BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! My alarm clock blares in my ear. I crack my eye to see it’s 0530; sigh…. I roll my limp body to the edge of the bed and sit up while leaning over to shut off the alarm clock which is no longer sounding. I adjust my eyes and focus on the clock again, 0529… 0530 BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Wow, I think to myself. I don’t recall ever having a dream about my alarm clock going off, or at least one so vivid. I, seemingly again, reach over and shut off the alarm clock. After sitting for a moment to clear the fog from my head, I continue my morning routine of taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and getting a little bite to eat before making my way to the office at Tic (it’s a global clock distributor if you must know).
I’m single, so I need not worry about the fuss of feeding animals (really single) or saying goodbye to my significant other. On my way out the door, I see that the river across the street has crested, as predicted a few days ago. My little town is in the middle of an unprecedented storm, and I see there’s no way I’m going to get to work today. Thinking as much I reach into my pocket to pull out my phone to call work. However, it’s not there. I lean to the left to look into the window near my door, and sure enough, it’s sitting on the kitchen table. Reaching into my briefcase to get my keys I notice they’re not there, either. Again, I look into the window. There sitting right next to my phone, along with my coffee cup, are my keys. “Well, this is a shit day,” I say aloud.
Looking around, thinking maybe I could break my window, I resolve to realize that would be stupid and slump my shoulders in defeat.
I look over towards Ms. Wells’ house; my neighbor. I can’t tell if she’s home. She doesn’t own a car, so it’s always hard to know. I look at my watch, 0715, I hope she’s up.
I walk over to her house which is similar to mine in the small neighborhood in which we live. I walk up the door and notice it’s slightly ajar as I go to ring the doorbell. “Not” being the nosy type I knock hard enough to crack the door a little more. I stick my head in slightly shouting a “hello?!” I wait a moment before trying again, “hello?!”
Stepping into the house, I was immediately greeted with the foul smell of rot. I used to hunt with my father as a boy, and thus I’m very familiar with the smell of rotting flesh, and this, this is that smell. I first think of Ms. Wells- she didn’t seem that old though.
I take a moment to look around and see a bland looking couch on one end of the living room and a television on the opposite wall. Looking through the door across the house I can see the dining room and its table. Upon the table are a phone, a set of keys, and a coffee cup… I tilt my head to one side as if to over exaggerate my amusement of what I’m looking at. Again, I loudly ask/say “hello!?” Feeling as if I won’t be interrupted while looking around, I walk over to the dining room table and immediately notice that Ms. Wells has the same phone I have. In fact, her phone has a scratch across its glass screen just as mine does. I click the power button and find she also uses the same standard background I do with a four-digit code. Hmm… I hum to myself. I try my code just for the sake of tying; 0. 5. 2. 9… it unlocks. I wonder if I call my phone… I begin to think- but alas, I have “no service.”
I look at the keys also sitting on the table, it’s a key ring with a key for a Honda Fit, a house key, a padlock key, a larger door key, and a Superman figure attached to the ring. My keys. The coffee mug is my dented daily commuter mug too.
I look up and realize that this house, Ms. Wells’ house, is sparsely furnished the same as mine; precisely like mine. That bland couch, mine. The television on the cheap wooden stand, mine. I walk to look down the hall towards where the bedroom door should be. The door is closed and upon its face is a small chunk of the hollow prefabricated door missing from the lower left where it meets the door-jam, just like mine.
I walk towards the door peering into the bathroom along the way and notice the red toothbrush sitting in its cup and the razor and cream next to it. It too is mine.
Upon reaching the door, I stop before opening it, the stench of the house is now overly pungent, and I wish I had something other than my hand to cover my mouth and nose. I opened the door, and nearly throw-up as the smell is overwhelming.
The room- it’s my room. And there is someone in the bed opposite of where I stand. It’s where I’d be sleeping if I was in there and not standing here looking at the bed. I slowly start walking to the other side of the room to the opposite side of the bed and realize there are a copious amount of flies in the place. As I rear around the corner of the bed, I see Ms. Wells covered in the bed to the top of her head. I make a call out to here before touching, “Ms. Wells, are you awake.” I try to stifle a cough and an urge to throw-up again.
With no answer and unable to call for help or, even find help in this storm, I reluctantly reach for the top cover and pull it down just enough to see that the smell is definitely coming from her. Her skin is dark, and the signs of rot are present on the top of her head. However, I notice something amiss; her hair is… gone.
I reach back to the blanket and pull it down a little further and notice it’s not her, but a man. Pulling the sheets down even further I gasp to myself seemingly forgetting how the breath.
“Welcome home…” is the last thing I heard.