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This surreal and beautiful story from Matthew Smart is a runner-up of Litro‘s #ThisIsNotLove flash fiction competition.
I eventually grew tired of my basement flooding each spring, as melting snow saturated the foundation, and decided to install a sump pump to remove the water. To install the pump I had to break a hole through the concrete floor, so I rented a small, gas-powered jackhammer. I chose my spot, an unused corner behind the stairwell, and began digging. About a foot down, the jackhammer broke into an open space. I grabbed a flashlight and looked down inside. There was a large room there, with a couple of openings that looked like doorways.
After fetching a ladder and a few more lights I was ready to explore. I dropped my equipment through the rough hole I’d made, then lowered myself inside. I found myself in an exact replica of my home’s main hallway. The hole I’d just dropped through was precisely where the attic hatch was located. Through the doorways each of my home’s rooms were re-created, every detail carved out of the bedrock. Scattered throughout the rooms were life-size stone statues of everything I’d ever lost in life. There was my bicycle stolen from the beach long ago, fishing poles and car keys, a small pyramid of tennis balls and baseballs, stacked like cannon shot.
I moved down the hall towards my bedroom, and there on the bed was a replica of you. You were asleep, a slight smile carved into your face, your skin polished and perfect, like an ancient Greek sculpture. Your marbled arms were stretched out across the bed towards my side, where I was missing.
All that year I came down to lie beside you. Some nights I’d fall asleep on our stone bed, waking the next morning stiff and sore and unable to move. The smile never faded from your cold stone expression. Eventually spring came again, and with it the melting snow and the flooding. The hidden underground rooms flooded waist deep in frigid snowmelt, the water pouring down through the hole I’d made. Despite the standing water, I’d still occasionally make my way down, and wade over to the statue of you, now shimmering just below the surface of the water. I would stand in the chilly water and gaze down at you for as long as I could stand it, my slightest movement creating small ripples in the water over your perfect stone face. The next spring, the runoff filled the rooms completely.
Matthew Smart lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his wife and four children, where he works as an information technology analyst. In the evenings he writes poetry, fiction, and computer code.