Short Story by Iris Carden
There were drop cloths over the floor, and soot over the drop cloths. Was this the lovely formal lounge room she’d fallen in love with?
Ali was pacing, looking at her mobile phone. She had a diagram of the room, and was placing virtual furniture, moving it from place to place.
Two legs were standing in her fireplace, also covered in soot. “Lucky you decided to get this done before you moved in,” a muffled voice from inside the wall said.
A small wrapped parcel, covered in soot, bounced out of the fireplace. “I’ll put that back for you if you want.”
Ali looked from her phone to the package on the floor.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Talisman.” The worker replied, as if that explained it.
“Probably a dead cat. Mummified by now.”
“It’s an old superstition. The hearth is the heart of the house. So people put a talisman inside it to protect the house.”
“Why a dead cat?”
“I just clean chimneys. I don’t follow the beliefs.”
Ali opened a new window on the phone. She searched “Talisman”. A Wikipaedia article effectively told her that a talisman was an object someone had given special meaning to.
That was ridiculous, she thought, as she opened another window and announced to the world on Facebook that there was a dead cat inside her fireplace, and gave her opinion on how people could think objects had any special power.
On a whim, she used the phone’s camera, and took a picture to add to the Facebook post. “Can you believe people counted on dead cats to protect their homes? she wrote.
She checked her schedule on the calendar app. Her forehead wrinkled. “I have people coming to polish the floor in half an hour. Will this be much longer?”
“Almost done,” the legs in the fireplace said. “I’ll be out of your hair in fifteen minutes.”
Ali went to the kitchen. She’d had the forethought to bring a coffee maker so she could drink decent coffee while the work was being done. While pouring coffee she checked her text messages, and answered a few. She found her notebook app and added to her list of things to do. High on the list she added, “Get rid of mummified cat.”
Ridiculous idea. A mummified cat in the fireplace. This was the 21st century, not ancient Egypt. Who would believe an object could protect them from bad things happening.
An email arrived, from Terry. Ali just knew it was going to be another whining attempt to make her feel guilty for getting so much out of the divorce. She opened it. It had one word in the body of the message: “Surprise!”
Instantly, the phone shut down. She turned it back on, but there was nothing there. No contact book, no calendar, no notes, no messages. It was just a phone case with a blank screen. Everything, even the operating system had been wiped. There was nothing to tell her what was going to happen next, nothing to tell her what she planned to do, nothing to tell her who had anything to say to her. There was nothing.
A soot-blackened head looked around the corner. “So did you want me to put the talisman back for you?”
Slamming the phone on the kitchen bench, Ali yelled, “Do I look like someone dumb enough to trust an inanimate object to organise my life?”