When I woke up on Monday morning, I was starting to turn invisible. The edges of me were turning slowly transparent, my fingers and my toes and my ears and my nose. I stared at myself in the mirror, I kept thinking I’d disappear, but I didn’t.
“Am I dead?” I wondered aloud but I knew that I wasn’t, unless an intruder had come into my house in the night and killed me in my sleep. I thought this was probably unlikely though because we had a neighbourhood watch and I had top of the range locks and an alarm system and there was no blood on the sheets and despite the fact I seemed to be turning invisible, there were no other apparent wounds on my body. I took off the old t-shirt I still slept in (it belonged to my boyfriend, well, not my boyfriend anymore) and put my hand on my breast, just over my heart. It pulsated beneath my palm, stupid thing refusing to stop pumping blood throughout my fragile mess of muscle and bone, the only thing keeping me alive.
I texted Mum hello I’m alive to confirm I wasn’t a ghost, but she didn’t reply.
Convinced I wasn’t dead, I started to go about my Monday as usual. I made myself two pieces of peanut butter on toast and a cup of black coffee. I sat at the table and did the crossword in the paper while I ate this. Then I had a shower and dressed in a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of loose pants. I brushed my hair and tied it up. I set up my laptop at the dining room table and looked at the time. 9.03. I checked my emails.
I work from home. A freelance writer. It sounded like the ideal position when I first got the job and perhaps it was, once. I lived with flatmates and then I lived with my boyfriend (well, not my boyfriend anymore) but now I live alone and all I can hear when I type is the tap tap tapping of the keyboard and it’s so loud that it makes my head feel like it’s about to explode.
When I’m not typing, all I can hear are the sounds of the house, and I start to imagine that it’s alive, like one of those old mansions in horror movies. I hear the hum of the refrigerator and the creaking walls. I hear the wind bashing against the windowpanes. I hear scuttling in the walls and wonder if it is the sound of little rats’ feet. I hear the drip drip of the bathroom tap and the moaning of the dishwasher.
I wrote until midday. Then I closed my laptop screen, went into the kitchen and made myself a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich. There wasn’t much mayonnaise left and I had to take the lid off the bottle and scrape the insides with a butter knife. I cut my sandwich in half. I sent Mum another text give me a call later if you feel like it 🙂 and read a chapter of my book. Then I got back to work.
At five o’clock I shut my laptop screen and boiled some pasta for dinner. I topped it with some tomato sauce from a jar and grated cheese. I watched a cooking show on TV while I ate. I looked at my boyfriend’s Instagram page, scrolled through all the photos.
He’d deleted all the ones of us, as though I’d never existed at all. He didn’t even want me as a memory. He had a new girlfriend. She was called Alice, and she was a receptionist at a law firm. She looked like a receptionist at a law firm, she was small and pretty and always had her nails done. Mine were bitten and chewed; I’d had them done once when I travelled to Vietnam with my boyfriend who is her boyfriend now.
I didn’t hate her, even though he’d cheated on me with her. I thought if we met, we might get along quite well. I sent my boyfriend a text hey, how are you? We should catch up sometime! He never replied to these messages, but I didn’t give up.
After the cooking show was finished, I put on my pyjamas and got into bed. I read my book for a couple of hours. I read a lot, and because of this I was never lonely, I was always invested in the character’s lives. I cared deeply for each of them, and even when I finished their story, I still thought about them a lot.
Because I read a lot, I didn’t need to leave the house much, my books were full of adventures. I could travel to another country simply by holding a wad of paper and ink in my hands, I could meet a friend simply by reading about her.
My boyfriend thought I read too much. “You’re lost in this make-believe world, Abigail,” he used to say, “let’s go on a real adventure!”
Before I went to sleep, I looked through the photos of us in Vietnam together and sent him another text goodnight, sleep well x and then I closed my eyes and hoped that I’d dream.
On Tuesday, I was more invisible than I had been the previous morning. A few of my fingers had completely disappeared and the edges of me were as faded as a book left open in the sunlight. I ran my hands all over myself, touching every part of me. I didn’t want to vanish. But I still felt solid.
I looked at my phone, but no one had messaged me in the night. I texted Mum hi Mum! How’s the boyfriend?
She was dating a new guy who was half her age and took up all her time. They fought all the time. I used to go around for dinner every Sunday, but they just yelled at each other over the roast chicken and Mum forgot to ask me how my week had been, so I stopped. She was so busy fighting with him that she often forgot about me.
I showered, dressed and resumed my Tuesday as usual.
I had no Mayonnaise, so at midday I went to the shop down the road. The lady at the counter had long acrylic nails which she tapped obnoxiously on the counter and was watching something on her phone. She didn’t look up as I approached.
“Good afternoon,” I said politely. I handed her the mayonnaise and immediately worried that she’d notice my slowly disappearing hand. Good God, are you okay? I imagined her saying, you should go to the doctor at once!
She didn’t even look at me. “Four ninety-nine,” she said.
I paid for the mayonnaise. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your day!” I said.
No response. People these days have no manners.
On Friday morning my body had gone almost completely transparent. I looked like a ghost, or a reflection seen in water. I looked like I’d only had the base layer painted on me. Incomplete, abandoned. Forgettable.
I still hadn’t heard from Mum. There was, however, a text on my phone from my boyfriend, which sent a shiver down my translucent spine stop texting me, Abigail, it said, I mean it.
I smiled and sent him a message back I hope you and Alice are well. I sent my Mum a text too morning Mum! Was thinking I could pop round for a cup of tea tomorrow? She couldn’t say no to that. Mum loved tea.
I showered, dressed, ate my peanut butter on toast and read the final chapter of my book. I’d have to go to the bookstore tomorrow which was inconvenient. I didn’t like going out on the weekend. Everywhere was so busy. You couldn’t walk down the road without someone barging rudely into you.
It is a strange feeling typing when you can see the keyboard through your fading hands, but I felt that I was quite efficient given the circumstances.
Friday night is curry night and so at five o’clock, I rang my favourite Indian takeaway.
“Hello, Sharn speaking, how may I help you today?”
“Hello Sharn!” I said, relieved to hear a familiar voice – or any voice at all, to be honest. I hadn’t spoken to another human since my disappointing mayonnaise purchase on Tuesday. “This is Abigail speaking.”
“Ah, hello Abigail. The usual?”
“Yes please!” I said enthusiastically. I loved that Sharn remembered my order.
I put the usual cooking TV show on while I waited for my curry to arrive and scrolled through my boyfriend’s Instagram page. There was a new picture of him and Alice sitting in a nice restaurant. I liked the photo and went on to the restaurant’s Instagram page. The food looked very tasty, I thought maybe I should go there sometime. I could go with my boyfriend and his new girlfriend, or maybe Mum and her new boyfriend. Or I could go by myself and not worry about whether everyone else was enjoying their food.
When my curry arrived I was disappointed to find that Sharn had given me a butter naan rather than a garlic one.
“I thought you remembered me, Sharn,” I murmured, sighing over my naan. It just wasn’t the same without the garlic.
Before I went to bed, I decided to ring Mum. I perched on the edge of my bed while the phone rang and rang and rang, finally going to voicemail.
“Hi Mum!” I said cheerfully. “It’s Abigail. Your daughter. I was just thinking I’d pop around tomorrow for a visit. Well…that’s it, really. I hope you’re well. Goodbye!”
I hung up and got into bed. I didn’t have a book to read though, so I just turned the light off and stared at the ceiling until I finally drifted out of consciousness.
On Saturday morning, I was almost completely invisible, you could only just tell I was there at all. I looked like an undercooked egg. I needed to go to the bookstore though, so I covered up with lots of scarves and hats and gloves, so that you could barely see any of my opaque skin. This was successful, apart from the fact that it was a warm day and I was soon sweating profusely.
I made my choice quickly at the bookstore and handed the paperback over to the man behind the counter, who eyed me slightly strangely, but didn’t say anything.
“Thank you very much!” I said, as he wrapped the book in paper.
I hadn’t heard back from my Mum, but I figured I may as well pay her a visit while I was out of the house. I took off a few of my layers as I walked, enjoying the fresh air against my skin. I didn’t get out of the house much. There wasn’t much reason to, when you worked from home.
Mum lived in a small house just out of the city. It had big windows looking out onto the street, which meant that I could see right into the dining room. I stood next to the letterbox, watching.
She was with her new boyfriend, sitting at the table. They were both laughing. Smiling. I wondered if she’d thought about me at all in the last week. I wondered if this had been a good idea, coming here without her permission. What if she didn’t want to see me?
Doubting myself, I pulled my phone from my pocket and gave her a quick text hi Mum! I’m in the neighbourhood, are you busy?
From the street, I watched her pick up her phone. A few minutes later, I received a text sorry sweetheart, I’m out of town today, catch up soon?
I trudged home, feeling foolish. My face was wet, and I realized with a shock that I’d been crying.
When I got home, I carefully placed my new book down on the bed. I’d have a nice afternoon reading that, maybe with a cup of tea and a biscuit. I went to the bathroom.
I had completely disappeared.
I should have wanted to scream. I should have wanted to cry. I should have been terrified. But I felt nothing.
Nobody saw me, anyway. I was already invisible.
Dara Flaws is twenty-three years old and currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She loves combining elements of the surreal and the contemporary in her writing. She has previously been published in The Spinoff and New Zealand literary journals such as Mayhem and Turbine. She is a big fan of pickles, cheese and wine.