The ad in the back of the comic book said Sea People. He thought it was strange, because he remembered those kinds of ads and they were for sea monkeys, not people. And they weren’t even that, they were shrimp. Brine shrimp. He’d read that somewhere or seen it on TV. He thought maybe it was a new marketing gimmick, an angle, so he sent in five bucks.
Two days later the package came. It was one of those puffy envelopes. Inside, there was another envelope and inside of that, another, and inside of that, a packet like what comes with instant soup and a card. The card said “Add Water” so he took it inside and poured it into a soup mug and added water. Nothing happened so he poured it down the sink.
That night, he remembered that he hadn’t seen it on TV after all, he’d ordered them before, when he was a child. His parents wouldn’t let him have a pet so he’d ordered sea monkeys to fill the void. Nothing had happened that time when he’d added water either. He began to think he might be cursed. He no longer read comic books on the metro. Instead, he began a study of math.
-CL Bledsoe (originally ran in Clockwise Cat)
* * *
A Good Thing
He thought there were fish in the trees. He could see the sun glinting on their scales. He never smelled them, though, so he knew they weren’t dead. All day at work, he stared out the window—he could just see them over the top of his cubicle—until Jen came and told him they needed for him to switch desks with Tim (since Tim was out) while maintenance repaired the air vent just over his desk. He sat in misery—really, it was worse than the other day when he’d typed something especially vitriolic on his blog and waited for the fallout. All week, he waited, until they finished the repairs. Then, he heard that Tim wasn’t coming back. He knew he couldn’t ask them to move him back. Besides, he had an actual office now. Wasn’t that a good thing?
-CL Bledsoe (originally ran in Caper)
* * *
When he was young, his parents never let him leave the house. He knew no one who wasn't part of the household, and on the rare occasion they took him out, he was afraid. But he explored the delicious comfort of the familiar. The carpet was full of crocodiles, the closets, full of monkeys swinging between his father's shirts, the rooms full of memories and ghosts. He felt that it was better to know one place completely than to know bits of many.
As he grew older, he went to school and made friends, but rarely left the house otherwise. The friends came over and sat with him, talking long hours in the comfort of his familiarity. In their own homes, they grew disinterested with the toys, the video games, the rooms they inhabited, and spent more and more time with him. Some mornings, he'd wake to find several of them sitting on the couch out in the living room, talking, reading, surprised to see him as though he were a guest, until he felt crowded out of the house. He began to leave more and more often, graduated high school and moved far away. He hardly saw the friends anymore, except on the rare holiday when he came to visit the house, feeling awkward as a stranger, and found them, clustered on the couch, the loveseat, lying on his old bed, looking pale as though unused to the sun, and comfortable.