idol friends and rivals | week nine | 1400 words
I could say that the dog ate my homework, but I'm a grown-up now—I don't have homework. Or, for that matter, a dog.
It's just that things keep disappearing. I'm either suffering from mental deficiencies, or there's some kind of vortex-thingy in my house. I know, totally annoying, right? Yeah, you don't know the half of it.
At first it was just little things, like socks. Everybody loses socks, so I didn't even think it was all that weird. Keys, sure, you lose those now and then, but they always turn up again. The receipts for November's travel expenses—that was a piece of grief. I spent an entire weekend turning the place upside down looking for those, because that was actual money.
The customer file for Jones & Klein was an even bigger panic—that almost cost me my job. I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to bring that thing home, but I've learned my lesson. Important papers stay at the office now—or at least, locked in the car. They do not cross over the threshold of mystery that defines this stupid place.
What really got me, though, was the hamster. I was looking after it while my neighbor was on vacation, and when I got up one morning the little guy had disappeared—cage and all. That was when I knew something was seriously wrong.
I didn't really know what to do about it. Who would you call for something like that? A scientist would just laugh you right off the phone. An exorcist didn't seem quite right, either, and all my friends would have thought I was nuts. So, I turned to the Internet.
Yes, I was actually that desperate.
"Duuuuuude!" seemed to be the prevailing opinion. I guess my situation was… enviously freaky, or something? The guys on the various message boards seemed to think so. Still, "Duuuuuude" wasn't an answer. No amount of creative Google searching netted me anything useful, either. It was all one gigantic, international, multi-server dead-end. Scratch that.
I decided that anally-retentive research should be the next course of action, so I charted dates and locations of all the things that disappeared. I wasted about two weeks on it before giving up. The incidents weren't often enough or consistent enough to really point to anything, just random and incredibly annoying. Boy, was I lucky or what?
It was making me kind of paranoid, to be honest. I was afraid to take my eyes off of anything, never knowing what I might lose next.
But then, something happened.
That hamburger I lost a couple of weeks ago? It turns out that it didn’t disappear so much as it moved. And lest you think I did it myself and somehow forgot about it, no. That's impossible. I would never store a hamburger in the back of the hallway closet.
Ugh. So many ants…
A pile of socks showed up on the bed yesterday. Under the covers. Some of them were even mine. It felt like there was a whole vengeful landlady thing going on, except I knew better because I owned the place.
I started worrying that poor little hamster might come back, whatever sorry state he might be in now. That was a happy thought.
As things came and went—sometimes within the same couple of hours—and the overall weirdness increased, I became more and more unsure what to do. I actually went back to some of the message boards I'd visited before, and updated the "dudes" on my status. I figured it couldn't hurt.
One night, a guy sent me a private message that contained just one word: poltergeist.
Huh. I hadn't thought of that, I'll admit, even when I was joking about the exorcist before. I'd always heard that poltergeists broke things and made an overall mess, not that they stole things. Could my problem really be as basic that?
Six months ago, would I ever even have thought a poltergeist was basic?
I dug around online, and found someone who specialized in problems like that. The whole thing was bizarre—it felt like I was on the down-low, looking for some sleazy secret action on the side. Still, I knew some people believed ghosts were real, and if ghosts were making my life miserable, I definitely needed help with that.
The woman who showed up was named Stefanie, and she looked normal enough. She came in and walked around, closed her eyes and did deep breathing. Then she said she didn't think there were any ghosts hanging around my house, which—hey, let's not rush to judgment. Give the idea a chance!
But she left after ten minutes, and she only charged me for travel expenses, so… I guess she meant it?
Great, so not a poltergeist or any other ghost. Back to square one.
The failed Stefanie visit was last week. Since then, I've lost a frying pan, my alarm clock (overnight—so I was late for work the next day), and the clothes rod in the bedroom closet. I've gained a spice rack and an encyclopedia set. For a couple of hours on Saturday, I had a really cute little kitten, but then it disappeared again.
I poke around the house after work every day, looking for 'strangeness.' What's behind the sofa or under the kitchen table? Does anything look warped or out of place?
Tonight, for the first time, I find something.
Inside the cabinet under the bathroom sink, there's a faint glow. When I open the door, the air hums and crackles, and there's a shimmering vagueness to the box of Band-aids and extra toilet paper I keep under there. What is it?
I stretch my fingers out toward it, barely touching the surface. There's a tingling sensation, and then this sudden pull. Before I even realize what's happening, I'm suddenly moving so fast my ears roar and my stomach flips over, and everything is so bright it hurts. Then an instant later, it all stops and I tumble into—
right out into—
Hey. What? Where the hell am I?
I've either been transported someplace else, or there's a large, beautiful garden somewhere inside my bathroom cabinet. I hear water, and I walk over around a huge stand of lilac bushes to investigate, but there's still nothing familiar there. The water is actually a little brook, with dragonflies wandering overhead. I stand there and watch it for a bit. It's the calmest I've felt in months.
A rustle in the bushes behind me catches my attention. I see a little paw poke out, and then a head. It looks like—yes, it looks like the kitten that came to visit me last weekend!
"Well, hi there!" I pick it up, and hold it next to my face, and it purrs up a storm. "Did you miss me?"
I snuggle it close as I look under the bushes, but I don't see its family. Even going back around to the other side, there's nobody but the two of us here.
That suits me just fine.
"What do you think of this place?" I ask. "It's pretty, isn't it?"
The kitten just purrs.
I walk around the garden, then out toward a meadow. There are hills not far off, lush and green with flowers running up the sides. I want to explore them.
I think about my weird house, and my horrible boss—who seems to be trying to kill me one fire-drill freakout at a time. I consider the fact that I'm forty and have never dated anyone longer than two weeks.
Not very impressive, is it?
Then I look at the blue sky and feel the warm sun against my face. I smell the faint mixture of flowers and fresh grass drifting on the breeze. The kitten is still purring in my arms, gently gnawing on my left thumb.
Everything is so peaceful and beautiful here, like nothing I've ever known before. This could be a whole new world, or an earlier version of the regular one. Does it matter? I've been chasing answers to the unknown for ages now, and what has it gotten me?
I step into the tall grass and start making my way toward those hills.
Wherever this place is, I like it.
I think I'll stay here awhile.
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