KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Flash Fiction: 669 words

Dead Time

by Colleen Kearney Rich

It was Jordy’s night to watch the monitors. As the new guy on the crew, he didn’t get to choose. He went where they told him to go.

He sat in the van, looking from monitor to monitor, making sure the light that indicated they were recording glowed red: The living room, one of the bedrooms, the upstairs hallway, the attic, and the basement. The house was a bit of dump, which surprised and then embarrassed him because he was trying hard not to judge, to keep an open mind.

He had his walkie talkie in his hand at the ready, but his hand was sweating. In fact, it was sweating so much he worried that he might short out the device. Could something like that happen? He didn’t want to mess up their equipment so he set the walkie on one of the carts, wiping his hand on his jeans. He had yet to use the device. They never asked the guy in the van anything.

He could make out Sam on one of the monitors. He was in the basement sitting in some kind of beach chair. Sam fidgeted worse than he did, and every once in a while he could hear the chair squeak in protest. The way the light reflected off Sam’s eyes was pretty fucking creepy. The fact that they were doing this in the middle of the night was also fucking creepy, but he knew what he was getting into. It was Dead Time. That’s what Sam called it, and he was running the show.

“If you’re here, could you give us a sign?” Sam asked the darkness in the basement, his eyes glinting.

Jordy put on his headphones so he could listen better. That’s when he saw it—a white object in the upstairs hallway. It looked like a baseball, but he couldn’t enlarge the image to make sure. They would do that later. He moved closer to the monitor. He didn’t remember seeing the ball earlier. Should he say something? He picked up the walkie and weighed his options.

Maybe they put it there to see if the floors were slanted like they sometimes were in these old houses. That could make a door open on its own. Or maybe they were fucking with him. That was a possibility, too.

“The Hadleys say you bang on the walls at night. Why do you do that?” Sam asked. “Are you angry with them?”

Sam often sounded like he was talking to some little kid when he made these recordings. It didn’t seem respectful to Jordy, but what the hell did he know.

The ball rolled to the right. Jordy reeled back from the screen and almost fell over his chair. It was still again. Jordy knew he should say something, but what if they were pranking him. The video would support what he said. It would, right?

“Hey guys,” Jordy said into the walkie. No one responded. Maybe he hit the wrong button? He picked up his flashlight and shined it on the walkie, hating himself for not remembering how to use it. Then he heard something. Bump, bump, bump, bump.

“What the hell is that?” called Phil from the living room. “Sam, did you hear that?”

“No, man, I got nothing,” Sam said.

Jordy pulled at the headphones and looked at the hallway monitor. The ball was gone. “Guys,” he said into the walkie, trying to steady his voice. “It looks like a ball just bounced down the stairs.”

Phil walked out of camera range and became a disembodied voice. “Taking video of it with the camera. Somebody get in here and take some readings on the stairs.”

Jordy knew he wasn’t somebody. He was the guy in the van. He sat back down in the chair and checked the lights. All were good, all were recording. He breathed in through his nose and exhaled slowly again and again until he couldn’t hear his pulse pounding in his ears.

Colleen Kearney Rich
Issue 12, Summer 2019

is the author of Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her writing has been published in Harpoon Review, matchbook, Minerva Rising, Phoebe, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Wigleaf, among others. She is Fiction Editor at Literary Mama and a founding editor of So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art. She lives in Virginia.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Book Review: Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist, by Colleen Kearney Rich by Felicity Landa in The Coachella Review (28 May 2019)

Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Colleen Kearney Rich by Isaac Boone Davis in SmokeLong Quarterly (14 December 2015)

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