Neighbourhoods

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Summary

"My mother was a crazy woman. She suffered from psychosis. But she made a lot of sense, in the midst of her mania. She always told me an apocalypse would come, and it would bring out the worst in people. People lash out when wounded. Bite when scared. Really, we are no better than animals." / The world is in lockdown, but has adapted accordingly. Now, life goes on, above and below the surface.

Genre:
Mystery / Scifi
Author:
mellow-k
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

ONE, TULIPS

ONE

Tulips


dear neighbours
sorry for the noise this past week.
feel free to take a bouquet.
have a wonderful day.

keith t.
flat 1



Flat 01
Floor 01

Karen can hear a banging, a knocking, incessant, dancing in and out of her focus as it travels the hall from the downstairs bathroom. Keith is trying in vain to hurry their daughter to bed again, and it is not going to happen.

She applies pressure to her teabag, pushing it against the inner rim of her favourite tea cup, beige with assorted teal stains, for longer than necessary. Her favourite part of making a cup of tea has always been watching the colour change, and this moment in particular is essential. The tea darkens. She tips bio-milk in with a three-degree twist of her wrist, and watches the surface of the water melt through brick and ochre, slowing just before dark-toffee. Like clockwork, the sight of this births a craving for a custard cream breaking perfectly in the middle, in between her teeth. Or a cloud-like Victoria sponge, moist enough to rain golden crumbs — but she will settle for a rich tea biscuit.

Riley!”

Bastard.

65% dark. The teabag has been in too long. Too late. Her whitening knuckles straining against the teaspoon remind Karen to breathe once more as she scoops the wasted Tetley out of her cup and throws it into the sink with a twitch. The rest of the tea follows. Her daughter screams in ecstasy, convinced as always that Keith’s sweat-soaked and flame-faced pleading is all part of an elaborate game that she cannot lose. Riley’s laughter does not end, and Karen longs for the sound of drills and tap- tap- tapping. Canines yapping or whining, and white noise.

She releases her next breath so slowly that her lungs shudder as she reaches for the kettle.



Flat 02
Floor 02

“The ending isn’t finished yet, but I can fucking feel it, Sati. And the actors who auditioned today—just fantastic. Honestly, fantastic.”

“That’s fantastic, Malcolm, wow,” Mahsati replies. She is washing the dishes, but she’d turned to him as soon as he walked into the room and beamed him a smile so wide, he thinks she might have started drinking early — but, for once, he cannot smell a beverage in the air. Just lemon-scented washing liquid, and something more floral.

Mahsati’s lips bloom still somehow wider as she notices his pause when he leans inches forward, lead by his nose. She raises a wet, marigold-gloved hand which contrasts gaudily with her dark skin; gestures at their kitchen window sill; the peach-tinted curtains are parted to reveal an old hand-painted vase that had previously been in hiding. Now, it carries a bouquet of yellow tulips, and pink peonies. They look so alive, six p.m. sun lighting them from behind. The petal-ends seem on fire. He wants to take a picture, or write a poem, or write the image into his play’s debut scene.


INT: BUNKER.
TIME UNKNOWN
FADE IN

ALEXANDER sits in the middle of a cluttered room at his table, head in hands. Around him, his items are in disarray. A 20th Century radio plays, distorted, and unintelligible. Behind him, an older woman stands, hands pressed into palms. YVONNE. She faces stage right before clearing her throat, and quickly covering her mouth with a white handkerchief.

ALEXANDER
You went out again, didn’t you?

YVONNE
I didn’t.

The light flickers, though neither actors on stage seem to notice this, but for a slight shiver from YVONNE. ALEXANDER looks up and sees— a gorgeous bouquet, bigger than his television set-


Wait-

Not a-fucking-gain.

Malcolm clears his throat and squares his shoulders. “I didn’t forget,” he says, smile half mast. “I’ve got us plans for dinner. Where is Mash?”

Mahsati’s eyebrows knit together but, otherwise, the stiffness in her shifting towards the dirty dishes is subtle. The angle at which her back straightens is rather too acute to detect with pupils and light alone. He’d left her alone for a moment again. “Mash is out. And you forgot nothing, don’t worry. It isn’t our anniversary.” To this, Malcom looks no less panicked. “Or yours and Mash’s.” To this, Malcolm looks relieved. “Just Mr. Tootle, below. Said his plants finally came in. Thought I should have some, brighten up our kitchen a bit.”

Mahsati is smiling again, but the corners are hardened as though engraved into her narrow face, gazing out of their window and into the shared courtyard of Kolonie Street 1. It is sad-looking, dry and empty beneath the plastic dome roof, so clouded it is practically opaque, besides a patch by the shed at the garden’s end which is coming in indeed. Tulips in white, yellow, and peonies. White, pink.

“Oh, yeah.” Malcolm murmurs. He sets his briefcase on the countertop and turns his back on his partner to remove his gingham scarf and burgundy pea-coat combo. “I saw his notice up by the mailboxes. Weird. That guy freaks me the fuck out. You should throw those things out. What kind of fucking creep?”

“Yeah,” Mahsati says. The bouquet looked like it could use a couple more pieces. Fill it out a little more, but by the time she found some to suit the arrangement, their petals would likely have started to wilt. The bright yellow tulip heads are already starting to hang themselves heavy. Regardless. Her hands are busy once again, scrubbing the marks left on a pan from a burnt brunch-time omelette. This one she should have soaked longer, but her persistent fingers work it again and again and it goes. She feels Malcolm’s hands slink around her waist and pull her hips towards his pelvis. He is whispering his script notes into her ear like they are gold, heirlooms, and the canals leading into her skull are one big safe to store all of his valuables. She feels valuable.

She closes her thick-lashed eyes and she hums in response to him; “Mmm. What a fucking creep.”


Flat 03
Floor 03

vintagedestroyer467: hry 19:24

vintagedestroyer467: hey. 19:24

vintagedestroyer467: hi, chi 19:30

vintagedestroyer467: u online? 19:33

chiquila91sunrise: yeah 19:35

chiquila91sunrise: wanna play? 19:35

vintagedestroyer467: always. 19:36


Flat 04
Floor 04

The washing machine is making the bizarre thrumming noise mid-cycle again. It always reminds Evie of her old 2004 Opel Corsa attempting to start, or to brake, or to move up a gear. Rest in peace.

In both cases, the noise had become a comfort, but now, leaning anxiously against a rather chaotically stocked floor to ceiling bookshelf, she wonders if it is just too loud. A little invasive. She had thought so when she first moved in six—or was it seven?—years ago, but back then she’d been partying so much she was barely ever home enough to have an issue with it.

Not to mention the howling hinge on the door dividing the hall and the living room. That one was more of an issue for Phillipa; she’d never stopped moaning about it, but she’d never gotten round to fixing it either. Evie considers her desk —it’s a messy space, now used more as storage rather than a place to do any sort of work. The newcomer would likely try to change it, and reasonably speaking, should be allowed. If Evie has no use for it, it is up for grabs. But, after living with Phillipa for four years, dealing with the explosive break up and then navigating the last four months alone, she’d begun to appreciate, perhaps a little too much, her own arrangement of things.

Honestly, Evie would happily have remained solo if her bills weren’t beginning to stack up so high that the black box of denial she vacuum-packs them in wasn’t bursting open daily, causing a rupture in her left temple. She considers once again simply saving her tips instead of immediately purchasing illegals, but the bright blue box that houses her guilty pleasures swallows that thought and locks itself shut.

Shhhtaang-

The buzzer. Evie sweeps her eyes across the room one last time as she advances towards the front door. Finger on Speak;

“Hello?”

“Evelyn Hochberg?” Their voice is deeper than Evie initially imagined from the photograph she’d seen on RoomMe, but it is smooth enough that their mention of an interest in singing makes sense. Smooth, with a little grit.

“That’s me. Junior Thomas?”

“The very one.”

“Come on up.”

Evie presses the button to allow the underground hatch to open and breathes slow as the apartment building seems to rumble gently for a half second. She opens the door. It takes a little while to climb the stairs to the fourth floor, so she hovers her left hand above her right and touches tenderly the damaged skin on the back of it. Rough. She worries her bottom lip between child-like teeth and forces another breath. Not everyone is crazy. Plus, She’d already alerted them that this would be on a trial basis; one month to begin with. There is still space to back out.

The scuffing of material against the stairwell wall can be heard. Evie cranes her head out and watches the bumbling entrance of her new flatmate; a sturdy, shorn-headed figure in a patched up leather jacket is taking languid, long-legged strides up the concrete steps. Strapped across their back is a guitar case, and in their hands, three bulky duffel bags.

“Need help?”

When Junior looks up, only four stairs away, they are still wearing a facemask, but from the twinkle in their eye, they are clearly grinning. “I’ve come this far. Might have been nice to know there was no lift, though.”

Evie laughs, aware that Junior is mostly teasing, though they have a point. “Sorry, I assumed you would know. The older buildings this side of town don’t tend to.” She lends a hand out and grabs the duffel bag that is closest as Junior arrives at the door.

Once inside, Evie leads the two of them to the living room where the bags are dropped unceremoniously. Junior removes their mask to reveal a rounded nose and full lips, both decorated with piercings, which Evie compliments while still trying to manage her nerves. “Also- your profile said non-binary, but might I ask if you prefer they? Or Zie? Or-”

“Either is fine, honestly. What about you?”

“Just normal. I mean- she, please.”

“Sure.” Junior shoots Evie a rueful but forgiving look as they stretch out their back and shake their head. “You’ve got a weird smell out in that hallway by the way.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Got anything good to eat?”


Flat 05
Floor 05


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