Aaron J. Housholder

There are still two of us in this room I think but I wouldn’t swear to it because the other guy is silent. It’s hard to ignore that crazy sunset flaming behind the mountains outside the picture window but I must because the window and the ceiling and the sunset are dripping molten purple and also because that silent guy is chasing me. I’m armed with nothing more than an orange spatula and an atlas for a shield so I can hide behind the whole world as I run around the spinning lava-room. It’s dark in here except for the lava and I can’t see the other guy and shhhhh sh sh sh, I still can’t hear him but I know he’s there and chasing me because he told me he would, he would for always, since I took all of his Flintstone vitamins so I could feel better. And he saw me take them and he laughed and growled and laughed and said those weren’t Flintstone vitamins and I was headed for one righteous hell of a trip and he was gonna chase me around for always and always so he could watch, and then he got silent.

I think it was the Barney tablet that hit me but maybe it was Dino because that one tasted furry even though dinosaurs weren’t furry or purple either, now that I mention it. And now maybe if I open the atlas and slam some page on my forehead I’ll teleport there, but I have to be careful to hit water because landing on Asia from this high up would hurt my ankles.

I hear nothing but the static in the carpet and the juice in the wall socket and the wallpaper glue when it oozes down.

I know the man is laughing at me somewhere nearby—I feel giggle vibrations on my skin. I imagine his eyes like eggs and I swing my spatula to scramble them but they’re hard-boiled. I just wanted some vitamin C and maybe B12 for my energy while I’m stuck here at home and now I have whiskers growing on my brain and my esophagus has melted. I think page 42 of the atlas just papercut my liver—Indonesia, the pointy bits.

If I run in circles enough perhaps the lava floor will swirl and vaporize the man while I use my spatula like a paddle to stay afloat and that’s a good idea because it’s heatproof. Settle down, he says somewhere, and now he’s shaking me by the spleen. Settle up, he says, but I’m running from him and the sun has gone down outside and doused itself in the liquid picture window and the mist from its melting fills my nostrils like dry ice, like Antarctica, page 17, and it’s dark in here now except for the lava carpet and it’s steamy hot and maybe that’s why his eye-eggs are boiled.

But now my atlas is smoldering a glowing Armageddon for the whole world and it smells like summer camp and it’s melting to my hand. And my silicone spatula is on fire and now the man is beside me and laughing and blowing on it like a birthday candle, and between hot sulfur breaths he keeps saying happy birthday dipshit I told you to leave my vitamins alone.

Aaron J. Housholderteaches writing and literature at a small liberal arts university. His creative work has appeared in Barren MagazineThe Molotov Cocktailphoebe journalCheap PopInk & Letters, and elsewhere. He currently serves as the fiction editor for Relief Journal. You can find him on Twitter: @ProfAJH.

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