Jolie was ready to go out–she had Pokemon to catch–but the lock on her front door was broken. Or it must have been; she turned the knob and it didn’t budge. Not even in the slight, clickety way a locked door will turn a millimeter or so before stopping. It was like the knob was a prop, an extension of a statue of a door.
Reaching around behind her back, she dug into the bottom pocket of her yellow knapsack and pulled out her house keys. She penetrated the keyhole, but before she could turn the key, something pushed against it, like a baby forcing out a spoonful of baby food. She tried again–something spongy pushed back. She couldn’t shake the image of a tongue out of her mind. Once more she shoved the key inside, putting her whole weight into it, her sneakered feet digging into the floor. Her wrist was tiring, attempting to turn the key but not quite getting the key in far enough to be able to. But she was gaining ground–she felt it, the imagined tongue was receding into the keyhole. Another millimeter or so, and…
The lock turned sharply in the opposite direction Jolie was turning the key. She felt a snap, and the handle of the key broke free and skidded along the doorknob, and rammed into the door as Jolie’s balance pitched her forward. She stopped herself before crashing too hard, but saw that the key had broken in half. She frowned and looked at the keyhole. It was full–the tongue wasn’t pushing out now.
She just wanted to catch some ‘Mons. She put on her favourite catchin’ ballcap and everything.
What the hell was her door doing? The only explanation she could come up with was that there was someone outside, holding the doorknob shut and messing with her. She moved to the window next to the door and looked outside, craning her neck so she could see if anyone was on the doorstep. No one. In fact, there was no one outside in general. No cars driving by, nobody going for a walk (in prime Pokemon Go weather, no less), no bikes–nothing.
She made her way to the backdoor and moved to unlock the padlock. The dial didn’t turn. She snarled in frustration and banged her wrist on it to dislodge it from whatever had it stuck. No dice–it remained flat as a board. She tried the knob, and predictably it didn’t turn–exactly like the front door, where it didn’t feel locked so much as immovable.
Jolie was trapped in her own house.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and called her friend, who had a key. She waited. No ring tone sounded. She looked at her phone. No service. What? She lifted the phone into the air. It didn’t help.
That was when she noticed her digital clocks were out. Her computer monitor was off, and the computer as well. The WiFi, of course, was out too. A blackout in the middle of the day, in good weather?
Claustrophobia began setting in. She had lived in this house for over a year, but now it seemed so much smaller than before. Her connections to the world were gone, physical and digital.
The window. She ran to the kitchen window and tried to slide it open. It remained sealed. She ran to her bedroom and tried that window. The crank did nothing. In a panic, she picked up her copy of Infinite Jest and hurled it at the window next to the door. It bounced off. She picked up the book and, screaming, pounded the corner into the glass again and again. Tried a different window. Another. None of them so much as cracked.
Exhausted, she sat on the floor, her cheeks wet. Everything was silent. No street noise, no house noise. All she could hear was pounding. At first, she thought it was her heart. But no, not rhythmic enough. The pounding was erratic, varied in distance and tone.
She also heard screaming.
Standing up, she looked out her window at the house across the street. She saw her neighbour, Mr. Jones, in the window, pounding at the glass, his mouth forming HELP, HELP. Next to him, Mrs. Weeble was doing the same. On the other side, the Burrs were throwing chairs at the windows. Jolie listened some more. The pounding, the muffled screams–they were coming from all directions, all houses, like the earth itself had buried humanity alive.
She wasn’t in a house. She was in a coffin.
Day 206’s three random prompt categories were, “A house traps residents inside,” “An inanimate object with feelings,” and, “Favourite piece of clothing.”
Pokemon Go sure is fun, though, right?