THE ROBBED • by Tim W. Boiteau

You can’t find your keys in the morning, so your wife drives you to work.

At dinner, it seems, the salt is lacking, but when you attempt to add some more, the shaker is bare.

The only consolation at the end of such a troubling day, of course, is Aurelius, but he too is absent from the shelf.

When you waken in the middle of the night, the bedroom grows long, the blankets constrict the body, stretching over with elastic tension, blood stagnates in the head, and the ears sharpen to the muted creeping of thieves, careful things, biding their time in air vents and drains and the narrow crevices between walls, watching through miniscule peepholes.

Every day you notice something amiss: a sock, the lid of the blackberry jam, the spiral binder of your notebook. All that remains is a new scuff on the floor, and then the next morning the scuff too has vanished.

Things fleeced never return, things that were your life: a living room full of books and machines, kitchen stocked with food and garbage, bedroom decorated with modern art, cage-free eggs, excruciating whitening mouthwash, wedding ring.

Your life an aesthetic list.

You can’t catch them. All the traps you lay—the tripwire, rat catchers, fishhook nets—all triggered and taken. The shadows of subtle pilfering evaporate when you flick on the lights in the middle of the night, the little thieves darting into unseen corners.

Then one night the light doesn’t flick on, the bulb gone, the muted sounds of thievery persisting defiant in the dark.

One day, when your wife doesn’t return from work, you realize the thieves have become so emboldened as to rob you of her warmth.

The place barren now—skeletal frames of furniture and appliances with no content to fill them—life has descended into a new level of emptiness, the pinnacle of enforced austerity. But there is always more that can be taken away.

The next morning you find they have absconded with your doors. When your return from work, the windows are gone. Your house has become a Second Circle wind tunnel, every corner in constant, restless motion.

Then the frames of furniture drift away: the cushionless couch, the chairless table, bed frame, book shelves, carpet, refrigerator: more items struck off the list. Finally, all that is left is you curled into the corner of your bedroom at night, watching the hunched forms of the thieves flit through the shadows.

Bolder and bolder.

The less there is for them to have, the greedier they become.

It is only a matter of time before—a longing throb—you find the nail of your pinky toe missing, plucked neatly from your body.

By parts, they pluck pieces from you: a foot, a forearm, a calf, a bicep… One day you awaken to find a stillness in your body: the beating of your heart silenced. You can only imagine the pit left behind, flanked by slabs of lung.

One by one the organs of your body are ripped from you, cleanly, without any disturbing scar, just the memory scar of that wholesome feeling of filled body space.

By now you can only shamble about, the bits of you that still poke out exploring the parts of you with holes. With the exposed retina of the one remaining eye you piece together that they have stolen the entire left side of your house, parts of the roof, the floor. Beyond that are giant, empty bites out of the earth, the sky, existence.

Worst of all, you realize, staggering on the brink of a void, somehow, throughout it all, they managed to steal your volition and motivation to fight back.

Finally, the pathetic scraps of sleep and solace that had been left you are yanked away: at night all there is to do is watch their slight, bird-clawed shapes lurching through the darkness as they plunder through the pathetic remnants of your ravaged life.

As you stare blankly, they rip the digestive system out of your mouth, the circulatory system out of your chest, skeleton out of the hole in your arm, and then, with their little thief hooks, your entire nervous system out of your nose, brain and all, leaving behind the deflated folds of skin that had once been the mask people had called “you”. Then, of course, that goes too. It all goes, every atom, until you are not really sure what it is the thieves were charitable enough to leave behind.

Nothing, it seems.

Absence.

The edges of vision.

But then you see it flashing in the corner of your mind, distant and tantalizing.

Your car keys.

Your reach out and grab a hold of them with psychic energy, reel them into your essence, and from there associations begin to branch out: your car and travel coffee mug, your house and fence, your refrigerator and wife, all the books and wood, paint and carpet, paintings and spaces. It all begin to fill back in, and you find that you are not only grasping the keys mentally but are also gripping them physically, can feel the metal biting into your palm. There is more, as well. Carpet fuzz beneath the feet. The sight of the disorganized kitchen counter. The cloying smell of overripe fruit in the fruit bowl. The sound of your wife preparing for work in the bathroom.

Everything seems miraculously as it was before the thieves: so present.

As you drive out in the sunlight, the universe is not full of holes, but you can’t shake the feeling that this dangling keychain, this car, these thick hands, this brain, none of them belong to you.


Tim W. Boiteau’s fiction has appeared in journals such as LampLight, Kasma Magazine, and Write Room. He was a 2012 finalist in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open contest.


Read EDF every day? Show us you care via Patreon.

Rate this story:
 average 4.8 stars • 9 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • What?

  • What?

    I really don’t know what else to say. There’s loads of talent behind this pen I think, but I have no idea what this story was trying to accomplish.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Carl Steiger

    Second person, present tense. This seems like a role-playing game run by a particularly abusive game master.

  • Carl Steiger

    Second person, present tense. This seems like a role-playing game run by a particularly abusive game master.

  • MPmcgurty

    I love this. It’s beautifully written. I love the second person, present tense, because the voice was excellent and consistent. Even at the point where I thought, “This is going on a little too long with the disappearing things, I would have ended it there,” I was enjoying the language and turns of phrase so much that it didn’t matter.

    “…the muted sounds of thievery persisting defiant in the dark”

    “…the bits of you that still poke out exploring the parts of you with holes”

    Faeries? Brownies? A horror story, or one about someone going mad? Or perhaps someone suffering with depression, spiraling until he or she reaches out to grab onto something and pulls back out of it. I’m curious about the author’s intentions, but I think I might regret knowing.

    This is magic.

  • MPmcgurty

    I love this. It’s beautifully written. I love the second person, present tense, because the voice was excellent and consistent. Even at the point where I thought, “This is going on a little too long with the disappearing things, I would have ended it there,” I was enjoying the language and turns of phrase so much that it didn’t matter.

    “…the muted sounds of thievery persisting defiant in the dark”

    “…the bits of you that still poke out exploring the parts of you with holes”

    Faeries? Brownies? A horror story, or one about someone going mad? Or perhaps someone suffering with depression, spiraling until he or she reaches out to grab onto something and pulls back out of it. I’m curious about the author’s intentions, but I think I might regret knowing.

    This is magic.

  • S Conroy

    Oh, very nice indeed.

  • S Conroy

    Oh, very nice indeed.

  • Bud Clayman

    I thought this was GREAT!!! Material things was being swept into a vortex and then in one great paragraph near the end, they returned. The vortex spit everything back into the universe.

    I thought this was also a comment on becoming attached to physical/material things that may not really belong to us. And this includes even our own earthly bodies! God taketh and God giveth! The use of the second person POV addresses the reader directly about this philosophical dilemma.

    I can’t give this anything less than five stars.

  • Bud Clayman

    I thought this was GREAT!!! Material things was being swept into a vortex and then in one great paragraph near the end, they returned. The vortex spit everything back into the universe.

    I thought this was also a comment on becoming attached to physical/material things that may not really belong to us. And this includes even our own earthly bodies! God taketh and God giveth! The use of the second person POV addresses the reader directly about this philosophical dilemma.

    I can’t give this anything less than five stars.

  • Paul Beckman

    Great concept and I loved the writing and unique ending.

  • Paul Beckman

    Great concept and I loved the writing and unique ending.

  • I really enjoyed this story: it’s original, well-written and held my interest. Really different!

  • I really enjoyed this story: it’s original, well-written and held my interest. Really different!

  • Erin Ryan

    I had a dream like this once. Not exactly, but it had the same sense of me disappearing down to one single point, and then finding a focus and filling back in again.

    • MPmcgurty

      I think that would be a really frightening dream.

      • Erin Ryan

        Oh, it was. I thought I had died.

  • Erin Ryan

    I had a dream like this once. Not exactly, but it had the same sense of me disappearing down to one single point, and then finding a focus and filling back in again.

    • MPmcgurty

      I think that would be a really frightening dream.

      • Erin Ryan

        Oh, it was. I thought I had died.

  • Chris Antenen

    Excellant. Five

  • Chris Antenen

    Excellant. Five

  • Paul A. Freeman

    This story did my head in – in a good way.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    This story did my head in – in a good way.

  • Martine

    I haven’t been reading so many Every Day Fiction stories recently, but this one was just weird. Never read anything quite like it, and that’s a complement.

  • Martine

    I haven’t been reading so many Every Day Fiction stories recently, but this one was just weird. Never read anything quite like it, and that’s a complement.

  • Chinwillow

    omg…I smoked a doobie once in 1969 and had exactly the same experience! I loved this and have no clue why… …magic indeed…and fun..

  • Chinwillow

    omg…I smoked a doobie once in 1969 and had exactly the same experience! I loved this and have no clue why… …magic indeed…and fun..

  • Netty net

    I the theif chickens or something other bird.

  • Netty net

    I the theif chickens or something other bird.

  • Danika

    I’m always impressed when a writer can make a 2nd person story work. Nicely done. Beautifully written.

  • Danika

    I’m always impressed when a writer can make a 2nd person story work. Nicely done. Beautifully written.

  • Anna

    Sorry for the late comment!

    Loved the story. It’s hard to make a 2nd person story work, and this does, reading like a strange dream (or the oddly numb horror of some of my more interesting nightmares).

    The last paragraph got me re-thinking about what actually happened near the end, with the objects “returning”. Were they returned? Or is the main character now, unknowingly, one of the “thieves” who grabbed back what he lost, but not his things? Someone else’s things have been stolen to fill the void (and that someone else has now had the same horrifying experience, and will perhaps perpetuate this pattern). Hence the POV’s uneasy feeling that none of it belongs to him.

    Or perhaps it’s a dream or hallucination, or a statement on the metaphysical peril of grounding ourselves too much in the materialistic. Or…or… One sign of a good story to me is that it bonks around in my brain for a while after I read it!

    Thank you. 5 stars.

  • Anna

    Sorry for the late comment!

    Loved the story. It’s hard to make a 2nd person story work, and this does, reading like a strange dream (or the oddly numb horror of some of my more interesting nightmares).

    The last paragraph got me re-thinking about what actually happened near the end, with the objects “returning”. Were they returned? Or is the main character now, unknowingly, one of the “thieves” who grabbed back what he lost, but not his things? Someone else’s things have been stolen to fill the void (and that someone else has now had the same horrifying experience, and will perhaps perpetuate this pattern). Hence the POV’s uneasy feeling that none of it belongs to him.

    Or perhaps it’s a dream or hallucination, or a statement on the metaphysical peril of grounding ourselves too much in the materialistic. Or…or… One sign of a good story to me is that it bonks around in my brain for a while after I read it!

    Thank you. 5 stars.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    At first, Tim, I hated this story. It seemed to follow other recent stories in bleakness. Until he finds his car keys. Then I remembered some of the horrible days I’ve had where everything but ev-er-ee-thing went wrong. It fit so awfully well. No more a hater; I’m a fan.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    At first, Tim, I hated this story. It seemed to follow other recent stories in bleakness. Until he finds his car keys. Then I remembered some of the horrible days I’ve had where everything but ev-er-ee-thing went wrong. It fit so awfully well. No more a hater; I’m a fan.

  • manjina

    Different. I got the feeling you wanted the reader to feel paranoia? And to experience how anxiety can destroy from the inside out until you’re left with nothing but your thoughts. But I dunno, this was interesting.