I’ve been working a while now on a book (well, to be fair, on a couple of books). I cut a snippet into a 500 word scene and submitted it to a flash fiction contest in the summer. I didn’t win, but I DID get some really excellent feedback, which I used to re-write (and expand a bit) the scene. Since it’s part of a larger work, I’m sticking it here instead of putting it in another contest. I welcome comments/critiques/whatever.
Originally, the title submitted for the short short story was “That’s Fairy, Not Dessert.” Let’s just say my house needs one desperately. Also, I greatly enjoy imagining the chaos with two dogs…
“I’m going mad,” he said to the empty office. The office chose not to respond.
Could you go mad if you could still consider going mad? Or was convincing yourself of sanity the first sign of madness? He wasn’t sure, but those…things he’d seen lurking in the shadowy corners of his apartment weren’t his imagination. Absolutely, certainly not.
And now all his clothes were unpacked and his dirty laundry piled up in a basket by the bed. The bathroom and kitchen sparkled in the bright morning sun, even if he’d left dishes in the sink after dinner.
He didn’t remember doing any of it. He’d carefully talked himself into believing he’d learned to sleepclean, some weird holdover from his parents’ housekeeper traumatizing his childhood with clean dishes. Or something.
This morning the mousetraps he’d set all over the house were stacked carefully in the middle of his kitchen floor, neat and scrupulously free of any peanut butter bait. He heard papers shuffling in his office and ran into the room only to find them settling themselves on his desk, as though someone had just been flipping through them and left in a hurry.
Ben considered himself a rational, scientific man with a solid base in reality. Sure, he watched the Ghost Hunter shows and liked a good exorcist movie now and again, but that was just for show. He didn’t believe in hauntings or the paranormal, so he just needed to find a rational explanation for all of this, right? What could possibly be wrong with sleepcleaning?
He sat at his desk, prepared for some serious Googling. He was tapping his finger on the desk along to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and thinking thank God there was ONE rock station in this town, when someone in the room cleared her throat.
No one was there. He flicked off the radio.
The “ahem” noise, definitely female, came again from the corner of the room by the window.
No one was there.
“Dammit,” he slammed his laptop closed. “Now I’m hearing things? What the hell is WRONG with me?” Disgusted, he stood and dug his cell from the front pocket of his jeans.
“Aw laddie, there’s nothing at all wrong with ye.” The thickly-lilted voice chuckled merrily. Her motion finally caught his eye, and a tiny female creature waved at him from the top of the stack of boxes marked BOOKS. She was only a foot tall and brown from crown to heel; walnut hair smoothed back from her face in a thick braid, sable eyes clearly laughed at him from a nest of wrinkles. Her clothes were shades of a forest floor, bark and loam. Her body seemed younger and stronger than her lined face, which grinned at him as she waved one tanned hand, the other holding a dust cloth. He didn’t smile back.
“Are ye dull then?” she asked with a long-suffering sigh, and shook her head with regret.
He snatched the bat he’d laid behind the desk for “just in case” problems, and held it out between himself and the creature.
“What the hell!” he shouted. “Stay away! What the hell are you?”
“Humph. Dull AND rude.” Her smile vanished, sparks of anger flashing in those clear dark eyes. She jumped off the box and stomped toward the door, muttering something about brownies under her breath. He cautiously moved closer, making a shooing motion.
“Don’t shoo a Brownie, sir, if you know what’s good for you,” she hollered, waving her finger at his knees. “I’m a damn fool, thinking you could see so you wouldsee.” She shook her head, disgusted. “Well, that’s that then.”
“What?” Ben carefully lowered the bat. “What are you talking about? Who are you? What the hell do brownies have to do with anything?”
“I AM a Brownie, you grand jackass! Fairy, not dessert!” She threw her hands in the air, flinging her dust cloth across the room. “Bah. Maybe I shouldn’ta surprised you so, but damn if I’ll keep talking to an armed idiot.” And with that, she stalked through the doorway and disappeared in a little poof of dust.
The bat thunked on the hardwood floor and Ben ran after the tiny brown woman. She was gone. Toast crumbs still covered the kitchen counter; clothes still lay on his bedroom floor. He sat at the table, pushed a moving box out of the way, and cradled his head in his hands.
“Oh God, I really am going crazy,” he said to the table, and sighed. Deep in his gut, he felt an apology coming on.