When Ben got home, all he wanted was to smoke and get high. He had to think about things, replay every moment of the therapy session until it stretched and frayed like a tape cassette, the pitch warbled. Playback nothing like the original.

He couldn’t believe he had mentioned the monster, that it had bullied him into starting a blog.

And he wondered what would have happened if he’d said, “Yeah. There’s a monster in my house. I’m not hallucinating and this isn’t the drugs. He crawled right into my house like it was his. Helped himself to a few of my aluminum cans.”

“Aluminum cans?” she’d mirror back to him and he’d say, “Oh, yeah. Psychic monsters chew your damn cans. It’s like drugs to them.”

“That’s interesting,” she’d say, “and this monster is bullying you?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe, Dr. Feuerstein. He belittles me. Diminishes me, as I believe you put it.”

“Well, let’s talk about strategies you can use the next time this monster tries to diminish you.”

He wasn’t sure that would work.


good luck. with that.

He heard it not like words around his ears but like jarring music pounding from his brainstem.

He swiveled on the picnic table. Saw the monster crawl out of the garage, a Sprite can hanging from its mouth.

“What the hell?”


“What are you doing?”

in the garage. problem. didn’t know you had one. with me being in the garage.

“I have a problem with you, period. I never invited you here and I never invited you into my life. You showed up and started chewing all of the fucking cans and turning the air conditioning on. It’s like fifty-five degrees inside and my mom keeps thinking it’s me.”

so tell her. it isn’t.

“Then who else would it be?”

me. obviously.

“Right. I’ll just tell my mom there’s some low budget horror movie castoff talking shit to me and fucking with the air conditioning.”

your therapist. you told her.

“That’s different.”

mental health professional. you’re thinking. about telling her. everything. you do know. what she’ll think. right.

“That I’m hallucinating or something.”




“See? It doesn’t even work. You don’t give a shit what I think.”

the things. you say. do you. even believe it. you’re going to. get high. sit on your bed. watch tv. either way. invent weird fantasies. where you have friends. don’t live. with your mom. in the morning. you make coffee. and wait. then repeat this routine. how. am i getting. in the way.

“You’re making me feel like shit.”

sure. but your website. happened. since i came. ottoman empire. or. you’re still researching. not sure.

“But even that was stupid, right? You hate me for no reason. I’ve done nothing to you.”

you did. tell me. to leave.

“So? You’re mad because I asked you to leave? All you do is torment me.”

i’m just here for the cans.

“Really? Then why don’t you leave me alone?”

i do. i sleep. chew some cans. sometimes take a walk. i show up. when you start. to wonder. where i am. feel lonely. and wish i would talk. to you.

“Bullshit. I never feel that way.”

your mind. i can read it. ben. don’t you. think i know.


He went inside to work on his website. He set up his laptop and turned the TV on in the background and browsed the Internet. He read more Wikipedia articles. He found a few blogs about history, about ancient farming and economics and the Ottoman Empire and the Crusades and Islam and taxes and trade.

It upset him that his therapist had been so flippant when she said she knew what the Ottoman Empire was. He could accept she knew its existence, but did she have an intimate understanding of its civilization, its economic foundation? Probably not.


The next morning, he woke to his mom asking him to come into the kitchen. She was polite and her voice plucked the same notes as when she was happy, but he knew there was something else there and he followed her up the stairs to discover the kitchen was trashed.

The recycling bin was tipped over and the plastic bag that lined it was shredded. Cans rolled across the floor, some chewed in half, others piled in ripped pieces.

He could see grey drool coagulated on the pull-tab of a can.

“What the hell,” he muttered.

“Benjamin. Did you do this?”

“What? Why would I do this?”

“Who else could have done it?”

“Damn it,” Ben said and he pumped his fists, still weak from slumber.

“Ben, what is wrong with you?”

“What, Mom? I didn’t do this.”

“Really? Because you’re acting odd. I heard you talking to yourself again last night and I swear it’s getting weirder. Are you getting up in the middle of the night and going through the recycling? Ben, you aren’t chewing these cans are you?”

“No. No, of course not, Mom. Why the heck would I chew up cans?”

“Benjamin, I can’t make heads or tails of this. I don’t get it. But listen, I have to get to work. I’m already running late. Please clean this mess up and we will talk about it tonight. Just…please clean this up.”

“Mom, this is…it’s nothing. I’m sure it tipped over or something.”

“You think the recycling tipped over?” She reached as if she would pick a can up off the floor and stopped.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Yeah, maybe you knocked the recycling over and the cans shredded themselves and ended up all over the floor.”

“You’re being really hostile, Mom.”

“Ugh, sorry, Ben. Sorry I’m so darned hostile. I have to get to work.”

And she left and he was alone. Evidence of the monster everywhere, but the monster itself silent or hiding.


It took him an hour to clean and he talked to himself the whole time about what he would do when he saw it again. When he was finished putting a new bag in the recycling, gathering the cans, and wiping slobber from the floor, he was sure if he’d spent that time on his blog it would be finished.

not bad, ben. a real bang up job.

“Oh, now you show up.”


“Now that I cleaned up your damn mess. I spent like four hours cleaning up cans you left all over the place! My mom is pissed and she thinks I did this. What is your problem? I let you live in my house for free and you just mess everything up.”

ben. relax. you worked. for one hour. not four. why. do you always exaggerate. how long you spend. on tasks. why.

“I spent a long time working on this. What the hell are you even? You’re…cans and carpet and stuff. You look like you were made out of garbage. You don’t make sense. You cannot be alive.”

what. would you know. about it.

“I know that cans and carpet can’t be biological.”

yeah. you have a real strong. understanding. of biology. do you.

“Yeah, go ahead and make fun of me because I don’t know a lot of stuff. That’s fine. I’m used to it. Go on, I know you have some more of your real funny jokes. Go on.”

Ben leaned forward to kick the monster. And he felt the monster like it was a brick wall or a stone building. It must have weighed ten thousand pounds.

what. where’d your nerve go. ben. thought you. were going to pick me up. throw me. out the door. thought. you were going to. kick me. so hard. i flew back. against the wall.

Ben pressed his foot hard against the monster’s face. But it did nothing.

“You’re…you’re heavier than you look. Who made you?”

who made. you. oh right. a dad with. a bad heart. and a mom. who wants you. to stop talking to yourself.

Ben was scared. It was the weight of the thing. Trying to move it and realizing he could not.

“Where are you from?”

no no ben. do not backpedal. you were. intimidating me. remember. banish me. and then return. to writing your blog. about the ottomans.

“Stop making fun of me.”


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5