Two’s Company

No one was home. Well, I was in the house, but I didn’t count anymore. My home was gone somewhere else.
Half the windows were boarded up. A box of nails and a hammer sat beside a pile of plywood on the window seat. Glass sparkled from the greyish carpet. The dust was so heavy; I couldn’t tell its color. A bloody hand print was smeared across the peeling wallpaper. I stowed the hammer in my backpack.
Next stop was the kitchen. A carton of milk had spilled on the floor. Some fungus was growing in its dregs. Once in a while I saw something look at back at me. I avoided that spot on the floor.
The pantry had lots of empty shelves. Yet, there was still a sack of potatoes in the corner.
“Dumb butts left the potatoes.”
I jumped, looking for the talker. After a couple spins around the room, I realized it was me. That happened more often lately. I wouldn’t realize that I had opened my mouth rather than just keeping it in my head. With a shrug I hauled the bag of potatoes over my shoulder and tiptoed around the fungus thing. It was time to check the second floor.
My foot had just sunk into the carpet covering the first step when there was a knock at the door. No one knocked anymore. The doorknob could turn and the door could be bashed in, but knocking?
“Please, let me in.”
That wasn’t me. Someone else talking? When had that happened before?
“Please, please. I saw you sneaking in. You’re the first person I’ve seen in years!”
Person? Am I still one of those? What made a person a person rather than a thing? An animal? I felt like a rat. Rats scavenge.
“God, there’s one of those things on the road. It doesn’t see me yet, but it’s coming down the street. Let me in!”
No one believed in God anymore. Or Allah, or Buddha, or G-d, Zeus, or whatever they called it. I kept climbing the stairs. The person on the other side of the door started banging. If the thing down the street hadn’t seen the person yet, it certainly would hear soon.
“God, no! It’s coming here. Let me in!” The banging grew louder. Then there was the screaming. No point letting the person in now. That would just let both thing and person in.
“Please. I don’t want to change.” There was another scream. “Kill me, kill it too.”
“Kill you?” The words came out without my thinking.
“I don’t want to become one of them!”
And I eventually needed to go out the door. I patted my pockets. The letter opener was still there. Usually I stabbed things through the eye with it. Without them attacking me, of course. I could do it. Two less things crawly out there to kill me.
The person started crying. I couldn’t hear the thing. With a sigh I sat my backpack on the steps and put the bag of potatoes next to it. This door didn’t have a peephole. Wouldn’t know what’s on the other until I opened it.
With the mini knife clutched in my hand, I turned the handle.
A person was standing on the doorstop and smiling. The person? And there was no thing waiting. Nothing to stab.
“Hi, I’m Alex.” The person had a name?
Alex was balancing on crutches and one foot. The left leg was gone from the knee down. How did this person survive?
“No thing?”
“I’m here dude, isn’t that good enough for you?” Alex smiled even wider and limped over the threshold.
I closed the door and locked it. “Didn’t have to knock on the door.”
Alex hopped over to the stairs and sat on the first step. “What do you mean?”
“Didn’t lock it.”
With a thump Alex’s crutches dropped to the floor. “Why wouldn’t you lock a door when searching a house? Those things can open doors. And not all humans are as nice the girl next door. Some will try to eat you just the same.”
I shrugged.
The person glared at me. “Have you been alone too long and gone nuts?”
“Who is nuts enough to lie about a thing at the door?” I walked by Alex and shoved the bag of potatoes in my backpack. As I hoisted the pack on my back, I realized it was a lot heavier than I remembered. Not good to run with.
“I needed you to open the door!” Alex shouted at my back.
Something scrambled across the floor upstairs. I flipped the knife around in my hand. Maybe a longer knife would have been better, but then it wouldn’t fit in my backpack. Also, wouldn’t fit in tight corners. Like those sewer pipes. Or that abandoned train. More to clean.
“Hey, answer the question!”
My feet froze on the steps. I didn’t mean to stop. The scrambling grew louder over my head. Carefully I set the pack down. “Harder to run through a locked door.”
I heard the scream before I saw the thing hurtling down the stairs towards me. Instinctively I threw myself down. The thing sailed over me and then I remembered that Alex was behind me. And the thing was going right at Alex.
When I turned around, the thing was crumpled by the door. Alex was standing over it with a hammer. A hammer… The hammer I had picked up from the other room. And it should’ve still been in my backpack.
I stared at Alex, words wouldn’t leave my mouth.
Alex smirked. “Everyone was affected differently by the big boom.”
“But how did you get it out of my bag without me knowing?”
“Oh that? Stole it while you were locking the door.”
“Uh huh.” I began my walk up the stairs again.
“Hey,” Alex poked me with the crutch. “Aren’t you going to say ‘thank you.’”
“You’re too noisy.”


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