Short Stories

Very short works of fiction. Experimental!

House

“Perhaps you should…disengage.”

Vague. Enigmatic. Advice from an entity completely removed from the human experience. Her voice, muffled and layered through thick distortion feels like ice water dripping down my spine. The thoughts come before I can rationalize them into words. Disengage? From what? Life? Do you understand how stupid that sounds?

“I apologize.”

No. No. Stop doing that. I swallow, acid burning my throat. Where was I, again? The wind whips my hair, my face numb from the cold. That feeling, the way it feels when you’re standing in an abandoned building. Marked with graffiti and a soiled mattress on the ground. When you are wandering the empty halls of a historic insane asylum, nervously wondering if the police around the area were on to you. How it feels to be walking through a playground that has been closed for the winter, tucked away behind rolling hills of empty land. Your very being existing in a place it should not be.

I remember, my love, that time we went to our usual place. There was a building that stood tall next to a shack full of garbage and scrap metal. The same building, every time, for years. Unchanging. And then, that day, the separator next to the door that was always rolled down was raised slightly. A glimpse into the unknown. We never dared to go in there. Why would we? KEEP OUT and BUILDING UNDER SURVEILLANCE signs littered the damn place. And yet, there was someone inside. Not a car in sight, and someone inside.

“A strange turn from our previous conversation. I do not see the relevancy, though I do recall.”

Relevancy? You of all people have no right to speak of relevancy. Listen. It was a homeless guy. Living in that building. He came out and stared at us.

“It was quite a scare!”

Besides the point, but yes. She smiles, a cartoon sweat droplet appears on her cheek. Anxious for me to get to the point? Perhaps I shouldn’t torment her with my roundabout stories.

“…Indeed.”

Later, I think, we went inside that building. I say ‘I think’ because my entire timeline has become nebulous. There was a door around back, surrounded by strange artifacts such as ripped shirts and seemingly random items. We opened the door, and the building was an empty square of concrete. Almost empty. You remember.

“The house?”

An entire fucking house. In the corner of an abandoned building behind a god damn mattress king. Empty, expansive concrete and then a whole, albeit unfinished, house. In the corner. Years. And we didn’t know that was there. How many trips to that place? That lot? Being 16 and drinking white claws there, feeling untouchable. And there was a fucking house right next door. A house with people who. Lived there. Presumably.

When we saw it I didn’t even take a picture. I guess I didn’t want to immortalize it. God. Why was that there? There was no reason for that to be there. We went inside, obviously. There were food wrappers on the ground that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Recent things. Someone lived there.

“The resilience of human life!”

She smiles normally this time. Her eyes closed, an expression befitting of a cute girl. Yes, yes. Resilience. That place, though, was the pinnacle of a feeling consistent my entire life. The uneasiness, something deeply wrong. It gnaws at me. Endlessly.

Even now, the city feels wrong. I don’t know what street I’m on. It’s dark. Cold. Occasionally the piercing roar of a motorcycle crashes past me.

“Earlier. I apologized for asking that you disengage. I revoke that.”

“You’re right.” I say quietly, hopeful none of the fake people near me turn their heads. Mannequins, practically. It feels good to acknowledge her outwardly. Thank you. Thank you.

“Perhaps it is time to return home?”

And somehow she manages to save me yet again.

Roommate

I rotate a box of instant rice around in my hands, the packaging poorly designed. Too symmetrical, yet somehow equally unalligned. I am entirely unqualified to critique the work of someone getting paid far more than me to design lackluster products. Two years of advertising classes and for what.

"Nevertheless, you are still going to purchase it."

I don't validate that with a response. Her quips soften the harsh, fluorescent lighting of the supermarket. Yet, my first reaction is to brush her off.

"Naturally."

The box is returned to the shelf. Shelves stocked unevenly. Unrelated products are scattered throughout the displays. Part of me wants to fix it. I imagine my past bosses scolding me for doing such a shitty job stocking, telling me to work harder.

"How...unpleasant."

She grins. It looks exactly the same as usual, but I can tell it's forced. Despite myself I smile back. Back to myself. In the middle of aisle 7.

***

"You really should not be doing that."

Her voice is soft, caring. I almost think she means well, but I know better. I can feel her fingers running along my exposed skin, the flesh tingling where she touched.

"Leave me alone."

I feel bad as soon as the words leave my mouth. Worse than the physical trauma is making me feel. Her sadness permeates my form, ripping through my mind. I know she is frowning, staring down at me with those strange eyes.

"You are a fool."

Even her insults are gaudy. Couldn't she just tell me I'm a piece of shit? That I'm insane and a lost cause? She scoffs, annoyed I'd want her to say something so...unembellished. Of course.

"You are a careless, reckless schlub."

That's better. I guess. I can't even look at her, not like it matters. I know how she's looking at me.

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