It was an isolated existence. She had enough perspective to be aware of that. She knew a normal person could leave the House, and for that reason she knew she should see a doctor, a psychiatrist, even just another human being.
She couldn’t remember ever having left the House, although common sense told her that surely she had left at some point in the distant past. Now, she would reach for the front door and the fear would be overwhelming. Her heart would leap into her throat, blocking her cries from escaping, blocking her breath from coming in, until . . . Her memory gave her only a black nothingness. She would wake up some time later in her bed. Flat on her back, her arms down by her sides, and her quilt neatly tucked around her, she would have no idea how she got there. Had it been merely a few hours or whole days since her attempt to leave the House? She didn’t know. None of the clocks in the House worked. She had lost track of the days some time ago.
At times she would bustle with energy, going up and down the stairs seemingly faster than her legs could possibly carry her, moving from room to room, rapidly performing meaningless household tasks. More often than not, however, her time was filled with periods of prolonged stillness. She would sit at the kitchen table, staring at an apple pie that had been carefully placed at the table’s center. It seemed plastic and unappetizing. She couldn’t remember making the pie. She had no idea how it made it to the table.
Other times she would lay on her living room floor, annoyed by her own inability to work up the inertia to move. She would simply lay there, a puddle of inactivity, for days at a time, staring at the windows which covered the entire back side of the house. While she could appreciate the grandness of that particular architectural gesture, and enjoyed the warmth and light the wall of windows provided, her disease would not allow her to see past the panes of glass. The world outside was a frustrating blur no matter how long she stared at the windows.
She spent most of her time wishing for a companion. A pet or a lover who could maybe help her start to feel more normal in this lonely world. It was a wish that didn’t make it any less disturbing when she discovered a man and two small children seated at her kitchen table one morning.
She let out a small scream of fright and yelled at the three newcomers to get out of her house. When they refused to respond in any way, she approached them cautiously. She eased into the chair next to the man who was sitting stiffly, staring blankly out the back windows.
“What do you want?” She asked the man. He didn’t answer, continuing to stare blankly ahead. She stared at the windows, too, trying to see what had so captured the man’s attention, but all she could see was the same old blur of light.
“Do you need help? You need to leave my house, but I will help your children if they need it,” she offered. She touched the man’s arm, hoping to break the hold of the windows. His arm felt cold and plastic. Still he refused to acknowledge her.
“Who are you? Why are you in my house? Why won’t you answer me?!” she asked. With each question she became more frustrated with the man’s unblinking stare, with his unwillingness to even look at her.
“At least look at me! Hey! What the hell are you staring at? What’s out there that’s so damned interesting?!!” She screamed and slapped the table. In frustration she grabbed the apple pie from the center of the table. It felt solid and heavy and with satisfaction she heaved it at the wall of windows which had taken possession of all of the man’s attention.
She expected to hear the shattering of glass. Instead she watched as the pie soared unimpeded out the back window, landing with a soft thud on the ground beyond. A plane of her reality had been broken, and with that single action the world outside snapped into focus. She wondered how long the back windows had been without any glass.
In shock, without thinking, she walked out the back of her house, stepping down onto a soft, plush carpet. She looked around, seeing for the first time that the outside world did not contain the grass, trees and sky of her dreams. Instead she saw giant stuffed animals, huge brightly colored bricks, a massive yellow and green plastic kitchen.
The earth rumbled as a giant ran into the room. She turned to look back at the House for the first time. She realized the House had never had a wall of windows along the back side. Instead, the House was sheared off, exposing each room inside of her house to the giant’s room. She could now see that the man and his two small children were nothing more than life-sized dolls.
“How did you get all the way out here?” the giant’s voice boomed. Before she knew it she had been scooped up and placed firmly back at the kitchen table. She stared blankly ahead at the child who sat across from her. A few moments later the giant’s hand reached through the back of the House, gently placing the apple pie back in its place at the center of the table.
It was an isolated existence. She couldn’t remember ever having left the House.
Aside from a change in title (it was originally “In the Dollhouse,” but that gave away too much), this is still essentially a first draft, so be kind . . . Which actually leads me to a Ms. B. story: I once gave her a first draft of a story I had been working on for her. “This is not finished, so I know it’s not perfect, but just take a look. Tell me, do you like the idea? Do you want to read more?” She excitedly took the pages from me, looked at them for about five seconds, and then said, “I think you need a comma here.” Oh Ms. B., you never cease to entertain.
Anyway, I have been inspired by NPR’s three-minute fiction (link to the right), cranking out a series of ultra-short stories over the last few weeks. Each has taken approximately an hour to write, after which they are discarded and I move on. It’s fun and has been creatively freeing. It’s also a method which leads to the production of a lot of crap. But every now and then I get something I sort of like. This was one of those moments.