“GRRAAGGHH!” Hilter screams into whatever it is that’s pressed against his face. He begins to flail his arms and legs around but it’s no use, whatever it is that’s covering his body has him good, it’s wrapped around him like a cocoon of silk, suffocating him like a pillow pressed to a face, heating him up like a sauna.
‘I was dreaming,’ he thinks to himself, his thoughts coming clearly and pristinely to his mind despite the fact that his body is continuing to scream. It seems that Hilter Odolf Williamson has disassociated from reality. ‘I thought it was real, but I was just dreaming. My brain was trying to tell me something.’
Hilter begins to convulse as the sheet tightens around him. He can feel the sweat leaking from his back and out his armpits, and his nose is confronted with the stench of his dry morning mouth.
‘There’s been a string of robberies in the area lately, only knickknacks and worthless decor pieces were stolen.’
Flailing his arms is no longer a viable option, as the sheet has tightened them to his torso like a straitjacket.
‘The shacks in my dreams were filled with knickknacks, and Cooper found a ratty shack in the woods yesterday.’ Breathing is beginning to be a difficult task. ‘Cooper said a man in a ski mask was living in the shack, just like the men in my dream.’ Hilter’s struggle becomes mobile. He flings himself off his bed, thinking, ‘The first break-in was just a robbery, then the second involved a murder. The third was just a robbery. The man is now in my house, he’s continu–’ until his head bashes the tile-top nightstand next to the bed, reassociating his mind to his body.
All thoughts disappear. The sheet loosens, allowing Hilter to breathe. As the pain creeps its way from the grenade-sized egg on the back of his head into his brain, he registers the knocking as an actual sound. Someone is at his door, and he’ll be sure to answer it just as soon as he dispatches the man in the ski mask.
Ripping the sheet from his soaked, clammy body, Hilter kicks and punches the air like a toddler throwing a tantrum. He connects with nothing, of course, because there’s nobody in his house, a fact he realizes when he finally opens his bloodshot eyes and feels the burn of the sunlight pouring in through the windows. All at once his limbs drop to the floor in a series of paired thuds. His hairy chest rises and falls in an erratic rhythm.
“Good God, Hilter,” Hilter says to himself under his breath. “You’re losing it, you’re really losing your fucking mind.”
The knocking continues to assault Hilter’s front door. With a groan he sits up and rubs the back of his head until he accepts that the bump won’t go away without an icepack, then he grabs the damp sheet, balls it, and throws it towards the hamper across the room. It goes in like a basketball through a hoop, which makes Hilter smile. He’s on the right path aft–
‘No, stop,’ he tells himself. ‘You just threw it well, it’s not a sign from the divine. Get dressed and answer the door.’
Hilter throws on a pair of black slacks and a plain white tee, then hustles down the stairs and answers the door. Standing on his stoop is a tired-looking boy with eyes that are too close together, lips that protrude from his mouth like the nose of a lying wooden puppet, and frizzy hair that seems to be thinning. If Hilter wasn’t a professional psychologist he would think the boy has some sort of developmental or just regular mental defect, but that’s probably not the case. He’s probably just ugly.
Neither of them say a thing for four (and eleven-twenty-fifths) seconds. They only gawk at one another with surprise, as if each wasn’t expecting to see the other.
Then, Hilter bridges the gap (moat) with, “Erm, hello there. How may I help you?”
The knocker, who’s holding a brown glass bottle in each hand, says, “Hi. Sorry, I–… you’re the first one on the street to answer the door, I thought everyone down here knew who I was and didn’t want to talk to me.”
“I… see,” Hilter sees. “Well I own all the houses on this street, so there’s your answer for that. Also, I have no idea who you are, I was just a bit… eh, preoccupied, so I couldn’t answer right away. My name is Hilter Odolf Williamson. I’d shake your hand, but,” he gestures to the bottles.
The ugly boy looks down at his bottles, then jumps a little with recognition. “Oh yeah, uh. I’ll… my name is Gill Milligan, Cee-Eee-Oh and head salesman of Gill Bottles. My sales haven’t been doing very well lately… or, or ever, to be honest, uh… um… so, so I’m going around offering free samples to my neighbors to try to spark some business.”
Gill holds out the bottles and Hilter stares at them for a few seconds, then resigns to taking them. They’re old, one of them’s a beer bottle (with quite a bit of dried grime on both the inside and outside of the piece) and the other is… well, it’s definitely a glass bottle. Hilter has no idea what to do now.
“Well… thank you, Gill. I don’t really… you sell these?” he asks, slightly exasperated.
“I try to,” Gill says, looking at his shoes. “I find them when I go exploring around in the woods behind the pond up the street. The guy who owns the auction hall across the dam says there’s a great market for old glass bottles as long as they’re not cracked or chipped, and I only take back the good ones. I clean ‘em up real good, too.”
“Uh huh, I can tell.” They stand there in silence again, Hilter holding the nasty bottles, Gill with his hands in his back pockets, holding his butt. “Well I suppose I can find a use for these, but I can’t promise you any business. You said Cyrus Morgan told you that these things sell?”
Gill looks up at Hilter so fast that he gives himself a spell of whiplash. “Who’s Cyrus Morgan?”
“The man who owns the auction hall across the dam. You’re talking about The Keeper’s Finds, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the place!” Gill says, shaking his balled fists. “He says the bottles always go in his auctions, so there’s clearly a market for them out there somewhere. I’ve even bought some of my inventory from him. Got it at a hell of a steal, too.”
Hilter smiles, but it’s not a particularly happy smile. “I’m sure you did… Gill Milligan, you said your name was? Why does that sound familiar…?”
Gill looks back to his feet. “Probably my Father, he’s kind of famous. I think he’s the richest guy in Treeburg, we live in the big house at the beginning of Barnstatter.”
As something tightens in his mind, Hilter puts it together. “Ah yes, those Milligans! I’ve been meaning to come up and introduce myself, I recently moved to the area.”
A few seconds go by, and Hilter decides that if Gill was going to say something, he probably would have already. “Well, is there anything else I can do for you, Mister Milligan?”
Gill’s head snaps back up like a mousetrap snaps down, his eyes wide like they’re bulging from his head (because they are). “Why’d you call me that?”
Hilter takes a half step back. “Erm… because your last name is Milligan, and I assume you’re a boy. Er, male, I mean to say.”
“No… I mean yes, I mean… usually Mister Milligan is my Father, but… well… someone once called me an eggy boy–”
The string linking Hilter’s perception to the reality around him continues to tighten, approaching breaking strain.
“–she even called me an eggy man, but… maybe she was just a dream.” He looks down, then back up at Hilter, allowing their eyes to meet. “Are you a dream, Mister…” Gill gulps. “Mister…” Gill’s mouth breathing begins to intensify, the stress spews from his pores in liquid form. “This is a dream, isn’t it? This is all a big dream.”
Hilter drops the bottles (they don’t break, as they land on the straw welcome mat and roll off to the sides) and lunges forward, grabbing Gill by the collar of his damp shirt, bringing him in close. “What do you mean, Gill?! Why,” a haggard breath, “why are you saying the things you’re saying?”
Gill’s breathing evolves into a wheeze and Hilter damn near throws him clear off the front stoop, but then he composes himself. “I’m… I apologize, Gill. I don’t know what came over me. You seem very distressed, and you’re not talking sensibly; I’m a world-renowned psychologist who studies the schizophrenia spectrum, and I recently began a general psychotherapy practice – would you like to come in and talk a bit? Pro bono, of course.”
Gill looks left and right, then over his shoulders. Then, “Why do you ask me that? Did my Father put you up to this?”
Hilter smiles again, but it’s not unhappy this time. It’s more empathetic, more understanding. “No, I’ve never spoken to your father. Please, come right in. I’ll make us some tea if you’d like.”
After staring up at Hilter for a few tense seconds, Gill walks quietly into the house. Hilter bends over and stands the bottles up, meaning to put some flowers in them or something later, if he remembers, it’s really not important, he’ll probably just recycle them after Gill leaves, then goes inside himself, closing the door behind him.
Hello Commons, this has been the second subchapter of the thirteenth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~