Immersion [ESL Audio Short Story]
Do you ever wonder who might be watching you? Read this short story asking ‘How Far Will A Watcher Go To Overcome The Effects Of A Devastating Vision That Srips Him Of The One Thing He Treasures Above All Else?’ Another short story I wrote for my English student. So, if you have questions, leave a comment. If you want the audio, you can listen on Gumroad or Patreon
Azarael swooped down lower over the city. He watched closely everything that went on. Nothing escaped his attention. He was the silent observer who watched events unfold as people lived out their lives like characters playing a role on an endless soap opera that never let up. No commercial breaks for him to grab some popcorn and coke. Not a single moment for him to relax and take some time off. He had no concept for vacation. Even though he saw others taking a vacation and leaving the city while others came on vacation in his city, he didn’t consider taking one himself. He prided himself on his attention to details and not letting a single scene escape his sight. He was like an eternal webcam viewing and recording everything that went on in the city below. He had honed his focus and skills till he could do it without really even trying. He had been asking for a promotion and to oversee more cities. But so far, he had been turned down all three times. After thousands of years, he had honed his skills to the point where he could focus on one person doing one thing, and yet still be completely aware of what everyone else was doing in the entire city.
And yet, Azarael never intervened. He never tried to stop anyone from doing anything. Nor did he help anyone even when they looked like they could use a hand. He had developed a strictly hands-off policy. Don’t get involved was what he always told himself. Everyone has their share of problems, and they just have to learn how to deal with them. That’s how they grow stronger was what he said. It’s like helping a chick out of an egg or a butterfly out of a cocoon. Ultimately, they don’t get the exercise and blood flow that they need to develop their skills and talents to their full potential. Help them out of a mess, and they would be weaker for it. Leave them to resolve it themselves, and they would grow through their own effort. Besides, most of them didn’t really want the things they said they wanted.
Humans were so fickle. They said they wanted something and worked towards it. They complained because they didn’t have it. But then, as soon as they got it, they didn’t want it anymore. They complained about the the new problems that it brought into their lives. Humans! So double-minded. Always griping and moaning. They grumbled and complained about everything. They were never satisfied. Walking blobs of insatiable desire. Always walking around angry, wretched, and frustrated. Constantly ungrateful. Persistently irritated. Give them an inch and they’d take a mile. No, thanks! Forget it. There was no satisfaction in helping them under those conditions. Better to just stay at his post and do what he had been doing for the past few thousand years. Just watch and observe. Record it all.
Azarael never forgot anything that he saw. It was always perfectly filed and stored away in his memory for perfect recall as needed at a moment’s notice. Until one day, all of that changed. Something caught his attention. Something grabbed his eye. He turned to focus a little more attention on it. It was easy for him to split up his attention wherever he needed at any time. He still paid attention to everything else going on around the city.
It was actually pretty rare for something to catch his attention and cause him to divert his focus a bit more. Mostly, just because he had seen it all. There wasn’t much that a human could do to surprise him anymore. After several thousands of years of watching humans and their eccentric behavior, he had just about seen it all. Or so he thought until today. He siphoned off a bit more of his attention to this strange sight that he was watching. It was so odd. So, strange. And frustrating in an almost excruciating way. It was agonizing to watch. He wanted not to see what he was seeing, but he couldn’t stop watching even if he had wanted to. And ever more quickly, larger and larger portions of his attention were focused on this one, singular event. As he continued to watch, he began to lose sight of everything else around him.
He watched less and less of everyone else as his attention narrowed in focus. Soon, he saw nothing else that was going on around him. He could no longer recall the events that had happened outside of his center of focus. And when all was said and done, his focus was so intense that he couldn’t undo it. He could no longer do his job. He could no longer watch as he had before. So, he turned and left his post. The one he had been given thousands of years ago. The post he had never abandoned. He had heard of stories like this. Watchers who no longer watched. Relegated to the lowest levels of existence for having lost their focus. He had laughed and scoffed, calling them weak and silly. Never had he suspected that something like this would happen to him. That something like this could happen to him. And yet here he was. Finished. It was over. He was free to go. Do his own thing until he could get his broad span of attention back. But he had never heard of any watchers ever returning once they had left their post. Impossible? Maybe so, but he would not give up without a try. If one existed, he would find it and return to his post. Like those he had refused to help he needed to struggle and find his own way without expecting anyone else to do it for him. This was his burden, and he would bear it. Forget the Engineers. He was on his own. If they caught him, they would put him out of commission for good. No, he had to find a way to restore his attention and take back his post. He would do whatever it took. He would go, wherever he had to go. Do whatever he had to do. He walked slowly away from his post.
His boss felt sorry for him, but there was nothing he could do. Like Azarael, all he could do was watch and observe. Maybe this is your chance to do something special. Maybe it’s time for you to develop new skills. It could be a new phase of life since you were already so well developed. Consider it a blessing in disguise. An opportunity of sorts, if you will. Azarael sighed. That was not what he wanted to hear, but since he could no longer observe everything, he would go down and observe what he could up close. He still had to watch. Only he had to do it up close and personal now that he could no longer focus his attention from his post so far away. He continued to walk slowly until he arrived and stood in the very streets he had once watched from so far away.
It was strange to be standing here. A place that he knew so well and had watched so often yet had never been himself. There was a whole new level of sensation that enveloped him. Before he had watched only with his eyes, and yet now, it included so much more. The smells, the sounds, the tastes, and the sensations. He soon lost himself in these strange and varied experiences that more than made up for his lost attention span. He realized that his observation from afar had been like watching a horror movie without sound. Without the eerie, creepy noises to freak him out, he had never fully understood how terrifying it was to be here going through the crazy experiences of life that humans did.
Azarael couldn’t say that he still understood fully why they did some of the crazy things that they did, and yet, somehow, things made so much more sense now as he watched them up close with all these added new sensations. He still didn’t jump in to help them, but at times he felt the urge. He felt like he could empathize with them and understand what they were going through at a whole different level. And over time, with careful practice and exercise, he discovered that his skills began to return. After some time, they seemed to be stronger and better than ever. Once again, he could see everyone in the city and everything they did at any given moment. He could fully divide his attention over millions of different places and individuals.
And yet, he felt no desire to return to his post. He didn’t want to watch and observe from afar. Let the other watchers speak ill of him. He no longer cared if they felt sorry for him for having lost his skills. He had found something far better, and he had no desire to go back. So, he stayed, and lived, and walked among mere mortals as one of them, yet not being one of them. Continuing his task of watching and observing and recording everything they did. And from time to time, he helped one or another in their times of desperation. Just a little. Not enough to harm them or cause them to lose their way. But just enough to see them through their moment of desperation and give them hope that they could see their way through once again to the other side. And the sensation he got in return after a moment like this was worth more than the biggest promotion in the world. Worth more than watching and observing all the cities of the world. The new sensations of watching up close and personal made him want to narrow his focus to immerse himself fully and enjoy every observation in a way that he never could before. He smiled and breathed in a deep breath of gratefulness and appreciation for having been brought down here. Not that he ever wanted to see what he had seen again or go through that experience ever again. But without that, he never would have left his post and experienced all these new and amazing experiences that now seemed so natural and vital to his life. He often wanted to go back and tell the others what they were missing out on, but he knew it would do no good. They would have to go through their own crisis and moment of need to be brought down here to experience this moment of truth. They couldn’t be forced or coerced. They had to come on their own in a moment of desperation and need to fully experience it and realize what they were missing. Otherwise, they would simply flee back to the safety of their post where all they did was watch and observe ever more and more as they expanded their skills and reach without actually immersing themselves in it to fully understand and experience.
He moved around frequently spending time in every part of the city to fully immerse himself in the experience and understand those he watched up close and personal. It was like nothing he ever imagined in all those thousands of years from his post in the distance.
Azarael loved to go to the center of the city as the crowds slowly began to build up throughout the day. Especially, in those peak moments when they rushed to and from work. Hurrying about in their bustle and daily grind. Always running away from something and towards something else, but never fully aware themselves of what it was exactly. And yet, he knew that he couldn’t stop them to point that out. Only when they lost something they thought was important, would they realize that it was the little things that surrounded them that really mattered more than whatever it was they prioritized now. But that was okay because he understood now that this was what life was about and all those experiences leading them to discover what was truly important once they immersed themselves in that which they had once only observed from afar.
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