Everyone Thinks I’m Dead
Mike never believed I could do this. He didn’t believe his mother would like me, he didn’t believe fried okra could be appetizing, and he didn’t believe I could invent a teleportation device.
“Get out of the garage and spend some time with your family,” he would say.
“This will change the world,” I would say.
“The world will change itself,” he would say.
Well, I invented a teleportation device and teleported myself right into the wall of our front entryway, a solid twenty yards from the teleporter’s home in the second stall of the garage. I was aiming for the backyard, but I teleported, and I did it alone, and no one can take that away from me.
I am stuck in this wall, though. Immobile, incommunicado, unable to do anything but hear and feel and think. How I’m hearing and feeling and thinking, I do not know. When I engaged the teleporter, I was facing away from this wall. I shudder to think of how I got turned around. I can’t feel my arms or legs. Maybe they’re somewhere else in the house. A leg in the pantry. An eyeball in the toilet tank. A nipple growing out of a doorknob.
A leg in the pantry. An eyeball in the toilet tank. A nipple growing out of a doorknob.
As close as I can figure, I’ve been part of this wall for a few weeks. I’m starting to think I’m not getting out. No one is looking for me. They think I was stupid enough to get in a homemade teleportation device I wasn’t certain was going to work and died. At least, I think so—I hope they don’t think I just ran off.
They aren’t audibly mourning me any longer, although I rarely mourned in the front entryway before I became part of it. My friends have stopped coming by to check up on them, I assume because it is too hard for my colleagues to look the children of a dead failure in the eye. That’s what breaks my heart—that Toby and Clarissa will grow up thinking their mother was a misguided mad scientist. If I had my way, they would remember me as an Amelia Earhart type. But if I really had my way, I wouldn’t be stuck in a wall in the first place.
I wish Mike were less of a biologist. Could we communicate through a Ouija board? I can hear my own thoughts; is it unreasonable to believe a medium could too? Maybe his rationality will drive one of the kids (probably Clarissa) to be one of those spiritual people. And maybe Toby will follow in my footsteps, improving on his mother’s work. And maybe Clarissa will bring in a psychic to reach me, and maybe I can talk Toby through finishing the teleporter and getting me out of here. But it’s foolish for a wall to hope. I know that.
The other day, a squirrel climbed up through one of the holes in the soffits Mike and I used to idly worry about. It lost its balance in the attic and fell down behind me. It scratched at me from the inside, with a worryingly human mania, right up until its last breath. It was kind of like a reverse pregnancy.
They aren’t audibly mourning me any longer, although I rarely mourned in the front entryway before I became part of it.
I can’t smell my squirrel companion decomposing, but Mike can. He stood right in front of me, as close to me as he had ever stood in the last eight years. I could feel his warmth and hear him breathing. Then he recoiled and said, “Jesus Christ!” and whipped his cell phone out and called a guy. They did not think to check if there was a woman in the wall before auguring a hole in me. Luckily, it didn’t hurt, but I felt emptier with the squirrel gone.
They’re moving. They’ve stacked boxes up in front of me. A realtor gave open houses, but didn’t mention the previous tenant, a brilliant physicist who vanished while working on a teleporter—or if they did, I couldn’t hear it from the entryway.
Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m not angry. I love them too much. Living in this house must be hard for them. Everywhere they look is a memory of me (at least, I hope so). I’m surprised they stayed this long. A year is a long time. It was never our dream house.
It occurs to me I might just be dead. Maybe this is what death is like. Maybe I’m a haunted house. I do my best to play my part. I try to squeak the floorboard at my base. I try to go bump in the night, to no avail. I hoped I could perfect the art of haunting, scare out a string of tenants, be abandoned, and just fall into disrepair and the Earth can reclaim this land.
But another family has moved in now. Their mother isn’t a mad scientist, nor is she missing. She marks the children’s heights against me in pencil. She tells them to lean up against me and to take their shoes off. Who am I to scare them away? I’m just the wall of their front entryway.
He’s just a St. Paul boy trying to find his way in the big city, one short story at a time. He’s Alex Kies.
Illustration by Nusha Ashjaee.