| Something’s Wrong
By Philip Kuan
I pressed upon the weathered paneling, watching it swing into a foyer with the vapid motion of a well
hinged door. Skimming across the narrow, distant hallway, some past a blackened kitchen, I saw a
silhouette of my partner waiting from behind a curtain, obfuscating the orchards out back. But when I
moved to let him in, the man's shadow leaned back where it stood, insistence riddled in silence. So be it. I
left him posturing to the fading light.
Starting from a benign assumption, I began searching the rooms. Some were empty, others filled with
that persistent sort of refuse, the kind of which you’d find in unanticipated poverty. One. A mattress with an
unnatural stain, dragged in and leaned beside a wall. I could still see its tracks on the carpet, conspicuous
in the way it plumed the dust.
Two. In a closet I found a scratched up photograph with the face burned out. Three. In a box I found the
rest of the album, oddly damp.
Fallacy betrayed my approach to a flight of stairs, where I imagined someone peering at me from the
upstairs landing. However sharp my eye could thrust, it could only nick a fringe of movement, caught
between shards of a chandelier. And when my body turned tightly toward a noiseless reaction behind my
sight, past the dusk of the hall encroaching from that filmy curtain, I could only witness that silhouette of my
partner still looking away. Oblivious. Innocuous.
Any familiarity with unfamiliar sensations remained dormant, until I found myself well into the third floor,
kneeling, four, at a curious mark in the corner of the master suite. It persisted from room to room, wafting
like a scent that had me shaking, methodically, pale as smoke. Yet fast as I leapt into subsequent rooms,
or spun or backtracked or turned a corner, I could never discern a literal cause for my discomfort.
Nonetheless, by the fourth and final floor, I had become increasingly confident that a sense of relief, or
a revelation well-deserved awaited me from somewhere still higher. Knowing this, I unabashedly skimmed
the remaining space, breaking protocols and tainting evidence as if they held no brush to my unfolding
narrative. Stepping back into the hallway that chandelier, increasingly grotesque, teased me again with
movement not mine own. This time I hardly flinched, suddenly reminded of one more place to look.
The attic. Five.
But it turned up empty.
My descent, filled with discordant wailings, shouting panic distracting my rational mind from a
retrospective of motives or suspects, clouding infallible timelines which could have plotted the transfer of a
body I’d somehow missed, proved less than eventful. But I could still feel the corpse's gaze touching me,
gripping my neck with some blurred expression surrounding its hollow grin, as the distance between us
grew. Whether imagined or less imagined, I could hear its remaining lung deflate as I stepped back onto
the front porch. With a weary sigh, I became abandoned.
"Well? We calling this in?" The slamming of the passenger door startled me though I'd seen him
coming. For the briefest moment I wondered if I should pop our trunk, but then something he was saying
caught my attention.
"Wait. What was that?"
My partner continued digging through his jacket. Six. "I said Melanie has her recital tonight, so you'll
have to help cover my paperwork."
Did he see the color draining from my face? Casually, I asked him why that mattered. He laughed.
"Because Diane'll murder me if I miss another one." He stopped fidgeting with his pockets, noting my
I felt my body frown. I felt a fever crawling into my cavities. I felt parts of my mind struggling with others,
over what to do with my gun in my holster. Finally, I clarified. "Who's Melanie?"
He gazed at me with an etched confusion, poised to branch into a finite number of reactions. "Uh, my
daughter? What the hell’s going on with you?"
I turned toward him, finally livid. "What daughter? What daughter?!"
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
|About Philip Kuan
Philip Kuan is an aspiring Californian writer with a passion for befuddling readers. Some of his
favorite authors include Charles Dickens, Tolkien, and Franz Kafka, among others. He has been
published in several short story magazines, and is always looking for constructive feedback at