He didn’t realize something was wrong until much later than most people. He sat in his small bedroom slash office on the second floor of his grandmother’s house and played computer games. Every now and then he’d boil water in his microwave – it sat on the bookshelf next to his bed – and eat a cup of noodles or can of ravioli.
He was proud of the bookshelf slash microwave stand. He’d drilled the hole in the back of the old wooden bookcase himself. It was the little victories that Tim liked to celebrate.
It wasn’t until the power flickered and died that he realized something was wrong. And even then it took him a few minutes, sitting in his chair waiting for the power to come back on before he got up. His skin was greasy, and his hair was a mess, and he probably smelled, but he didn’t care. The goddamn power hadn’t come back on.
Something was wrong.
He left his bedroom and looked downstairs over the balcony. The lights were off downstairs too. For just a half a second he wondered if his grandmother had found some way to kill the power to just his room. She was always telling him he needed to get out of the house. It wasn’t natural for him to be cooped upstairs all day, every day. Thank God (with a capital G) that she’d never found his pornography collection.
When his parents died he’d basically come to live with his Gran because it was easy. He had the settlement from the car accident, and was paying all the bills, so why did she care what he did with his time.
Tim wasn’t what you would call a social animal. He’d even pulled back from online gaming after making friends with a beautiful elven girl who turned out to be a male truck driver.
“Gran?” he called downstairs. “Gran?” he repeated, raising his voice. He paid the bills so she could call the power company and be put on hold. He didn’t even go out to buy his groceries. He bought them online and had them shipped to the house. What did he care if canned food was heavy? It was better than going outside.
He could hear her downstairs in the kitchen so he called again. This time she said something, but it was really more of a noise. He swallowed hard, a cold sweat breaking out as he stood there, looking down the dingy stairs at the front door.
If she were having a stroke he’d have to call an ambulance, and they would most certainly have to come into the house. And worse, he’d have to go outside to pick up his packages. All he had to do now was grab them from the bottom step. His grandmother didn’t even bother him most times, she’d just set them on the steps and relied on him seeing them when he went to the bathroom. If something happened to her, he'd have to do a lot more around the house.
It was not turning out to be a great day.
Tim walked down the steps, running a hand along the wall by the stairs, counting off the number of sheets of wallpaper in his head until he reached the bottom.
Would they make him go to the hospital with his Gran he wondered? He hoped not, the idea of being forced into the back of an ambulance and going to a hospital made his heart speed up. He was scared of people. They weren’t nice to him.
The thought froze him in his tracks. He stood at the bottom step thinking and then ran back up the stairs. Behind him he heard his Gran moan again, but she’d have to wait. He pulled off his sweats and started the shower running. Thankfully the gas was still on and it heated up after a minute. It was bad enough to have to take a shower in the dark. A cold shower in the dark would have been too much.
When he was clean he wrapped a towel around his waist and clipped his fingernails before going into his room and finding a pair of slacks and a dress shirt that weren’t too wrinkled. His mind blocked out the last time he’d worn them.
He was smiling when he walked into the kitchen and saw his grandmother.
She was wearing her old white nightgown that had stopped being white a decade ago, but her face was pale, and dried blood ran down her neck to stain the cloth over her right breast. A handcuff rattled as she stretched out, trying to reach him. She was locked to the stove.
Where a woman ought to be he thought to himself, even as the situation settled in. A sheet of stationary and a pen sat on the kitchen table. Even from a few feet away he could see his name at the top of the heavy stock. He’d always been jealous of his Gran’s handwriting. It was so loopy and flowing.
He grabbed it quickly and backed away, not sure if he still had to call the ambulance. Gran struggled against the handcuff until he back out of sight. The bone was already showing where the metal had cut and worn away her flesh.
The note was short and simple.
Tim started back up to his room while he read it.
Tim sat down in his chair in front of the computer and stared at the dark screen, not sure what to do.
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