Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
The white tea towel, printed with cacti and the jolly phrase, “Looking Sharp”, resting on the oven handle in my kitchen stains brown from my finger. This has become the preferred method to test the temperature of the coffee remaining in the carafe of the automatic coffee maker. The warmth of the mug now full of the black liquid comforts my hands, and makes me aware of the cold fall temperature of my two bedroom apartment.

It has been approximately five months since my partner and myself moved into this apartment, and it has always felt strange. Just outside the building, the natural surroundings of maple and pine trees, old, cracked concrete, and the absence of others more often than not has made my mind perceive things other than reality. There have been times sitting outside in the dimly lit backyard by my propane fire, with the storm-like summer winds thrashing through the old branches above my head, rain spattering on the ground, pooling into small divots in the path from the balcony above me that I feel something - not just during the darkness of night either.
That gaze. The feeling you get in the depths of your mind. The primal, subconscious notion that you are being watched. That something sinister is watching your every move, waiting.

This in turn has made me feel uneasy in my house. Uneasy that besides the person with me here I am not alone. That when I turned my back to walk down the hallway towards my bedroom, something was waiting for me to do that exact movement. And not just during the night when the lights are off, but during the daytime when the lights are on. I do not believe in the supernatural. I feel as though it is entirely possible that this place I call home, from the very beginning has been set as a trap. That they knew it would be me moving here. That I would always make sure to lock both the front door, and the back door. And double-check. And triple-check. That I usually buy groceries at the superstore down the road. That I usually have my window blinds down during the day time, and night time. That I usually culminate my evenings by brushing my teeth and then putting my head into the sink to spit. That I close my eyes when I shampoo my hair. That I find myself hungry lying in bed to fall asleep, and like to satiate that hunger. That I turn my back. That I turn off the lights.

The coffee is lukewarm now.