She Went out for Milk One Morning and Only Came back the Previous Day

An Urban Sci-Fi Short Story by Andrey Pissantchev

She Went out for Milk One Morning and Only Came back the Previous Day

by Andrey Pissantchev

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By that time, my brother had learned a few tricks himself. Instead of walking into the pub through the door, he unfolded from the gap between two floorboards. I had already bought the first round, so I just pushed his glass towards him.

I hadn’t seen him for a couple of months, so we made small talk at first: work, my new flat, the weather. The conversation inevitably gravitated towards his girlfriend, who had recently transcended time and space.

My brother took a long swig before he spoke.

Yeah, she’s doing fine. Doing her thing, you know. She’s kind of just all over the place.”

How did the family visit go?” I asked. Our parents never quite saw eye to eye with her. Her new state of being didn’t exactly help.

Oh, yeah, yeah, pretty well,” he said. “Got some photos actually, if you wanna see them.”

Did I? You bet I did. I hoped I didn’t seem too eager.

He took out his phone and, after digging around for a bit, turned the screen towards me. He cleared his throat.

They finally did up their garden. It looks so much better now.”

I spent no time checking out the garden. My brother’s girlfriend was in the foreground, right next to a table laden with coffee and cake. Her face–and not much else–hung impossibly over my mother’s shoulder, grinning like the Cheshire cat. My mother’s own smile looked forced, with a hint of fear in her eyes.

Oh, this is great,” I said.

Yeah, um, I’m glad they cut the hedge back,” my brother replied. “Hey, how about–”

So you guys moved in together, right?”

He sighed.

Yeah, we did. Just before she…” he stopped for another sip. It took him a few moments to reply. “Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye, just a reflection in the frost flowers of the window. I turn to tell her something, but she’s gone.”

Oh.” Not sure what to say to that.

I don’t actually get to see her much these days. Well, I hear from her. She sent me this text a week ago, says she’s having a stroll through the fifth circle of Hell, in a garden of flowers she said smelled of hubris.”

I wasn’t sure whether he was annoyed at her for going there or for going without him. I felt obliged to contribute something.

Maybe you two should try doing more things together,” I tried, “You know. In, um, a relationship you want a bit of independence, like each having your own thing. But you’ve kind of gone, like, too far the other way.”

My brother waved his hand, unconvinced.

Yeah. Yeah, sure. Me, I’m definitely trying. I mean, watch this.”

He reached out, his hand becoming a convoluted blur. A moment later he pulled his arm back, holding a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. I glanced at the bar. The bartender reached behind his ear, perplexed, and retrieved a pound coin.

Nice,” I said.

And her? She arranged to meet once. Sounds promising, right?”

Right,” I nodded.

She did that with a note traced on the dirty window on the back of the bus I was running after. She wanted to meet at the Duplicate Hog Pub, five years ago. I didn’t–don’t even know where that is!”

He swirled the beer in his glass thoughtfully.

It’s unbelievable. I finally got her to join me for a picnic. Found a nice spot in the park, made some sandwiches, brought a blanket to sit on and a bottle of wine, the works. And the entire afternoon she was just… not completely there.”

Oh, like, on her phone kind of thing?”

My brother narrowed his eyes at me.

No, I mean, half transparent winking in and out of existence every couple of seconds kind of thing.”

His phone buzzed. Picking it up, he said, “If we’re spending time together I want it to be proper time together, you know? It’s not really too much to ask, is it?”

He checked the message and groaned.

Christ. It’s her.”

Where is she now?” I asked, tentatively.

She’s at the CERN car park, supercolliding cars.”

I tried not to laugh. I failed.

Hey!” my brother snapped. “It’s not funny! Last I heard, they were re-jigging one of the accelerator things to shoot protons at her.”

I straightened my face the best I could, and apologised.

This is serious, OK? I’m worried about her.”

We remained quiet for a couple of minutes, finishing up our beers. I spoke first.

So have you thought about…”

The million possible ways this sentence could have ended wavered and converged, forming a single, definite question.

breaking up?

My brother thought for a moment, expressionless.

Honestly?” he said, and then smiled for the first time that evening. “I haven’t had this much fun in years.”

He got up and offered to buy the next round, the normal way.

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