FFFTTD Day 11: Something commonplace begins vanishing mysteriously, why? And what happens?
After he called me and told me that he had found someone better, I fell into a brief period of absolute despair.
My tiny studio apartment became a sty to wallow in. The recycling bin overflowed with empty bottles of fancy beers I couldn’t really afford. The varnish of my coffee table was permanently be-ringed from the bottoms of cold glasses. Soon even those vanished as the surface of the table was covered by weekly newspapers and books about other people who were suffering as much as or more so than I was.
It smelled. It smelled like old food and unwashed clothes and me. I stank of sad, my body emitting some kind of chemical trail that warned other humans to stay far away.
A week after I was dumped, I spent my Friday night drinking myself into a stupor in front of a Bogart movie. I slurred the lines along with the film. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” I said, swirling the dregs of warm beer at the bottom of my glass. “HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID.”
I half woke up on the couch in the middle of the night. I was in one of those dream states where your eyes are open, but you can’t move your arms or legs. I felt like something was sitting on my chest. It was covered in dark, wiry hair. A tail lashed against my thighs. It was about the size of a cat, but it was definitely not a cat.
The thing growled at me through its whiskery mouth. There were guttural, foreign words in that growl, but I couldn’t decipher them. I wanted to say that I didn’t understand, but I couldn’t speak.
The thing flicked me hard on the nose.
I woke up to Saturday morning sunlight streaming in through my single window and piercing my head like little spears. As I stumbled up off the couch, I stepped on something sharp in my bare feet and cursed. The floor of my apartment was littered with tiny screws. I didn’t know where they came from. Somewhere in my home, something was broken.
I sat back down on the couch.
“Get a grip,” I said to the empty air of my apartment. “Get yourself together.”
I spent the day getting it together. I showered, picked my dirty underwear off the floor, and did a load of laundry. I cleared the surfaces of my table and my bed and carried bags of trash to the curb. I turned on public radio and diligently rid myself of the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I brewed tea. I threw out the moldering leftovers in my fridge and made a pot of brothy cabbage soup.
When my apartment was clean, I still couldn’t figure out where the screws had come from. I looked suspiciously at the cheap bookshelves that lined my walls. If they collapsed, I would probably be crushed to death by the resulting avalanche of hardcovers. I put the pile of screws on my coffee table so that I wouldn’t lose them and read a book before bed. I put it back on the shelf gingerly when I was done.
In the morning the screws were gone. When I padded over to the couch, I found that I didn’t have to brush a film of dust off of the soles of my feet when I sat down. The floors had been swept. I never sweep.
That night I left a dish of milk and salted bread in front of the stove, like I remembered my great-grandmother doing when she was still alive. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Stay with me.”
Idea came largely from this Exploding Dog comic, which has been haunting me for weeks. Also, domovoi, because I really love the concept of domestic spirits. The title is just the transliteration of “home”. This story is more about mundane objects appearing instead of disappearing, but I’m going to say it counts because the screws did disappear from wherever they were supposed to be.