It’s dark and it’s cold and I’m sitting with my arms curled around my knees, close to the warm vicinity of the clicking radiator. The towel wrapped around me doesn’t do much good—water droplets still cling to my skin. I shiver, and the heater lets out a yawn.
Minutes are strange to me. I can be sitting at the breakfast table taking slow, deliberate chews of oatmeal to taste the sweet pressed mush against my tongue before my mother realizes it’s been twenty minutes, and she’ll push me out of her warm nest, chanting, “GOGOGOGO,” and I’ll still be convinced that I only had one bite.
She said she was running downstairs to fetch the hairbrush which should take just seconds, my head knows, but I swear my hair is almost dry.
There was a blackout at dinner and the neighborhood’s been quiet.
Sometimes I imagine that one day I’ll wake up and everyone else will have disappeared to some netherworld. So I’m frozen with all this stuff—with mattresses to jump on and junk to steal from no one in particular until I realize that every night will be like this because who will pay for the electricity and who will be paid?
I came up with this idea when I tragically killed off all the members of my dollhouse (there was a freak parasailing accident) except for the daughter of the wooden family. After tossing Mom, Dad, Brother, and Baby aside on my light blue sea carpet, I peered into their boxed living room and found Sister lying there on her back, mouth pressed closed in a dark line and blank eyes directed towards the ceiling.
How would it feel to be a survivor?
I haven’t returned to dolls.
I noticed the rustling in the walls a few nights ago right when Mom sent me to bed an hour early because she said it would help me wake up on time, but I could tell she had a headache. It was more of a scuffle, really, like something was walking around in the crawl spaces between the rooms. I fell asleep imagining tribes of tiny people in tiny houses that their ancestral tiny people built for them. Maybe they had grown up in the dark, blind like moles in dirt or maybe they made methods of their own, tiny forms of electricity and light to find each other’s faces in.
Maybe they get blackouts too.
Now it feels too long since I saw my mother because my hair feels completely dry, and the light blue sea carpet isn’t wet anymore. The room is dense with warm air. I strip off the bath towel and let myself fall on my back and maybe it’s the moonlight filtering through the windows but my fingers look too thin and slender to be my own, and I worry that I’ve grown and changed into something lithe, an elongated alien almost. I cry out, and it doesn’t sound like me.
My mother walks in to find me sprawled on the floor with my limbs out like a falling star, and she asks me three questions.
Amina Aineb is a student in San Francisco and is currently majoring in creative writing at the San Francisco School of the Arts. Besides writing fiction, she enjoys the company of cats and taking long walks.