A story about a young man who tries to drop out of the world but can’t — it was published in Monsters & Dust in Spring 2010. Nick Wylie did the illustrations for the piece, which you can read in its entirety by following the link below.
Brice opened the garden shed door. A one-room shack, he generally felt like a giant inside. He intended to live there for fifty dollars a month on money gained from a student loan that he no longer intended to put towards his education. With no other commitments, no classes or job, he figured he could live five years in this shed. He called himself a homesteader.
Accustomed to his relative proportion, he leaned into the ensuing dark. It was cool and dank; it felt like a cave. The shed seemed different suddenly; while he’d slept well in the cot in the corner, he was suddenly uncomfortable. It did not feel like a home. The compass of his personal effects was unapparent. He couldn’t make out his property. Instead he blinked, his pupils still small from the light of midday. There was a dark smell that engulfed and then dissolved everything within it.
Brice felt someone watching him, an external scrutiny; felt also that the darkness was holding its breath, waiting to see what he might do in order to pounce. To shoot him. He cleared his throat. Considering aliens and anal probes, Brice wondered why the two were linked: abduction implied penetration, but why?
He raised his voice in an attempt to conquer what he couldn’t see. “I’m angry with you,” he said, pointing a finger first at the door and eventually at the darkness just beyond it. “You bit me.” Brice was breathing and noticed. He felt his heart hammering in his chest. He wished his voice had been deeper.
“Funniest thing,” Loretta said to the coffee pot, “my girlfriend told me she had a yeast infection.”
Brice cocked his head. He was sitting at the counter.
“Haven’t seen her in ten years and she tells me she’s got a yeast infection. Like it’s the first thing she tells me, ‘I’m coming to visit, but I gotta yeast infection.’”
“Did you tell her about the oil of tea tree?” Ollie offered from his stool across the room. He spent most days at the diner, from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon when he went to play bingo. He liked to talk to Loretta. He liked to talk with all the girls.
“What am I, a medicine woman?”
Assuming a stoop, Brice took a step inside the shed. and He strained his eyes to see in the dark. He could make out the edge of his stereo system, but just the edge. His television screen reflected a small wink of the day behind him as it shone through the doorway. His silhouette blocked much of that light. He clenched his fist. Brice was stern.
“What is this, the void? This is bullshit,” his whine was shrill. His hand felt a different, unnatural wind pass nearby. Something moved in front of him. Something soft, something inconsistent with the edges of his furniture. The hair on his arms bristled. The darkness shuffled on its haunches. Something crashed behind the open door. “Get the hell out of my fucking house!” Brice’s voice cracked like a teenager: screeching, vulnerable, impotent. He grabbed the nearest book and slammed it into the farthest corner of the little shed: a diversion against this unknown enemy. Brice ran into the dark, to the other corner of the shed and switched the light on. He was shaking. He attributed it to the shed.
Afraid to turn around, he stared at the lamp, one arm on the wall to steady himself. He didn’t want to pass out. There was another crash behind him and then a growl. The growl grew into a high-pitched whine, more childish than his own. (Read more)