Countdown is a strange app, it tells you how many conversations you have left with everyone in your life. It might display over twenty thousand for a younger sibling, and perhaps a few dozen for your grandparents. Any time the counter gets under ten, the app alerts you - with so few words left, you need to make them worthwhile. It is not uncommon for two people to check their counters on a first date. Sometimes the counters are mismatched, but I am sure you understand why.
“Stringwatcher, Stringwatcher, I have come here to know of my mother,” Miranda said.
Strings of a thousand colors were strewn about the room of the ancient temple. It was nearly impossible to see the walls through the dense network of strings. Each slid and twisted around the others with the sound of a grandparent’s gentle but persistant shush. The strings snaked out from a knot that was twice as tall as Miranda and its keeper.
“Good, I have been expecting you,” the Stringwatcher said. He traced his wrinkled fingertips across an intersection of strings: red, blue, and black. “The strings knew that we would cross paths today.”
“Then you know why I have come,” Miranda said as she dropped her pack on the ground. A month of dust from the road fell off it.
The Stringwatcher tisked, “Then you are foolish. The strings’ intentions are a mystery to me. They are only strings after all. No voice or mind to any of them,” he traced the red string back towards the knot, “I only know who they are and where they are going.”
Cool needles prickled up Miranda’s back. If the Stringwatcher could not tell her why her mother left their village, what good was coming here?
“Can you help me find my mother at least?” Miranda asked. “An insidious organization has taken claim to my village, and my mother is the only person capable of ridding us of their iron grip.”
The Stringwatcher walked a few paces away from Miranda’s string and found another junction with a crimson string trailing off in the distance. “She is no longer in the village.”
“Yes I know,” Miranda said, trying her hardest to not sound impatient. “Where has she gone?”
The Stringwatcher nodded and traced the crimson string through a mesh of others until the layers of thread blocked him from Miranda’s view.
“She has gone to Willhum City, accompanied by four others from villages that neighbored yours,” his voice soft and dampened by the mass of string between them.
“Thank you, Stringwatcher. I must leave with haste, but I shall return with an offering for your aid.” Miranda pulled her bag from the ground.
“What of your companion? Does he need to know where someone went as well?”
“I don’t know whom you are talking about. I came alone,” Miranda looked towards where her red string met with the Stringwatcher’s blue one. A black string had entwined itself with hers from the start of her journey and continued with her off into the rafters.
“I am sorry. I cannot tell the string’s intentions,” the Stringwatcher said.
Miranda turned, but she only caught a glimpse of her ‘companion.’ She screamed as a bag dropped over her head and powerful arms squeezed the air out of her.
Her hands were bound with rope, and her unconscious body was dragged out of the temple.
“Do not fear,” came the Stringwatcher’s voice from the back of the temple, barely above a whisper, “Your thread does not end here.”
“I counted down the minutes eagerly, eyes glued to the huge sphere in the sky that was on the edge of plummeting downwards, marking the New Year. My pupils flashed between the countdown and the ball until I was so rudely interrupted.
“Whose it gonna be, Ty?” I heard Troye speak, his breath just slightly hitting the back of my neck, indicating he was closer than I had expected. I spun around to face him, registering the request and giving him a questioning look.
“Oh, what you’re just going to forget about the fact you promised to kiss an Aussie in light of the New Year?” his voice seeping with confidence and a smirk growing on his face.
“Of course, not!” finding a new idea as I spoke the words. I turned around once again and got on my tippy-toes to look over the crowd. “Which one do you think should be my victim?” I inquired, earning a frustrated huff from Troye as it neared 10 seconds til 12:00. I continued to peer over the crowd, glancing at the countdown as time ticked by.
“Oh, I know who!” Troye said, voice filled with excitement and slight urgency.
“Hmm?” I asked as 5 seconds were left.
And then I felt his hands on my shoulders, slowly turning me around to face him. As I was still on my tippy-toes and he leaned in closer, our faces were in unbearable proximity. The clock had struck 12 but there was nothing I could focus on more but Troye.
“Me.” He finished, closing the distance between our lips and giving in to what I’ve wanted for a long time now.
And out of all the things that could of slipped my mind at that moment, when all the screaming dissipated and the insignias of fireworks disappeared from my vision, I forgot the one thing that had any significance; the livestream camera.”