“Safety” by Willy Woosley

The world is a scary place. Between the terrorism and the drunk drivers and the Zika virus (or whatever other virus is bound to undo civilized life as we know it this month), it’s a wonder anyone can even make it to the grocery store and back with all of their limbs still attached to their original body. Nobody was more aware of this fact than Gunter, who held his personal safety and wellbeing as his tantamount, and only, concern.

At first it was only mental harm which worried Gunter, and so he quickly decided that he would never allow himself to find love, for the logical successor to love would obviously be heartbreak, which would certainly be followed up by depression, which then would almost certainly drive Gunter to suicide through no control of his own. This was then followed by Gunter deciding that he would never allow himself friends, as he could potentially develop love for them one day. This aversion soon spread to the populace at large, as in Gunters eyes they only served as vessels to transport potentially lethal virus strains into his own body. It’s not as though he really had any loves or friends to give up – he had always seen them as more nuisance than necessity.

After swearing off people altogether, Gunter spent most of his time indoors. He had no drive to go outside, as that would only lead to interaction with other people. Besides, there were so many other dangers in the outside world – dogs, cars, rushing water, comets, bears – that the potential danger to his body outweighed any benefit which could possibly be derived from stepping out of the safety provided by the front door. So shortly following the swearing off of the human race, Gunter also swore off the outside world entirely, and triple locked his front door for the last time.

He experienced brief respite, and a guilty satisfaction from seeing his door locked and knowing it would never again be opened. Such calm was short lived. Within a week Gunter was once again faced with a musing which had not previously dawned on him, and felt that he immediately needed to act upon it. As he had been wandering around his house (Gunter rarely sat down, as it could lead to blood clots), he was confronted with a suspect looking chair which did not look quite safe to him. It sat there in the corner, proud and self assured. Yet Gunter did not trust the chair. What if it one day decided to simply break beneath him, sending his delicate skull careening into the corner of its co-conspirator: the coffee table? Just to be safe, Gunter decided to remove all the furniture from his room, placing it on the other end of the house. He then promptly locked himself into his now barren room, behind four more locks sure to keep out any uninvited desks, or anything else which may seek to do Gunter harm.

From this point on Gunter spent almost all of his time sitting in front of his rooms solitary window, looking out at the world which he had sworn off. He did not miss it terribly, but he did concede to himself that it was a good bit more entertaining than his blank plastered walls. Gunter quickly realized that this one pleasure could in fact become his undoing, as sitting looking through the window left his body at the mercy of the sun and its UV rays, and he dared not brave the trek out of his room to procure sunscreen. After this thought crossed his mind, Gunter quickly committed himself from blocking out his sole large window with a large blanket, covering his pristine white walls in all encompassing shadows. He vowed that he would be more careful in the future.

Now all that Gunter had left in his dark, windowless, furniture-devoid home sweet home was a small air mattress, upon which Gunter spent all of his time lying down, suspended. Time surely passed, although Gunter had no way to tell. He did not particularly enjoy the act of merely lying on his old, unwashed air mattress for what must have been a good long while, but he had decided that it was the safest position to be in. He took a form of pleasure from knowing that he was safe, and quietly felt superior to all those around him living their perilous lives fraught with dangers they probably were not even aware of. But as the darkness around the room crept up on Gunter, he was suddenly startled from his near-comatose state by a sudden thought, a realization of a risk he had been taking this whole time, and which had surely nearly cost him his life. Were he to slip into a brief sleep, he might accidentally roll onto his stomach and suffocate. Gunter sprang from his mattress, delivered a quick and decisive kick to its side, and bounded three steps back, clear across the room which had now become his world. Adrenaline pumping, he stood there as the last of the air slowly sputtered from its former home.

His brief moment of triumph over the universe was soon interrupted by what Gunter was certain was a scurrying coming from all around him. It began quietly, and at first Gunter was convinced he was merely going crazy. Yet it persisted, coming from above below, all around. Gunter began to panic. Was some potential hostile trying to break into his sanctum? He took to constantly wheeling around, moving from corner to corner, trying to watch every potential angle for any unwelcome intruders. Just as Gunter had quietly assured himself that the danger had passed, and his mind had already moved on to how to protect himself from his unknown assailant in the future, he slowly wheeled around to see a single, mangy rat, sitting dead center in his dank, dark, empty room, right between Gunter and the door.