[Flash Fiction Friday] Terry Rissen presents “Still Life”

Still Life by Terry Rissen

Hello Internet! Please give a hearty welcome to Terry Rissen! Terry brings us a really special piece “Still Life,” which is quite the mindbender. I’m always a sucker for a good Twilight Zone riff, and Terry delivers!

Our lonely hero Marcus is at a loss when random items start vanishing from his apartment. Wait. Where did the door go?

“Still Life”

by Terry Rissen

It began the day Jack left.

And it kept happening.

Marcus wasn’t sure when the finality of it all sank in. Could have been when he got up and found his coffee machine gone. Might not have been until his front door vanished, leaving smooth wall in its stead. Sometimes he had nightmares about the order things had happened in. Maybe his door had been first. Why would he have stayed?

He reached for the book he’d been reading, Migratory Habits of the Greater Lambit, but his fingers brushed only the cold slick surface of his end table. The book had been dry as dust but had appeared on the table where his grandmother’s lily vase had been. He tried to remain philosophical about his new reality; it helped keep the clawing panic at bay.

Maybe a new book would show up. The History of Watch Hands or Geologic Activity on the Indian Sub-Continent During the British Occupation. Or, maybe, whatever was doing this would return The Maltese Falcon so he could finish reading it. The long parade of dry tomes he’d been given to read seemed to be of the type libraries always had at least two copies of…and no one ever read. Perhaps all this was part of a lonely hearts book club desperately seeking readers.

Marcus went into the morning room. It used to be the living room but he called it the morning room now because the bright morning sun always shone through the windows. The clock on his DVR read a constant 8:42 AM. The kitchen was noon and raining. Their…his bedroom was night, with occasional wind that sometimes rattled the windows waking him to once again see it was always 3:08 AM.

He’d only gone into the second bedroom once after all this started. Marcus had taken one look at the indescribable gut wrenching scene outside that window and fled.

He saw it only in nightmares now.

Marcus’s stomach rumbled so he left morning and went to noon. In the kitchen, the percolator sat next to the sink, ready to be used. No matter where it was when he walked away, as long as it wasn’t in the process of heating coffee, it was always sitting clean and ready for use by the sink. It had appeared the day after his coffee maker was taken. Marcus had never actually used a percolator before, but he remembered his dad making coffee in one in the mornings.

So far, odd bits of food kept appearing in his kitchen. A few things, like coffee never ran out. There was always fennel, too. Marcus had never actually cooked with fennel and couldn’t remember buying it. Maybe Jack had. Still, he never went hungry, even if his options were strange at times. Some days, he was grateful. Other days he wished his instinct for self-preservation would let him leave it to rot.

Or vanish.

The eggplant and pulled pork pizza had been filling, if weird.

His fridge had changed again. The last time he’d been to the kitchen, it had been an old-fashioned white model that had screamed the 50s. Now it was brilliant brushed chrome with the freezer on the bottom and ice and water dispensers in the door. He opened it and found a steak on one shelf with an onion and a potato.

He supposed he was to have steak now. He thought he could live with that.

It’s amazing what a man can get used to when he has no other choice.

He’d gotten past the paralysis that kept him from leaving a room for fear of what would be taken while he was gone. There’d been a time when he’d tried to control what disappeared, but that had been fruitless. Then there was the time when he obsessively measured each room, one after the other in case they were shrinking…in case his apartment was going to go the same way his belongings did.

Marcus wondered what his neighbors thought. He’d tried banging on the walls but no one responded. Not even old Mrs. Jenkins who at the age of older-than-dirt could still manage to hear him run his hand through Jack’s hair. And complain about it. Had been able to.

Maybe they’d disappeared first.

Or maybe he had.

The scent of grilling steak and onions made his mouth water. He’d sliced the potato into a semblance of steak fries but had no desire to try to fry them. No oil, either. That had vanished a long time ago and never replaced. Baking would have to do.

He took his meal into the morning room, hoping to find a new book to read while he ate. A bookless morning it was, apparently. The marble end table was gone. He’d liked that one. Instead he now had a big teak end table. It was carved to look like an elephant and reminding him of a childhood spent watching old jungle movies.

Marcus finished his morning steak and put the dishes on the elephant. He sat back in his chair and stared out the window into the eternal morning sunshine. The sun was high enough to not blind him but what there was in terms of landscape was washed in a golden glow. And still. So very still. Nothing moved outside this window.

He sat there in his comfortable chair and wondered if he sat still enough would he vanish, too? Would he become part of the morning landscape? Had Jack left before the door did? He didn’t like that idea but it settled in his mind like the percolator by the sink.

Maybe if he sat very, very still there would be something different. Jack had always been able to be still. He had never been as frenetic as Marcus. Just. Be. Still.

It was worth a try.

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