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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Horonymous.

Category: Short Story

Ellie turned the object over in her hands. ‘What is it?’

James shrugged his shoulders and grinned. ‘Damned if I know. I won it in the works raffle.’

Ellie scrutinized the writing on the side of the box. ‘It just says made in Japan. Wasn’t there any instructions with it?’

‘Instructions? I thought it was an ornament.’

Ellie ran her hand over the metal orb. ‘I don’t think so. It’s got things sticking out of it like springs and two flaps at the top. It must do something otherwise why are they there?’

James took the orb from her hand, examined it closely, and then held it out at arms length. ‘From a distance it looks like a head with legs, kinda cute really.’

Ellie ran her hands around the ball’s curves and gave a delighted laugh.  ‘You’re right, it does. The flaps are like closed eyes. It sort of feels nice too, smooth and almost warm.’

‘What’re you going to do with it? Put it back in the box and shove it in the back of the drawer, I suppose.’

‘No, I’m going to put on the shelf above the fireplace and give it a name.’

James eyes rolled upwards in mock consternation. ‘You and your names, not another Fred I hope.’

Thumbing her nose in his general direction, Ellie placed the orb next to a clock, and a green bowl filled with overflowing ivy.

‘There.’ She stepped back her head cocked to one side and eyed the effect. ‘Modern Homes say you should group things in threes or fives.’

‘Do Modern Homes tell you to give them names as well?’

Ellie’s full lips shaped themselves into small rue. ‘I like giving things names and I’ve thought of a really posh name for this, Horonymous. It just popped into my head. What do you think?’ She looked at him as though willing his approval.

James put an arm around her waist and looked deep into her brown eyes. They’d only been married a year and he still couldn’t believe the dark haired beauty had agreed to marry him. ‘I think whatever you do is great – um - what’s for tea?’

‘Trust you to be more interested in your stomach, than the aesthetics of décor.’

James laughed and kissed her neck. ‘Swallowed a dictionary, did you?

‘No, Aesthetics is my word for the day,’ she replied

***

During the night James woke with a feeling of unease. He reached for the bedside clock and through sleep blurred eyes, the hands pointed to three o’clock. Somewhere from outside the door came a faint rumble that reminded him of a cat’s purr.

‘Did you leave a window open, Ellie? I think there’s a cat outside on the landing.’
The room was silent except for the steady tick of the clock. ‘Ellie wake up, a cat’s got in - it’ll be spraying and stinking the house out.’

Light flooded the room as the bedroom door opened, and Ellie came in. ‘Who’re you talking to?’

I thought I was talking to you. What’re you doing up at this time of night?’

‘I went downstairs for a drink of water.’

‘Shhhh. Do you hear that noise - like a cat purring? ’ Jamie said, putting his finger to his lips

Ellie pulled up the duvet, slid in beside him, and wrapped her cold body against his back. ‘Go back to sleep –it’s just the heating firing up.’

Why would the heating be firing up at three in the morning? Jamie thought as he drifted into sleep.


***

Punctuality was a fetish with Jamie - he hated to be late, and constantly checked his watch to make sure it was correct to the minute.  The following morning he made his usual trip into the sitting room to check the time, and to his surprise found the clock missing.

‘Did you move the clock, Ellie?’

Ellie looked up from her magazine. ‘No, I thought you had.’

He looked at the empty space, his face concerned. ‘Well if you didn’t move it someone must have pinched it.’

‘Don’t be silly, who’d have taken it?’

James folded brawny arms across his chest and scowled.  ‘I dunno, someone, clocks don’t walk off on their own.’

Ellie shrugged her small shoulders. ‘‘Forget it, I’ll get another one.’ She gazed at the shelf and frowned. ‘I don’t know why I put Horonymous up there, he’s too big. He can’t be happy balanced on such a small ledge. ‘She lifted the ball and held it close to her chest as she searched the room for somewhere to place it.

I’ll never understand women,. If it were a football match or something important I’d understand it, but fretting, and faffing about where to stand a lump of metal is a waste of bloody time   James frowned and reached for the remote control to get the correct time from the news.

Ellie paused in front of the fireplace. ‘He’d be better in the grate. Perhaps I’ll put the ivy down there too - as a contrast. What do you think?’

A grunt escaped James’s lips he wasn’t in the mood to discuss the placement of a metal ball. The thought that he might be late for work and someone had stolen his clock was more important.  Ellie and her habit of calling inanimate objects he or she, something he once thought cute, was beginning to grate on his nerves.

***

During the following weeks objects mysteriously vanished from the living room. Ellie appeared to take the disappearances in her stride. ‘It was only an ornament.’ Or ‘I didn’t like it anyway,’ she’d comment.

James, baffled by her lack of anxiety, tried to put the situation into perspective. ‘It’s not the value of the stuff, Ellie. It’s the fact that someone’s wandering around our house and taking things while we’re in bed.’

Ellie turned her head away and avoided his eyes. She rubbed her thumb across the surface of her fingertips, something she always did when she was about to disagree. ‘I didn’t like to say this before, but sweetheart, apart from the clock I don’t remember us having any of the things you say are missing.’

A look of astonishment replaced the concern on James’s face. ‘What do you mean you don’t remember? You’ve been saying you didn’t like them anyway.’

‘I was just being polite – besides I hate arguing. Let’s forget it shall we?’ Ellie disappeared into the kitchen and shut the door with a firm click.

‘End of,’ James stared at the door panel. He thought Ellie had been behaving very strangely, half the time she acted as if he wasn’t there and they hadn’t had sex in a month.

James viewed the empty space where the coffee table had been, decided he’d had enough, and called the police. He waited by the door his hands deep in his jeans pockets. and his shoulders hunched.

The blue and white car drew up at the curb. Two policemen alighted and walked swiftly to the door. The younger of the two spoke first. ‘Mr James Young?’ James nodded. The policeman glanced down at his notes. ‘You reported a burglary?’

‘Well not exactly a burglary.’ James ushered them through the hall. ‘More a sneak thief - things have been going missing for weeks.’

The older of the two policemen looked around the almost bare room. ‘So you haven’t actually been broken in to?’

‘Well, if you mean has someone bashed the door in - no.’

‘And you lock the doors and windows when you go out?’

‘Of course!’

The older policeman took out a pen. ‘Can you give me a list of what’s missing?’

James reeled off a list of items. ‘Clock, camera, and coffee table. DVDs and books. Pictures, briefcase, my watch, ornaments, plants and two lamps.’ 

‘That’s everything, except for Horonymous.’ Ellie added

‘Er- Horonymous, what’s that?’

Ellie pointed across the room. ‘Isn’t he splendid?’

James’s eyes followed her finger and he frowned. ‘Is that thing growing?’

‘Don’t be silly, how can it grow, its metal?’ She looked at the policemen and rolled her eyes.

The older policeman looked at the large orb filling the fire grate. ‘Have you anything else to add to the list, Madam?’

‘Ellie chewed at her lip. ‘I’m not very good at keeping lists. I leave all that to my husband.’

The policeman glanced at his companion, flipped shut his notepad and laid his hand on the door latch. ‘If anything comes up we’ll be in touch,’ he said as they left.

The next morning James was the first to wake. ‘Cup of tea?’ he slid his feet into slippers and reaching for his robe.

‘Mmmm, that’d be nice.’ Ellie mumbled from under the duvet cover.

As James made his way to the kitchen, he glanced into the sitting room and stopped in his tracks. Air expressed from his body like a deflating balloon. He turned, took the stairs two at a time and burst back into the bedroom

‘Wake up - you’re not going to believe this.  The bloody settee’s gone now!’ He stood over the bed his hands on his hips. Breath hissed loudly through his nose. ‘How the hell did they get it out the door? Remember all the trouble we had getting the bloody thing in?’

‘Calm down, James, it can’t be gone. We’d have heard a noise.’ She gave his shoulder a placatory pat. ’ I’ll make the tea this morning,’ she said and hurried downstairs.

In the sitting room James nodded to a space under the window. ‘See, it’s gone.’

Ellie fingered the tie on her gown. ‘I’d better make tea,’ she said with a frown.

‘I’ll call the police.’

‘No, wait, we need to talk about this.’  Ellie settled down on the footstool that faced the remaining settee, her features impassive.

He looked at Ellie’s expressionless face and again it occurred to James how things had changed between them lately. Suddenly his heart felt like a brick in his chest at the realization that although she was beautiful, she was stupid. The word she chose everyday, repeated like a parrot, until it nearly drove him crazy, would be forgotten and not even the meaning remembered in a week’s time.

‘You seem pretty calm about it all.’ James said.

‘Well, things happen. At least they didn’t steal Horonymous.’ Ellie patted the orb at her feet.

James looked in the direction of Ellie’s stroking hand and snapped to attention. ‘Hey, that thing has grown.’

‘You keep saying that - how can it grow?’

‘Look at it, it’s the size of a Great Dane’ He pushed the orb with his foot.

‘It hasn’t grown. Don’t you remember we had to put on the floor because it was too big for the shelf?’ Ellie’s face was anxious, her hand fluttered to her chest. ‘James, I think your memory’s going. Horonymous was never on the shelf. He’s always been down here beside my chair.’

‘No it wasn’t, I brought the thing home in my pocket. I’d need a wheel-barrow now.’
       
Ellie gave a sigh. ‘Darling, you haven’t been yourself lately.’

‘What do you mean, haven’t been myself lately?’

‘You seem to be imagining things. Like the missing settee, we only ever had one settee. I think you should see someone.’

‘See someone?  Who?’

‘Well, a doctor or something. I think you may be having some sort of breakdown.’  She gave a tremulous smile. ‘I nearly died when you gave that policeman a list of things we never had. I thought it was about claiming extra insurance, that’s why I didn’t say anything.’

James spent the day sorting things out in his mind. Why was Ellie doing this? He may be stressed out, overworked and angry, but not mad. Perhaps she took the stuff. He was a heavy sleeper, maybe she had a lover, and they were taking it away at night. Maybe they intended to set up home together. He decided to keep watch.

James felt less than dignified, hiding behind a tree trunk, and peeping in through his own front window. Nevertheless he persevered and when dawn lightened the chilly morning sky, something moved inside the room.

James’s heart pounded as he crept to the windowsill for a closer look. The metal orb had rolled forward. Coiled springs slid out of the steel body and elongated into legs and it rose slowly. Tightly closed flaps on the front flipped upwards and yellow beams of light shot out and scanned the room. Horonymous trundled forward to the centre of the room and stopped in front of remaining settee. The beam moved from side to side and with a sizzle like scorching hair, dissected it into small pieces with quick precise strokes. Jamie clenched his teeth over the scream rising in his throat as Horonymous’s head split like the jaws of a mechanical digger, scooped up the neatly cut sections, and devoured them. When finished, he moved back to his position beside the fireplace and returned to his original shape.

James scrambled through the front door and ran into the sitting room. This was no hallucination, the settee had gone, and the orb grown to the size of a small donkey. He swore loudly and struggled to pull it towards the door. ‘That’s the last thing you’re gonna eat in this fuckin’ house, pal.’

Ellie pounded down the stairs. ‘What’re you doing?’

‘It’s him eating the goddamned furniture,’ James screamed pointing at the orb.

‘Don’t, you’ll damage him.’

‘Damage him? I can’t even move him.’

Ellie stepped between them and pulled her dressing gown tighter around her throat. ‘What do you want to move him for?’ she said, her voice calm.

‘I told you - he just ate the settee. What do you think it’ll start on next? Help me get it out.’

‘What’re you going to do?’

‘Smash it to pieces and throw it in the dumpster.’

‘You can’t do that.’

Jamie swung around and stared at her. ‘Why?’

‘Because he’s mine,’ said Ellie.

‘I don’t give a shit – its going.’ Sweat slicked James’s forehead as he tried to dislodge the orb from the corner.

Ellie clenched her fists. ‘Horonymous is staying.’

‘You’re wrong. This thing is out of here, right now.’ James kicked the orb and a soft purr came from the inside

Ellie rushed forward and pulled at Jamie’s jacket.  ‘Stop it, you’ll hurt him!’

‘Shut up, Ellie, it’s a lump of metal - a few nuts and bolts… Or it will be when I’m done.’

‘You mean you really intend to destroy him?’

‘Yeah, before it ends up eating us.’ James aimed another kick at the orb.

‘Please - Please change your mind - he’d never hurt me. He loves me and I love him.’

James face was dark with fury. ‘Get a grip, you silly idiot.’ He picked up a heavy poker from the grate.

‘Then you leave me no choice,’ Ellie replied and pointed a finger towards James. 

‘Homonymous,’ she commanded.

The orb moved forward and the eye flaps lifted.

Jamie felt no pain as the yellow light slashed across his waist, only amazement as the top half of his body toppled sideways. In his last few seconds he watched his torso and legs crumple and sink to the floor at his side.


 

Posted by witchbitch on 04/17 at 11:56 AM | Permalink
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