Garret had encountered plenty of leaks in his life. He was barely out of his twenties, but the leaks were everywhere. Once, in school, some of the data over his grades had simply ‘leaked’ out of the computer system. He’d had to repeat a class over the error.
There was a camping trip when he was a teenager where he opened the cooler, which was his responsibility, and found the bag’s containing their caught fish and their picked berries had ruptured and mixed all their juices, most of which froze into a hideous slush.
There’d been a minor medical issue, something he avoided telling people about. Something involving an infection and a leak. Garret thought that once he had his own place it would all stop. He had that place now, a cheap apartment just outside of downtown, and it seemed water tight. For a time he’d been able to forget about the leaks. His life was a sailing ship snatching the wind. He had a girlfriend, a job that let him keep his weekends, and a dog with big happy eyes.
Then she moved in just below him. The introduction had been slow. He’d seen no boxes come into the vacant apartment. Her mailbox never overflowed, yet he never saw her check it. Even on the way to work, even on great days where the traffic would be tame enough to let him pick up one of Ricky J.’s famous meatball subs during lunch, he had to look under her door. There was always a strange blue light.
After seeing that light forty times, things started to leak again. Suddenly his dog, Marlboro, had drooping eyes. He was having accidents on the floor. Garret would come home and find he’d left the faucet on. He’d turn off his water and come back to find the faucet dripping anyway.
He noticed the changes immediately, lumped them all together, and kept the idea in the side of his head like a jawbreaker stored in the cheek. If any clues came his way, he would jump on them as soon as possible. He wouldn’t let the ship sink; it would either sail forever or blow up all at once. That was why, once an argument over the phone convinced him the sudden shift in luck had touched his relationship, Garret pounced on the only new thing in his life. That blue light.
He tried not looking at it, but things didn’t change. His bank called to to tell him some of his money had been misplaced. Another leak. Why him? Why from all angles? One night, when he couldn’t stand it anymore, he marched down one floor and knocked on the woman’s door. He only knew it was a woman in the first place because he sometimes heard her humming through the floor.
Whunk, Whunk, Whunk… No answer. She couldn’t be out. The blue light was still there. She was so timely with her mail, surely she was the sort to not leave lights on when she left. Whunk, whunk, whunk, whunk… He added a knock each time, to let her know he was serious. His knocks wouldn’t leak out, they would just keep building and building until he knocked the damn door down.
On the fortieth whunk, the door swung open. He’d heard a click, as if it had unlocked, but there was no one on the other side. His face bathed in blue light. The whole of the apartment’s light looked like the dim blinking moment after a camera’s flash ends. He stepped inside.
“Hello?” No answer. “This may sound strange, but do you know anything about the leaks? I’m leaking money. I’m leaking luck. You have to be the source.” No answer. If this woman was the source, perhaps she had slipped out from a window crack with her otherworldly liquid body. He almost needed the answer to be alien or strange. If it was just the tides of luck, giving him this swell just to drop him once more, he was going to give up and drown.
The apartment below his did not disappoint in its strangeness. There was no television, computer, or radio. The door had been taken off the fridge and it was filled with dry goods like ceral and crackers. The faucets had been removed, as had all the lightbulbs.
The light was coming from an object on the kitchen table, which Garret approached quietly. He could feel it. His whole body felt loose as gelatin. That thing, that crystal ball, was responsible for the leaks. He grabbed it, telling himself that consequences were for those who had already drowned in such leaks. His mind touched something, something far bigger than he could handle, and the crystal ball rejected him.
He was thrown back against the wall, mind returning to solidity. The crystal landed back where it started, but now had a great crack along its side. A chip popped out, and menacing glowing fog leaked out. He couldn’t pretend he wasn’t afraid anymore. Garret ran, slamming the door behind him. He didn’t hear a click of it re-locking.
The next morning he didn’t so much wake as break the surface of an ocean of noise. He heard everything. His own thoughts were lost in the thoughts of others. He heard Marlboro thinking about the ducklings he’d chased in the park. He heard his other neighbors thinking about laundry, midseason finales, and whether or not they should have affairs with people they rated lower than a seven on the attractiveness scale.
The tide rose still. These weren’t leaks. This was everything. The radius widened. He heard thoughts about zits, sunglasses, cheesy crackers, ten thousand other things, but also… My crystal is cracked! There was only one place such a thought could come from, at least one so close that it was distinct from the rest of the sea of idle thoughts. She was home. He had to get to her. She could patch it up.
Garret stumbled down the stairs, hoping each time he accidentally hit his head against the wall it would knock some of the noise out. No luck. All that had been pushed out to make room for the thoughts. He tripped and fell the rest of the way, but there was the blue light in front of him. He crawled.
He was quickly losing his senses, but somebody picked him up. He was half-dragged into her apartment and placed on a couch. So many thoughts. Forgetting how to breathe. Feeling loose again, like oil on top of water slowly transforming into just another drop. He tried to speak and wondered if that fog emanated from his mouth.
Something was jammed onto his finger and all the thoughts faded. He was stunned to find himself still an individual. Garret sat up. A young woman sat across from him, holding the crystal ball in place on the tip of his finger. She’d used it to plug the chip. Fog swirled around his nail, but didn’t go anywhere else.
“What is this?” he asked. “What happened?” Why did you make everything so leaky?”
“Why did I?” she repeated, affronted. “This was always your doing.”
“The crystal ball… can you see the future?”
“It is the future,” she said. “It is the past and the present. It is all the stuff and all the thoughts. It’s a crystal rivet, one of a hundred, holding it all together, keeping it from pouring out into nothingness. My family has passed it down since their formation.”
“It’s not working. There’s a leak…” he said weakly.
“Your leak,” she said, jabbing him in the sternum with a finger. “I saw it on the crystal’s surface and hoped you would never actually do it. All these leaks in your life; it’s only one leak. The one you made when you touched it. It just bled across your whole life.”
“Is it fixed?” he asked.
“Yes, not that you deserve it.” They both looked down at his hand. His finger was solidly stuck in the chip of the crystal ball. Garret was silent while he absorbed the fact that all the leaking was done.
“Okay,” he said, “now when can I take this off?”
“Take it off?”
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by whiskeyroger369 during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop bytwitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!