“The Storytellers,” a Haunted Passages flash fiction by Kaj Tanaka

Haunted Passages: Kaj Tanaka

The Storytellers

The disembodied hands were still a long way off. I mean, we could hear them down the hallway, kind of shambling their way toward us, but it was a long hallway and they were very bad at shambling. Like at one point, we heard them come up against a wall and then shuffle quietly in place for a while, like they were hung up wind up toys. But we were so wrapped up in one another, you and I, there on the couch, in the living room, in the world—our erogenous zones rubbing suggestively, your watery mouth touching my watery mouth such that I wasn’t sure where my body ended and yours began. Do you ever think, you said, pulling back from me, how probably someday very soon either you are going to hate me or I am going to hate you? I listened as the disembodied hands found their way on track again, their long nails scraping across the rough wood floor of this apartment where we seem to have always existed, dry hands inching toward us. I hate to disagree with you, I said, but I don’t quite see how I could ever take issue with you. You are so perfect, and I mean, weren’t we born just a moment ago? Didn’t you just rub me into being with your erogenous zones? Didn’t I just spit you out of my watery mouth? Yes yes, you said, but I somehow have a very mistrustful feeling about you suddenly, and I think we should confront this issue directly like adults. I said you were being a real downer—you were sabotaging what little time we had. After all, I said, this is only a very short story. You said I was always deflecting like this. I was always making those types of uncomfortable observations that no one really wants to hear. See, you said awkwardly, now we both feel awkward. I said you were impossible to please. You said I was a weight around your neck. But all this had taken so long, and of course before we knew it, the disembodied hands had sort of skittered their way around the final corner of the hallway into the living room, and now we could see them blindly groping their way toward where we sat on the couch. We both pulled our feet up and curled our bodies tight around each other for protection. And in the back of my mind, I made a calculation. If I squeezed tight enough, I thought, I could probably crush you.

Kaj Tanaka’s fiction has appeared in New South, New Ohio Review, Joyland, and Tin House. His stories have been selected for The Best Small Fictions 2018, Best Microfiction 2019, and Wigleaf‘s Top 50 Stories 2019. He teaches creative writing classes at the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, and he is a fiction editor for Gulf Coast.

Image: amazon.com

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