< Shrinelands

The first thing I can remember, the very first memory I have, feels like only a minute ago.

It feels like I have been in this living room my entire life, unable to move. I can only gaze at the circular blue rug, the empty wooden baby's crib, the shiny, delicious apple on the coffee table in front of the red velvet settee.

I can see movement on the floor — a roach is investigating the legs of the couch, but it seems unable or unwilling to climb them. It wanders into the haze-filtered curtain-shafted sunlight streaming into the kitchen. I can only see the edge of an avocado-green icebox through the doorway to that room; a pipe-and formica table and the edge of an uncomfortable-looking matched chair.

I turn my attention back to the stylishly-round space-age television in the corner of my living room. Its dull convex tube reflects a distorted view of the bars of the cri—

The first thing I can remember, the very first memory I have, feels like only a couple of minutes ago. My room is dusty, as it has always been. Has it always been dusty? How did it get so dark out? I could swear the sun was shining in through the kitchen windows...

A small mean-looking dog meanders in from the kitchen. It takes no notice of me standing here; I cannot speak out or move to shoo it away. It sniffs at the desiccated husk of the apple on the coffee table and recoils.

I don't remember having a dog. Is it mine? The mangy terrier completes a lap of the living room and disappears down the floral-wallpapered-hall to the bedrooms. I never did like that wallpaper. But, I realize, it's also the first time I've ever noticed it. How could I know I've never liked—

The first thing I can remember, the very first memory I have, wasn't very long ago.

When did the window break?! The horizontal blinds, torn inwards, are hanging awkwardly; broken glass lies scattered across the yellowing linoleum. I didn't hear it break, I am sure I'd have heard that. I can't hear well in general though — the world sounds muffled and distant. Why can't I hear clearly? I haven't always been deaf, have I?

I can't feel more than temperature. I don't detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide on the air. Everything seems normal.

The air is dangerously radioactive. I do not know how I know this.

Hang on, Carbon Monoxide? What's wrong with me? These senses are not normal!

A muffled sound of footsteps from the kitchen, rays of shadow pierce the gloom of the dead living area.

A man-shaped crust of living matter enters from the peeled-wallpapered-hallway. He is covered in scabs and melted flesh, but he does not seem to be in pain. He is searching the cushions of the couch. He calls out a guttural, gurgling tone to the being in the kitchen. I shut my eyes and hope he doesn't noti—

The first thing I can remember, the very first memory I have, was probably only five minutes ago. My room is still dusty. Who is supposed to clean it? Is it me? I can't move; am I responsible for it? Do I have a caretaker to help me? Where's the melted man? He must not have seen me.

The broken window has let in drifts of sand from the desert outside. Every surface of my room is coated in sand and dust, the blinds are in tatters and have joined the shards of glass on the peeling linoleum. The television is missing, only an un-faded patch of flooring tells where it once stood. The crib is broken and splayed cross the circular rug. The plaster on the walls is patchy, the ribs of lathe show green-tinted murky morning light between their cracks.

Who's that running out the door!? The man in greasy, blood-soaked body armor? I think he's stealing something fr—

The first thing I can remember, the very first memory I have, was of this morning. There is a hole in the ceiling, and from it fluffy snowflakes drift onto a pile of blue rags in the middle of the room. The couch slopes tilted on one broken leg, its red velvet white with snow and sand. The coffee table is nailed across the open window. It is riddled with bullet-holes.

A woman stands only a few feet in front of me. She is staring directly at me.

The eye contact is unbearable - even though my memory is only half a day long at most, I feel like its been a hundred years since I shared a moment with a fellow human.

Her hair is undercut, the sides shaved and longer strands lap down from a knit beanie. Her eyes peer into mine from behind cat-eye spectacles. Her faded and ripped t-shirt is covered with home-made armor - SPEED LIMIT is emblazoned across the right collar-bone.

She holds a double-barreled shotgun, pointed at the floor.

And she sees me. I'm sure of it. I try and muster all the strength I can to speak.

Hey! Who are you? Why are you in my house?

This is what I try to say. What I actually muster is just:


She grimaces at the sudden sound.

"This thing is still working! Looks like it's got a motion-sensor. That'll come in handy... Come here, little guy."

She reaches out with a kind hand and switches me off.