Evening sunlight leaks through curtains and blankets the floor in soft, gold light. It flows across Buddy’s fluffy blonde fur, granting him the warm summer naps he loves so much. Minutes pass and hints of purple and orange take the sky.
My living room is clean, the simple cream carpet spotless and full. The glass coffee table makes for a nice centerpiece, with a tea set stacked neatly among my favorite reads. A bookcase lines the wall across from me, each shelf filled with books that rise and fall in size like a range of mountains. My armchair is flawless faux leather, the smell of lemon from its last cleaning mingling with the fresh flowers by my side. Plump crimson roses sit atop a bed of leaves spiraling thick green stems, disappearing into the wide vase.
I breathe deep and hold the scent as long as I can.
A picture of my son and me rests on one of the shelves. I haven’t heard from him in a while — too busy for his mother, I suppose.
I take my phone from my pocket and tap out his number.
It goes to voicemail. I set the phone aside and sit back.
Just as my eyes are falling shut, color blossoms in the corner of my vision. It’s a yellow spot, growing on the wall. I stand, tilting my head. The longer I watch, the larger it becomes, until the center turns black and spreads outward.
Did I take too much medicine again?
I scratch at the wallpaper. It gives and peels away, the moldy paper gathering under my nail. I stifle a gag and pick it out. Within seconds, new spots form across the entire wall. They spread until the wallpaper falls in long, stained strips.
I step over the paper and reach through rotted holes in the drywall to touch the wooden framing of my house. How did it erode so quickly?
A gentle whimper pulls my attention from the wall. Buddy is still lying on his side, but he’s not breathing.
I kneel beside him, tentatively patting his fur. He’s cold. I sweep my hand across his side. Blonde hair comes out in clumps to show graying skin. He decays rapidly, the ceiling fan blowing the rest of his fur away and leaving only chunks of dead flesh hanging from yellowed bones.
I scream and stagger back, desperate to get away from Buddy, who I only ever held close. I fall over my end table, sending the vase of flowers crashing to the floor. My hand crushes a bulb. I lift my hand, turning it over — it’s covered in bits of flakey brown petals. I pick up the brittle bouquet, and it breaks from my grip.
The living room that was spotless minutes ago is destroyed now. No light passes through the torn curtains, but I can see the leather from my armchair, dry and ripped. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling to meet a rising layer of dust. It covers every book, shelf, and ledge, every surface.
A soft knock makes me flinch.
I teeter to my feet, hopeful for someone to save me from this hell. Before I reach the rusted knob, a knock comes again, violent now. I pause. It grows in volume and intensity until the door shakes, barely able to withstand the pounding.
I fall to the floor, helpless.
Someone save me.
I tuck my knees to my chest and bury my head in between, lying there long after the banging stops.
A hand grips my shoulder. “Mom?”
I jump. My joints and muscles ache from the sudden movement.
“Mom, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
I lift my head to meet the worried gaze of a familiar face. My son. But he’s so much older.
His tears fall as he whispers in my ear. “I was so worried. You wouldn’t answer…”
But we had lunch just yesterday.
My eyes wander to the color in my periphery. It isn’t the wall but my roses. They’re still scattered over the carpet but are bright red again. Vibrant and alive. Just like Buddy, who sniffs them curiously.
My recliner and curtains aren’t torn and no dust lines the bookshelves. The walls are whole again.
My son cradles my head in his lap and caresses my graying hair.
What’s his name again?
Micah Klassen is a short fiction writer, previously published in St. Phillip’s literary art journal. He attends college in Ohio, studying psychology. When he’s not in class or writing, he’s taking pictures of pretty things and singing at inopportune times.