The Anagram Man

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 61

Photo by Jason Wong on UNSPLASH

My coffee finishes brewing. I set the book down, walk across my studio apartment, pour myself a mug along with my customary dollop of cream.

I blow across the surface; there’s nothing like the first sip of the day.

Now, where was I? Oh, right! My new book of short stories! I pick it up and begin reading again.

‘The man looks up from his laptop, grows irritated. When he got his beverage, he had left a kitchen cabinet door open. His memory, he realizes, isn’t what it used to be. That is what most scares him, losing his memory, losing his memories. Who was he without his memories, after all?’

I set the book down. I can relate to this! This guy has hooked me, and I’m still on the first page!

Like the character in the story, ‘Not Alone,’ I also struggle with memory issues. A large part of our identity depends on our memories. I could have written this story.

I set the book on my lap for a second. Something is bothering me, and I don’t know what it is.

Then I see it. I keep my coffee filters in a kitchen cabinet. The inner surface of the doors is white, a square rectangle of white floats in my field of vision – I left my kitchen cabinet door open.

What the hell?

I tease myself for reading too much in the coincidence. I take another sip of coffee and resume reading.

‘The man puts his laptop down on the bed where he sits propped against a mountain of pillows, rises, returns the coffee filters to the lower shelf, and closes the cabinet door. The white inner surface had been a visual distraction from the story he was writing.’

“Just another coincidence,” I say to myself.

It was more like four coincidences. I count them; there are over four.

“Okay, that’s enough,” I say to no one when I run out of fingers on my left hand; my right hand still holds the book.

I open the book and read several pages.

‘The man’s sleeping area sits at the far end of his apartment. A section of wall separates the sleeping area from the rest of the cozy studio. The wall is open on both sides. The nine-foot wide wall has columns on each end that extend to the vaulted ceiling, but the middle portion is only seven feet high. The top edge of this section features white molding and forms a gentle ledge where the man has set a selection of novels and books.’

“Okay, now this isn’t funny anymore,” I say, a little louder. I close the book around my index finger, marking my space. I study the front cover.

Nineteen: Short Horror Stories by Kaleb Brady

I’m feeling some genuine fear now. There are far too many coincidences. I live in a small studio that is pretty much as Mr. Brady just described. Even down to keeping books and novels on the freestanding wall divider.

I don’t want to read another word from this story, but stopping reading, not finishing the story is impossible. With trepidation, I continue to read.

‘The man’s eyes drift to the novels on top of the divider wall.’

I look over the top of the book at my row of books. When I placed them there, I pulled two of the books slightly out of the row to ‘mark’ them; Night Film by Marisha Pessl (a book I plan to read next) and The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp (a novel I wish to reread). These titles protrude slightly from the row of otherwise aligned books.

‘As his eyes linger over the titles there, he sees one, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, slowly slide forward until gravity takes over and carries the book to the floor; it hits with a thud between the wall and the bed. The man lurches upright in his bed. He is not alone; there is someone on the other side of the divider.’

I’m too scared to look up at my books. My two extruding books aren’t out-jogged far enough for them to fall on their own.

But am I alone in here? The question is unnerving me, so I push it down hard.

I’m frozen. I’ve stopped reading the words but continue to stare at the pages. The letters and words float out of focus while my peripheral vision edges upwards.

A flash of color. The Arnopp novel falls. I fling the book I’m reading to the floor. I need to be free of that accursed Kaleb book. I need to burn it in a sacred ceremony at midnight under a full moon, then scatter its ashes, perhaps after first dousing them with a liberal quantity of holy water.

But I don’t believe in such nonsense, do I?

No time for that now. I spring out of my bed and lunge at the wall divider. I walk into the living area, passing by the divider wall on the left.

There’s no one there.

But what if he just entered my sleeping area as I passed out of it? I shiver.

I hate fighting a lot. I am not a fighter. With my thin wrists and what one fellow once described as a ‘glass jaw,’ I don’t want to engage in physical violence, but it feels imminent at this point. With all the courage I can muster, I lunge quickly back into the sleeping area.

No one is there.

My eyes fall on the book. The author’s name? Something about it, but what?

His name is Kaleb Brady; my name is Blake Darby.

His name is an anagram of mine. Nausea rises in me.

An oily understanding falls fully formed in my consciousness.

I am a character in one of his stories. Or he is a character in one of mine.

Did I forget to mention, I’m a writer also?

Either way, this feels like a ‘this story isn’t big enough for the both of us’ type scenario unfolding here.

“Look, stay where you are. I’ll come to you,” Kaleb says to me menacingly from the other side of the wall; his voice pierces me to my core.

I pull the slender lamp off my nightstand, jerk it unplugged from the wall. Armed, I prepare to meet my nemesis.

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