“What are you doing here?” I asked.
My brother shifted in his seat. “What do you mean, what am I doing here? I live here.”
I focused on Mitchell’s face, trying to meld the blending colors together. Skin tones swirled. His eyes green, then blue. The wall behind him shifted away from us. I blinked, hard. My hands balled into fists, tugging at the fabric of the recliner. The cushion prickled against my fingers even though I expected it to be soft. I opened my right hand and dragged it back and forth next to my leg.
“Carson, are you okay?”
My hand stilled, sweat seeping out on my palms.
My name isn’t Carson.
Mitchell leaned toward me, then stood and stepped forward.
Or is it?
“Yeah, sure. I’m good.”
I looked to his right at the tiny kitchen. Grime covered yellow counters, and dirty dishes filled the sink. Dirt sprinkled the linoleum floor. The overhead light pulsated in time with my racing heart: on-off, on-off, on-off. The fridge stood open, but dark. A carton on the middle shelf held milk gone so bad, it had turned green.
My stomach growled and I thought I saw a Snickers bar next to the milk. I stood and approached the kitchen, imagining myself opening the candy and taking a bite. The wrapper crinkled loudly between my fingers. Instead of tasting chocolate, caramel, and peanuts, sweet and satisfying, sour chunks burst between my teeth, spilling over my tongue. My mouth flew open and warmth dripped onto my chin. I swiped at my face, my hands now covered in green rot.
Mitchell stood in front of my seat, his hand on my shoulder. My head snapped to the right, his clean kitchen coming into view. A steady fluorescent bulb illuminated the beige, closed fridge door. The sink, empty.
“Carson. You sure you’re okay?”
I stood, Mitchell’s hand sliding off my shoulder. “Sorry, man. Yeah.”
I need to get out of here. The wall behind my brother had shifted back to its original place, but it flickered, the boundary between wall and ceiling blurred.
The bathroom. I turned to my left and panicked. Fuck.
“Where is your bathroom?”
Mitchell raised an eyebrow and pointed behind him. The flickering wall was a door.
I shoved him aside and tried to move toward it. I could barely lift my feet. I looked down, but found only my sandals, no lead boots. I forced my left foot away from the off-white carpet, forward a foot, and then down again. My head back up, the wall had moved away.
I turned left. My brother’s back faced me as he opened the wall and exited the apartment. Brightness enveloped him, then disappeared. Once the wall was back in place, a front door shimmered into existence, then faded. A small grey spot marred the wall’s surface. The spot grew into the perfect silhouette of a man, properly proportioned, Mitchell’s height, a hand held up in a wave. I approached it cautiously.
“What the hell are you doing?” My brother’s voice filled the room.
I jumped. Spun around. The bright, clean kitchen remained empty, the bathroom door still there, the chairs Mitchell and I had just occupied in their places.
I faced the wall. “Um… hello?”
“Um… hello?” he mocked. “You’re wasting time. Go to her.”
“Go to who?” Her? What her? Who her? I looked behind me again, but nothing had changed.
“Whom. Go to whom.”
I clenched my fists and took a deep breath. “Fine. Go to whom, Mitchell?”
“Don’t belittle grammar. Effective communication is key.”
I let out a groan. “Okay. I apologize. To whom am I going?” Why am I even asking? What the hell is going on?
Silence. The shadow faded.
My brother’s hand on my shoulder kept me from falling over in my seat. To my right, the fluorescent light reflected off the beige fridge. To my left, the shadow-free wall stood still.
Play it cool. “Uh, right. What were you saying?”
Mitchell steadied me with his hand, and then sat back down in his chair.
I eyed the fridge, the sour taste of lumpy milk still in my mouth.
Dino Laserbeam runs freeze frame fiction, a quarterly flash fiction publication—or an excuse to boss writers around. An engineer by trade, Dino can typically be found staring at blank pages, hoping for bizarre stories to appear. Learn more at dinolaserbeam.wordpress.com.