Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Expecting By E.P. Lande

I waited all day. I went to bed believing I would be awakened by the ‘pling’ of my iPhone. At 12:35 I woke up not having heard a ‘pling’. I looked at my iPhone: nothing.

I woke up again, at 3:26. There hadn’t been a ‘pling’, still I thought, maybe? But ... nothing.

When my alarm rang at 6:00, I immediately looked at my iPhone. Nothing.

I felt tired and dragged myself from one chore to another, wondering: Why? I was uneasy, jumping at every noise. When my mother called, I couldn’t engage in a real conversation, answering ‘yes’, ‘maybe’, ‘what?’ to all of her enquiries. She asked if anything was wrong? I wouldn’t tell her. I told her I’d call her back later.

I went to my office and sat at my computer, thinking that revising my latest story would absorb me and replace my anxieties. I starred at the screen.

I went to my kitchen and made myself a cappuccino. My hands shook so much that I spooned half the milk foam onto the counter. As it was a beautifully sunny day, I decided to walk in my woods thinking that would calm my nerves.

It felt good, just to be outside in the warm fall air, walking on a familiar path, the water in my lake lapping against rocks, wild ducks quacking and splashing. But soon my mind came back to my iPhone. I took it out. No service. I needed to be where I had reception. I felt sweat dripping down my face.

When I reached home, I looked at my iPhone: nothing. I paced the living room floor all day. When it was time to eat, I had no appetite. I watched a movie on TV, thinking it would distract me. After a half an hour I switched to the news. I began flipping channels. Soon I was flipping so quickly I landed in the zone of ‘To Be Announced’ channels.

I was tired. I went to bed. Perhaps by sleeping I would forget.

I turned on my left side, but after a few minutes — my eyes wide open — I turned and began sleeping on my right side. A few minutes later, I turned again, this time onto my back. I lay there, listening. I went into the kitchen and warmed some milk. After finishing the milk, I walked back to my bedroom and got back into bed.

I lay awake. I got out of bed, went into my bathroom and took a sleeping pill.

The alarm sounded at 6:00. I jumped out of bed and, and, with trembling hands, reached for my iPhone ... nothing.

I needed a change. I had no appetite for breakfast. I drove to town. Perhaps shopping would distract me. I went into a clothing store, but realized I didn’t need anything.

I entered a toy store. After picking up and putting back several stuffed animals, I wondered why I was there? I left.

I saw a McDonalds, and although I wasn’t hungry, I went in and ordered a Big Mac. When it was placed in front of me, I lost my appetite. I left and drove home.

I couldn’t sleep. I got out of bed, put on shoes and walked outside and started raking leaves. After two hours of raking, I went back in the house. I decided to work on a jigsaw puzzle.

It was a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a Monet painting. I managed to fit together a couple dozen pieces, but my mind was on my iPhone. It was 2:16 AM.

When my alarm sounded at 6:00, I was bleary-eyed, yawning, my throat was dry, and I couldn’t open my eyes. I decided to call my mother, but when I called, a recording informed me that my mother’s line had been disconnected. I went to my closet for my running shoes, but couldn’t find them.

I went to my office, but I couldn’t remember the password for my computer. I checked in the contacts of my iPhone under ‘Passwords’; it was blank. I needed fresh air.

When I opened the door to see the view of my lake and the surrounding woods, there was nothing: no lake, no island, no surrounding woods. I quickly reentered the house and reached into my pants pocket for my iPhone, but my pocket was empty. Where had I left it?

I went back to my office thinking I might have left it there, but my computer wasn’t on my desk, and my desk wasn’t there either. I returned to my kitchen; perhaps I had left it on the counter, but the room I entered didn’t resemble my kitchen. Where was the oven? The ‘fridge? The sink? The cupboards? Had I entered the wrong room? I checked the others; they were all the same: empty.

I walked to my bedroom. The room was bare. Where was my bed? My dresser? My night table and lamp? I opened my clothes closet. It was bare too. What happened to all my clothes?

I saw three people in white uniforms walking across the lawn toward me, people I didn’t recognize.

“Robert,” one called my name, “we’re here to bring you back.”

“I spoke with my mother this morning,” I told them. “I told her I’d call her this afternoon.”

“Robert,” the one holding a briefcase stepped forward, “your mother died twenty years ago. Let us take you home.”

“I have to drive to the store; I forgot to buy a shirt,” I said.

“Robert, if you need a shirt, let us take you to the store tomorrow. Come,” and the three people came closer.

“You remember us,” the short one holding what looked like straps, said. “We’re from Happy Valley. When you wandered off this morning, we thought you would come here, to the gazebo. It’s a pleasant place to sit. We’re here to take you back. You were probably expecting us.”


E.P. Lande was born in Montreal but has lived most of his life in the south of France and Vermont, where he now lives with his partner on a 500-acre farm, writing and caring for more than 100 animals, many of which are rescues. Previously, he taught at l’Université d’Ottawa where he served as Vice-Dean of his faculty, and he has owned and managed country inns and free-standing restaurants. Recently his stories have been accepted by more than a dozen journals including Bewildering Stories, Archtype, and Literally Stories.