Quarantine (a short story)
I wrote this the other night at 3am after quarantine had driven me to take a few swigs of Absolut and hack away at the keyboard. Enjoy.
I was all alone in the house when I heard the first voice.
“Hey,” it whispered from the corner of the living room. It was neither male nor female, but just a generic whisper in the creepiest sense. “What’s your name?”
“Who’s there?” I asked. “Why are you home, Jeremy?” I called out, not taking my eyes up from the pages of my book. But my roommate was not home. No one was. Just me and the voice.
“Hey,” It said again. “What is your name?” It said it slower like it was losing its patience with me.
I looked into the corner where the whisper came from. “Andy?” I asked, thinking it was a different roommate playing a prank still.
“Hi, Andy! Nice to meet you!” it said.
“No, my name isn’t Andy. My name is Ethan.”
“Oh, hi Ethan,” It replied.
I was now staring intently into the corner where the sound emanated from and could still see nothing. Then a little rabbit hopped out from behind the sofa and sat next to the coffee table. It didn’t look at me, just cast its eyes low across the ground. It was a cartoon rabbit and it was white. Its little nose wiggled like it was sniffing the air to detect a certain scent. Or like a rubber ball bouncing on air at the end of its short snout.
“Hey,” it said again.
“What are you?” I asked in partial shock and disgust.
“Oh, my name is Jarshon,” it said. It blurred the sh sound so it was halfway between sh and j, like a French block of ice sliding across concrete.
“What are you doing here?” I asked it.
“Well we have to stay inside, don’t we, silly?” It replied. And it was right. It was during the Coronavirus outbreak when the government forced people indoors to prevent the spread of disease and death. Apparently that also applied to cartoon rabbits.
“Well Jarshon,” I began, but didn’t know what to ask it. “Is it okay if I call you Jarshon?”
“That’s my name, silly!” it piped up. It had a high pitched voice but still did not seem particularly feminine or masculine.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I’m an accountant,” it said. “I just love figuring out the moving pieces. It’s like a puzzle you get to solve every day!”
“Oh, ok. How long have you been doing that?”
“Just since 2013, so a few years. It pays the bills and keeps my brain active! Hey! Do you want to meet my friend Saul?”
“Uh…” I thought for a moment and then realized I didn’t have much option. Besides, spending time with some new friends during quarantine would be better than spending it alone. “Sure.”
“Saul!” It called out, tweaking its furry head up and over, as if calling someone behind me. And it was. I heard footsteps come from behind me so I turned and saw a man-sized thing there. It had one eye in the center of its head like a cyclops and it was dressed like a caveman. He was not cartoon, but CGI animated, like a poorer version of Toy Story or Up. His one big eye was cast downward and he dragged a spear behind him. It dragged along the ground like it was a weight for him to carry rather than a tool for him to use for hunt or war. He also had a snake stuck in his head. The tail fell out one ear and the head out the other and it was clearly still alive and showing no signs of giving up the ghost anytime soon.
“Hi Saul,” I said, trying to mask my fear that he may snap and hurt me at any second. Physically, he would have been more than capable. But his morose spirit seemed to convey that he wasn’t interested in hurting anyone any time soon. He continued walking after a momentary pause (he never said hi to me or even looked at me) with his eyes still glued to our hardwoods.
He crossed the room and sat on the couch near Jarshon and looked at his kneecaps.
“Is everything alright, Saul?” I asked him.
He opened his mouth to casually respond, but rather than a human voice, it was a series of eagle shrieks. But sadder.
He closed his mouth and continued staring at his knees, as if his three loud bird cries had answered my question. I was about to speak up when Jarshon translated. “He said that his girlfriend left him because of his snake ear. She said she couldn’t be with a man who gets snake ear at least once a month, and he keeps trying to tell her that it’ll taper off and the snake ear won’t come back as much if she just waits, but she doesn’t want to wait. Poor bloke.”
At this point, Saul seemed to cut off Jarshon and let out four more shrieks.
“He also says,” continued Jarshon, “that he misses his family. They are still frozen in ice. Or burning in eternal fire, he can’t remember. But they are not with him and this makes him sad. Saul is really a sweet bloke once you get to know him — and he’s right; the snake ear will go away on its own eventually. In my opinion, it was a shallow reason to dump someone. Everyone gets snake ear from time to time and it’s no reason to leave someone. It’s like leaving someone because they got a zit on their nose. You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
No, I guess I wouldn’t,” I answered obediently.
“Right,” said Jarshon. “Yet now our friend Saul is lonely because of something he can’t help.” As if on cue, the head of Saul’s snake ear hissed its mouth and flared its neck flaps. Then it settled down again and let its head fall to rest on his shoulder.
A moment of silence passed and no one said anything or moved. “You guys mind if I get back to my book?” I inquired.
“Oh sure, sure,” said Jarshon. “We’ve got nowhere else to go, we’re just chillin’.”
I started reading my Stephen King again and marveled at what a weird dude he is because of the crazy crap his brain can come up with.