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Home: The Toast

pandoraYou’re on your third magazine when the doorbell rings – one of those glossy, absolutely fucking worthless collections of ten dollar shirts, overpriced meats, and knockoff game consoles. It’s the second time you’ve looked through the stack on your kitchen table, driven to desperation as you are by a birthday two weeks away.

“Anything’s fine,” he keeps saying, “I’m not picky.” That asshole. God damn him.

You worry at your wedding ring and get up, the bell still echoing between your ears and a headache begging for further attention. Outside the wind is picking up and your heels hit hardwood floor to match the pulsing ache at your temples. You open the door, mouth mangled around a smile, and say “yes?”

“Good evening ma’am,” strike one for this – man? Woman? Their face is thin and their clothes are layered (it’s starting to rain, thick and fast,) and you feel nauseous, looking at them. You focus on their eyes, bright and gleaming, twin embers that sink alarmingly fast into a dark whirlpool.

Those eyes surface again and you’re sitting down in the kitchen, hands clutching a glass of water while they look at you with concern. You fainted (why wouldn’t you, with the way the week’s gone and the way you didn’t sleep last night.) Of course you did.

“So, still looking for that perfect gift, huh?” They gesture towards the magazines, smiling, like you two meet for tea and dithering every Sunday afternoon. They look at your shaking hands, see the flash of gold, and smile wider. “Hard man to shop for, right?”

You can’t help but notice your guest’s still blurred around the edges, but you manage croak out, “hasn’t been happy once in ten years.”

“I know what you mean.” They nod, long curls of hair (hair? Shadow?) falling to obscure their face. They reach up to brush the locks aside and you mistake fingers for claws. “With a big family like mine, it’s hard to remember the dates and then the likes and dislikes. But I’ll let you in on a secret, ma’am – ”

“Jane.” You say, voice finally level. “Please, it’s Jane.”

“Jane.” Is it the fading light outside or was there an odd sharpness to their tongue? “Well, Jane, it’s a lucky thing, me knocking on your door today, ’cause,” they lean down and pick up a briefcase you hadn’t noticed in your dizzy, aching state, “I can help.”

They brush away the magazines, shaking their head and smirking. “These are good for a nephew or your brother, Jane, but this is your husband. What you need is class, a little bit of the old touch, y’know?

You don’t, but you’re still trying to finish your water and figure out why the kitchen is so warm, so you let the comment pass. Thankfully they don’t notice, their attention focused on fiddling with latches and locks.

“Like Pandora’s Box, I swear!” They say, an edge to their words and that gleam in their eyes. “Anyway, lemme show you what we’ve got. I guarantee you’ll find the perfect match for your man in here.”

They pull out a small box and present it to you with a flourish. The top’s transparent and inside is a straight razor, silver with gold trim. You frown, looking to them as you say, “Eighty bucks at Macy’s, right?”

“Jane!” They clutch their chest (where did the coats go, the scarfs, the layers? Right now it’s a fitted white shirt and a deep red tie.) “Jane, honestly, do you think I’m trying to pull one over on you here? This razor, this is quality. Could slice the air between us, hand to God!”

They give you another dazzling smile, lips smoking slightly, and pull the razor out of its box. The kitchen light catches its blade for a moment and a prism erupts before your eyes, small shards you’re certain are windows to unfamiliar places. They wink, start waving it around like a sword, and you see long ribbons of nothingness – strips where everything is absent, not even color to mar the perfect void – fall to the off white tile floor. You drop your empty glass and try to speak, but nothing’s coming and your guest stops smiling.

“Okay, maybe not. Don’t want the poor bastard cutting his head off, do we?” They laugh, putting the razor back and rummaging through their briefcase. “I think I brought a sample, I know there’s still some left – there we go!”

They slam a set of keys on the table and the wood cracks clear across its top. You’d expect an apology on any other day, but judging by the way their eyes light up, that was intentional. “Now, see these are useful – you lose your house keys or the ones to the shed or the basement, and you don’t have spares laying around? Wrong!”

They take the keys (all you can see is a shimmering mass, like someone had tried to melt down a pile of jagged metal and stopped halfway through the job) and start to insert them in the crack they’d made, humming softly. It’s no tune you recognize but it’s getting louder, smothering you with its circular melody.

“Now,” they’ve stuck a set of ten keys into your kitchen table and they’re inordinately pleased. “I’d apologize, but I need those to stay put – obviously they aren’t what you’re looking for. I understand that – truly, I do. So I saved the best for last.”

They reach into the briefcase with an impossibly long arm, still smiling, still humming. They’re no longer solid and seem to splash through the outline of what once was a human. Something’s stretching their skin, poking and prodding at a paper thin shell to taste the superheated air of your kitchen. You think you see flaming wheels studded with thousands of eyes, thrones stretching across the limits of your sight and singing, singing so loudly while innumerable wings hold the choirs aloft.

They pull out a hammer that drips molten light onto the floor, vaporizing tile and leaving the notion of grace in its wake. “This,” their voice is multitudes, it is boundless, it is creation in a single note of song, “is the perfect gift for that man of ours.”

Elizabeth is a writer from Massachusetts. She can be found regularly screaming or writing snippets of fiction on Twitter.

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