A couple, moving into a house, children. A story can have an infinite number of versions, which implies that all stories are one and the same – they are part of the same fictional universe. A couple moves into a house, they have no children but are young enough to have them. It is Sunday afternoon: A boy lies face down on the street outside the house. He bleeds from his forehead, the couple takes him to their living room. They tend to his wound. He says nothing. Couple, house (moving into), children. Many possibilities. But our story begins (and ends) thus:
A couple moves into a house. They have no children. A boy on the sidewalk, blood. They tend to his wound. When they ask ”Where do you live?” he does not reply. He doesn’t speak at all. They call the police, upon whose arrival the boy panics and runs to the basement. The policeman is a nasty looking figure. The couple suspects that something isn’t right and tells a lie. “The boy ran.” (Pointing to the woods.) ”That way.”
A couple moves into a house and finds a boy on the sidewalk who, mute and afraid of the police, wants to stay with them. They let him live in their house, at least for a couple of days; they are, after all, compassionate people. The days become years. But the boy never grows up. Instead he pales and his hair whitens and his skin hardens. Eventually he stiffens. When he is completely immobile the couple dissembles him. The head – the boy is dense, hard and dry on the inside – is placed on the top of a bookshelf. They hang the arms, crossed, above the couch in the living room. The torso goes in the garage since they really don’t know what to do with it.
The story about the couple moving into a house (add children) may also go like this: The woman takes a bath. A boy stands in the doorway. The woman screams, not expecting anyone to be there. His skin is so dry. She bathes him. That helps – for a little while. They bathe him more and more often. Soon, that does not help any longer. The boy screams because it hurts. Green goo pours out from under the bathtub. They apply it to his skin. That helps. For a little while. They are awakened one night by the sound of the boy dismantling the built-in bathtub. Underneath is a large pool of that green stuff. The couple watches as the boy steps into it and disappears.
Another version of couple-house-(moving in somewhere)-children: The child is not a physical presence. But his imagination is. Wolves appear in the wardrobe. Everything in the kitchen turns into candy. The bogey man slays the neighbor’s dog. The house turns into a hot air balloon and takes off. To make it stop the couple must live in the basement in complete darkness and silence (as if the child’s imagination feeds on their mental pictures).
A couple moves into a house who is a child aged somewhere between two and three. The walls holler and cry, doors slam, the foundation shakes, windows shatter in fits of rage and the kitchen… is a mess. The woman is electrified in the bathtub as the house plays with its electrical wires and the man starves to death rolled into a carpet. When the realtor arrives he kisses the floor and says in a comforting voice: ”Don’t worry, the viewing is scheduled for Tuesday. You’ll get new toys. Please don’t break them this time.”
A couple moves into a house whose walls are covered by children in the form of hand shadows. The couple and everything they own turn into fingers.
The couple moving into a house is eventually slain by the boy who moves in with them. He hacks them to pieces, buries them in the backyard and adopts their personas. All along, they thought he was mute while, in fact, he proves to be a master impersonator. Mimicking their voices and traits to near perfection, he calls their friends, relatives and business associates and, through a combination of brutal insults and threats, effectively ends those relationships. But the woman’s closest friend won’t buy it. When she rings the doorbell the boy hides in the bedroom. A bizarre scene unfolds: The boy and the woman’s friend have a conversation, standing on either side of the bedroom door. The boy, acting as both the man and the woman, humiliates the friend, drawing on material he has gathered from the woman’s diaries. But the friend persists and tries to break in. The boy, in a stroke of genius, says, in the man’s voice: “Anna,” (the friend’s name is Anna) “she knows about us.” The boy does in fact not know, but he does suspect, that the man and Anna has been engaged in an extramarital affair and, when faced with the prospect of being exposed, he acts on that suspicion. That, finally, causes Anna to back down. When all bridges have been burnt the boy may go on to live in the house, in complete solitude, forever. (It’s funny how modern existence has become so virtual as to render the above scenario some plausibility, save for the mysterious impersonator-boy who, we’ll have to admit, is not plausible at all.)
One story, infinite possibilities. In countless versions of it the couple and the boy turn into monkeys with typewriters, writing new versions of the story about themselves, including those including monkeys and typewriters writing new stories about themselves. Do we have to separate a piece of fiction from everything it could possibly be? The boy and the couple live in different realities. They never touch. The couple breaks up and sells the house. All for the better, as it turns out, as these things usually go. The boy, who is a real boy, who is someone you know, who is not fiction, stands on the doorstep as they leave. The couple does not exist, they are fiction. The new owners will arrive on Monday.