He woke suddenly. He could hear his teeth rattling in his mouth and feel them banging against each other.

He shivered and pulled the blankets up. He spent a few moments trying to tuck them around him. If he was properly wrapped, he determined, he would conserve more body heat and he would stop shivering.

But why was it so cold, he wanted to know.


The clock radio by his bed read 3:21. By his estimation he had gone to sleep around 2AM.

If he’d gone to sleep over an hour ago, then it seemed reasonable to him that he should have a cigarette. He rose from the bed and searched around in the dark for his corduroy pants.

He pulled them on and then felt around until he found a sweater. He pulled it over his head and rubbed his eyes.


Something scraped in the kitchen. It sounded like crushing metal or bricks rubbing against each other.

He felt around himself for something to wield in self-defense and settled upon an umbrella. He convinced himself that it was nothing more than a mouse in the kitchen and then reminded himself that he was hearing sounds no mouse could make. And then again he convinced himself it was a mouse. And then reminded himself that no, it couldn’t be a mouse.


He pushed through his bedroom door and crept down the hallway into the kitchen. Something was scuttling in circles there. It was the size of a beaver or an overweight cat.

He asked what it was doing and observed how his voice squeaked when he spoke.

The scraping stopped, but he heard something else: hard crunching and mashing, like rocks crushed against more rocks.


“Hey,” he said, and he heard something say, words. heard them already. the first time. It echoed in his head and it stung a little. He could feel buzzing deep inside him. Pressure built in his forehead and sinuses.



what I said. was I heard them. already.

This time he was certain he had heard the words inside himself. He could feel them bumping against his thoughts.

“Are you in my mind?”

the lights. turn them. on.

He reached for the light and turned it on, but not without thinking first that if the light woke his mother, this would be a very difficult situation to explain to her.

Forward it scuttled until it stood right before him and he could see it clearly. It was coated in commercial carpet, aluminum soda cans, marbles, wire, and electrical tape. Its abdomen looked to be several basketballs hand-stitched together.

Instead of eyes, it had puddles of black glue, and he observed that they did not look coated to the surface of the carpet-cum-aluminum face, but instead two holes that went forever.

He stared into the eyes but did not sense it staring back.


He asked it if it was alive and he heard laughter in his head.


He stared at the thing. Its body armored with brand names like Pepsi, Sprite, and Diet Coke. It looked like an armadillo made by someone who had never seen one. A gaping mouth drooped from below its laky black eyes and in the mouth he saw row after row of fangs. They too looked like they were crafted from aluminum cans.

It stood on four paws. And the paws too were made from cans.

He had to stand and think.


He asked how it was talking inside his head and he whispered because he was afraid of waking his mother.

my mouth. it is for chewing. cans. not for speaking.

“I am so confused.”

you should be.


i said already. you should be.


look at you. twenty-five. that’s how old you are.

“Twenty-four, actually.”

well you look twenty-five. and. that’s beside the point. what. are you doing. you’re living. here. with your mom.


so. you’re twenty-four. and. you live with your mom. and. you’re overweight. and. you smell. like cigarettes and body odor. and drugs. you probably do them. i get that. impression.

“None of that is your business.”

i’m. just. saying. you should be confused. your life. it is in shambles.


It upset him because it was nothing more than strips of basketball stitched together and because it did not understand his situation or how hard it was to find a job.

A simple job was all he wanted.

Something that did not require training or education.

A graveyard shift somewhere that did not drug test and offered plenty of time alone and paid decently.

that is my point.

He felt the words wobble around in his mind for a while.


He could feel it not quite where thoughts come from but nearby. There is the place where memories are held and then there is a place around the corner from that where no amount of scrounging will lead you.

And it was there he could feel the monster, firmly seated in his mind.


He could feel it asking him why he was living with his mom and why his greatest ambition was to work nightshifts somewhere and he could feel it laughing that he couldn’t get that job because he would fail a drug test.

“Hey, that’s not fair.”

how so, it asked, and as it did this, it tilted its head and body to the side. He knew it was imitating the natural way a person’s head would tilt but it was nothing like that.

“You don’t know anything about me. I don’t want to quit drugs. I mean, I could if I wanted to. I’m not addicted. But really, that’s basically the only thing I have to look forward to.”

and that. it is my point.


He told the monster to fuck off and left the kitchen for his bedroom. He needed a cigarette and searched for his pack in the dark of his room. He went in the backyard and sat on the picnic table and lit one and inhaled deeply. In the alley he could see stray cats, a whole gang of them.

He smoked and he sat and he thought for a while. It was cold and he knew that while he would use several more cigarettes to justify his existence in the yard, he was really avoiding the thing in his kitchen.

He flicked the butt of his third cigarette off into the yard.


you again.

“Yes, goddamnit.”

might want to watch. your voice. mommy. wouldn’t want to wake her.

“Yes, it’s me again,” he whispered.

well. what do you want.

“What do I want? This is my house.”

it is your mom’s.

“Sure, but I live here, you know.”

stressed. that’s how you seem. ben.

“How do you know my name?”

your mind. that’s where I am. ben. everything. i know it.

And for a moment he felt naked to his bones.

no use in shame. well. you should feel. the shame. but what i mean is. you shouldn’t feel more ashamed. just because i know.

Ben said nothing. He was confused and cold and he wondered if he had another sweater he could put on. It was oddly chilly indoors.

you can grab one. if you want. or just go. back to sleep. i won’t steal anything. The monster looked around slowly, at the dining table in the other room, at the dishes stacked up on the counter, at the blender. It stopped upon a picture hung up on the wall: Ben and his mother and his late father.

“If I sleep, will you be here when I wake?”

that depends.

“On what?”

on a lot of things. depends. on if there are still cans. for me to chew.

Ben wondered if it had damaged anything breaking in.

no. i can come. and go. as i like. all very easy.

Ben hoisted himself up onto the counter, but there was hardly room. He shifted a can opener onto the stove and situated himself again. Still wasn’t comfortable. He gave up and got off the counter. He put his hands in his pockets.

He removed them and put them on his hips.


A can lifted itself up from the recycling and slowly floated across the room. Startled, Ben made sounds that started like “whoa” and ended more like “whoa-fuck.” His voice wavered across multiple octaves.

“You’re…you’re moving that with your mind?”


“Do you get some kind of, well, nourishment from those cans?”

i suppose so.

“You suppose so?”

yes. i suppose so. you get some kind. of nourishment. from those cigarettes. the pills.

“Yeah, okay.”

It chewed slowly and steadfastly. Its eyes stared off into nothing.


“I’m going to sleep,” he said.


“Listen, if you’re still here when I wake up—”

you’ll what.

It had interrupted him in his mind and it felt like riding a bicycle off a steep incline. He’d been speaking words and then, behind his eyes, he was already being contradicted.

“I will kick you out.”

yeah. i’ll bet.

“Screw off.”

yep. you too.

And he retreated to his bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the ceiling. He took deep breaths and tried to steady his thoughts, but they wobbled crookedly in circles on the thing in his kitchen and his fear of it and the way it spoke from inside him and also what his father would do about it if he were still alive.


For all installments from NEET, click here.