GONE • by Christopher P. Garlington

Once there was a storyteller who came every day like the ice cream man. He pedaled a little cart with tinkling bells and kids would come leaping out of their houses and crowd around and he would tell them stories.

Only as he told his tales, some of the children would disappear. By disappear, I mean they ceased to have been.

But inside the storyteller’s head, these children crowded every roost. Their chatter and wailing drove the guy crazy and one day he pedaled the jangling cart over the edge of a parking garage and impaled himself on a fence post. His head cracked open and children poured out like mice from a barn on fire.

Soon a whole school’s worth of boys and girls stood around rubbing their eyes and cracking their knuckles and farting and staring at the buildings and cars. Nobody knew who they were.

They didn’t know who they were either. Sent to orphanages and foster homes, they grew up, got educations, jobs, married, gave birth, got old. They ended up fat, happy, and indistinct.

But eventually, one by one, while taking a walk after supper, while having a drink at a bar, while making love one last creaking time, they winked out of existence. Suddenly they never were. Their companions dropped their spectral hands without a thought, their memory fading like a frost, their lover roiling alone in her sheets, the guy at the bar asking “Did I order two?”

Christopher P. Garlington is a writer living in Chicago.

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Every Day Fiction