Cicadas buzz outside the apartment, but there is no trace of sound other than the drone of TV news in the apartment. Lan sits in the middle of the couch, his long black hair obscuring the vacant stare towards the floor. The place seems prefab, new furniture, spotless counters and walls, only a few pictures: an older woman smiling, a family, Lan when he was younger, between a taller girl, and an impeccably dressed man and woman. Muffled jingling catches his ear as his neighbor come home. He hears her laughing, talking loudly to a friend? No, into a cell phone.
        I know my neighbor. But she doesn't know me. She seems nice enough. Loud, young, twenties? Thirties? There is that college nearby. Does she go there? Does she work? I wonder what that's like.
        His mind races with thoughts, possibilities as to her origins, her personality, or even what she looks like, though for all of that, he's still and quiet on the couch, staring at nothing. He can hear her laughing through the thin walls.
      Who is she talking to? It can't be family, you don't talk to family like that. A friend? Maybe making plans for the weekend. What day is it, it's Thursday, right? Thursday the..
      For the first time, Lan's brow furrows, reaching up and pushing back his hair, the half-Japanese, half-American man actually showing an emotion for once. Confusion. Frustration.
        The.. twentieth. The twentieth? Three months since then, that was a Tuesday, May, June, July.. Wednesday? It's a fucking Wednesday, you moron, plans for the weekend, seriously?

         Today is July 23rd. A Monday.


      Saya is grinning to nobody as she talks on her phone, shedding shoes, socks, a jacket, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that the balcony door is half open. It was a nice summer day, why not let it in?
      “--I know, I'm SO happy to be back in my apartment. The summer break was so utterly BORING back home. My parents wouldn't let me do ANYTHING, not that I could either way with the part-time job, and don't get me started on my brother. Ugh.” she complains, falling backwards on her twin bed, bumping the frame against the wall loudly – against the wall between apartments. She winces and pauses her conversation for a moment to look at the poster-covered space.
      Her conversation partner finally speaks, a masculine voice: “What was that noise?”
      “My bed. It hit the wall. I hope I didn't wake up the guy next door. Not that I ever see him..” She turns and lays proper on the bed, even being a full, it dwarfs her five foot nothing stature. “Hey,” she asks, “You were the one that helped me find this apartment, do you know anything about the guy next door? In 2D?”
      The voice on the other end hmms, “Him? I don't know. The super mentioned he had been there for six months or so, but never saw him come or go, gets deliveries, pays the rent on time. Why, is he bothering you or something?”
      “Mm-mm,” she shakes her head, even though they can't see it, “I just.. I don't see lights on under the door when I go past, or in passing. What do they call them? Hoarders? Hermits? Hermits.” She looks at the wall as if it could give her answers – who was on the other side? Someone was there.
      “Hermit,” the voice affirms, “You think he's one of those? Do you ever hear anything from..”
      Opposites, she thinks. Vibrant, and solitary. Black and white.

      Outside, the cicada's call grows louder.


      The TV murmurs in low tones as the couch is empty, an anchorman droning on about local news, and the storm above. Lan is stood in front of his freezer, looking at the packaged meals, pizza, ice cream, ready-to-heat, but not very healthy. Time passes, as it always does, he seems more gaunt, hair stringier than it was before. Lan closes the freezer, opening the fridge. It seems brand new, except for condiments on the door, and one or two takeout boxes. A tupperware with feminine writing on it sits unopened with home-cooked food – obviously not from here, or by him.
      Some memory, not from recent times, comes flooding back to him and Lan's eyes start to well with tears. He shuts the fridge quickly and clasps both hands over his mouth, his gaze hardening against whatever feeling he's remembering, but it doesn't stop the tears. Rolling down his face and over his hands, he sniffs, but only briefly, any other air would have to come out and he was very, very afraid of the sound he would make should it escape. He tries desperately to rid himself of the memory, think in tech, think of news. It's going to get colder, you should look into getting a new graphics card. She's dead and gone and you are the reason why. When is the rent due? What has Travis been doing lately? How much sodium is in that frozen pizza? You could have done something, you piece of shit. I NEED TO ORDER GROCERIES, WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I CHECKED OUT NEW MUSIC STOP THINKING STOP THINKING PLEASE JUST STOP THINKING.
      His eyes squint shut, hard, as if fighting the urge to vomit, nothing can escape. If you breathe you sob. If you sniff, you sob. Hold your shit in, you pathetic fuck. Stop. Thinking. Stop.
      After a few minutes, his trembling hands release his own face as blood flows back into his cheeks and through his fingers, his jaw sore from gritting his teeth. Calmly, swallowing, he pulls off a piece of paper towel and rubs his eyes, finally okay with a slow inhale, shaky exhale. He blows his nose, turns away from the fridge and tosses it in the trash.
He was safe for now. Safe. It crawls in slowly in the back of his mind
      (safe, hah..)
slumped, he makes his way back to the couch, sitting in front of the TV as the anchorman has moved onto presenting a shelter dog for the adoption of the week. In one ear, out the other, day by day.



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About the author


Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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