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by Chris Swindell
The Thing in the bed rolls Its one great eye around to glare at me, bloodshot and green and yellow at the edges. A mouth smiles at me, ropey lips pulling back over teeth that look like half-chewed Chiclets. A voice like a leaking faucet asks me for some water.
I give it a glass of lukewarm tap water.
“Thank you,” It says in Its drippy voice.
The Thing in the bed rolls over. Its dinner plate-sized eye shuts with a squeak. It drifts off to sleep with a gurgling moan.
I have never, in all my life, been so in love.
The Thing in the bed first appeared two years ago. Or was it three? Maybe seven. Anyway, It appeared. I found It in my backyard slouching among the azaleas.
“Hello,” It said. It was so much smaller then.
“Hi,” I said. It looked into me with Its single eye and I knew in that instant that I’d found my purpose in life. I’d finally found my one true love.
I’d been in love before. Twice in high school, if you can call that love. Once in college. Once more since, and that one hurt the most.
But the love that I share with It is different. It’s pure. There’s no messy jealousy because nearly everyone has his or her own Thing now. There are no complicated social or sexual concerns. No disappointments. Life is easy, simple. I sit by Its bed as it sleeps. I feed It and give It water when It is awake. Sometimes I go out to get more food. Sometimes I even feed myself.
Cassandra, my neighbor, found hers on her porch. She’d just had a baby and her fiancé had left her and she’d been pretty down. I see her every now and then when I’m out foraging for food. She has never looked happier.
I don’t ask about her baby. There isn’t any point.
The Thing in the bed – my Thing, my one and only Thing – stirs a bit, and makes a drip, drip, drip noise with Its wide, ropey mouth. But It doesn’t wake up, and I’m glad. It needs Its rest. It dreams Its strange dreams, and I watch It. I am so tired, but I cannot go to sleep. I cannot leave It alone. It needs me, my perfect, wonderful Thing.
Outside, Bill and June from across the street are foraging. I hear them kill a stray cat. All cats are stray these days. I feel sorry for Bill and June. They have to share their Thing. It must be awful, not having It all to yourself.
My Thing wakes up, rolls over. It scratches Its grey hide with a vein-covered, long-fingered hand.
“Please,” It gurgles in Its beautiful drain-voice, “I’m hungry.”
I smile and run a hand over Its cheek. The hide beneath my palm is like saddle leather. It burbles happily as I get up to go. I wonder if Bill and June will share the cat with me. They won’t, of course. Maybe I’ll be able to steal it. Maybe I’ll have to kill one or both of them. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I always liked Bill and June. But my Thing is hungry. And I am so in love.
Chris Swindell is a Cleveland-based writer of sci-fi and absurdist flash fiction. His work has appeared in The Harrow and Space Squid.