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The Bug

By Ronald Cypress

On the day that she finally moved into her apartment, Valerie happened to look up at the eleventh floor while she was walking towards the main entrance. She could see the windows of the apartment that was across from hers. The whole area that encompassed her neighbor’s apartment was different from the rest of the brick building. The section seemed to protrude from the structure, and the bottom part appeared to be melting down to cover the rest of the apartment building that was beneath it. Valerie stopped and blinked her eyes a few times. The building went back to being normal.

The apartment was small, having just enough room to fit a kitchen, living room, bathroom and one bedroom. Her aunt had helped her find the building, and once her parole office approved Valeria was allowed to move. She had been there for almost a month and still hadn’t managed to really know anyone else who lived in the building. It was just how she had hoped it would be. She could keep her head down and avoid talking to the other people. Most of the people in the building had the same type of mindset—they just wanted to be left alone. The landlord was easy, the type that wouldn’t do too much if something had to be fix but also wouldn’t make too many moves if a tenant was doing something that others might not appreciate. Most of the building was quiet. The halls were dark. Much of the walls were stained, but the carpeted floors were always kept clean. Some people would have been perturbed by dim, quiet atmosphere at night, but the mood was what Valerie needed.

Everyone went about their private lives without interrupting each other, and the only person who caught Valerie’s attention was the man who lived across the hall from her.

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There was something wrong with the apartment and the man who lived there. Valerie had first noticed it about a week after she moved in and noticed that the apartment door kept opening and closing. It didn’t open and close in normal manner. It was closed when she arrived home after going shopping for a few items. She put her key in the lock, happened to look behind her and see that it was suddenly completely open. She turned around, unlocked the door, looked behind her again and saw that the door had been closed without making sound. Her door cracked open. The door across the hall was open again. Valerie noticed the door open and close no less than ten times before she entered her apartment and closed her own door for good. She looked through the peephole to see the door continuing to open and close without going through any motions. Some time passed, and suddenly she saw a man appear in the doorway. Then she could see more than just the man sitting in an armchair. The whole apartment opened up, and Valerie could see a large room with just an armchair and a waterfall behind him.

Valerie closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, the door was closed. It remained that way, and Valerie went back to her own life.

There were other oddities about the man across the hall, but Valerie chose to ignore them.

One night, Valerie was awakened by the loud voices. They were all men’s voices, and at first they sounded as if they could speaking from inside her apartment. Valerie got up from her mattress and went out into the living room. The voices were coming from outside her apartment. Valerie opened her door. They were coming from the apartment across the hall.

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Valerie couldn’t resist any longer. She slowly approached the door and knocked.

A wind blew, and Valerie was suddenly sitting across from her neighbor with a long wooden table between the two of them. They were in a kitchen that was much too grand and luxurious to actually be a part of their apartment building. The wind continued to blow. Soon she knew his name.

“Jett.”

And as the wind went on, she began to find out a great deal about him.

“I’m not supposed to be here.”

He couldn’t really remember being born or ever having a childhood.

“I can make parents, but they can be anyone in this whole world.”

He had an unlimited amount of power, yet he was completely powerless. With the things he could do, Jett should have been considered a god but he was a mistake.

“Our world is part of a calculated and programmed system.”

He didn’t belong. Something had gone wrong, and he had been created. Or he had been created, and things went wrong.

The wind stopped, and they were siting in Valerie’s apartment. She was aware that at least a few days had passed since she first knocked on Jett’s door, but she couldn’t completely recall ever leaving his presence and doing other things besides talking to him. The two sat on the floor in her living room. Jett wanted to know about her.

“I just got out of jail not long ago.”

The law had found her responsible for the death of her brother. They had been together when he died, and they both had injected the same amount of the drug they had used for years. But he was the one who died.

“I’ve been clean since then, but I don’t know how much longer…”

Jett suggested that the leave the apartment building. He took her hand and they both sank through the floor, continuing to fall and slide until they were standing at the front door. Jett continued to hold her hand as he flew her down the streets. The people around them didn’t seem to notice as they went by. They would finally come to a stop on a park bench. Rain started to fall around them, but they remained dry with a luminous light coming down on them.

Valerie wanted to know if Jett really didn’t know where he came from.

“I’m just a hiccup in the system.”

He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Jett wanted to know about Valerie’s brother.

“He was a few years older than me.”

He had been completely straight until she introduced him to what would eventually cause his death.

The rain around them stopped, and the wind began to blow again.

Valerie awoke in her room on her mattress. She rolled over and fell to the floor. The mattress was no longer on the ground as it had been before. It wasn’t even her old mattress, but a king-size bed. The bedroom was still hers, but it felt like it was just a little bit bigger. Valerie began to think about Jett. She went out into the living room area and approached her door. Looking through the peephole, all she could see was a blank white wall. Valerie opened the door. There was a janitorial closet across from her apartment.

Valerie’s parole officer came to see her.

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That was the number on Jett’s apartment.

The parole officer wanted to know about how Valerie was doing. She wanted to know if Valerie was having any luck finding a job and if she had been attending anonymous meetings to help her combat the problems of the past. The woman felt that it was important for Valerie to keep herself busy and away from temptation. There wasn’t much to tell. Valerie frequently went to her door and looked through the peephole. The first time there was a hallway that didn’t seem to have an end. Then there was a dark hole that also appeared to be endless. Then: a forest, a room full of smoke, a large mouth with all thirty-two teeth, and a green plain.

The parole officer eventually left Valerie alone to watch Jett’s door.

She watched it for years without time actually passing. Suddenly, she was outside the door, and they were standing across from each other. Jett was apologetic about revealing himself to her.

“It’s not going to help anything.”

All he could do was leave her damaged and unable to recover from what she had found out about their world. Jett promised to move and to leave Valerie alone.

She begged him to stay.

A wind blew, and she was sitting in her living room. It didn’t look like hers, furnished with an expensive couch, an expensive TV and TV stand, and pictures on the walls. Valerie stood up and began to look over the framed mementos. They were all pictures of her and her brother, pictures that she knew had never actually been taken and had never existed in the past. They were both smiling in the photos and appeared to be genuinely happy. Valerie removed one of the pictures from the walls. She and her brother were standing together in front of their old house. She could hear his laughter, and in her mind she could clearly see how things had been, or could have been.

There was a knock at her door.

Jett stood before her as a much older man. He was nearly unrecognizable, but Valerie knew it was Jett in a form that he wouldn’t keep for long. He would move on and try to hide away somewhere else. Valerie worried about what would happen to him.

“I was never really born, and I’ll never really die.”

Jett suddenly reached out and took her hand. The building around them disappeared, and they were standing in front of Valerie’s old home.

“I was never meant to be, but here I am, a terrible mistake.”

Jett let go of her hand and began to walk away from her. Then he was gone.

Valerie heard a voice coming from inside the house. She instantly recognized who it was, and she slowly began to walk up the porch steps and towards the open front door. His voice grew louder, as did the nervousness she felt about seeing him again. The wind began to pick up as she stepped into her old house. It continued to blow until she was back in her apartment.

Everything was still.

A cell phone sitting on the couch began to ring.

Valerie stopped listening for the rush of the wind and walked over to the phone. A woman was on the other side.

“Are you coming to work today?”

Valerie didn’t know who it was.

“We could use you at the office.”

Valerie looked down at herself and saw the black business-like attire she was wearing.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

The woman didn’t say anything. Suddenly, Valerie heard Jett’s voice.

“You know what to do now.”

It was a new life that had somehow and for some reason been given to her.

Valerie wanted to know about her brother.

“Is he alive?”

Jett told her that complete resurrection was beyond his control. The complete essence of her brother had been almost entirely erased, and one day it would be the same for her. But her destiny had been disrupted and reprogrammed. It was another life, and soon it would come to her so that Valerie knew whom she was and what she was supposed to do.

Valerie ended the phone call and walked over to her door. She looked through the hole.

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The door opened and a young couple emerged.

Valerie had to restrain herself from rushing across the hall and into the apartment to search for Jett. The problem had moved away from her. Her world would go back to being straight and well defined. But someone had made a mistake, and it appeared that they were closer to human than what may have once been thought to be. The glitch was out there, and Valerie considered that maybe there were more.

It was possible that they whole system was faulty, and people like her were just stuck with the consequences.

As she rode the elevator to the bottom floor and casually walked out to the street, Valerie wondered about what the new world would be like. The wind began to blow as she walked down the street, but it was just a simple yet pleasurable element.

And that’s what she would be.