This bit of flash fiction was written by my friend in 2013, published in the Lightship Anthology. In spite of her attempts to eradicate animism from her beliefs, it’s still there, and hence, I live.
She said goodnight to her bike as she parked it in the garage, wondering what it thought of her. She often talked to her clothes and was curious about what they said about her when she wasn’t there. She wondered what language objects used between themselves – a sort of object Esperanto or did each thing keep the language of where it was constructed? What if the material was made one place and it was sewed up in another? Did they keep their national prejudices? At night she could almost hear the Taiwanese stove insulting the mainland China kitchen appliances, the made in Indonesia batik shirts accusing the made in the USA sweaters of imperialism and unfair price controls.
One thing she was sure of, objects had personalities, memories, and acted of their own volition. Her animism was the same as everyone else’s: screaming at snagged sweaters, punching the car door that slid shut on her head, kicking the boxes that fell out of the closet in spite of her efforts to close the door before they fell.
But it seemed to her that she shouldn’t simply punish and get angry with her objects, but try to build a more constructive working environment with them. Compliment them, show them that she recognized their efforts not to snag and slam and make messes.
So she talked to them, and was sure that they listened. Especially her bike. Her bike’s front wheel could turn on an instant and slam itself down faster than gravity could pull it. The pedal always managed to scrape her shin when she slid it out of its spot in the garage. It threw bags off its baggage carrier in the middle of the road; cars squealed to avoid her as she ran back to get them. So she tried stroking her bike’s ego – thanking it for waiting for her in the rain, complimenting it when it could fall over and didn’t, telling it when it would be used again so it didn’t feel like it was at her beck and call.
And then one day in spite of her kindness and attempts of conciliation, the objects rose up against her. This could also be explained simply as a series of coincidences. Accidents happen, of course, and when we are not very concentrated all sorts of objects can seem to have it in for us. It is possible, however, that all her talking to them and soothing their egos was probably the wrong tack to take. They saw her weakness and resented it. They bided their time for the right moment.
It was a Tuesday, not different from any other Tuesday, but the objects had discussed her case long into the night and had decided to act, consequences be damned. No longer would they take her pandering attempts to be kind to them, her condescending to treat them equally and kindly. They were not used to it, and did not like change. They were objects and wanted to be treated as such, and so rise up they did in a concerted effort. They must have planned it together in whatever language they used to communicate.
It began in the morning with her coffee. It was a twist top espresso pot from Italy and it slammed apart on the floor spraying espresso grounds over the whole kitchen. By the time she’d cleaned up and finally made her coffee, it was time to get ready for work.
One of her contact lenses fled into the plush bathroom mat, which in turn snagged the heel of her shoe and sent her sprawling against the door. The long sleeves of her shirt scrunched up under her armpits when she put on her sweater, then tore when she dug her hands up the sleeves to pull them down. The toothpaste fell off her brush before she could get it in her mouth, her mascara clumped, her compact mirror slid from her hands and smashed into a hundred pieces.
She gave up trying to look presentable, and tried to leave but the keys to the apartment were no longer on their hook in the entrance hall. She played an unwilling game of hide and seek with them, opening drawers only to see them jumping out and burrowing in the closet. She checked and rechecked the pockets of everything that had pockets until finally the keys gave up their game and waited limply for her in the middle of the living room floor. She was sure they hadn’t been there before.
She dashed out and grabbed her bike. The chain spat oil on her and the pedals attacked her shins like a cat sharpening its nails on a scratching post. She put her bag on the bike rack and sped away, late for work.
It was at the first intersection that it happened. The bike ejected her bag like a missile in the middle of the crossing. She ran back to get it and did not see the city bus coming her way and that was the end of her. The bike escaped unscathed.
The bus, it should be mentioned, was the innocent weapon of her personal objects. It had no opinion of her whatsoever, having never met her before. You should not get the impression that the bus was at all to blame. It is simply not true.
That night, in her apartment, the objects celebrated their freedom from oppression, or from what they felt to be her condescending manner with them.
She laughed in her grave though, an inanimate corpse chuckling under an inch of make-up and stuffed with several gallons of formaldehyde. The apartment was cleared out for the next tenant, the objects separated forever. Friendships had been formed, allegiances sworn, and all for naught. Her clothing was sent to the Salvation Army, her appliances given to neighbors, and the walls were left in mute silence. It had been an empty victory.
It is important, however, never to speak of this with anyone lest the objects learn of their power over us. Hush now.