Your Neighbor's Keeper
858 words long
But you're never told what would have happened. And the important moments never announce themselves except in the rearview mirror.
Notes from the author:
Real life is often more baffling than fiction. Sometimes the conundrums are large: Why do disasters visit one house and leave the next untouched? But sometimes they're too small and petty for deep philosophical attention. I'd feel silly even trying to make conversation about them at the pub.
For instance: When someone asks, "Do you live in this building," you'd think they're trying to locate an address, wouldn't you? So why, after your answer, would they simply walk out of the neighborhood as though they had no interest in that building after all?
I suppose I could have just forgotten about it. But my daily freewriting awaited, and the incident served as an evocative writing prompt. That's what writers do: we imagine answers. (Sometimes the answers we imagine are kind of strange.)
After the rubble was cleared and the site tested for radiation, after the evacuees were allowed to return to the other buildings, after new housing was constructed in the ruins; after all the other questions were answered or forgotten as irrelevant, one question yet remained. I expect it will live in me until I die.
The clean-up and rebuilding took much longer than expected. The workers suffered symptoms that kept the EPA returning to run test after test and asking, "What's going on here?" That was one question that never got answered. For all anyone knows, it was magic. Or some kind of psychic toxin. As the worrisome effects eventually faded, so too did the urgency of the question. Construction got underway in earnest, in search of answers to a different question: "How soon can we get property values back up?"
They never found out exactly what caused the destruction. Whatever it was, it did not materially affect the other buildings. Here in my single-bedroom unit in building B next door, the walls didn't even shake. Not a tile fell off the roof, nor pictures from the walls.
But buildings C and H were razed to the ground.
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for November 21, 2014. The fictionette appears in its entirety (858 words) at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.
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