"Brandon and Finn" Files:
August 2019 - Present
This is what we agree on:
Everything is sturdy. We finish up our dinner. I'm in another room.
I can't get to Finn when the floor starts second-guessing.
The lock rattles and the wood of the door and the hinges. Nothing can open. The smell of old, rotting food. The smell of moss. The room shifts, not a dance but a rattle, back and forth. The deep hum of a distant airplace now so close, now beneath the floor. A sticky branch pulled free of collapsing soil. The walls bend and crease. My closet behind me pops out of its track.
Finn thinks the windows break up. I don't see that, and they look okay later. But if he says so. I can't open the door. I knock and swing. The wood cracks apart or my knuckles do. I hold on to anything, nothing, so I stay on my feet. Finn's body thwumps onto the floor.
The room falls and falls into itself and doesn't eat us.
A far-away knocking, getting closer. I know what's coming.
I'm in the bedroom, ready to hide. Brandon knows this part better. Brandon leans his back against the door.
He holds his hand up to me with open fingers. He curls his fingers in as he mouths the words:
A knock on the door. We're starting.
A man younger than us shows up with a key in his trembling hand.
[Note: This message was originally a voicemail.]
[Finn], the neighbors. I know what you think they are. But they aren't. Or they don't have to be that, do they? Can we just not worry about this?
Another voice: [more distant and muffled like through a wall] "Can we just not worry about this?"
Oh. You're kidding me. [sigh] I hope they come to us sooner than later. I'll be here when you get back. Seriously?
[End of recording]
I like sitting in the moonlight. Nothing bad happens then. I don't sleep much. I'll have to do something in a few hours when it's light out. I'm ready for anything, I guess.
Of course, I know myself.
Tyler walks into my apartment. Well, I think it's mine. It's not like I left. Finn isn't around, either. So it's not like I keep track or anything.
Toast and jam for lunch. Nothing better. Tyler doesn't want any. Or he says so.
My key works in the door. Tyler's doesn't. But there's no tree here. Guess it's not mine, then.
I ask Tyler. I'm not in the right apartment, am I? He ignores me, looks for the door and the walls, which are still there. They don't move. He doesn't move.
I move back through and get everyone back home. Tree in the corner. Much better. Key works still. Tyler's home. So am I. Toast and jam.
No one is there today... no one signed up for the apartment service project this morning. Finn and I go just so someone is there.
We cut out the old bougainvillea. Chew through the rotting trellises. I hold them steady and upright. Finn cuts the base so it stays together. Let them fall onto a tarp. Watch the caterpillars scatter. Wrap the old wood pieces up and drag them to the trash. Admire the petals. Deal with the thorns. Say nothing else about the thorns. The rest of the plant is too damaged for another season. Fill the holes.
We make new trellises. Cut the wood pieces to size. Screw them together. Dig new holes to match the new size trellises. Paint the wood. Plant new vines. Bring the caterpillars back.
The two of us are done before the morning gets too warm.
I would go for a walk alone this morning, but Tyler wants to come along. Or at least he wants to not sit alone in his room. He would go anyways. Fine. He can tail after me.
Tyler suggests the library by the bridge, a half-mile north of the apartment. He had a plan for that, but Sam wasn’t ready. Fine. A restaurant nearby for lunch, too. I wish I knew Sam wanted a book.
No one else is up this early for the library, except the intern.
The intern knows a lot about the local public works. About my age. Smiling. Approachable. Tyler takes a deep breath and strides forwards, ready to check out a book. Then he hides in the nearby shelves for twenty minutes.
The intern asks if I need anything. Looking for something about the bridge north of here.
He knows. The bridge is a monument to the local lumber industry. Later downstream, a small water turbine powers some of the public buildings. The intern asks if I’m new here.
No, but I still don’t know much about this town.
I can see the lumbering bridge. No one here for a worn monument, just like the apartment. The stagnant river shimmers more green than blue and reeks of fish. I can’t stay out here long.
Tyler asks about fishing on the river.
Local fishermen drop nets below the bridge in spring. The town council recognizes the harm of this fishing on the local wildlife.
But I bet everyone’s hungry for an easy lunch.
Fishing is a community activity. The intern perks up when he talks about it.
And the small, green-specked fish are invasive, anyway. When rows of sunfish rush downstream and fill the river, I don’t think a fisherman needs more luck than an open net.
The intern shines at the guesses. He even recommends a book. He’s too close to me. I shake my head. I’m just looking. Or I mumble a thanks. Or I check the map on the wall.
I kick a rock down to the water. A thin geyser splashes back up towards me — the surface fractures in every direction. Nothing gets back to the bridge except a stronger odor.
I glance over to the far side of the bridge and stay where I am. Trees rise up into the sky, even from this far away. No sign of people here.
Just me. And Tyler.
I’m tired. I don’t see anything else. But Tyler’s making some good steps. Almost
We cross the bridge.
FIRST AID KIT
Hand sanitizer (1 fl oz/29.57 mL)
Antibiotic ointment (0.5 oz/14 g)
Wound gauze (12"/30.48 cm)
Elastic adhesive (24"/60.96 cm)
Blunt-tip scissors (1, 12.7 cm)
Electrode pad (1, 1"/2.54 cm)
"For Tyler's shoulder. I can remind you how to clean the wound if you forget. Don't try whatever you did yesterday. Long-term refills are available by request. -B."
I can't sleep. I'm so tired but I can't sleep.
I make fish sandwiches for dinner. Everyone eats.
Here is what I remember tonight.
Finn, Tyler and I make s'mores. That's what people do in summer, right? Except not when it's this hot out. And dry.
The stove clicks on. The stories begin.
I put a marshmallow on a skewer and lets it toast.
Tyler asks about the bandages on my hands.
I have a tiny cactus, no more than four inches tall in its pot. One of my favorite kinds of plants. All over the place here. It grows itself.
Tyler pauses. "They do need some water to grow, right?"
I guess they do. I don't remember that all the time. But it keeps going. I check up on it, and I get poked.
Tyler suggests that Sam cound help with that.
It's Finn's turn. "Do you believe what he says about a flood?" He starts to toast a marshmallow.
Tyler tries to swallow his lips before he gives in. "I don't know. I can't tell what he really knows or doesn't know about whatever our apartment does. Can I get a s'more?"
You hear the man, Finn.
Finn wiggles his head at me. "I know what I hear."
A minute later, Tyler's mouth is full of marshmallows and chocolate. He takes another bite and the graham cracker breaks. Hot sugar covers his shirt.
No worries, Tyler. I have a bunch of clean shirts you can borrow.
"Why do that much?" Finn steps between us. "I'll do laundry tomorrow."
Tyler scowls. "It's fine. I'll just ignore it."
Finn glances towards me. My hand is already making contact with my forehead.
Tyler cleans himself up with his right arm. He starts to move his left and stops.
Tyler turns at me. "You could help me."
I always could.
"You never quite do what I expect."
Sorry, Pygmalion. [Note: sculptor from Greek mythology]
It's almost time for bed. We have a friend.
08-25-19 newspaper article
Shoppers rescued from heat exhaustion spell
BOX ELDER — The Station 1 Volunteer Fire Department responded to multiple emergency calls near the Third Street Market yesterday evening. Multiple witnesses at the market described sensations [like nausea, distress, confusion, irritability, forgetfulness, disorientation, loss of balance, inescapable sense of slowness, slight dizziness, dehydration, and fatigue.
Sherriff [redacted] and Box Elder Public Library life and science librarian [redacted] encourage all residents to avoid this dangerous condition by resting immediately in a cool, shaded place if they notice these symptoms. Rehydrating with water and/or electrolytes is also recommended.
[Handwritten note on back: I didn't see this shopping with Tyler yesterday?]
Finn knows my clumsiness. I'm loud.
I move with the door frames. I collide with empty tables. I collapse couch cushions. I'm alive anyway. Sorry if I don't talk about anyone else's appearance, but everyone's body does what we need from them. That's all.
I'm used to apologizing for my body, so strange to me so often. It's never a bad body but never quite what I expect and never as far as I pretend. I'm big. I know.
That's not what worries me.
Tyler gets close. I... I don't move away. He walks right through me. I'm dizzy.
He's not in front of me anymore? Where is he?
I'm here. Tyler is behind me, out of the kitchen. Nothing hurts as much as I expect.
Fifth Street Market addresses security "concerns"
BOX ELDER — The Fifth Street Market has implemented new protective measures for its in-store staff. The changes include plastic shields at checkout belts and new self-checkout registers.
Manager [redacted] suggested that the change is due to "concerns about the well-being of our staff and the community." One staff member, who has asked to remain anonymous, described feelings of "extreme stress and helplessness" around customers.
We will continue to update this story as it develops.
I sent out an email to everyone, but I know some of you prefer the paper version, so that's what this is.
Reminder: I will be out of town for a long vacation weekend.
The waste management team will be working extra hard to get everything cycled out due to the heatwave over the next few weeks. So make sure to be considerate of everyone else in the building:
Tidy up your rooms.
Take out your trash.
Wash all your dirty laundry. Air it out to dry before putting it away so it doesn't grow mold.
If you have an emergency, please call me at [landlord's phone number]. Although I won't be much help from the beach!
Have a good weekend. I do sincerely enjoy having you in our community.
- [Box Elder Apartments landlord contact information]
I can't see. I can't find Finn. I can't move. I hear footsteps. He can't find me. Guess we both lose.
Note: The following file was originally an audio recording of a phone call. It has been transcribed for safe access.
Brandon: (worried) [Finn], they're moving around again.
Finn: Don't worry. We'll just move around a little, too. We'll be okay.
B: Just like when we—
F: I know how that sentence ends. Don't worry. They might get it right.
B: We can't go in there. We'll drown.
F: We'll let them come to us again. Okay?
B: Sounds like a plan.
F: No, it doesn't.
B: You're right, it doesn't. But I trust you.
F: I'm here.
B: (smiling) I'm here.
[End of recording]
[Tyler] visits us. We don't have a lot of time.
I tell him. Your roommate is so hijacked, the habitat itself is responding.
He's hunting for you.
The walls are thin fabric sheets, cold blue, cold green, brilliant red.
[Brandon] keeps his hands on the wall, pushing to stay sturdy and standing.
[Tyler] interrupts again. "I don't know what that means."
I step in and give my smile to [Brandon], then turn back to [Tyler]. "Go talk to [Sam]," a command. "We'll be here. Someone is always here."
Then Tyler is gone again.
Note: The following file was originally an audio recording of a phone call. It has been transcribed for safe access.
[Finn]: Hey, Brandon is calling [emergency services]. We are on our way to you. We need to know that it's safe to come over. (An indistinct remark from Brandon is heard.) [to Brandon] Right. [to the phone] To be clear, is it safe for -other people- to come over? [pause] We'll do what we can. We have a mess here, too. We're on our way.
[Note: a thin residue line at the top of this piece of paper suggests that it was likely taped onto Tyler and Sam's front door.]
When you are done, we're making s'mores over here. This is not an offer. This is a demand.
[Brandon and Finn]
[Note: Continued thanks to Oliver for his assistance with the decryption and curation of this collection. His help making this valuable information safe for public consumption is an immense benefit to our community.]
Finn, Sam spilled some grape jelly, and there's a stain on the carpet. We don't know how to get it out. I've moved the couch so it's not visible. But I know you'll want to do something about it long-term. If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it. Sam just wanted to get a new carpet, but we can't do that.
Sent 6:58 PM
[Note: Boss, I have started reviewing this collection of files. I'm confused. There's nothing wrong here. This is a plain text file. Did you already clean this? Why am I here? Who is this?]
Things have been slow today, and not in the bad way. Work is nice. Gives me some consistency. Brandon would say the same thing. He would say the same thing no matter what I said, so that's not new either.
I haven't heard from Tyler or Sam today. That's almost worse, isn't it? Looking for something that isn't there.
Maybe tomorrow will be better.
We just got back from dinner at the tavern. All four(?) of us. Everything is okay, but weird. I feel kind of sad today, but I don't know why. Missing something. Sam gave me a hug. It was nice. Sam wasn't the first to let go.
We talked to some people at the tables next to us. We know we shouldn't, but we did. I was stupid. I bumped up against one of the people sitting there.
Not even a second passed.
We saw them two tables over, not in a chair, crashed to the ground. I reached out my hand to help them up. Also a mistake. I'm not sure anyone even noticed us, not sure anyone felt anything unusual.
Tyler was right this time. We left quietly.
[Note: They can't see this, either. No one is here. You know, I thought this would help. Somehow. Anyhow. I want to go out and help. Once I know my instincts, following them is a choice. Isn't it? Or maybe the library never opens again. No one says hello. No one has to. But I'd like to say hello. Or the walls will catch the words and keep them on the shelves and press and bind and protect. I know I can't leave yet. I should want to leave. But that's scarier than going forward. I wish I knew how.]
Tyler and I were hanging out today. I made a stupid pun. I don't even remember what it was. I remember saying "get a pillow". I remember Tyler close to me. I remember waking up on the floor with a pillow under my head. He tries to help me up.
I knock him.
Across the room.
I don't trust myself to help you. If you were me, I wouldn't help. If you weren't you, I wouldn't let you anywhere near me.
Tyler walks to me. Maybe he knows.
Shut up! I can see you. I can see you. I can see you. I can see you. I can see me [sic]. I can see you. Turn your head. Turn your head anywhere but here.
Brandon, can you please stop by next door? Sam says his mattress is shaped wrong. I don't know what that means. Tyler is out getting some pain medicine for his arm. Let me know if you hear a... I don't know how to describe the sound. Fluttering?
Sent 9:57 PM
Finn, the wall is sludgy again. I don't know what it is this time. Anything loud enough to fill an apartment or a bookshelf or a page. Sand. Water. Mud. Twigs? I could walk next door right away. I felt like you.
Those two aren't listening as much. I'm working on it.
It's fine, I guess. Just don't bug the landlord about the wall. The last thing we want to do is freak anyone else out.
Sent 9:57 AM
Thank you for letting me sit down with you this morning, Tyler. Does it feel good to get that blog cleaned up? So many of those pictures and videos from August. I don't think it's good for you to keep seeing them all the time. I'm not too happy, but you're not me, are you? You didn't offer a lot of advice on the process. We can work on that.
We'll help you figure out how to live on your own.
Sent 12:50 PM