I live above the shop, and the shop has been closed for months now. I only sleep downstairs, where I’ve pushed all the beds together, pulled off all the mattresses and placed them on the floor, between the beds, on the beds, on top of one another – I could be the princess on the pea if I wanted; I have food delivered but they don’t include dried peas. I’ve cut duvets open and scattered the feathers, it started snowing outside too, or maybe it’s artificial snow that they’ve given us from above, something soft to look at.
I don’t do anything, I lie on beds among feathers, looking out at the narrow white street as I sink. Now that we have to stay inside, I have the best shop here. Lots of the windows are dark, but at ‘Cheese & Nuts’ they tuck into cheese and nuts by the orange light of stoves and lamps, the whole family nibbling away, I’ll watch as they slowly turn into fat mice and squirrels. Now they’re still smooth and pink. In anticipation of their transformation, they’ve already taken off their clothes.
Ah, the softness of my beds! I always wear my hair loose now. The internet’s getting slower and slower, as if someone somewhere is gradually turning a knob to zero, maybe in the same control room that sent us the snow. The people who deliver the food leave their boxes outside the door.
The only person who still stopped in front of my shop was the man in his biohazard suit who put the latest version of the guidelines through the letterbox every week. The last time he came by, I pulled him inside. I’d seen him coming and was waiting behind the door. Snow on his shoulders, as if his suit had just come out of the box and the polystyrene beads were still sticking to it. I told him I never got ill and he was prepared to believe me, he didn’t protest when I unzipped his suit. I cut off his clothes, he was already lying on his back on three mattresses by that point, among swirling feathers, the tips of the scissors grazing his skin. He was hard and that was obviously good, he joined in when I lowered myself onto him, but the rest of him was hard and rough too, and I decided to shave him, one part of him was allowed to be hard, but otherwise everything had to be soft. I only had small razors, so it took a long time, I had oil, I had powder, I had lotion, I had soft lighting – he had to become as soft as the feathers, as soft as his penis when its job was done, I had washed it carefully and blown it dry with my breath. He lay softly glowing under me while I shaved him, but everything I took off grew back and my skin chafed on stubble, every time we did it, on stubble and skeleton. More food was needed.
I ordered large quantities, more than ever, we ate greasy soup and baked big cakes, the spray cans of cream arrived boxes at a time, we licked it off each other’s skin, each other’s clean-shaven powdered skin, feathers stuck to everything but they were soft too, we kept going, eating and being eaten in my palace of mattresses, I don’t think we exchanged more than four words the entire time.
They continued to take good care of us, a new man had come to deliver the leaflets, in the snow that just went on falling and was already halfway up the window, I left him alone, we waved at him, the fat of our upper arms waving along with us. We were without bones now: we no longer felt anything hard on ourselves or each other, there was no place where bone knocked against bone, it was all undulation, ripples moving through us, and the best moments were when ripples passed from one body to the other, moving on as if there were no boundary. I could no longer tell if he was inside me or not, and I didn’t need to, we had turned into big warm pink ripples.
Two life-size dolls were delivered, anatomically correct, with all the openings, because at the start of the Isolation I had indicated that I lived alone; apparently they didn’t keep track of all the changes. I was sent both, a man and a woman, because I hadn’t ticked the preference box. We unpacked them, but it was too late, they were hard and stiff, we made them do it with each other, they lay there, motionless. We covered them in lotion and dipped them in feathers, but they stayed hard when we rode them. I took them outside and laid them in the snow. They’ll be picked up, I don’t know who does that, we’re all inside but around that there is a big shell of people who are outside and maybe there are more people outside than inside but that doesn’t matter as long as we’re inside.
We ate food and we shaved each other, maybe too often, coarse hair came back in its place, it grew up, bristly, there was no getting rid of it, and we were covered with scratches from each other’s fur. But it became softer as it became longer, waving along with the ripples, as if wind were passing over a grassy plain. We comb each other with finer and finer combs.
The dolls have indeed been collected, the hollows where they lay have filled with snow, they’ve realised it’s too late for hardness. Now they’ve had a better idea, as becomes clear when the twilight glides purple over the still white street, and there are all kinds of big things moving around out there, it takes us a while to tell what they are: huge cuddly toys are being delivered door to door: bears, dogs, mice, squirrels, with dark gleaming eyes and snow on their fur. A better idea, but it’s still too late, we’re already there.
Click here for more Short Stories