Existential Terror and Breakfast: Malcolm’s Neighbor

Epiphanies taste better with toast.


Forty-six days before he would call the suicide hotline, Malcolm decided that he would skip breakfast. Nothing good had come of it for weeks now–at least beyond basic sustenance and more often than he’d like to think, not even that.

No. This morning he would get down to business. He would sit down at his computer and fill out applications to jobs until there was no time left in the day. In fact, he’d do it with such determination and such focus that there would be no time or opportunity for him to feel anxious, or wonder what horrors lay hidden beneath the veneer of normality.

He filled a glass of water and sat in front of the computer screen, thinking about where he would look. Except… Thinking was, as he already knew, a mistake. Thinking without a clearly defined goal left him vulnerable to distraction and distraction led him to unfortunate revelations.

On this particular morning he thought seriously about water for the first time. Water, this very same water, had existed for billions of years. It was the by product of star formation and could quite easily be said to predate the planet he lived on. This water had been part of billions or even trillions of living organisms–bacteria, insects, dinosaurs, mammals, plants and reptiles.

Almost all of them were dead by now.

He held up the glass of water in his hand, looking through it. He wouldn’t be any different. He knew it. Everybody knew it. He and everyone he knew, had ever known, would ever know–

Someone knocked on his door. It was a loud knock, a particularly obnoxious knock, definitely not the sort of knock of who spent their time in introspection that ended in existential horror.

He hated that knock.

He marched toward the door, intending to shout at the person who’d interrupted him, but even before he reached the door, the anger began to dissipate. He wasn’t going to shout anymore. By the time he put his hand on the door knob, he felt guilty that he’d ever intended to shout.

He opened the door to find a muscular, blond man wearing a tank top in camouflage green, brown and tan and green pants that must have come from an army surplus store.

The man grinned widely enough that Malcolm questioned the man’s sanity. If he’d ever truly planned to shout, Malcolm no longer did. In fact, he began to shut his door.

The man grabbed the door and held it in one place. “Do you happen to know a Henry Purcell?”

Malcolm shook his head and tried to pull the door shut. It didn’t move at all.

Still grinning, the man said, “Do you happen to know where apartment 2D might be?”

“Yes. Down that way.” Malcolm pointed down the hall. Maybe he’d be able to close the door now?

“Excellent. I guess I’ll go murder your neighbor then.”

Malcolm felt his eyes widen.

The man laughed. “Don’t worry. It probably won’t take. Purcell’s immortal. He’ll probably heal up by the end of the week. We do that.”

In the back of his mind voices were shouting. Immortality is impossible. The man in front of his door was obviously a raving lunatic. Malcolm decided not to tell him so, however. As much as he was confident that all things die, he didn’t want to hurry the process along in his specific case.

Cocking his head, the man said, “You don’t believe me, do you? Tell you what. Take a look at the land ownership records for 633 Sonata Drive. Purcell’s not that clever. He’d live there for twenty or thirty years, leave, and come back ten years later to inherit the house. He must have done that three or four times with almost the same name. Check it out. You’ve got no excuse. The records are all online.”

The man let go of the door which Malcolm had continued to pull on, causing the door to slam shut, and Malcolm to hit the floor butt first.

He sat there, running the conversation over again in his mind, shaking his head at the impossibility of it all. Then, still thinking about it, he stood up, walked back over to the table, drank the glass of water without even thinking about it, and decided to search for jobs.

Though, he thought, it might be wise to call the police first. He’d just skip the part about immortality. He dialed 911, explaining to the woman who answered that he’d talked to a strange man who’d threatened to murder a neighbor.

When the call was over, he was ready to forget about all of it until the police appeared. Except… It wouldn’t take that long to check the property records.

He went to the city’s website, expecting to find nothing, but it was all there. The property had been registered to a Henry Purcell, H. Purcell, Hank Purcell, and a Horace Purcell over the course of the last hundred years.

He could have ignored it, assuming it was simply poor record keeping or the same family over time. Except… He happened to notice the search included pictures of the first and last Purcell who were quite obviously the very same man in different clothes. Worse, he’d seen that man in the hall just yesterday.

It was impossible except that it was obviously true. If there were people who did not die, it changed everything. The water would not be the only thing that persisted. There were unknown beings in the universe that didn’t follow any rules he knew. Nothing made sense and anything was possible.

Bright light filled his room. An angelic chorus sang hallelujahs. He rose bodily into the air, feeling warmth fill his body.

Somewhere in the distance someone screamed, but he didn’t notice.

He was so happy.


That wonderful gag you just read was a part of the Serial Fiction April Fool’s Day Swap, 2017 Edition. The gag post above was written by Joe Zoetewey, who normally writes the story Legion of Nothing.

Michael Fitzgerald, who normally writes Existential Terror and Breakfast has today created his own piece of tomfoolery for Gregory Taylor who writes Time and Tied.

For a full list of all April Fool’s Swappers and their stories, as well as dozens of other serial novels that will tickle your fancy, check out The Web Fiction Guide Forums.


Rev. Fitz
Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is a writer, illustrator, and amateur Electrical Engineer who lives in Seattle.

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