Gary stood triumphantly over the kitchen sink, scrubbing a damp cloth against a plate.
“What’s wrong?” A soft voice rang out from across the kitchen. He flicked his head, trying to suppress a chuckle.
“It’s fine.” He looked around the kitchen for a moment before dropping his gaze back upon the sink. Hushed footsteps made their way to him from behind.
“I noticed there were a couple of things wrong, though,” she said. “I think we should talk about it.” He nodded. “Well, there’s really not much to talk about.” He turned back toward her.
“Anyway, we can talk a bit about something you like instead–” she interrupted and crossed her arms.” No. I’m not gonna move a muscle until you tell me." Gary sighed, set his plate and rag down in the sink, and meandered through the kitchen, into the living room.
“There’s really nothing to talk about. I was sick. It’s fine.”
Gary collapsed onto the couch, snatched the remote from off of the coffee table, and put on a soap opera.
“If you ever feel like talking, just call me. I’m not gonna show up or anything, but I’ll talk to you on the phone.”
Gary jolted upright, staring back toward her as she walked out the door.
“You’re leaving already?”
“Uh… Yeah. There wasn’t anything messed up going on, so that’s good.”
“But I haven’t seen you in a while. It’s been like a year since you came to visit.”
“Yeah… Good luck.”
With that, the woman sauntered out the door, slamming it shut behind her. A few moments passed. Gary looked back up toward his muted soap opera. He preferred to read the subtitles. Gary pondered for a moment how weird that makes him. At once, the front door slammed open. The woman marched back into the house, easing the door shut just behind her.
“Did you change your mind?”
“Uh, yeah… I reconsidered and shit.”
“Oh, that’s great! So, do you want to hang out or something?”
“About that… There is actually something. I’m gonna go take a nap. You stay in here and watch your soap opera shit.”
Before he could speak, she had already marched down the hall and into his room, slamming the door shut behind her. Gary sighed. In a hushed whisper, he said,
“You can be a real dick sometimes, you know that?”
With that, Gary plopped himself back down onto the couch and stared up at the television. In time, his eyes grew heavy, and he drifted to sleep. The lights flickered, and Gary jolted upright from his position on the couch, staring down behind him where his body lay behind. He stared down at himself, at his body still laying on the couch. Gary raised his hands before his face, staring down at his own body. He trotted out of the living room, down the hall, and settled before the entryway to his room.
He frowned, reached out toward its handle, and pulled the door open. Inside was a cocktail of memories and expectations. He listened to the music and the laughter, as he told himself he was meeting an old friend for the first time in centuries. In his mind, he heard the voice of his sister, that of the knight, who saved him.
He stared at the ceiling, or perhaps the ceiling looked into him, because he’d never seen it that way before. When all was said and done, Gary’s mind filled with memories of the knight and the soul that had made him feel safe. He called and called, but she never came. “You’re not supposed to be here, Gary.” She said, “I don’t know why you called. I’ve never called you before.” Gary shook his head. “No, no. I never called either. I’ve never called you; never —” Gary’s eyes widened. Gary stared at her, and then he trembled. “You’re not my sister.” “What do you mean, Gary?” she asked. She stared through him for a moment. Gary tried to turn around — he pushed himself as hard as he could, but it was no use. He couldn’t move, but he could feel his soul straining to slither out of his flesh. Gary took a step backward. He could see into the back of his own head as he hobbled about the room around Gary, standing perfectly still before him.
He wandered deeper into the abyss. At one point, the uncompromising darkness transitioned into planks of wood, floorboards lining a room in the distance. He trekked straight ahead, coming to a halt before his living room. Inside, he saw a man, a woman, and a few children. There were adults gathered in the kitchen, gesturing sharply toward the other, while the children ran about the place. Gary stepped foot into this house—his house — and he sauntered down the hall toward his bedroom for a moment. He turned around to face the couch, where he saw himself curled up into a ball, sleeping beneath the light of a soap opera playing on the television. Gary chuckled, then turned around to face the door once more.
He frowned, reached out toward its handle, and pulled the door open. Inside was a cocktail of memories and expectations. Curled up in a ball at the center of Gary’s bed was Aggie, snoring soundly. He paced up toward the bed before suddenly coming to a halt. He sprawled out on the floor, and he peered beneath his bed. There was a single book, bound in leather. He snatched the book from off of the ground, and he plopped it on top of the bed, tossing open its front cover. At that moment, a woman wandered into his room, staring down at him as he leaned against the side of the bed.
“What’s all this about?” She asked.
Gary stared blankly at her.
“Where did you find that?”
He stared back down into the text, trying to make sense of it.
“I know what you are.” He said.
The woman stepped closer to Gary, stopping just short of him.
“And what would that make me?’
She did not reply. Gary kept his head down, staring into the page. He couldn’t make sense of the words. Sure—He could read each word individually, and he was sure that there was some meaning to be found somewhere, but he couldn’t make sense of it. He slammed the book shut and looked up. The woman was gone — the walls were gone. The floor was gone. Again, he found himself trapped in a cold void. On the horizon, he heard footsteps. He wandered away from the familiar, with the book still in hand, and he wandered and wandered. Some time passed. The sound of footsteps died down. His hands trembled as he edged his way through the dark. He took a step back, and his life shrank. The world collapsed beneath him, and he fell.
Gary jolted upright on his couch. His mind was crashing back into its proper place. He scrambled up to his feet, and he sprinted out of the living room and into the kitchen. Gary threw open the refrigerator door, slid the ingredients about, reaching toward the back of the fridge, but he did not find his gun. He slammed the door shut, backpedaled for a moment, and turned toward the hallway leading into his room. He marched down that hall, and he threw open that door. There, he saw his sister standing in the middle of the room.
“Uh… What’s up?”
“Then why are you here–”
Gary sauntered past her and took a seat down on his bed. He snatched the book up from his side and sat down on his lap, turned it open to a random page, and gazed at it once more.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” She asked.
Gary did not respond. He was understanding. Gary closed his eyes, leaning closer into the book. He felt the warmth of Godfrey and the icy sting of — someone else. Snap. Gary looked up away from the book where his sister had snapped her fingers before his face.
“Hey, are you alright?”
He stared at her hand for a moment. His eyes traced the length of what looked like a length of string, guiding her hand before his face like a marionette hanging from the ceiling. He cocked his head to face her. On her shoulders, and on her head, and on her elbows, and her wrists, and her knees, strings guided her every movement as she stared back at him. She said, “Yeah, something’s definitely fucked up with you, Gary.”
He stared back at her for a moment, and he sobbed. She rolled her eyes.
“Dude, what’s the deal?” She asked.
“I—I know the truth.”
“Yeah? Which is?”
“You didn’t answer my call.”
She fell silent.
“It’s okay that you didn’t. I get it. You had stuff that you were doing. I’m not holding it against you.”
Gary leaned forward and gave her a hug.
“Someone else picked up the phone. Some guy I didn’t know—he said you were dead, but I knew he was lying.”
Gary paused for a moment. He continued,
“And then I saw you, and I just stopped thinking because I’m alone. I did the same thing when I saw Aggie.”
Gary pulled away from her. He glanced about his room while she remained, sitting at the foot of the bed, motionless.
“But I never bought a cat named Aggie. I bought a cat once—a long time ago — and she was probably my best friend. But she’s been dead for a while now.”
Gary chuckled as he stood up from the bed.
“I know this isn’t your fault. This isn’t Godfrey’s fault either. I love Godfrey. I’ve never met the guy, but I’m sure he’s lovely. He has a beautiful heart, you know?”
He reached out, waving his hand in front of her face. He leaned in closer. She did not move. She sat perfectly still, as if she had frozen over.
“Hey, do you hear me?” Gary asked. A voice whispered,
His sister did not speak. She remained lifeless still. Creak. His bedroom door cracked open. Out of the corner of his eye, a familiar figure had come into view. It was Gary. He stood face to face with himself.
“What’s all this about?” The other man asked, staring blankly toward Avery as she sat lifelessly still. Gary glanced around the room. The book he had been holding was nowhere to be seen. Gary glanced back up toward the man, only to find that he bore the book in hand.
“Where did you find that?” Gary asked. The man said nothing, dropping his gaze to stare into the page. Then the man spoke.
“I know what you are.” He said.
Gary stepped closer to the man, stopping just short of him.
“And what would that make me?” Gary asked.