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The Day That's Coming For You by Michael Cocchiarale


calls at dawn to say they’re on the way. Addled, you drop the phone. Shiver through a shower. Eyeball mirror fog, droplets ghostly punctuation upon your skin. You call family but cannot find the words. Again, the phone sounds: “Sorry, running late—have to make a quick stop.” You text the friend who’s always in the know. “Scammers?” he says. “Collections?” The phone buzzes again: “What are your favorite pizza toppings?”

Enough! You stuff a pillowcase self and drive due not where you are. Countless miles later, the scene’s familiar, but in a sepia way. Another buzz. The Day That’s Coming For You says, “See you soon!” You really step on it now, swishing and swerving until your cycle is in the gulch.

Broken, afraid, you set off on foot. Ahead, an uncut lawn. Beyond the arc of a sprinkler blooms a garden of toys, a bike sprouting a banana seat. An action figure, hand raised in greeting, camps beneath a sprawling sycamore. If it weren’t for yellow-browning at the edges of this world, you’d think you’d been here before.

Wind tantrums. Striped shirts and racecar sheets snap upon a line. You pass under to the house. The door’s locked, so you lift latticework below the porch and crawl beneath, letting the gate slap behind. It’s dark. Quiet. Safe except for rabid pasts that scurry over your shoes. You draw back, hold your breath until you can’t. Smell pours through—dirt and dirt then a stronger something else: grease, cheese, meat.

A whistle and flash. The crack of twigs. Then a genial groan, otherworldly eyes beaming through the squares of the gate. Yes, yes, you’ve seen this all before—dimly, every single day of your life. “Time for dinner,” the mouth announces. “And then, my naughty boy, it’s lights out!”

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