The box that she fit into was getting smaller and smaller. This was not a question of the walls closing in, but a matter of taking up less space.
It started with a dog crate when the Contortionist was seven years old. On her hands and knees she backed into the crate and closed the metal door. After twenty minutes her feet prickled with pins and needles. After thirty minutes her parents returned from the grocery store.
In college it had become, at first, a way of escaping from the world. Her flexibility made her popular at parties and even more popular with the boys that she dated.
After class she would go for a long run, stretch, and eat a salad without dressing. Each added pound was space that she could not afford.
She took up less and less space for longer and longer periods of time. Her college boyfriend joked that when she died they’d be able to burry her in a matchbox.
When she finished college she married a Carpenter who liked to make boxes for her. Each box fit inside the other. She was like a Matryoshka doll. She was the prize inside the smallest box. The boxes filled the garage until they could no longer park their cars inside.
She began to sleep inside the boxes.
This began to strain her relationship with the Carpenter, who had given up his dream of having children. The Contortionist, you see, had enough trouble shrinking herself, and a baby would only make her larger. Besides, she would be jealous that inside of her would be a smaller creature – a creature that had bettered her.
Eventually, she could enter a room and shrink out of sight. She was a ghost of a memory even when she was right in front of the Carpenter’s eyes. After a while the Carpenter forgot that he had ever been married. He sold his house and moved to the Bahamas.
Finally, when she emerged the house was different. There was unfamiliar furniture in the living room. Her boxes were gone, long since used to pack up the Carpenter’s tools and books and clothes.
The Russian woman who had bought the house stood in the kitchen, cooking borscht. Uncanny, she thought, it felt as though someone was watching her. Perhaps this large, empty house was haunted.
Michael Overa was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. After completing his MFA at Hollins University in 2010 Michael returned to Seattle where he works as a writing coach and is a writer-in-residence with Seattle’s Writers In The Schools Program. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in East Bay Review, Across the Margin, Writers’ Block, Fiction Daily, and the Portland Review, among others.