FLASH FICTION:YOU ARE alone. Of course you are; how else would you have found time to read? It's the difference between alone and lonely. You would not read, could not read, if you were lonely. Every scene would be encased in glass so that you could see but not participate.
You are not lonely. You are gloriously alone with your thoughts.
Comfortable thoughts about the pleasing warmth of your mug, disappointed thoughts that you’ve eaten the last of your chocolate and confusing thoughts about a story you saw on the news. It would be dizzying if a friend tried to lead your thoughts along so many directions, but even the thoughts you don’t enjoy are comforting because these are your thoughts and you are alone.
You know the noises you hear in the kitchen are just the creaks of the oven cooling and the cold draft on your neck is just the way the living-room door doesn’t quite seal and the sensation of being watched is nothing more than a relaxed mind amusing itself.
You are relaxed. Everything about you is relaxed, even your eyelids are drooping and the thin paperback in your hands is about to fall. With the gentle distraction of the noise of an open fire, you think about crumpets and jam. You wish you had had the foresight to buy some this afternoon when you were shopping. You remember carrying the heavy bags through to the kitchen and placing your keys – no, you don’t remember placing your keys anywhere.
You don’t remember placing your keys anywhere because you left them in the door and you know it is too late to fetch them as a hand clamps over your mouth and jerks your head backwards. You feel a knife against your throat and have never felt lonelier, now that you are not alone.
FLASH FICTION will be a regular item in The Irish Times. E-mail a story of no more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org