Critical Mass (A story in the 2nd person perspective)

Here is a piece I wrote a little while back, experimenting with writing in the 2nd person. It isn’t an easy thing to do, as it is not the usual perspective that is used in writing – but if done well it can be very effective. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether I nailed it!

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Critical Mass

by Marijka Bright

You sit and watch her as she works. She makes everything seem so simple and yet you are transfixed by her every movement. The haze of your cigarette smoke feels like a wall between the two of you. You feel safe; protected behind your barrier, observing your prey. You have always felt more comfortable hiding behind façades. If anyone knew what you were truly like, then they would banish you to the darkest corners of nowhere, never to return.

Has she always been this beautiful? And if so, why are you only noticing it now? She turns to face you, but you look down at the tip of your cigarette and study it intently. It burns orange, like the desire that has been sparked within you. You can’t tell if she noticed you staring, but if she did, she doesn’t acknowledge it and she buries herself back into her work.

It takes a moment for you to restore yourself. Bring yourself back from the fluttering nervousness which had just about overcome you. You breathe more easily as your heart rate returns to its normal beat.  Her eyes are no longer upon you, and so you are free to return to the trajectory of your longing gaze.

You question why this is happening to you now. This attraction, which had been nothing more than the flickering flame of a singular birthday candle, has suddenly taken on the fire of a thousand volcanoes. Of all the times that you were free to have her, you are now on the cusp of something far more important and she is no longer an available option.

Is it true that we only want what we can’t have?

The world had been heading this way for a long time. You knew that it was only a matter of time before you would be called upon to render your services. But you hadn’t made the most of the time that you had left. And now here you are, preparing for your final flight, and all you can think of is her and all the things that you should have done when you had the chance.

Is regret the natural human condition? Are we all destined to forever remain at the mercy of these insidious emotions?

You fasten your jumpsuit. Your neck is constricted by the top button. The uniforms are compulsory, although you wonder why they bother with such things when they know that they are sending you out there to die. Your departure is imminent but you don’t want to go. You are not ready yet. Any bravado that you had; any hero complex that needed to be fulfilled is long gone. All you want now, in this moment of ultimate sacrifice, is to go home. But home is no longer there and if there is ever going to be a place that we can call home again, then you must go and fight.

“Are you ready?” she says as she walks to me, holding her spanner aloft.

You wonder how such a high-tech machine can still be at the mercy of nuts and bolts.

“I was born ready,” you lie.

She gives you one of those half smiles. You know that it is more out of sympathy than anything else. She must know by now that she’s speaking to a dead man.

“You must’ve seen a lot of us fly out, never to be seen again,” you say.

You say it out of desperation. You want her to realise the sacrifice that you are making and that she is a big part of the reason why. You want to tell her how much these last months have meant to you, but you can’t find that right words to express anything that you want to say in that moment.

“It doesn’t make it any easier,” she replies.

She walks across to her toolbox and places the spanner inside. You follow her. She still has her back to you and you are still searching for the words. It is then that you feel something come over you. It is as though you are separate from yourself as you reach for her hair and take it back from her neck.

She smells good as you lean into her and kiss her softly on her neck. Her hair tickles your cheek and the end of your nose as you kiss her again – this time biting her gently. Your heart is thumping in your chest and your stomach is aflutter as you await her reaction.

She is frozen in time – her stillness is not the answer that you hoped for. You don’t know if she wants you to continue or if she is hoping that you will leave her alone.

You inhale her. It soaks through you and makes you weak at the knees. Why didn’t you tell her sooner?

You whisper in her ear, “I love you,” and then you kiss her cheek.

She spins around and your eyes meet. The atmosphere is electric as you realise that she feels the same way about you. She grabs your head and pulls you towards her. Your lips meet and you fall into a daze at the wonder of her touch.

She pulls your head harder and harder into hers and she thrusts her tongue into your mouth. She keeps squeezing and squeezing with a strength that is beyond the human capabilities. Her tongue forces its way down your throat and you feel your gag reflex kick-in as it intrudes upon your oesophagus. Her eyes glow green.

You try to pull away, but it is too late. You had heard of their ability to mimic and to control. She is one of them – the invaders have infiltrated our last stronghold – the base of the resistance – and as you fade away into pain and darkness you realise that there is no hope left for humankind.


This story and many others can be found in my short story collection – The Monsters in my Mind, Beat their Chests.




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