Without A Trace

Story A Day: September 2015

Day 1 Prompt – write a story that features people disappearing


I woke up before the alarm. It had been happening more frequently of late, and while it puzzled me, I figured it was just too much time spent on the thought treadmill. Round and round they go, at once monontenous, and at the same time flag wavers, trying to get my attention. One after the other, a running banter of mind chatter.

Stepping out of bed, my feet slid into my slippers, and I clomped across the room, seeking to still the running dialog. As I stepped over the doorjam into the bathroom, the silence became tangible. It was like entering a great cathedral, where the quiet was filled with peace. I smiled, and glanced at my reflection as I passed the mirror on the medicine chest. Damned cataracts. I was fuzzy, or to be exact, my refection was. I cut off the inevitable inner voice. No time for filling in an itinerary I’ll never actually do.

The shower felt simply fine, washing away the memories of yesterday. I considered this might be my favorite part during the day. Toweling my hair, I returned to the mirror. “There you are,” I remarked. All brand new, and ready to face the day. The burriness had gone, and I smiled. Just sleep in my eyes. This it is, and nothing more.

After I put the finishing touches on my wardrobe, I went to tend to breakfast. First stop, however, was my bookshelves where the cherished framed pictures of my family stood, memory moments, frozen in a time gone by, but treasured beyond measure.

The first photograph was of my three children, when they were younger, before college, and prior to meeting their respective spouses, and making families of their own. Bringing two fingers to my lips, I kissed them, and touched them to each smiling face.

It seemed so very long since I’d seen any of them. Moving away to places where they could make a living and raise their children away from the city, where there was clean air, good schools, and… I sighed, my mind pushing at a reality I did not care to visit. Better left unsaid, and shoved into the dark recesses.

Each grandchild had their own frame, and cherub faces grinned up at me, their Gammy. By now, those features had matured into boys and girls, who were navigating those treacherous teenage years. And when did they have time for Gammy, anymore? That was a question which haunted my dreams, and sleepless nights. When did I last see them? But of course, my brain could not easily pull up specifics of these questions.

At the end of the line, two final framed images stood. The second to last, a full family shot, all nicely decked out for the holidays. Lifting a cloth up I wiped off the glass protecting the picture. Dust! That was the bane of any house wife’s existance. Some clarity returned, though I could see that some Windex might be necessary on the one section over my sweet departed love, and myself. I rubbed at it a bit more, but the stain remained. Glancing at the last photo, of my too long gone husband, I saw it was quite smudged as well.

Making a mental note to clean that shelf thoroughly, sometime during the day, I continued on my journey to the morning meal. Perusing the cupboards, and refrigerator, I transferred that mental note onto the top page of my notebook under the ‘to-do’ list.  Where in heavens did all the food go? It seemed everything, even in a single person house, disappeared more quickly these days.

As I stood peering into the refrigerator, a flash of the days when it was chock full of all manner of food and drink popped up. But now, well, that was a different story. One person did not need to stock pile gobs of food. One person only needed a quart of milk, a small tub of butter, and no need for a family size loaf of bread.

I wrote down the items I’d need and finally made my simple morning meal. A nice walk to the store would kill two birds with one stone. I wrinkled up my nose at the expression. Couldn’t they have come up with something less dreadful? I wondered, briefly, how the birds felt about it. Dismissing the maudelin thought, I agreed that a walk would fulfill my allotment of exercise for today, and stock my pantry.

Outside, I was greeted with a stunning Autumn-like day. It was that transition time, when the nights were cooler, and the days were not as hot and humid as earlier in the summer. The sky was that striking clear blue, peeking down between the still full green branches of the Maples, and Oaks, and Elms. With my trusty shopping cart, I ambled down the street toward the avenue. At the corner, I turned left to go down to the butcher. They still had them in the city, even with supermarkets popping up everywhere.

I stopped outside, and looked down at today’s specials, displayed in the window. Shading my eyes, I looked inside. Only three others waiting at the counter, which would make it a quick stop. Out of habit, I stepped back to check my reflection, which seemed faded with the sun so bright today. Oh well, Frank the butcher would have to just accept my old dishevelled self. He always did, with a smile and a bright “good morning, Mrs. Singer.”

I saw him glance over at me, when the door jingled as I entered, then turn back to his current customer.  “Sal, go check and make sure the door is catching. I just heard the bell, but nobody came in.”

“That was me, Frank,” I said. He nodded, and I thought he heard me, but was actually focused on the order he was taking from Mrs. Flarity.

Waiting was making me feel very tired. Three other customers came in and lined up against the wall, where I was standing, to wait for their turn. This was going to take longer than I expected, and I decided I’d come back later.

Back on the sidewalk, I walked toward  Food Fair, our small, local grocery store. At the corner of my street, the sky darkened, and rain began falling. I did not even have an umbrella. There was nothing about a storm on news this morning. This day was certainly taking a turn toward getting on my last nerve. I hurried down the block and stepped inside the vestibule of the building where I lived. Retrieving my keychain, I found the little mailbox key, and went to the bank of boxes on the wall. The key slid into place, and I pulled out the mail. The top letter was addressed to a Mrs. Harriet Arnes. I shook my head. This is the problem with all the high tech automation. Now I’d have to go down and drop it into the mailbox. I looked more closely at the address. It was the right street, and the right number, and… I stopped. It was my apartment! I put that letter at the back, and looked at the next envelope. It, too, was also addressed  to Harriet Arnes. That’s odd. I closed up my cart, and pushed through the door into the building’s interior. I had to get to the bottom of this.

The elevator was just on the 3rd floor, and I could hear the gears as it came down to the lobby. I made a note that the doors looked dirty, as I waited. I usually could see myself reflected back, but apparently the super had not taken the time to polish. Polishing was important, didn’t anyone know these things anymore? I sighed.

When the car arrived, I pressed the button marked 2 and rode up. Once was I could walk up the stairs. With a shrug I exited on the second floor, and went to my apartment. The key did not turn in the lock. I jiggled it. It sometimes got stuck. But it still wouldn’t unlatch the door. Oh for goodness sake!

“Can I help you?” a voice asked, from behind. A woman of considerable less years than myself stepped to the side, as I looked around.

“I’m trying to get this blasted key to unlock my apartment.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Your apartment?”

I nodded. “Yes, I live here.”

“As do I,” she said.

I could feel my eyebrows knit together. I suddenly wondered if I’d gotten off at the wrong floor? Had it gone to the third?  “I don’t think so. I’ve lived here for forty years. I think I’d know my own apartment.”  One of my little flag wavers niggled at my consciousness. Those letters which had been addressed to my apartment number were still in my hand. “Harriet Arnes?” I asked suddenly.

“Yes, how did you know?”

I handed her the pieces of mail. “These were in my box, downstairs.”

As she took them, I asked her how long she had lived here. “A little more than a year.”

“And from whom did you get this apartment?” I asked.

She looked beyond, thinking. “I believe it was an Ethan Singer.”

“Ethan?” That was my son. “How did this come to pass?” I asked.

“The apartment was listed. The realtor said it had been vacant for almost five years.  Mr. Singer was selling it as his mother had disappeared five years prior, and the super was raising the rent again, and… Are you alright?”

I felt as if the world was growing dim around me. “I’m not feeling very well. I could use a sip of water,” I said, my mouth feeling dry.

Mrs.  Arnes unlocked the door and ushered me inside. I expected to see all of my belongings, but not a one was in evidence. It occurred to me that I might be having a stroke, and imagining, or hallucinating this circumstance. She led me into the kitchen, and took a bottle of water from the refrigerator, after offering me a chair to sit on. Pouring it into a glass, she handed it to me. I drank a bit, feeling my mind swirling with unimaginable scenarios.

“Do you know how Mrs. Singer disappeared?”

“No one knows,” Mrs. Arnes responded. “She’d been living here all alone, after her children left, and she’d been a widow. One day she was here, so it was said, and then one day she was not.”

I felt the reality of the phrase, ‘blood runs cold.’ Mine felt like icebergs were birthing off the placque in my arteries, melting and flowing. “Would you mind if I used your bathroom?” I asked.

“It’s down the hall.” She gestured with her hand.

I walked back down a hall very different from the one I’d traversed this very  morning, filled with wall hangings that I’d never seen. The bedroom was decorated with updated, modern furniture. There was not a trace of my life left.

Stepping into the bathroom, I paused and turned toward the mirror. I did not see a reflection staring back, only the wall behind me.

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly Jahangiri
    Sep 01, 2015 @ 22:51:57

    I see our Muses must be singing in harmony today. 😉 Feels like there ought to be more to this story, somehow… I mean, I’d keep reading, if there were. Good story!

    Like

    Reply

  2. Chris Stolle
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 00:10:45

    This was really good. I thought I knew where I was being taken, but then you added in a neat twist and took us on a different journey. Bravo!

    Like

    Reply

  3. calensariel
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 01:18:29

    This NOT the writing of a woman who is uninspired to write! OMG! This is so GREAT! Welcome back FIM! I always knew you’d bounce back. {{{Fim}}}

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Sep 02, 2015 @ 01:57:46

      Thank you for the kudos and always for your support and encouragement! I had no idea when I started if I’d even finish, but it just carried me away and I was happy to be writing, to have the structure, and the ‘reason’ for writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • calensariel
        Sep 02, 2015 @ 09:48:16

        Structure and motivation… Both of which you said you were lacking. I’m still amazed at how whole stories just fall into your lap!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply

        • Fimnora Westcaw
          Sep 02, 2015 @ 10:43:40

          They take on a life of their own. I had no idea of the absolute end when I wrote the first sentence. But it unfolded with each word I wrote. I hardly saw a foot in front of me in the first paragraph. I don’t actually see a whole, beginning to end, story when I get the prompt. But then I would spend too much time planning, and not enough writing; sort of like how Badfish talks about planning a trip. 🙂 It’s seat-of-the-pants writing. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply

  4. jabrush1213
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 18:03:31

    This is a really great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Sonya
    Sep 06, 2015 @ 19:05:20

    What an eerie story – good stuff!

    Like

    Reply

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