Nothing Happens (For a Reason)
As Ehf was sweeping autumn leaves in their backyard, a church bell rang in the distance. They could barely hear it over the racket coming from the neighbour's shed. A rock band was playing but were never seen. Their guitars were slightly out of tune, adding a queasy feeling to the nightfall. Ehf’s neighbours were having a party. Loud voices melded together to form one indistinct chatter running under the unharmonious rock music. It was almost Halloween, and houses had decorated their windows with personified pumpkins. Ehf dumped the pile of leaves into a plastic bag and then the plastic bag into the bin. Knowing they'd soon resign themself to an empty house for the night they stayed out in the garden until it got dark, staring at the pumpkins and imagining that they were staring back at them with their candled eyes.
On the windowsill behind the sink, there was a small radio which Ehf turned on. Cellos filled the air. They caught a reflection of themself in the kitchen window, gaunt as an unfed pet. They poured a glass of water from the sink and drank it. The day was done. They turned off the radio and made their way into the living room.
Ehf pulled a firelighter from the wicker basket and put it up to their right nostril. The smell of kerosene sent their brain rushing. The petroleum smelled so good that Ehf had to resist putting it to their tongue. They struck a match and lit the firelighter, the flames colouring the room in rich orange and black. Ehf bent their skinny body into an awkward position and watched the fire.
Ehf knew there were two types of loneliness; loneliness with the internet and loneliness without it. They knew that loneliness with the internet is infinitely more lonely, the sense of others reduced only to sight and sound. Loneliness without the internet could be revelatory. You find truths buried within the secrets of time. Ehf had the Internet, and would use it until their eyes stung, mindlessly betting large sums of money on poker hands they knew would lose in hopes of finding a thrill.
They climbed the stairs and undressed in a dark bedroom. It wasn't their bedroom. They still hadn't chosen which room to call theirs.
Lying in bed, they could hear the neighbours partying into the small hours of the morning. The later it got, the louder and drunker the party became, and it was Ehf who suffered the brunt of the mirth. They tossed and turned.
It was 3 am before the party died down, and as soon as the silence settled, Ehf fell into a deep sleep. Hours later, however, they woke with an intolerable headache.
An ethereal drizzle fell, only visible under the glow of the marigold streetlamps. There was nothing to fill the silent October night. Ehf's headache was thumping. They felt a chill in the air as they turned onto Alexander Road. When they reached the 24-hour shop, the clerk on nightshift was leaning over the counter, filling out a crossword puzzle. They were a young person with long black hair tied back sloppily into a bun and dressed in iridescent clothing. The refrigerators hummed aggressively, as though they had been breaking for a long time.
"Paracetamol, please," said Ehf.
"Headache keeping you up?" The clerk asked, reaching towards where the medicines were kept. They pulled out a sharp red packet and perfunctorily scanned it through the till. Ehf didn't reply.
"You know I practice acupressure. I could get rid of your headache in 30 seconds by applying the right amount of pressure to the correct spots on the back of your neck and your forehead."
They unlatched the clip by the register and walked behind Ehf. They took their right thumb and placed it on Ehf's forehead, then pushed. Ehf squirmed in unfamiliarity.
"Well? How do you feel now?"
"Much better actually, thanks."
"Do you still want the pills?"
"Yeah. Where did you learn how to do that?" Ehf asked as the clerk walked back behind the till.
"The dark web. It's insane. But it makes sense why nobody knows about it. It's the big medical companies keeping the knowledge a secret and passing it off as pseudoscience. I mean, why would anybody buy pills when all you need is your own hands and the truth? I'm part of a homoeopathy club, we meet on Wednesdays from 8-10 pm, in the community centre's basement on Lawcet Street. You should come by. My name is Marvin, by the way."