My story for the TerribleMinds Challenge: An Affliction of Alliteration
The Evasive Existence of Ernestine Eaton
Ernie blinked out of existence just after lunch, when a stringy skirt steak and red pepper wrap sat like a dumbbell at the bottom of her stomach. Instead of sitting through hours of tedious unit testing with a painfully tight stomach, she disintegrated.
Ernie embraced the nothingness and basked in the glow of oblivion.
When she blinked back into her physical form, she was alone in her office. The lights were out and the hum of the furnace fan played rhythm guitar to her sliding yawn.
She tried logging into her computer but it wouldn’t accept her password. She shrugged, and wandered over to the break room to make a pot of coffee.
After filling up on caffeine, she left the building to find her car. Once outside, the bitter cold stabbed her skin, and she remembered her car keys were in the pocket of her jacket, hanging from her cube wall. She hopped back to the building while shivering in the subzero Minnesota winds, and angled her access card in front of the badge reader. The light blinked red. She tried it again to no avail.
Ernie pulled her phone from her pocket to call a cab and saw the voicemail icon with a red 12 circled in the right-hand corner. After accessing her voicemail screen and thumbing through the list of missed calls, she skipped over messages from her mother, her roommate, and a few from numbers her phone didn’t recognize. She listened to the messages from her boss, and realized she hadn’t been in the office for five days and had been fired.
Ernie’s heart sank. It was getting more difficult to determine the lengths of her vacations, and she’d overshot this one big time. She threw her phone to the ground and watched little fragments of plastic and metal scatter across the frozen sidewalk before she blinked out of existence once more.
When she rematerialized this time, it was warm outside. The sun lit her face and she pulled off her sweater and wrapped it around her thin waist. Her phone was gone, but she still had her wallet with twenty-two dollars cash. She walked to the corner, waiting for traffic to die down before she could cross, and nearly missing the number seven bus in the process. Thankfully the bus driver saw her flailing arms across the street and waited for her.
Ernie didn’t bother going back to her apartment in Uptown. Judging from the change in weather and the length of her restful sojourn, she’d been gone a long time. She went directly to her parents’ house in Plymouth, hoping for a nice homecooked meal. It felt like ages since she’d eaten, and now that tortilla-wrapped brick had dissolved, she was ravenous.
She entered the code on their garage panel, but the panel lights blinked and the door refused to budge. Frustrated, she stomped up their front walk and rang the doorbell. As she waited, she noticed a change in landscape surrounding their door, instead of the typical evergreen shrubs beside the porch and annuals in pots, there were rolling mounds of vibrantly colored flowers loitering around their front stoop.
When the door finally opened, a stranger stood beside it. She had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and Ernie could hear children playing in the family room.
“Yes?” the blonde said. Her body was turned so she could keep one eye on the kids and the other at the door.
“Um,” Ernie said. “I’m looking for my mother.”
The blonde’s eyebrows raised as the door inched shut.
“She used to live here,” Ernie said, wondering how long she’d been missing this time.
“Oh, wait, you’re that daughter. I’ve got an envelope for you somewhere.” The door shut behind her and Ernie twirled in a slow circle with her fingers in her pockets. She whistled as she stepped out onto the lawn and warmed her face in the bright sun. The door click open and Ernie turned to find the blonde back in the doorway.
“Your mother left this for you,” she said, and after she handed Ernie the envelope she shut the door. Ernie sat in the lawn, and wondered at the grass so green and perfect that it couldn’t possibly be real. She slid her fingers down one cool strand of grass, then sliced it in half with her thumb nail. It severed easily. She shoved the strand between her teeth and whistled a long loud shrilling note, then sucked on the grass while she opened the letter.
Ernie crumpled up the letter and threw it on the lawn. She felt a shudder roll through her body and panic swept through her chest. She lay back in the grass, breathing in the smell of flowers and recently mowed grass, then sighed before dissolving once more into the blissful nonexistence of the void.