The Unthreading, by Matt Handle

The Unthreading 1The first time I saw one of the threads, I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me. Perhaps my contact lenses needed changed. Maybe my blood sugar was low. It looked like a blinking speck of light on my wife’s lower lip. It reminded me of a cursor on a blank computer screen. Except this wasn’t a computer screen. It was my wife’s face. She was talking to me, but I wasn’t paying attention. Her expression told me she wasn’t happy.

I rubbed my eyes to clear my vision. When I looked again, the blinking spot was still there. I did what anyone would do, I think. I reached out and I touched it. I didn’t expect to feel anything other than my wife’s mouth. In fact, I half-expected her to slap my hand away. But she didn’t. What I felt was something thin, almost fibrous. It felt like a thread, the end of a thread poking out of her face. So I pulled it.

I must have pulled two feet of thread out of her. When I looked back, I realized that her mouth and chin were completely gone. Everything below her nose was just blank space, as if the lower portion of her face had just been completely erased from existence.

Her eyes told me that she was now even angrier than she’d been at the start of whatever argument she’d been making. I was frightened at what I’d just witnessed, but also fascinated. I pulled the string a little harder. In seconds, her entire head disappeared. My wife still stood before me from the neck down, but instead of her familiar face and lovely blonde hair, a pile of string lay puddled at her feet. Realizing that there was no turning back, I pulled again. I didn’t stop until my entire wife was gone. The string was now piled on the living room Berber carpet like the world’s largest hairball. I went to the kitchen and got a new trash bag from beneath the counter. I put the entire ball of thread in it and deposited the whole thing in the bin outside the garage.

The house was quiet that night, quieter than it had been in years. I still didn’t sleep well. My wife was just a ball of string in the trash bin. I felt guilty. Still, I got up and went to work the next day. If there’s anything I understand it’s routine.

My boss called me into his office fifteen minutes before lunch. He explained that the latest budgetary fire drill resulted in the need to find an additional $10 million in departmental expense reduction this quarter. I haven’t seen a promotion in over a decade, but my boss assured me he had every confidence that I was the man who could get it done. He expected a fully documented business case on his desk by Friday. I stared at his broad forehead and ruddy cheeks as he went on about how important it was for us to meet our commitments. Our stockholders counted on us. As I stared, the blinking end of another thread appeared in the middle of his red power tie.

I didn’t hesitate. I reached across his well-polished faux wood desk, grabbed the thread, and pulled. I pulled it until I’d unraveled every inch of my boss from the chest up. His company logo tie pin glared accusingly at me from what remained of the man so I gave the thread another yank and didn’t stop until even his wingtip oxfords were gone. After a glance at the puddle of string piled up atop the base of his swivel chair, I left his office the same way I came in.

I didn’t bother to stop at my cube. I walked directly to the elevator and from there I made my way to my car in the parking deck. The drive home was almost peaceful. I didn’t turn on the radio. I just took comfort in knowing I’d be home before rush hour started.

When I rolled into the driveway I remembered that the house was empty. Of course it was. The dull green trash bin that sat outside the closed garage door was a not-so-subtle reminder. Instead of pulling into the garage as I usually do, I left the car parked outside. I trudged up the sidewalk toward the porch where I saw yet another blinking cursor of a thread. It poked out of the handle on the front door.

I knew what to do. This one took me awhile, but when I was done, my three-bedroom ranch was a pile of string so large it would take a dump truck to haul it all away. None of my neighbors seemed to notice. No one came outside to say a word. Now the owner of nothing but an empty lot, I was tired and my dress shirt was stuck to my back with sweat. I was hungry but I no longer had a kitchen to cook in. I got back in my car and left.

I ordered a coffee from a waitress that looked like she’d rather be anywhere than going to get me a cup of coffee. I decided to visit the diner’s restroom and wash my hands while I waited. The restroom smelled of disinfectant and piss, as most public restrooms do. But it was vacant and the soap dispenser worked. After I made sure my hands were clean, I splashed some of the cool water on my face and then took a hard look in the mirror. I looked tired. I looked old.

Lo and behold, there in my reflection was the blinking dot that I knew represented another thread to be pulled. Droplets still glistened on my fingertips and ran down my cheeks but I figured there was no sense in delay. I grasped the tiny filament and let out a sigh. Then I tugged it for all I was worth.


Matt Handle lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he juggles the reality of being a husband, father, and software developer with the imaginary characters and worlds that constantly vie for his attention. You can find some of his longer work including his debut novel Storm Orphans for sale on Amazon. You can hunt down more of his short stories in magazines such as Devolution Z and Blank Fiction, as well as on websites including 365 Tomorrows, Verbicide, Flash Fiction Magazine, and his blog riff.


<– Dryad of the Appalachians, by J.G. Formato

Music, by Anna Zumbro –>

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