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Lives of Unliving Things

A Well-Loved Friend Misplaced

By Steven Christopher McKnightPublished 24 days ago 3 min read
Lives of Unliving Things
Photo by Oxana Lyashenko on Unsplash

A careless hand tosses you in with the other toys; to it, you are but one thing out of many it cannot bear to see in the bedroom now-childless. You watch paralyzed as the corners of the cardboard box fold in on each other, reduce the lovely lamplight to a faint sliver. You’re entombed there, alongside little plastic army men and the thick books Best Friend would sound aloud to you and Mom. The thinner books are in another box; Best Friend would whisper them quietly to you by flashlight some nights, before gripping you to his chest and falling gently asleep. You’d sleep, too, sometimes, as well as a sleepless thing could sleep.

You would feel the same sense of movement as you used to on road trips; Best Friend could never leave you alone in that big, scary house, after all. So you’d sit on a new bed in a hotel room or in a dusty Grandma’s house. Best Friend got carsick on long drives; he’d grip you close. But now it’s just the box and the army men and the vibrations of the road against the trunk of the car. On the trip to the hospital, Best Friend had gone before you—even then, Mom kept you braced against her in the front seat. You begin to feel carsick, if you feel to begin with.

In ten minutes, the vibrations stop. The sunlight from the sliver in the top of the box grazes your fuzzy little nose as the trunk pops open and two strong hands lift the box up out of the car; it’s familiar, purposeful, Dad. You shudder as the box is passed from familiar hands to unfamiliar ones, words exchanged in low tones over you. A door hinge screams; the Sun turns fluorescent, and the box you’re in is cast on the cold hard floor.

You don’t know how long you’re there. Time means nothing to you; the people around you just get a little weaker and a little bigger the longer things go on. Without Best Friend growing, without Mom and Dad shrinking, the passage of time means nothing to you. There’s rustling of bags, tremors of footsteps, the dull ringing of Jesus music from the other room, nothing that excites you, nothing that delights you, nothing that comforts you.

The flaps of the box flip open; a form appears in the blinding fluorescents. It appraises the contents of your temporary tomb, rifles through the little green army men, turns through the pages of the thick, colorful books, sets these things aside. And then it picks you up.

Its eyes are heavy, tired, like Dad’s sometimes. And its fingers trace you, along the gash under your left arm from when you got caught on a loose screw, under your loose-hanging left eye, over your matted forehead where Best Friend and Mom would kiss you good night. It sees your love and finds only damage.

Its living eyes lock with your lifeless ones and see no life; it reminds you of the look in Mom’s eyes, when she pried you from the loosened arms of Best Friend, when his chest stopped rising and falling, when all the music that played was one solid atonal beeeeeeeeeeeeep.

You’re back outside now, and birds are singing, but you don’t care. You want Best Friend, but Best Friend isn’t here. Instead, in the end, you find this thing that sees the marks of love you’ve endured, and thinks to itself, “This thing is worthless.” But you’re not worthless, are you? The air whirls around you as you’re tossed into the dumpster; the lid shuts tight with a cold metallic thud, letting in not even a sliver of light.

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About the Creator

Steven Christopher McKnight

Disillusioned twenty-something, future ghost of a drowned hobo, cryptid prowling abandoned operahouses, theatre scholar, prosewright, playwright, aiming to never work again.

Venmo me @MickTheKnight

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Comments (2)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran24 days ago

    Why would you break my heart like that 🥺🥺 This was soooo sad but I loved your story!

  • Judey Kalchik 24 days ago

    The way you named the boy Best Friend, the description of the thrift store/op shop, the sadness. This is softly beautiful

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