First-place winner of our second annual flash fiction contest, this piece will take you to a strange, yet familiar world. It won our hearts by plunging into some of the most unique Absurdist writing we have seen.
The Things You Will See
by Rhonda Eikamp
Everyone in my neighborhood is a private detective. It happens. With three-fourths the country pursuing only one profession, you get these clusters. No one doing anything all day except hiring each other to watch each other. The women with their powers of disguise, the men with their equipment. Each paying for knowledge with knowledge of their own, a kind of advanced mutualism, my daughter Casey called it, before she ran off to study privacy law, hoping to put a stop to it someday.
At night I drink on the front porch and watch the binoculars in the windows swivel my way. All hired by each other to discover why I quit the business. I’d tell them if they asked.
After awhile Darnell slides onto the swing beside me. Darnell’s out of it too, for different reasons. Had to sell his equipment when the economy tanked.
“Quiet night,” I say.
“How many they got on you?”
Darnell nods toward a lit window across the street. “Mann’s home.”
Joe Mann’s our resident wackadoo, which probably means he’s the only one with no secrets to hide. Taciturn, single at forty, a broken-down Citroen in the drive. Moved in a few months ago. No one ever sees him leave his house, yet he’s often gone. My house is perfectly angled for a side view into his bedroom and I see what Darnell means. Mann’s forgotten to close the curtains.
My veins rock with fire. Jonesing to know.
I’m not sure when it got like this, when curiosity about others became a drug for us, as if something in the air changed, but I know I can fight it. It’s why I quit.
I look away.
Darnell shifts. “Tanya Maynard sold intel on you today. From the florist’s.”
“I know. I made her in the line behind me. Stupid disguise.”
“Really? She’s pretty good at disguises.”
“She had a moustache.”
“Said because you bought roses it means you’ve got a lover.” The last word wobbles. Darnell wants. He’s good and beautiful, but I’m not there yet.
“It means I like roses.” I hope the microphones pointed our way pick it up.
“Man,” he whispers. Is he that relieved I’m not seeing anyone? I realize he means Mann. “Look.”
Oblivious to the open curtain, Joe Mann is undressing. There’s something wrong with his skin. He’s peeling it off—bursting open starting with his scalp—and we watch aghast, my thoughts screaming, until the skin-suit falls, revealing his secret. Joe Mann is nothing but a giant eye. A Mann-sized eyeball, cavernously dilated pupil surrounded by red-veined sclera. I can feel the moist surface, the urge—exposed now—baking the street. See. Watch. The eyeball shimmies, delighted to be free of its disguise.
Darnell’s moaning, and I grab his hand, prepared because perhaps there’s millions of Manns, drawing this sap from us street by street. Because soon we’ll be spying on who’s spying on who, no one left to go out and live and make secrets.
About the Author: Rhonda Eikamp is originally from Texas and currently lives in Germany. Her short fiction has appeared in Lackington’s, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and The Dark and Lightspeed, among others. When not writing fiction, she translates for a German law firm.