The Creature In The Saltshaker

fiction about being alone

Short Story

 

The Creature didn’t know how It got in the saltshaker. Was It a permanent fixture of it? Was It born in it by the grains of bitterness It called home? Was this just a pre-blooming phase? Time had slowly eradicated these question from its mind. Now it was only routine that mattered.

The long stretch of dark relative silence was ending and the morning noises of the restaurant woke the Creature. It made a full circle of its white kingdom and noticed the other saltshakers all clustered together around It. Then a gentle lift settled the shaker on the wide flat surface of the table next to the containers of pepper, ketchup and mustard.

The Creature surfaced and tasted the fresh air sifting through the tiny holes in the roof of its home. It was quiet for a while. Until colors, shapes and forms around the restaurant table changed. Mumbled sounds filled the Creature’s mind. It could not make sense of them. The Creature wasn’t a visionary; It didn’t use its eyes, It lived in the salt where It didn’t need them and It couldn’t see through the thick glass of the saltshaker. Only shades of blurred colors came through that glass. The Creature was a listener; It had good ears.

The sounds were coming from the first dinner for the day. It was eggs, potatoes, sausage and toast time. The table was vibrating with life. The Creature’s home flew in the air, rattled briskly up and down and then flipped on its head and rattled even harder. Someone liked salt on his eggs.

Then peace for a moment in midair. The shaker was changing hands. It started shaking sideways and then let go. It was released by accident, or perhaps design, by its holder. From inside it felt as if time sped up, gravity was redefined. The salt was loose and the Creature was free and breathless. The saltshaker made a few complete flips and landed on its head in a pile of ketchup.

The Creature have seen a few things in its life but never a red liquid mass entering its home through the tiny sifting holes in the roof. It quickly climbed to the butt of the saltshaker. It was very bright and noisy up there. An observatory of sort, only if the Creature could see the world outside. Instead it saw rapidly shifting shadows of blurred colors.

Sitting on a bed of soft salt domed by thick clear glass, completely protected but unable to see, to observe the colorful world outside security. It could hear, but that only scared It. The clutter of the plates and forks. The take off and landing of glasses. The chewing, the slurping the casual remarks about the weather, sports, politics and underachievement or overachievement.

The cacophony of sounds didn’t make sense without images. So it was a relieve when a hand blotted the light by lifting the saltshaker. It sat it upright on the table and unscrewed the top. The Creature curled on the bottom and dared not move. Shortly after that most daring invasion the roof came back on as good as new.

Then suddenly the clutter was carried away and only the background humming of nearby tables was left. The Creature was used to adventures of the flip-and-shake kind but this new frontier scared it. Its capacity for change was limited. It curled in the middle of the body of salt and stood still and quiet.

The Creature liked quiet. It liked peace of reflection. It dosed off. It dreamt of a strange yellow brown-dotted beast with long thin legs and even longer neck dancing on the table. It awoke scared and jittery relieved to escape its nightmare. It was awoken by the clutter of children still not well mannered in the tradition of dinning. Their obtrusive loudness filled the space around the table. Thin cries and squawky jitter vibrated all the way to the saltshaker.

It started sliding rapidly from side to side, corner to corner, child play. But for the Creature it was horror, stress, unnecessary pain. It tried to stay in the center, so the salt could cushion every abrupt blow. It yearned for the end. The kids were tireless, full of energy seeking outlets into the world. Game was their religion.

The Creature’s heart clouded with anger. Why was It not in control of the world outside the saltshaker. Why, why, why? Why these outside powers tortured It?

But its anger along with any other feeling It was capable of feeling were powerless. They were just impressions of the outside world. They merely suffocated its true thoughts. Thoughts of a life less confined. The Creature knew that It only took one step to exit the saltshaker. The most difficult and unnatural step, preached its feelings. After every calamity of uncomfortable flips and rumbles the Creature’s thoughts battled with its feelings.

A battle immense in the face of its world but invisible in the face of the universe.

The battle was interrupted by the rumbling of the chairs around the table. The evening diners were taking their seats. They were the loudest because alcohol was customary with dinner. The Creature was hoping it will be one of those evenings when dinners didn’t use salt. It was tired and fed up.

But suddenly the table started rumbling like never before. The saltshaker trembled and danced with it. The chairs flew back and the dinners stood up. A drunk Giraffe had climbed the table and was kicking the plates off it in all directions.

The Giraffe’s thoughts were loosing the battle against its feelings. Its feelings were firmly backed by infusion of several whiskeys and were now raging mad. The Giraffe had been cheated by life and more specifically by its wife. So its social etiquette fell first victim of that abrupt conflict of chemical reactions inside its head.

After it cleared all the plates off the table and firmly gripped the attention of all patrons in the restaurant it stood in the center of it. The only remaining object on it was the saltshaker with two widening eyes peering through the glass.

The Giraffe shouted. Penalty!!! And with all its might kicked the saltshaker simultaneously slipping and landing on its back on the table.

The saltshaker flew and smashed against the far wall, falling with all its pieces and contents on the floor. It took hours before anyone attended to that corner of the mess. The saltshaker was scooped into a dust bin and emptied into a open air dumpster. The Creature saw the stars for a first time.

 

more by MILEN VASILEV

photography by William Warby

 

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  • Jun Hua Ea

    Milen, I’m not much of fiction reader but this was thoroughly enjoyable. I really liked the mind play, the bizarre perspective, and the unassuming surrealism (for lack of a better word) is both funny and believable.

  • Jun Hua Ea

    This line “The Creature wasn’t a visionary; It didn’t use its eyes” is easily my favorite.

  • ‘Unassuming surrealism’ is among the best compliments I have ever received. Thank you Jun!!!