Unsure of what she’d encounter today, Angela slowly turned the knob and stepped inside the small apartment. Her nose crinkled as she deeply inhaled the musty interior. Nothing had disturbed the air since her last visit, except for a slight odor she couldn’t place.
Flipping on a light, she surveyed the new surroundings, anxiety entering her thoughts as she ran her fingertips along the walls. This month the interior was decorated in silver leaf covering almost every surface, and then glazed to create a shiny reflection. As her fingers played against the wall, Angela’s mind worked overtime trying to remember the tactile sensation. What was the odd texture beneath the glistening finish?
“Andrew?” Angela knew he was home, most likely holed up in a place where time ceased to exist. The smell of ozone from his myriad of computers wafted through the oppressively hot apartment, the air stagnant and nauseating to breathe as it burned her nose hair. Walking toward the spare bedroom, she called to him knowing he would be engrossed in a project and oblivious to her arrival. “Andrew?”
A pair of brown eyes matching hers peered over a computer monitor, the corners of his eyes wrinkling when he saw her face.
Easing through the snarl of cords, she viewed the masculine mirror of herself, inwardly gasping as Andrew stood, sporting a chocolaty smile. Dear God, he’d gained at least twenty pounds since last month.
“Hiya, Angie, is it a month already?”
“Yeah, sweetie, time to pay bills.”
Andrew’s smile puckered. “I can pay the bills myself with online banking.”
She stared at the silver laden computers, and then to silver walls. “We’ll work toward that next month, okay?” Angela nodded toward the wall. “Is this a new project?”
Andrew’s smile reappeared. “Yeah, it’s my recycling project. Do you like it?”
“Well, it’s certainly glittery throughout the apartment. What did you use?”
“Want some tea? I know you’d like tea.” Andrew sprinted from the room headed toward the kitchen.
Rubbing her fingers along her temple, to ease the headache forming from the ozone fumes, did little to ease her concern over Andrew’s new development both physically and mentally. She slowly followed him to the kitchen, noting it was equally lustrous. Running her hands along the wall gave Angela an unsettled sensation. The urge to touch what lay below the glistening barrier grew disconcerting as her fingernails scratched against a bump on the wall.
“Andrew, what exactly did you use to make this covering?”
“Wrappers from my new brain food. If you’re nice I’ll share what’s in the cupboard with you.” The squeal of the teakettle matched Andrew’s frenetic movements as he scurried around the kitchen. “There’s milk in the fridge for your tea.”
Angela opened the refrigerator, finding the milk as well as a hundred bags of chocolate kisses. Opening cupboards, she found each one completely stocked with bags of the silvery treats. Pouring milk into her tea, she stared at the coaster beneath the mug, woven from the candy’s paper flags and shellacked to a high waterproof gloss.
Now the weight gain made sense. Andrew had spent the entire month eating the chocolate, and then decoupaged with their aluminum coats. A few months ago he’d starved himself to understand the plight of famine; next month would be a new compulsion taken to even greater heights.
Angela gazed at her twin. Such a beautiful creature of complex simplicity, with a heart of gold and an intellect that surpassed the brilliant… all trapped inside a brain full of odd patterns and compulsions few understood.
“Andrew, after we drink our tea, why don’t we take a long walk. It’s a beautiful day and we could both use the exercise and fresh air.”
“Can’t, I’ve got too much to do.”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“Don’t bug me, Angie. I’m thirty years old, just like you, and I’m not a baby that needs constant attending.”
Watching Andrew’s obstinate face as he stacked and restacked the sugar cubes on the table made the scream swelling in her head threaten to spill from her mouth. Breathing deeply did little to alleviate the tension as she watched the sugared bricks slowly rise and fall, simply building another wall between them.
Giving him a smile of encouragement, she touched his hand as he counted another cube and piled it on the crystalline border. “Andrew, how long have you been off your meds?”
He jerked his hand from hers. “I haven’t stopped taking my meds. My computer reminds me every day to take them.”
Angela stared at Andrew’s face, watching his expression change from happy, to perplexed, to anguished in rapid-fire succession. She touched the wall desperate to understand, and then ran her fingers along the finely woven coaster trying to find a way to break this current brain compulsion. The madness would never end.
Andrew stared as Angela picked at the wall, her fingernails digging against the burnished barrier until she was able to touch the silver beneath the surface. Her face eased from its anxious expression, relaxing as she stroked the silvery paper, a small satisfied sigh finally escaping her.
He touched her face, turning it toward him, gazing at the shame now filling her chocolate brown eyes. “It’s going to be alright. It’s just another thing we share, Angie.”
He patted her hand to slow the action of her scratching at the coaster. “Maybe one day the doctors will be able to find meds for us that don’t stop working. Until then, we’ll make this work, okay?”
P.A. Matthews resides in California, and writes fiction and poetry in various styles, often crossing genres just to keep life interesting. Several horror pieces can be seen at MicroHorror, and in Farspace Anthology’s spring release. The Riley McCabe series will premier at Mystic Moon Press in March.