Back Door

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 49

Photo by Markus Spiske on

At first, the two men enjoyed their alarm system. They would playfully mimic its sonorous announcements.

“Front door,” the simulated female voice would announce in its pleasing if robotic voice.

Then one of them, Greg or Andy, would parrot back “Front door,” and both men would laugh at the silliness. It was a bit of fun between two men who had been lovers for so long, knew each other so well, they rarely needed to say anything new to the other. It became a tiny application of social lubricant.

Andy was the one who wondered if it could announce more events. He was the one who stood patiently at the wall panel for almost twenty minutes, diving deeper and deeper into the control panel’s complex nested menus of settings.

Andy had navigated down twelve menus when he saw what he thought might be what he wanted from the system.


Andy toggled the setting to ON and exited the settings menu.

The system was impressive. The system’s singsong announcements were no longer limited to ‘front door,’ ‘garage door,’ and ‘back door.’ There seemed to be no limit to what ‘Rachel’ (the simulated female voice the two men had selected because they both thought it sounded like a friend of theirs from college) would announce or annotate.

The house was so connected and interconnected; it was practically aware. Now Rachel routinely announced the status of stove burners, the openings, and closings of refrigerator doors, pantry doors, bathroom doors, bedroom doors. When they selected a new NETFLIX show to watch, Rachel would say the series name and the current season and episode numbers.

Their whimsical habit had become a playful diversion for both Greg and Andy.

If they were alone and not working from their offices, one or both of them would always parrot back any mechanistic declaration the system announced.

When their cat stood at the back door waiting and wanting to come back inside, Rachel would cheerfully declare, “Callie at back door.” Then, one of the two men would rise and open the door for the feline.

The system of announcements grew on both of them. It integrated itself into their psyches, informed how they moved about in their technologically advanced home.

“Ceiling fan,” Rachel would say. The men would sigh their appreciation of the notice despite being the ones who had activated the fan.

Have a nonstop narration of status would have annoyed many couples, but Greg and Andy found it amusing, even comforting somehow. The safety, comfort, and condition of their home were important to them, and they both felt buoyed, not annoyed, by the endless series of announcements from Rachel. It was good; all of it was just as fine as frog hair.

Security was everything for Greg and Andy.

Rachel made her announcements. If either of the men was awake, they might parrot it back. However, none of Rachel’s messages were ignored. If not consciously absorbed or noticed, every pronouncement was processed subliminally, subconsciously.

Rachel says something as both of the men slept.

A second later, Andy stirs and then wakes.

“Back door,” Andy says to himself while Greg still sleeps.

Andy lays back on his pillow.

But something is wrong. It’s the middle of the night. If the back door had opened, the alarm would have gone off. Andy’s eyes open wide. Quietly, he gets out of his bed. He pulls the bat from under the bed and ventures out to investigate the status of their home.

As he exits the master bedroom, incredibly, he sees a man in ragged clothes at the alarm panel, pushing buttons.

The man has a pack over one shoulder. He deactivates the alarm, then makes his way to the front door.

As the man opens the door, Rachel says, “Front door.”

Then, when he exits, she says, “Jack Moore.”

He wakes Greg and tells him what just happened. Both men are shaken. A quick investigation reveals that the homeless man had been squatting in an upstairs attic space accessible through a closet outside their comfortable media room.

They find a half-empty package of earplugs in the attic space where the man had slept.

“I guess Jack Moore wasn’t a fan of Rachel’s!” Greg says. Both men laugh and return to their bed, but only after changing the alarm system code.

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