Self Narration

“Jason wakes up at the bottom of the stairs, his wife Natalie leaning over him with a strange look on her face.”

“That was a nasty fall. Are you okay?”

“I think I’m alright, says Jason, and struggles to his feet. The back of his head is soft and tender to the touch and his fingers come away spotted with blood. The side of his face…”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Jason shrugs. Talking like what? he says.”

“Like that. I’m not taking you to a hospital with corona everywhere, so, I don’t know, take an aspirin or something.”

Time passes.

“Natalie sat curled on the leather couch, stuffing her face with popcorn while watching Netflix and messaging on her phone.”

“Will you shut up, Jason. I can’t hear the tv.”

“She pauses only to shout at her loving husband.”

“If you were my loving husband you’d shut up and make me some dinner.”

“Jason strides manfully into the kitchen. Braving the arctic conditions of the freezer, risking frost bite, he frees a box of hot pockets from the ice.”

Time passes.

“Baby, Jason says to his beautiful wife, could you take a look at the back of my head. I think it’s still bleeding.”

“If you stopped touching it, it would stop bleeding.”

“His wife is right. Jason resolves to keep his hands away from the aching wound on the back of his head.”

“If you’re going to talk get out of the living room. I’m trying to watch this.”

Time passes.

“Jason wanders the house. Once his and Natalie’s love nest, the rooms and halls feel haunted by another presence. Maybe he is the one haunting them. Ascending the stairs, the photos of a happy couple look faked, the effect magnified by his presence in them. He can’t remember grinning like that. The floating shelves with his and hers bowling trophies seem like artefacts looted from someone else’s life. Stopping to read the names and dates engraved upon them, he sees a dark corner where blond hair clings on the base of Natalie’s league participation trophy. Rusty flakes crack off as he scrapes it with a thumbnail. He is sure the hair is his.”

Time passes.

“As his loving wife sleeps, Jason carefully reaches over her rotund figure, hoping not to jostle her into wakefulness as he tries to pull from her sweaty grasp her precious…”

“What? What are you? Don’t touch my phone. That’s private.”

“Jason feigns sleep, then pretends to be woken by his wife’s voice. What are you saying, baby, he says in a confused voice.”

“You’re out of here, buddy. Go sleep on the couch.”

“Dejected, depressed, Jason grabs a pillow…”

“And shut up already.”

Time passes.

“Jason pours vodka into his wife’s white wine, he whispers, whispering so she won’t hear. After three glasses she is starting to slur. She will be sleeping, near comatose, soon. He now prepares to carry the glass to her. He will pinch his lips shut with his free hand. She thinks he does this so he does not annoy her, but it is to conceal his thoughts and actions. Mmmf fmmf mff mfff mfffm.”

Time passes.

“The loud, congested snoring is unaffected by Jason pressing her fingertip against the phone’s button. He covers her with a blanket because he used to love her, and there was no way he could carry her from the couch to the bed. He shuts off the tv and turns off all the lights and goes up to the bedroom. He opens her messages. He is surprised to find she has been chatting with Dave. He remembers Dave. His friend Dave. Dave is in lockdown with his wife and children. She tells him the asshole is sleeping on the couch. He scrolls up. A block of emojis catches his eye. In it Natalie has written that Dave did not hit the asshole hard enough and he was still alive and talking weird. Scrolling back down, Dave wanted to know if he remembered anything and Natalie said not yet and he should come back and finish the job before he does. And she tells him the backdoor is never locked and the asshole is sleeping on the couch. Dave replied there might be a home invasion. The lockdown is making people desperate. Jason is stunned by what he has learned. It feels like he is reading a script and can’t believe that one of the characters is himself. Why was he the asshole and not Natalie, or Dave? He gasped at the sound of a gun going off downstairs. Jason didn’t know what to do. He sat frozen on the bed as footsteps came up the stairs.”

“Nat? Baby?”

“Dave was going to be in for a big surprise, he whispers to himself.”