Tapping

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A snippet into a day in the life 2020.

 

TAPPING

 

Eleanor was tapping again. Her bony and corpse like fingers gently met with the smooth, laminated wood of the coffee table, sending a trill of clicks in the stale air. Over the last year, I had tried to become accustomed to this new habit of hers, but to no real success. The randomness of the sound had the same effect on me as hearing nails on a chalkboard, or a screeching baby. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I grimaced at the sensation. I glanced at the clock. “Eleanor, the tapping.” It was only half past ten, and the tapping had already started. She acted as though she hadn’t heard me, but the tapping immediately ceased. It’s silence that followed felt heavy and long. Time had been moving slower. The sun seemed to divert away from it’s usual stroll across the living room walls, and the days seemed endless. Days could be spent watching a fly, and only an hour would pass. The dated wallpaper had been etched into my memory forever, having spent months memorising its every pattern. The silence was then filled with the ticking of the clock, drawing my attention. I noticed it was only half past ten. Half past ten was practically noon, so I got up and made lunch. Cooking used to be my favorite thing to do. When we bought the house, it’s open space and large windows were what sold me on the decision. I had imagined a lifetime of family gatherings, holidays and home cooked meals taking place around the kitchen, and had decorated it accordingly so. Knife sets and cutting boards hung from the spots they were placed, some relic of an ancient passtime, never used, and collecting dust. I opened the refrigerator, and mechanically grabbed two small cardboard boxes. LUNCH was stamped across both boxes in light red ink. How delightful, I thought. I wonder what it is. I chuckled to myself silently, knowing the brownish horror that awaited me. Robotically tearing open both boxes, I placed the small lunches into the microwave before pressing a button and slamming the door. The digital green countdown began, and I watched the numbers tick away, one second at a time. The natural light that came in was filtered through a thick plastic sheet that covered all openings of the house. What used to be clearly identifiable as trees were now light shadows amongst a haze that never seemed to shift in color. I had stopped trying to stare through the plastic after a couple of months, finding the microwave countdown less hollowing. The Lunch’s unique and predictable smell began to permeate the air, as the seconds drew to a close. Inside the microwave, I could see my dark eyes gazing back, and for a moment, I didn’t recognize myself. A shell of a person, like this shell of a kitchen; with all the means of functionality, but no way to express it. Wasted potential. I let this thought drift away as my nose told me LUNCH was done. I stopped the microwave before it could alert me of this fact, and took the plates, steaming, into the living room. Eleanor’s chair faced away from me, obscuring all but her bony hand from my vision. As the smell reached her as well, her hand moved out of sight, and behind the forest green fabric. I placed one LUNCH on the T.V. table in front of her, and took mine to the couch. Although always grateful for having something to occupy me, I dreaded eating what they called LUNCH. It smelled slightly of fish and corn meal, with all of the aesthetically pleasing looks of cat food, and the rich taste of salted rice. LUNCH was always bleak. The ticking of the clock and the monotonous sounds of our chewing were the only noises that accompanied it most days, unless it was a rare occasion I switched the television on for a bleak distraction. There, we could bounce back and forth between the last four remaining channels, but there was not much solace in them. All ran news cycles 24/7, repeating the same talking points over and over, with slightly different wording. Advertisements would try to appear sympathetic, or even comforting, while repeating a manufactured phrase. The world leaders in science would argue with each other on hypothetical points, and never reach any conclusion. There would be talk of another possible shortage. There would be an update on the crashing economy. But there was never any talk of going back. It seemed the world had accepted its fate of a slow, drawn out death, and no one had any anticipation to go back to the way it used to be. Of cooking in kitchens and natural light. The world had settled for LUNCHES and plastic wrap at the expense of everything we’d ever known. Today was one of the days I felt like hearing other people’s voices, even if it was just a talking head. I reached for the remote as I pulled back the steamy plastic film of my LUNCH. Eleanor huffed. “I don’t want to watch television.” Her beady eyes were glaring through thin wire glasses that connected to a chain. Her voice shook lightly, as if it too were as frail as her body. She had lost weight. She looked like a child that had suddenly woken up to find herself much older, and sadder. Her once pronounced lips looked like a pale, thin line connecting to her chin, and everything about her seemed to shake. I felt a burst of mild irritation wash over, but placed the remote back down nonetheless. I had the tapping, she had the T.V..


Submitted: December 12, 2020

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