Read our newest short story, “Oblivion” by Topaz Winters, below.
The flat seems so lonely now that he has left. Ghosts of cobwebs shiver in corners; his belongings are scattered throughout the room, gathering a thin layer of dust. I cannot bring myself to move them, even though I know he would be appalled to see them neglected in this way; it is as if doing so will somehow cement the idea that he is not coming back. This, I cannot face – even though I know it to be true. He is gone, in the deepest sense of the word.
I sit, staring at the dust dancing in the light of the dying sun. These days seem so long now, without his presence to thwart the loneliness. The shadows creep up, never ending, until finally I am sitting in a darkened room – unmoving, alone, as ever. Before him, alone and lonely had two different meanings; now that he has left, they are one and the same. He has carved out a hollow space inside my heart, and I do not know when – or if – it will ever be filled.
Suddenly I cannot bear to stay in this empty flat. There is but one person I know of who might ease this grief, one person who knew him as I did.
The door is unlocked; it gives a groaning creak as I push it open, as if it too can feel the undertone of silent suffering in me. His brother is sitting in the soft armchair, a teacup resting on the coffee table in front of him. His home is clean, almost violently so; it is a stark contrast from mine. As I walk in, he looks up as if expecting me and gestures to the empty chair across from his, on the other side of the table.
We sit in silence.
Finally I can bear it no longer. I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind: “I didn’t see you at the funeral today.”
He makes no answer; he has no need to. I was a fool to expect him to come, I know; and yet, although he and his brother were never on the best of terms, perhaps he might have at least made an exception for the final glory.
At once, I am furious at him – sitting calmly across from me, as I have seen him on so many other days, as if nothing has changed. His expression is unreadable, impassive; a far cry from my struggle to conceal my desire to slap him. I clench my fists and whisper through gritted teeth, “Do you care at all?”
He does not need to ask what I mean; but as he looks at me, I see no change of his pristine expression, no hint that there is something lying underneath. “You knew him better than I did,” he tells me, picking up his teacup and taking a sip.
It is true, of course, and yet somehow I cannot let go of the rage against him. I need someone to blame; and it is easy to target him, his face devoid of all signs of emotion. “You could just show the slightest bit of… something,” I hiss. “You’re like… like some sort of machine.”
And as I gaze at him, waiting for a response, something in his face slips for the slightest second. The mask he has so carefully cultivated is thrown off by my callous words. He whispers into the still, quiet air, “You’d be surprised.”
Perhaps he does not realize that he has said it aloud; perhaps he does not know that I have heard it. In any case, his words are not meant for me. He does not speak again.
He makes no reaction as I stand to leave. As the door closes behind me, I catch a final glimpse of him. His eyes are shadowed; his fingers are entwined on his lap. There is no expression on his face. The walls have been erected once more; there is no sign that they were ever down. Yet somehow, that one moment of raw emotion on his face speaks more to me than a thousand empty words.
I leave him like this – the cup of tea growing cold on his lap as he stares into oblivion.