In My Home

Reading Time: 10 minutes


They come every evening. Sometimes there are only two, sometimes as many as seven. No matter the number, they are always untouchable.

As am I.

I know why they are here, and I know why I am here. The surgeons may be able to take away transient details of a life lived, those more menial social identifiers, but they cannot excise what the mind considers simple facts.

I am locked in a cabin outside of the city, and there is nothing outside of the city. I am here because I represent some obstacle to the desired progression of society. It is a society I understand well, but cannot picture in my mind. I do not know specifically which disturbance I represent, but the possibilities are nearly endless.

(Image created by Marie Ginga via Adobe Firefly)

My confinement is scheduled to continue for the duration of my lifetime.

I know why they are here, why they come every evening. They are here because the first generation of exiles was placed in these cabins, in complete isolation: a convenient, if cruel, solution. In time, the onset of madness made their continued self-care unpragmatic.

I know what happened to the ones driven insane by the isolation, but this I choose to forget. For now, it is not helpful to remember.

“It is a beautiful day, is it not?” one of them says. A woman, she appears to be in her mid-twenties with unremarkable features and short hair.

A man across the room nods, but this is coincidental. Their communication never truly synchronizes.

I do not speak to them, because there is no need. They come every evening and leave when I go to bed. If I look closely enough, I can see right through them.

I am not one to go insane. I am convinced that I lack this predisposition, but am unsure of why. Perhaps this too is a simple fact. I do not know how I acted or failed to act to end up here, but I am here for a reason.

“It is warm too, is it not?” The short-haired woman is speaking again.

“It was my cat,” a different woman interrupts, while two others wander around the cabin.

The walls are made of concrete, but painted to look like wood. They are cold, and rough to the touch. Once, I chipped some paint away with my fingernail, but I regretted it almost immediately. I can still see the exposed grey spot if I look at the wall behind my bed.

Now, I avoid looking at the wall behind my bed.

There is one door leading to a locked vestibule, where my food is left once a day. I am diligent about retuning my empty tray. I imagine there are some not as considerate as I am. I claim this as a source of pride, though it is built on a tenuous foundation. After all, I only imagine the others to be lax.

I tried naming the human projections once, but they never stay long enough to make it worth the effort. I was surprised to find that it actually hurt me to see them replaced the next week.

I eat dinner at the small table in silence. My kitchen is a sink, a table, and a cabinet. It is a shallow motif of the prototypical home, something modest with which to weigh down a restive psyche. There is a small countertop, but it is only decorative, as my food is prepared for me.

There is another remark from the short-haired woman, this time the interruption comes too late.

One man sits in a chair in the corner. His eyes are gritty and bloodshot, and he sports an unkempt beard. Another man mills around the room as though admiring a series of paintings. He nods at one and lightly touches his chin.

My walls are bare.

I finish dinner and carry the empty tray to the front door. The vestibule is relatively small, only five feet long and three feet wide. I set the tray on the floor, and return to the cabin.

The outer door must be locked, because my door is open. No matter the time, I can always tell when my food is dropped off: the mechanical noise of the bolt is loud enough to fill the cabin. Every day, the sound makes me abruptly aware of my empty stomach, as I wait patiently for my door to unlock again.

I prepare for bed and turn off the lights. Though I have tried to dry my hair with a towel, it is still wet. I hate the feeling of a damp pillowcase clinging to my neck, but I only wash at night. This is my habit.

One by one, my nightly visitors dissolve, the red-tinged electric strip of light above my bed displays the empty space they leave behind. The room readily swells at the onset of their absence.

The man in the corner is the last to go. His projection reflects the red light in two glassy points.

I close my eyes and wait for him to fade away.

I have grown accustomed to falling asleep with the soft, red light bleeding through my eyelids. Sometimes, I wonder if it colors my dreams, but I can never remember them anyway. I wonder if I dream at all. I think it is a simple fact that every human dreams at night, but I am not sure.

Perhaps I should be concerned that every night I succumb to an empty, black abyss.

I hear a soft thud.

It seems nearby, as my heartbeat plays the ventriloquist with its rhythm. At this time of night, any sound I hear comes from within my own body. The concrete cabin allows no auditory stimulation, apart from those of the projections, my own being, and the mechanical bolt.

I settle my body back into the mattress. I can hear my shoulder click. In this isolation, every breath is amplified tenfold.

The soft thud comes again, yet I have still felt nothing.

I open my eyes and the man from the chair is standing beside my bed. He looks at me directly, as though seeing me.

I wrap the blanket tighter around my body, tucking the edge around my throat. I say nothing.

He reaches toward the wall and switches on the overhead lights.

He is not one of my nightly visitors. I do not know who he is.

“Do you have any food?” he asks.

I nod.


I point to the cabinet in the kitchen. Any non-perishables that I do not eat over the course of the day, I store for later. There are some sweets and a few bars of something soft and chalky. I hate the aggressively artificial flavor of the bars, so these last longer.

He has his back to me as he rifles through the cabinet. He throws a few things on the table and pours himself a glass of water, in my glass.

“Why are you here?” he asks.

The specifics of my life have been ripped from my mind. I only remember simple facts.

He looks over his shoulder.

“You,” he repeats, “why are you here?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “It is for the continued health of our society.”

It has been years since I have spoken, and my voice cracks on those exact words which incessantly repeat in my head.

“They never know, do they,” he says to himself. “And I’m not sure it’s an ‘our society’ for people like us anymore.”

He sits down and begins eating one of the bars.

“Do you know where you are?” he asks.

I sit up, now wrapping the blanket around my shoulders. I pull it as tight as I can and feel an increasing sense of comfort, though I cannot breathe as deeply.

“Far away,” I say.

He laughs, and his eyes crinkle at the outer corners. “You’ve got that right. This cabin’s about as far away as it gets. That’s why I’m here. See, I’m not like you: I know who I am, and I know what I’ve done. I just need to hide out here a few days, then I’ll be in the clear.”

“How did you get in?” I ask.

“Through the front door.” He finishes the bar and sticks the wrapper in the empty glass. “In fact, as a favor, I’ll help you get out. In two days, we’ll both have true freedom.”

“Do you know who I am?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “You must be one of the bad ones though, because you’re in the last row of cabins. The more run-of-the-mill exiles are in the first couple rows.”

He lays down on the couch and kicks off his shoes before peeling off his socks. He folds the square pillow under his neck.

“You’ll come with me and you’ll see. There’s a whole world out there, beyond the city and beyond these cabins. Once you get out into the wilderness, they stop chasing you. It costs too much to be convenient, and if there’s only one thing they care about, it’s that.”

I usually wash my drinking glass myself, but the soap I have is weak. I step out and place the glass and empty wrapper next to my tray, before quickly slipping back behind the front door. I don’t like spending too much time in the vestibule. It is always a few degrees warmer or cooler than the cabin. The temperature in the cabin never changes.

“You come from the city?” I ask, turning back to the intruder.

“Doesn’t everybody?”

I nod. That’s another one of those simple facts.

“You’re not so dumb after all. You people really have it cleaned out,” he says, pointing at his own temple. “You’re only the third one I’ve met so far. I had to hide out in cabins on my way from the city.

“The first one, I couldn’t tell why she was there. I made up some story about how she had accidentally let someone drown. She was so passive, just watched the human projections and never said a word. It was a miracle she managed to feed herself. I took half the food right off her plate, and she didn’t even glance in my direction. It gave me chills. You can bet I got out of there the minute I thought it was safe.”

The man takes off his belt and drapes it over the back of the couch, he untucks his shirt and loosens a few buttons.

“And the second one?” I ask.

A slight smile tugs at his lips. Apparently, he is happy to have a participating audience.

“The second…well, he was a little more active than the first, but he’d adapted to the cabin in the worst way. He spoke to the projections, he spoke to me, and he spoke to the empty spaces between us. I would know why he was there, but nothing made any sense. They were words, alright, but it was like someone shredded a dictionary. I’d give almost anything to know what he was like before his confinement, but that’s just my own curiosity.”

“How long did you stay there?” I ask.

“Only two nights. That was in the seventh row. I crossed the final three in one day, which brings me here. It’s easy to see how the gauntlet of cabins keeps anyone from leaving the city. There’s honestly nowhere to hide but in the homes of the city’s forgotten and damned.”

I want to ask more questions, but he rolls to face the couch. I return to my bed and switch out the overhead lights.


He sleeps most of the day.

The distance between the rows of cabins must be greater than I had imagined. I think the exact placement of the cabins is not common knowledge. There are ten rows total, and now I know I am in the tenth.

It should frighten me that I have been placed in the tenth.

I hear the bolt lock, and wait until I hear it unlock less than a minute later before opening the door. The day’s food and a clean glass are waiting on a fresh tray. I immediately go to the kitchen faucet for a drink. I had taken a little water from my palm that morning, but I am still thirsty.

“What time is it?” he asks.

The sound of another voice this early in the day startles me, and I touch my chest. There is the feeling of something alive within me: a prickling that runs from my throat to my core.

It is the same lurking sensation that has permeated my body ever since my mind became consumed by a single intention, and this excitement resurfaces every time I think about the task I shall soon perform.

“Four o’clock,” I say quietly.

“What time do the projections show up here?”

“In an hour. Is it different, in the other cabins?”

He nods. “The second cabin, they were there all day. In the first, about twelve hours.

“Here, it’s only around two hours,” I say.

“I guess you don’t need them that bad.”

“You think that’s it?” I ask.

He shrugs and rubs his eyes. “Who knows. Do you think you’d have lost it without them?”

“Like the first generation?”

“Yeah, like them,” he says.


I don’t need the projections at all.

“Well, you’ll be seeing other people soon enough: real people, not that imitation freak show,” he says.

He stretches and walks to the kitchen cabinet, where he retrieves another of the chalky bars. He opens it, and devours the soft mass in three bites.

He finishes what’s left of my water, and shoves the bar’s wrapper into the empty glass.

My mind has become consumed by this single intention, and a sudden heat fills my blood. I close the distance between us faster than I would have thought possible. I knock him into the counter, pull him up, and strike him again. He falls backwards with his ribs against the table leg and my glass rolls to the floor, shattering.

I grab a shard of glass and cut him twice: once in the neck and once in the shoulder.

I know I’ve hit an artery because the blood comes out in pulses, in symphony with the panicked beating of his heart.

Perhaps the precise, tactile details of bloodshed are common knowledge, and the overwhelming sensory familiarity of my own fist tightening around another’s blood-slickened throat is a simple fact.

I may not know who I am, but I know the exact moment he will stop moving beneath my knee, stop struggling against an already fatal wound. When he is finally still, I know how careful I must be to avoid slipping in the spreading crimson pool.

I do my best to clean the cabin, but my soap is weak. I make only little progress. I drag the body to outside the front door and into the vestibule. I place his belongings beside him, along with all the broken glass I have managed to collect in my recklessly damaged hands.

I return to the safety of the cabin, and almost enjoy closing my door on the grisly sight. Today, the vestibule is a few degrees warmer than the cabin, and even this small difference makes me profoundly uneasy within myself. I do not want to leave my home.

I also know the waiting. As the room fills with human projections, I sit on the couch and do nothing at all. They move and converse, their ephemeral feet tracing the fresh stains I have been unable to scrub away. They converse disjointedly, and only accidentally look in my direction.

I do not move a muscle.

Finally, they are gone and I do not sleep. I leave my dinner on the table, untouched. I am nervous, afraid I will be taken from my cabin. I wait hours, until finally I hear the mechanical bolt lock.

This time is different. I do not hear my door unlock until two hours later.

When I open the door and enter the vestibule, I find the day’s food, a new glass, and fresh cleaning supplies.


This story previously appeared on the podcast Tales to Terrify 03/17/2023.
Edited by Marie Ginga


Livia E. De Souza lives in Connecticut, where she writes horror and fantasy. Her short stories have appeared in Corner Bar Magazine, Bewildering Stories, and Penumbra. Her second novel, 'The Blackdog King,' comes out in May 2024, and she can be found online at Livia E. De Souza.