Best Practises

Submitted into Contest #230 in response to: Write a story in the form of a list.... view prompt

2 comments

Thriller Fiction Suspense

Newspapers are very handy. You can do a lot with such a humble item:


1. Reading:

Of course, you can read them – if you’re that way inclined. Personally, I've never found the appeal of sitting on your backside all day and shuffling through just to make unsolicited commentary especially about people’s lives, and things that aren’t your business or in your control. But I digress...


2. Pack delicate items:

I may not read the paper for news, but I do watch the local news channel every day at every interval. I don’t read the paper because these days, most of the content is unnecessary, and by the time I’ve purchased one, everything inside is irrelevant. Things and news move fast. And if you don’t keep up or even get ahead, you’ll be left in the dust. I can’t afford to not be “in the know”.


I also don’t have time to read – I need to be moving, I need to be quick. So, I flick on the set instead and allow the newscasters to relay so that if I need to pivot, I can without wasting time and energy trying to find the right information for myself.


It is 6.03pm and I am scoffing half a frozen bagel, whilst knotting another stuffed black bag. I need the extra calories; I’ve been packing since the early morning news bulletin. I kick the bag underneath the table to collect later. Trip hazard – never a good thing, I can’t endanger myself. Last time I tripped over a box I’d foolishly left in the hallway and woken up hours later in a panic that I’d been foiled. But it was pure luck we’d both been in the basement at the time of the raid. I cannot and will not make that mistake again.


There’s a loud crash behind me, which snuffs out the weather woman - heavily pregnant in a dress that makes her boobs look like water balloons – reporting that tonight’s weather will be dry but cold. I take a mental note before turning towards where the noise came from. I can guess that the culprit is one of two beings – the inherited but unwanted cat or my housemate.


It’s the housemate. I should have known.


As I slide through the doorway, she makes haste to drop forward and gather the items rolling around on the vinyl floor. Thankfully, they are only replicas of my Polish Grandmother's china babushka. I would never entrust such precious items to a careless individual.


She is terribly clumsy, my housemate. Even without trying, she manages to create more mess and bother than she means to. I’ve just learned I must make extra provisions to keep her clumsiness in check. Which is why she occupies this contained box room, where the only things she can disturb have no real value.


I watch her and fold my arms disappointedly. She works faster, shaky fingers clawing at the numerous cups of brightly decorated women. She doesn’t look at me as she attempts to rebuild the babushka, but she is clumsy and hopeless with dexterity. I wonder why I thought it was a good idea to get her involved in the packing. I sigh loudly and step into the tiny space to take over.


This is why I normally work alone. Less stress, less hassle, less clean up. Too many hands, too many delays, too many mistakes.


She cowers immediately as I reach down and pluck the baby babushka from the floor. The object must have bounced furthest because it’s the lightest. In all fairness, she can’t reach it, it has landed outside of her permitted boundary. She dares to glance at me as I slowly stand.

“Is it broken?” she stutters.

I inspect the baby knowingly. The baby is fine because it’s not real china.

“How would you pay for it if it was?” I tease her, “I don’t think you have anything to exchange that’s of any value to me if it were broken. And so, what do you think that would mean for you, huh?”

Her eyes grow wide and her face white.

“I was careful,” She insists and shakes her hands at the other women, gathered in a heap at her scabby knees. I notice a new patch of wounds, which means she’s still crawling around in here. Even after I told her to stretch her legs because weak legs are useless if we need to move fast.

You see, she creates mess and is beginning to be mess than her worth…


She apologises repeatedly when I indicate for her to hand me the other little women. She scoops them up and tries to pass them from where she is kneeling, but I am still outside of her boundary.

“Stand up”, I say.

But her face immediately starts to crumble.

“Use your legs.”

“I can’t”, her whine is pathetic.

I scoff. She is just lazy.

“You can. I told you to get up and walk. Why are you still scratching around on this floor? I gave you slack, like you wanted, and for what?”

“I tried, but it’s -it’s been so long,” she moans and rubs her exposed thighs and kneecaps “It hurts to stand. I can’t, can’t feel my feet anymore”.

“So how did you reach the babushka?” I question her suspiciously. The stacked ladies live on a level on the wall.

“That’s what I mean,” she says to her shaking hands, “I tried to stand just now but I couldn’t. I think I hit them off the shelf when I fell.”

Plausible, I think. The explanation is plausible for now. The women were placed on the level initially because I knew she wouldn’t be able to reach them whilst her chain kept her movements small and low-level. But now, after her whining drove me insane, I have granted her a wider range and she can at least pace in an arc.

“Then you are lucky they are still intact,” I tell her spitefully, “You better start getting those legs working, girl. I haven’t got time for your excuses, especially not today. We gotta move.”


I scan the room for a random black bag, but seeing none, push my useless housemate aside. I see she has made a bed with the pile of old newspapers I left out for her waste. I can’t help sneering as I destroy the abode by grabbing a handful of sheets. She only slaps at her legs whimpering as though willing them to suddenly work so she can defend her property. But it seems she was telling the truth. I press the babushka into the sheets, roll, and twist the ends with ease.

“There, you see, “I shake the mummified women at her, “It’s easy. Pick and pack. Done and dusted. Can’t you even do that without making a scene?”. She is smart to stay silent as she sinks away.


I re-enter the main room and toss the wrapped replica into an empty black sack. Truthfully, though it is not broken, it belongs in the trash. Along with all the other dead weight accumulating around me.

“You need to pack lighter,” I tell myself just as the news roundup flashes across the TV screen. It ends with the final mention of the story I am most interested in; their developing breaking news story:


Police are investigating a new lead into the disappearance of a 24-year-old woman who has been missing for more than a year. They believe she is still alive and may be held against her will. The search will move to the Kelvingrove area of Glasgow after an anonymous tip. Police are urging the locals to be cooperative, vigilant, and wary as they explore the possibilities…

I must leave this house tonight. It’s time to relocate.


3.  Wrap up broken items

The car is packed with all the essentials. The clutter, the non-essentials, and the dead weight will have to stay, including that blessed cat (no apologies to my Polish Grandma). There’s nothing really to incriminate me. All the evidence has been or will be disposed of discreetly.


I find her in the same position I left her in; kneeling back on her shins, head down, defeated. This time, she does not respond as I stride towards her. Her head is hanging down against her chest.

“Come on,” I give her a nudge, hard enough to wake her from her slumber.

-

She’s been sleeping a lot lately. The first three months after I brought her home, she was like a newborn baby. She cried incessantly for everything; attention, feeding, more blankets, interaction – anything she could squeeze out of me. The newborn phase was traumatising for her and exhausting for me.

I was no rookie, but she wasn’t like the others. I wrongly assumed they’d all act and respond identically to the situation. The others quickly got through the newborn phase and became more feisty as the days passed by (One of them, whom I called “Jaws”, tried to bite me).

But this one is different. She’s a load alright – a load of emotions. I can handle the fighters - they’ll always be physically disadvantaged, no matter how hard they try to overpower me. But this one, I call her “Mood”, to her own credit has made this past year insightful.

I’ve learned more about the womankind through her than through any of the others. She has proven to be a worthy specimen for my study.

But I must admit, I think I have observed and extracted all I can from her, the sudden changes in her are becoming undesirable.


Her incredible sleeping habits are the reason I no longer bother to lock her in. I can turn my back, get on with things, and live comfortably without being concerned that she’ll escape. I only keep an eye open when she is awake – more so because of her clumsiness rather than her alertness.


But now that she’s sleeping most of the time, why continue to allow her to be a drain on my resources? Death is inevitable here anyway.


-

The initial nudge has no effect.

So, I try again, this time jabbing my fingers into her shoulder with force. Nothing.


Honestly, I have not fed her for some time, preoccupied with boxing everything up and figuring out the best route to take to avoid any unnecessary stops. Perhaps she has passed out with hunger.


In an uncharacteristic haste, I reach down, press her face between my hands, and jerk it up towards me. Suddenly there’s a loud cracking sound and her stretched neck renders loose in my grasp. I almost let go in shock as her upturned face, eyes closed and mouth parted, becomes a bowling ball between my hands. I’m surprised by the gurgle of my stomach and the tingle of nausea bubbling inside of me. I am no rookie, but this has never happened before.


I told you “Mood” is different. I told you “Mood” is messy. Or should I say was….


I will remember you for certain now; I think. I literally shiver at her face fixated forever in its lifeless expression. She has somehow affected me more than I realised. She has somehow managed to infiltrate me and pass on her messiness. I am careful. But for the first time, though death was inevitable for “Mood”, my meticulous hands have performed an accidental demise.


She dives like an anchor when I release her. I stand over her fragmented frame and marvel at the impact that such an impulsive moment has on the rest of my thoughtful plan.


The car is packed tight, with space only for two vertical objects. The driver and his housemate. I had not foreseen carrying a body this early in the move.


I hear the familiar jingle of the 10pm news from the living room and realise I am now behind schedule. I need to move fast.

The box room is void of any clutter and non-essentials, void of anything useful to clear this dead weight. Apart, of course, from the newspaper bed dismantled in the corner.


So, I wrap her in her own wastepaper, I have no choice. I cocoon her broken body, in preparation for the trash.

It is a great shame. I had wonderful plans for her body, to keep it, memorialise it like the others.

But I don’t accommodate dead weight, I don’t keep broken things.


My cadavers are my pride and joy. My cadavers are only valuable to me when they are perfect, when they are whole and intact.


It’s no different to receiving a faulty gift at Christmas. Who can treasure, take pride in, or be happy with a misshapen or deformed prize?

December 29, 2023 23:08

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

2 comments

Edd Baker
04:56 Jan 05, 2024

Great read, Kelita! Fantastically tense and unnerving thriller. There was some great, very dry and deadpan humor laced throughout. This line: “The newborn phase was traumatising for her and exhausting for me.” Got a deep chuckle out of me. Phenomenally dark. I’m curious though, have you recently seen the David Fincher film “The Killer?” I had watched it just a few days prior to writing my prompt submission, and upon reading it could see how much I was influenced haha.

Reply

Show 0 replies
J. D. Lair
02:18 Dec 30, 2023

Oh, snap! Literally lol. Some of the imagery in this gave me the willies. Wonderfully creepy and well done Kelita!

Reply

Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.