Fiction: Object Impermanence
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Let me start by asking you all this: How do you know the world still exists when you’re not looking?
We assume it does, because existence is solid. Objective permanence is one of the earliest understandings we develop as babies. The crux that the surprise of peekaboo hangs on. Things either exist -- the table, the coffee pot, the trees outside the window -- or they don’t.
I used to think like that too. Until the day I woke up and the world outside my windows was gone. My bedroom was intact the way I had left it the night before: jacket thrown over the desk chair, rumpled blue jeans on the floor, running shoes kicked into the corner. I fumbled for my phone to shut off the alarm. I usually wake up before it except for winter and overcast days. If you see the pattern there, it’s the days that the sun’s not coursing through my window bright and early. That’s my excuse for shuffling over the window before even putting socks on: I wanted to check out the weather before getting dressed.
When I yanked up the blinds nothing was there. Just blackness. And look, before you say anything, I double checked. Triple checked. Pinched to make sure I was awake. Blinked a couple times. Opened the window to make it wasn’t the glass painted black in some prank. Blackout, I thought even, but my lights were working when I checked the lightswitch.
It was one of those moments I wished I didn’t live alone. Been really nice to shake someone awake and make them confirm or deny what I was seeing. Rather, what I wasn’t seeing.
Maybe a logical person would’ve called somebody at this point, or crawled back under their covers and hoped it would all get sorted by its own self. I went down to the front door armed only with my phone turned to flashlight mode.
And when I opened the door...Blackness. Thicker even than the time I went camping in the Vermont woods and was hours away from any major cities’ ambient light. Outside my house the flashlight wouldn’t seem to catch on anything. Not the sidewalk that should be right there at the threshold or the overgrown bushes growing untamed along the side of the house -- I apologize, I’m working on it now -- or the new oak tree that stretched up on the front lawn or anything even after that. When I looked up, there was no moon and no stars.
My heart changed from just-up-from-sleep pace to panic paced as I realized the next horrifying thing. No sound. I couldn’t hear a thing. No cars, no crickets, not that yapping dog from the corner of Elm Ridge and Elkwood.
I called out “hello?” just to make sure I could hear my own voice. To check I hadn’t gone deaf as well as blind and daffy.
I tried stepping out, hoping to find ground under my feet. Maybe to go find a neighbor. I didn’t really know any of you fine folks then; just waved once or twice. Sort of why I’m here.
When I tried stepping out my feet didn’t find anything. I didn’t fall, or sink. Just felt something. Soon as I looked back at the house, I saw was floating parallel to it. Turned out there wasn’t any damn gravity on either. I pulled myself back into the doorway before I could float away into nothing.
I started freaking out right then. Curled up, hyperventilating, full blown freaking out. From a young age they teach you fire drills, where’s the safest place to be in case of an earthquake, and even what to do if you’re mugged. No one tells you what to do when the rest of the world disappears.
All I’m saying is this is when the screaming started. My screaming, if it wasn’t clear.
I said a lot of things in those screams: I plead, swore, and begged. Real cycle of grief shit, excuse my language, because it all dumped in on me right then. What if this was it. What if it all was -- impossibly -- gone. And it was me and myself forever. Alone.
The idea of having a roommate, a lover, or a friend staying the night sounded real nice. At least someone to be trapped in this with me.
As curled up there on the threshold sobbing my guts out, I realized not just how alone I would be for whatever the rest of my existence managed to be, but how lonely I was yesterday, and the day before, and all that. Really, wasn’t this fate or god or karma giving me the destiny I planted. I had been isolating myself in my house for too long. Just work and home, you know, with no room for other people, including you lot.
So, I’m in the middle of this break down, right? And a car horn blasts out of nowhere and I look up. It’s back. It’s all back. My little suburban street that I picked purely for the quality of the commute, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like a Bob Ross painting, right? That little yappy dog from Elmwood and Elkridge could’ve been Mozart for all I knew.
I don’t know how the world and the neighborhood came back, and I don’t how it left in the first place, but I do know that I’m going to appreciate it this time.
Again, my name is Taye, and that’s why I decided to come to my first Neighborhood Association and Improvement Meeting. I hope to get you know folks. Thanks for having me. Who’s next?
Margery Bayne is a librarian by day and a writer by night. She is also a published short story author and an aspiring novelist hailing from Maryland, USA. In 2012 she graduated from Susquehanna University with a BA in Creative Writing in 2012 and is currently pursuing a Masters of Library Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. When not writing, Margery enjoys running, origami, and being an aunt.
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