It appeared there out of nowhere insisting that it did not exist. I couldn’t get anything else out of it. I’d tried asking it a whole bunch of questions, but it seemed insistent that it was incapable of answering them due to the fact that it didn’t actually exist. It was difficult to tell whether it really legitimately thought it didn’t exist or maybe it simply wanted me to believe that. Wither way it wasn’t making a terribly compelling case to me as it quite clearly did exist otherwise it wouldn’t have tanked the job interview for me the way that it had.
Naturally, the recruiter had assumed that the sudden appearance of the thing had been something that I was responsible for in some way. It only made sense. I was there it was there. Neither of us had ever been there before. The recruiter had been there countless times before. Naturally when something appears out of nowhere and winds up in my lap, it’s a guest of mine. Naturally it’s a sign that I’m unstable what with things suddenly appearing in my lap out of nowhere and naturally it’s going to freak the recruiter out enough to basically destroy any chances that I might have had of actually getting what would have been a rather nice job with a rather decent paycheck.
So naturally I was a bit upset. I would have been furious if I hadn’t been so charmingly fascinated with this little thing that I was allowed to leave the interview room holding. (Really, what else were they going to do? They could only assume that it was mine.) So I walked out of the place and carried the thing back to my car. I put a seat belt around it in the passenger side and drove back home. It was more or less there in my car that I started trying to engage it in conversation.
“I forgive you,” I said opening a dialogue with the thing.
“No need to,” it said. “I don’t exist.”
“Oh,” I said in a tone that seemed to convey that what it said meant something more than nothing at all. “Sounds fascinating.”
“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.” I nodded, took a deep breath and felt myself begin to acknowledge somewhere in the back of my mind that this was going to be a very, very long drive home. I tried my best to keep a healthy perspective on things. Yes, I lost the job, but I’d gained a mystery. Even if it disappeared on the way back home the way it had appeared while at the interview I still had the story, so I guess I could be happy about that much at the very least.
I got the thing home and considered letting it follow me to my apartment. Of course, it wasn’t moving. I asked if it wanted to follow me, but it insisted that it could not as it didn’t exist. So I elected to carry it all the way back to my apartment. I got a few strange looks from one of my neighbors on the way in. She was doing laundry and I was carrying this…thing into my apartment. Kind of an awkward couple of seconds in the elevator.
“What’s that you’re holding?” She asked.
“I don’t exist,” it replied. I smiled and chuckled lamely. The seventh floor couldn’t come fast enough. I rushed to my front door, fumbled with the keys. It was such a relief to get the thing pushed through the door and into the apartment. I slammed and locked the door behind me with a sigh. It was one thing to be inadvertently assaulted by the unknown. It was another matter altogether to have to explain it to your neighbors.
I set the little thing down on the floor as I got off my coat and boots. It wobbled around a little bit, apathetically curving around the floor in different directions. Occasionally it would bump into a wall and simply stare into it until it was turned around. Then it would slowly slouch forward in a long curve until it ran walked into another wall. After the first five or six times of turning it around, it occurred to me that it might be a bit more content simply sitting down.
The little thing was a bit goggled and dizzy sitting there on my couch. I had gotten a glass of water for it. I don’t think it knew what to do with it. I asked if it knew what the glass of water was and it gave me the same answer it gave to every question.
“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.”
It was the same response I got when I asked what it was or what it wasn’t or where it came from or how it knew it didn’t exist. Always the same answer to any question: “I wouldn’t know. I don’t exist.” Right. I wasn’t frustrated. I was challenged. I felt like I was its parent and it was my job to pry it out of its listlessness. Not sure exactly where that came from but I would like to think that it was more than just the fact that it was roughly the size of a vague toddler-type of a thing.
I turned on the TV. Couldn’t tell if it was watching it or simply gazing off into space with the eyes it claimed did not exist. We shared a couple of sitcoms and a one hour drama as I ate and it ignored the food on the plate in front of it. I got ready for bed. I carried it into the bathroom and brushed what appeared to be its teeth. I put it in an old t-shirt and set it up on the couch with a little pillow and some blankets. It didn’t seem too terribly annoyed by what I was doing, but it was scarcely affectionate about the whole situation.
I settled into bed that night. I was confident that I would find work. I was confident that I would figure out what the hell the thing on my couch was. All would work out. I didn’t know why but at that moment it didn’t really matter to me. Everything seemed to be in the right place at that moment even though so much was unknown.
Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. Last year his short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination. His Internarrational Where Port can be found at: http://ru3935.wix.com/russ-bickerstaff.