Short Fiction

The Other One by Richard Leise

The woman at the door stared at the children.  She was pregnant.  Seven months low to the ground with what she knew to be a boy.  She ran a hand up and down her stomach.  It had snowed overnight, and it was snowing still.   

The boy and the girl were sixteen or seventeen.  Maybe younger.  Neither was dressed for the weather.  Blue jeans and black t-shirts.  Black sneakers. 

“They want to come in,” she said. 

“Who did they say they were, again?” 

The woman looked through the glass eyehole, past the strange children.  A white horizon absent direction.  There were no tracks in the snow.  It was windy, and the wind pushed and pulled the fallen snow.  Still, it would have been nice to see tracks.   

“They didn’t.  Just asked to come in.  Said their parents were coming.  Didn’t even smile or anything.”  And then, as if this might matter:  “That one on the left was the one who asked.”   

It didn’t matter.  “Parents?”

“That’s what they said.  You think they got into some kind of accident?”

“Don’t know,” the man said.  “Sure are calm, though.”

“Not sure that’s what I would call it.”  The woman placed both hands on her stomach.  As if to contain the infant.  Or so that it might not hear.     

“They don’t even look cold.”


“Shock makes you shake, though, doesn’t it?  They’re not even moving.  They’re not even blinking, and I’m freezing standing right here.  Stunned, maybe?  Who knows.”  He peered through the glass.  “Why haven’t we let them in, again?” 

It was because the woman didn’t know.  What was wrong.  Where it was such children came from.  Where it was they had been.  Upon a desert plain like pointless rocks how they were both foreign and natural.  Natural substances in this sort of aggregate and of this genesis seemingly impossible. 

Moonlight fell across the low-lying hillsides and came in through the window cut into the top of the door.  Light broke the pane, hit the hardwood floor and climbed the wall behind them. 

They walked here? 

Grasping the door frame she leaned to search the world through their living room’s bay window.  The moon a scythe low in the sky.  Its light slashing wide swathes of darkness to make something blue of the snow-covered treeline.  The snow-covered road.  Power lines like black thread suturing the fallen sky to the falling snow.  The couple themselves trapped and this no matter the emergency.  Past the front of their house no vehicle would pass until the following morning.  Giant orange snow ploughs.  She didn’t need to look in the other direction, there being no possibility of an accident in the Ludlow’s cornfield.  Noise drifted from the family room.  A television program.  What sounded like an invitation. 

“Creepy,” the man said.  “But.  Well.  They’re just kids.  Freaky kids.  But kids.  Someone’s children.  We can’t just leave them out there, can we?”  

“But look at their eyes.”

The man nodded:  “I have.”

“Shock doesn’t do that, does it?  Make your eyes all—”

“Black?  No.  Stunned doesn’t either.  There’s nothing that does that, not that I ever heard of.”     

The wind rose and fell.  Still, the children did not move.  The man didn’t know what to say.  The children’s feet with their black sneakers rising from the stook-blown snow, set like talons.  The way the two stood expressionless.  As if parts of their features, like cheekbones and chins, had been erased by time.  If ever created at all.  Their milk white skin.  So white as to make the falling snow a sort of cream.  That skin stretched smooth across faces tight as a made fist and just as a drum absent feature.  Eyes deep pockets of privity.  How with a snowman’s stare what had to be a boy knocked once again. 

The other one said, “Where do you keep your phone, Miss?”  And then:  “Do you mind if we have a look?”   

Have a look?  

The children alone in the known world and the couple together inside their home whose door proved an uneven obulus dividing a silence whose bay became focused and angry with a purpose directed toward the immensity of the negative space surrounding a protocol of common practice.  A curse upon the sightless purity of a man and a woman stilled by discomfort and the different pressures afforded unto them by society.  By humanity.  

Silence is misleading, cannot be trusted, for it turns the mind inward, forces the self to see the self, at least that sense of self we are able to see.  And then the individual must observe what is worth forgetting.  What remains.  A draft through the door.  A gust of wind flattening against the side of the house. 

Silently and even diffidently the man stepped in front of his wife and with a hand on her back cautioned so she would be behind the door once opened.  Protected from in all probability nothing but why leave anything to chance.     

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness which creates it and so to overcome his anxiety the man modified his mindset, he would open the door only if they knocked once again. 

As if attuned.  As if listening to his thoughts the children knocked.  And the man opened the door.  And the children stepped in.     

Richard Leise


9 thoughts on “The Other One by Richard Leise”

  1. Richard

    Never know who’s at the door. The observation on levels of consciousness is fantastic. Maybe it’s a new way of selling timeshares. The open end leads to much speculation. Brilliant.


  2. Hi Richard,
    Very weird.
    I did like it.
    Maybe a bit of a reminder of ‘The Medwitch Cukoos’??
    I’m sure there is a huge metaphor here, but I’ve not got the brains to work it out!


    1. Thanks everyone. I am not familiar with THE MEDWIDTCH CUKOOS and will track it down; I am excited to do so. Thanks, Hugh, for the kind words. Exterior states reflect interior states, like Peter Handke, an influence, if that helps. That is part of the idea, anyways. Thank you for reading.


      1. Hi Richard,
        You are more than welcome.
        That story is what ‘Village Of The Damned’ was based on.


  3. I know him from school. He has a novel coming out this year, and I believe he has sold another. I have read part of the former. Can’t wait to pick it up. If you think this is creepy, check out “Johannes & Merritt”. Easy to find on Amazon. In shops as well, but I think primarily in the United Kindgom.


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