A Slight Imperfection (excerpt)
Alec Myre dragged the old-fashioned wet razor down the left side of his neck and stopped. For a second he saw a mark there, a slight whitening of the skin a few millimeters across. He scoffed at his moment of paranoia and went back to shaving, only to stop again almost immediately.No—he wasn’t going crazy. There was another mark on the opposite side of his neck, a mirror image of the first. The marks were barely noticeable, but he was extra sensitive after last night’s documentary on cancer.
Downstairs Elisha was in the airy kitchen placing steaming buttered toast on the pine table, but she immediately noticed his concern and stopped.
“What’s wrong, Alec?”
“There are a couple of unusual marks on my neck. Would you take a look?” He sat down.
“You think it’s serious?” Elisha leaned over him, peering at his skin as if intensity of vision was enough to reveal any problem.
“Do you see them? Tiny white marks.”
“No, uhh, maybe…” She brushed her finger against the back of his neck, a gesture she knew he loved. “Does that help?”
Alec sighed. “You do pick your moments.”
She smiled, her fine eyebrows arching. “Danny’s over at the Fredrics’ for the morning. We have the place to ourselves.”
“Dammit, I’m serious about this.” Alec took a long breath. “Do you see the marks or not? Two little white spots, slightly indented or flattened maybe.”
“No—I don’t see them. Can you point to them?”
Alec raised his finger and ran it over the general area; there was nothing there, just smooth skin and the gentle bristle of newly shaved skin. No, there! There was something; he could feel the indentation just slightly. He felt the other side of his neck and quickly found the matching spot.
“There, do you see where I am touching?”
Elisha looked closely, tilting her head this way and that to get a better view, pursing her lips in extreme concentration. “I really don’t see anything that looks unusual.”
“You’re just not looking properly.” Alec tugged on the skin more. “There! It’s a different color. Don’t you see?”
“Oh Alec, it’s just a little difference. You’re a scientist. You know that people’s skin isn’t uniform.”
“That doesn’t explain why there’s exactly the same spot in the same place on the opposite side.”
Elisha ruffled his hair. “You are such a silly thing sometimes. I’m sure it’s not really identical.” Her face grew serious. “Are you working too hard? I know things aren’t easy at the lab.”
“We’re trying to understand some of the most fundamental processes of nature; it’s never going to be easy.” Alec frowned; he knew he sounded bombastic at times despite trying not to. “But I’m not cracking up, if that’s what you mean.”
“Perhaps you should speak with a Guide?”
Elisha did her best to make the question as inconsequential as possible, but it rankled Alec. The suggestion was always there when he became passionate about something, no matter how rational his arguments were.
Have you spoken to a Guide? Talk to the Guides, I’m sure they can help. As if his mental stability was so low it needed bolstering at every slight problem. There’d only been that one time: years ago now, but that was enough. The “low mental resilience” designation had been pinned firmly to him for life. He couldn’t stop his anger spilling out. “Why do you bring that up? Do you think there’s something wrong with me?”
Elisha reached for Alec, but he pulled back. “No, of course not. It’s just…”
“Just what? That you think I’m useless? That I can’t cope?”
“Don’t bite my head off.” Elisha’s voice was sharp, but then softened. “I’m just trying to look after you.
“I’m okay. Don’t worry about me.”
His tone was bitter and Alec regretted it immediately. He sighed. Elisha was trying to help and he knew that. He just wished she wasn’t so intent on trying to cocoon him.
What readers say:
“An eerie Twilight Zone or Outer Limits feel to it that I enjoyed immensely.” – C.M.
“Sci Fi with a punch.” – D.N.
“This isn’t the usual genre of story I’d read, but I loved it – clear writing and a good storyline. Will read more of David Kelly’s stories.” – M.H.