We get out at night, Stan and me. Let’s us out she does. We roam the corridors, or lounge around watching residents come and go. They don’t come and go much these days. We wait by the elevators for hours. Their sliding doors used to be kept busy. Open. Close. Open. Close. People coming and going at all hours of the night. That familiar voice. Twenty First Floor, it used to say, that voice. Going Down, as well. Sometimes Going Up, though even back then that was rare enough. People would stare at us when they came out of their apartments or when they came out from between the elevator’s sliding doors, their arrival, as always, announced by that voice. Twenty First Floor.
Some of them say hello, and ask us how we are, in a silly voice they never use with each other. Oh hello. And how are you today? How are you? We never answer, Stan and I, of course. Instead, I’ll have a nibble at one of Stan’s big ears, or squeeze myself tight up against him, feeling his reassuring warmth, the movement of his breath. Stan doesn’t mind. He might even have a little nibble now and then as well, twitching his nose in a way I find irresistible.
It’s just the two of us these days, most of the time anyway. We’ve hardly seen a soul in weeks, Stan and me. Maybe she’s locked them all in, sneaked out while we were dozing and warned everyone to stay indoors. Something’s up in any case. Something’s changed. Not that I mind. It’s quiet yes, and sometimes I think I hear that voice saying Twenty First Floor, but the doors don’t slide open and closed, so it must be in my head.
We don’t mind the quiet, Stan and me. Suits us well enough. We don’t have much to say in any case, hanging around the corridors at night. But lately it’s been a bit boring. We amuse ourselves as best we can. The other night we climbed in through the bars in front of the apartment down the end of the corridor. He’d left a cardboard box out for us to play with. We pushed it around a bit. Big enough box, but slid easily on the tiled floor. We had a nibble, Stan and me, we did. Tore a few chunks off the box. Tasted foul. Wouldn’t recommend it. But like I said, there hasn’t been much else to do. Broke the monotony. It was a bit of excitement for a change. We both took a shit outside his door and wandered off back home. Morning time, herself came out, took us in again. Stroked our heads and put us to bed.
We like sleeping through the day, Stan and me. We like the coolness of the tiled floor in the corridors at night. The chap from the apartment down the end of the corridor came out tonight. Bag of rubbish in his hand. Then he saw what we’d done to the box he’d left out for us to play with. Saw the shit we’d left too. Cleaned it all up, he did, then brought the cardboard box out with the bag of rubbish. First time he’s been out this week, at least at night. Passes us by, Stan and me, on his way to throw out the rubbish. Says hello, like he always does, then tells us off, saying things like you have been very naughty bunnies. Course we didn’t say anything. Stan twitched his nose a bit, and I snuggled up close against him and gave a nervous nibble to one of Stan’s long ears. Naughty bunnies, he says again. But if we’re the naughty bunnies how come they’re the ones all locked up inside?
Born in Dublin, Marc de Faoite lives on an island off the west coast of Malaysia. His short stories, articles, and book reviews have been published both in print and online. Tropical Madness, a collection of his short stories, was longlisted for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. Visit his website here.