, no, it’s not a death wish. I figured that out a few years ago.”

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