FREE IRON • by I. K. Paterson-Harkness

The iron sat squarely in the middle of Sally’s table. She stared at it, forehead creasing, then dropped her groceries and ran around the house, checking windows and doors. No one else was there and things seemed as secure as ever. But she’d never owned an iron. Her mother, willfully blind to the kind of daughter she’d produced, had tried giving her one a year or so back, but Sally had simply put it out on the footpath, its green and yellow striped cord wrapped neatly around its base. Students were always scouring the streets for free things. This iron, now on her table, was scuffed, its plastic discoloured, and it had a crack running down its handle. But it still looked usable. She put it on the street with a “FREE IRON” sign on it, and felt unsettled for the rest of the evening.

It was late by the time she separated herself from her computer and went to bed. When the city-wide blackout had occurred that morning she’d been working on an article about the “normalisation of anti-feminist literature in modern art analysis and criticism”, and as usual had been too preoccupied to press ‘save’. Her classes had been cancelled, the barriers at the entrance and exit of the staff car park had locked, and the department cafeteria couldn’t even serve her a coffee. It wasn’t until she’d been trudging back home with an armful of groceries, trying to remember in detail the paragraphs she’d lost so she could rehash them later, that the traffic lights had sprung back to life. The local media was heavily implying that Origin, the independent contractor that the council had hired to generate local power from the noxious gas pockets beneath Pine Hill rubbish dump, had screwed up in some major way. Scans indicated a massive power surge had occurred at the site, which discharged itself into the landfill and caused a minor explosion. No injuries were reported. The spokesperson of Origin had instead blamed the explosion on the local students. “They’re always sneaking in, dumping their junk, lighting fires. They’re a real problem.”

At 1 am the next morning Sally woke, needing to pee. Halfway down the hall she kicked something heavy and cursed loudly. She bent down to pick it up, but recoiled when she touched the cool, abraded surface. Switching on the light, she saw the iron. Its cord was stretched out like a tail.

“Oh my god,” she whispered.

While on the phone to the police she noticed that her bathroom window was open, and she slammed it shut, tightening the clasp firmly. She sat on her bed, hugging her knees until they arrived, and after she’d made a statement and they’d thoroughly checked her house, inside and out, she threw the iron into the neighbour’s wheelie bin.

After a fitful sleep she was awoken early by a sound close to her head, like soft radio static. She opened her eyes and saw an unfamiliar red light shining in the dark. Heart thumping, she felt for the button on her bedside lamp. The sudden bright glow illuminated the iron, perched upright, steam hissing from a hole in its exterior. A light shone from its handle. Sally spun to look at the wall socket. The iron was plugged in, its green and yellow striped cord quivering.

“Who’s there?” She screamed. “Why are you in my house?”

And as she turned back to look at the iron, it pounced.

I. K. Paterson-Harkness likes arranging words and musical notes into unique patterns. She resides in rainy Auckland, New Zealand, and saves worms from puddles.

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Every Day Fiction