Katelyn Moorman - Fiction

 People and Things

by Katelyn Moorman

She couldn’t differentiate people from things.

She apologized when she bumped against lampposts, thinking they were prudent businessmen with stiff spines and sharp noses. Children were fire hydrants. Garbage cans had arthritis, and if she blinked hard enough they developed hunched backs and hanging earlobes. She never sat on benches anymore, fearing they would yelp and throw her off. People emerged from stop signs, curbs, grocer’s stands, and teetering ladders. They came from flower pots, trees, and decaying raccoons staring glass-eyed up at the sky from the side of the road.

The people came from the air, too. They didn’t have to be solid objects. They were everywhere and everything. She breathed them in, stepped on them, brushed past them, and ran through them. She saw them in the dissipating wisps of clouds leftover from a ferocious rainstorm, and she saw them within each speck of dust that littered an abandoned antique. She saw them in places they weren’t supposed to be, in places she shouldn’t be.

But she liked the way she saw things. The ambiguity of existence enthralled her.

She walked with her fingertips between her teeth, gnawing at her cuticles and darting her eyes at the morphing shapes around her. The people and the things were angry; they wanted her to categorize and classify, designate and differentiate. Surrounded, she thought, her heart beating so hard that her body convulsed with each beat, I’m surrounded. Someone, or something that resembled a someone, rammed their shoulder into hers. She shuddered and turned to face them, but no one was there. Another shoulder hit her, and another. She couldn’t see the shoulders, and she couldn’t see the people they were supposed to be attached to, but that didn’t stop them from coming. Another, another, another!

Pushing through the shoulders, she managed to find an alley. She stumbled into it, her breathing expelling itself in harsh little exhalations so sharp that they ripped open her skin when she coughed into her elbow. Then there were lips at her ear. They whispered in a soft cadence that melted in the heat of the air and crept into her veins through her pores. The words took hold of her nerves and forced her muscles to shake. She swatted at them like flies, but the words wouldn’t stop coming because the words were the people and the people were everywhere and everything. The words kept coming, another after another after another.

She had to get the words out, but they were stuck inside of her. They roamed chaotically, buzzing just underneath her skin and stretching it with their fluttering. She couldn’t breathe—the words were clogging her throat. The shoulders pressed in on her from all sides, and the words filled in the cracks. She couldn’t escape the cocoon they were enveloping her in, and she could feel her mind turning to mush. When she regained consciousness and walked out of the alley, she no longer saw the people as things and the things as people.

She didn’t see anything at all.