Home Sweet Home
by Jacob William Gristwood
Duncan Vaughn looked at the house with the face of a born sceptic. He was the sort of man who didn’t trust e-mails, micro-phones or any other advancement from the past 30 years. And he didn’t trust the Key.
He was being stupid. His neighbours (whoever they were now) were undoubtedly mocking him from their homes for standing under the lamppost staring at the Key, being scared of it. But it didn’t change the fact that he just didn’t like it.
Looking down at it now, he wondered how anyone could. A chunk of plastic (maybe about 4 inches long, and inch wide, and imperceptibly thin), with a chip embedded in the middle.
“It looks exactly like the sort of thing you don’t trust”, thought Duncan.”In fact, it doesn’t even look like the sort of thing I’d normally even pick up.”
But here there it was. It was definitely real, and he was definitely holding it. So he took it to the door of the empty house, and placed it carefully into the slot beneath the green light. There was a second’s delay, and the light turned red. Engaged.
He looked through the window. And there was his living room. Amazingly, after all these years of them mucking around in their labs, they had made it work. He removed the Key, and looked through again. There was a flash of dim, blue light, and his living room was replaced with a dark shell. The light went green again.
“Well, no sense freezing to death,” muttered Duncan. So he replaced the Key, waited for the red light, and opened the front door.
The smell was still a mixture of the Chinese stir fry he had made last night and the paint from the kitchen ceiling he slapped on to cover up the cracks in it. But that was almost 12 hours ago, before he left for work, before a team came in and scanned his home down to digital information, and before it was demolished.
But it was definitely his house. The stairs, as he had left them this morning, still had some boxes on them, waiting to go into the loft. The floor board just inside the door (exactly 3 of Duncan’s steps away) still creaked when he stepped on it. The wallpaper in the bottom corner of the wall next to the living room door was still peeling away.
But there was something missing, he was sure of it. He climbed the stairs almost wearily, noting that the banister was still wobbly, and flung his portfolio folder into the study. He should really have started working on the new logos and things his client wanted, but he would do that later.
He pushed the door of his living room. It didn’t budge. So he kicked the bottom, close to the frame, and it nearly bashed into the wall just inside.
“They even re-created the crap” he thought, wandering in. Wardrobe, desk, bed, pictures- it was all here. He tentatively but his hand next to the window. Even the draught was faithfully present. And still he had a weird feeling about the whole thing.
Looking out of the window, he was caught off guard by the sudden realisation that the park shouldn’t be there. The park was opposite his old house, as was the large tree swaying just in front of the window. Even the windows were programmed to make him feel at home.
“But it isn’t home,” he said, sounding so loud in the silent house it startled him. “It’s my house, but it’s not my home.”
His home was 81 Scarcroft Avenue, across from a park which he often visited to draw the trees and get a coffee from the shop. It wasn’t here. This was a shell. A painstakingly crafted shell that practically mirrored his home in every way, but it just wasn’t it.
Without even realising what he was doing, he was suddenly out of the house, portfolio in hand, removing his Key and heading down the road towards Scarcroft Avenue. Walking briskly homeward, Duncan felt almost cheerful.
It was simple. He’d reach his house (at this rate by about 7pm), use his Key to get in, have a shower and start on his logos. He’d thought about a quite nifty idea with arrows and things, but in retrospect arrows were far too common these days. He’d think it over after his shower.
But any thoughts of a shower vanished when he reached his house. This was definitely where it should be. Next to the tree, opposite the park, but it had been changed. In fact, it looked exactly like the house he had just left. Grey, 3 windows, white doors-
And a red light.
Duncan stared at that red light for a time, thinking about what this meant. The house he left had a green light, meaning available. This one was red. As red as anything he’d ever seen before. Someone was in his house. Someone had broken into his home, and was living in there right now.
He found himself at the ground floor window, looking in. The room was wrong. There was a couple sat next to each other on the sofa, backs to the window, watching TV. It looked like a comedy of some kind. At least, they were laughing at it, so it must have been. In that moment, Duncan felt more furious than he could ever remember. Who did they think they were?
Slowly and deliberately, his fingers closed around their Key. Vaguely recalling the dim blue flash from when a Key was taken out of the last house he was at, he grinned broadly. Anyone who had seen him then would have only been able to describe him as positively wicked.
“Home sweet home,” he whispered. Then he pulled.