My alphabet challenge today really was a challenge as it took me hours to come up with what E was even going to stand for. That’s a lie actually, my friend came up with it for me. This is the first tale that really has been plucked from the air rather than being based on one of my stories so to that end it’s a lot less stable. The story came out a bit whilst I was writing it so I’m less happy with it as a piece. I don’t pace it right and there’s a lot which probably doesn’t have the gravity it deserves. If there is an element though about today’s alphabet challenge that I love, it’s that it is the perfect exploration of the unreliable narrator. I love stories that use the unreliable narrator, where we’re forced to see everything from their perspective but never know 100% whether they’re really presenting things accurately, as you would get from an omniscient narrator. To this end, I think this short piece is great because how little would it take for this guy to become something far more sinister than he considers himself to be?
“She didn’t give a name at first and assumed that her sex could be presumed. She shook my hand with a firm finality but wouldn’t meet my gaze. She was given the job and set about her work with barely a word. Not a savant but exceptionally capable, she didn’t mix with other staff and did her best to avoid all. The way her hair hung over her face, curtaining her off to everything but the computer screen made me want to help. Perhaps in my arrogance I wanted to save her. Sullen and silent, asking for nothing. I could only imagine what her life at home was like. I did imagine it though, a lot.
One day she needed to be brought in on a scheduled day off. Emergency. No one could get hold of her on the phone. I volunteered to drive to her address, just in case.
I drove up to her house, a house and not a flat. I saw her playing in the garden with some kids. Her face lighting up with laughter and joy as they frolicked in the sun near their padding pool. She caught my eye as I pulled along the curb and the curtain came down again. All laughter gone but the kids didn’t seem to notice. She wanted me gone, to never darken her doorstep again. She hated me seeing her like this so I left.
I don’t know why. She never spoke of it in the few interactions we’ve had since. I’m more curious than ever.”