By Ally Gregory

The thread attached to her at the point where her right hip met her back. It was taut but did not pull. It was not entirely transparent, and it did not shimmer. The fine line unspooled behind her as she walked, wrapping around trees and fire hydrants as she walked her dog. Though the thread got tangled up in her clothes and tripped her dog on more than one occasion, she took no notice. It ran backward behind her, connecting her to everything she touched and every decision she made, always unspooling. It followed her on long runs and confused everyone in her yoga class. Those close to her sensed it. Those that loved her knew about it.

She did not see it but felt it sometimes lingering in the back of her mind, like a name she couldn’t remember.

She walked along the sidewalk. It was a weekend morning, and the city was starting to wake around her. She watched the workers unlock their doors and sweep their stoops, pausing to let her dog investigate an intriguing smell. As she turned the corner to head towards the park, she heard, “Ma’am. Hey ma’am!” She was quite used to ignoring the sound of the world around her, so she ignored this overture too.

She was all the way into the park before she felt the hand on her shoulder. She whipped around and took two steps backward at the same time. Her dog tried to do the same but just ended up rolling over on its back, freezing in an act of submission. An older man stood before her. The gray hair that sat upon his head connected to a well-kept gray beard. The beard wrapped around a smile so pure that she couldn’t help but smile in response. Her heartbeat slowed as she felt the threat diminish.

“Ma’am. You’ve got something stuck to you, and it’s caught on the button of my jacket. I just need you to stay still a moment so I can get loose.”

Her eyebrows came together as she watched him reach around her. He grabbed the thread between his fingers and loosened the hold it had on the button. Free from her tangle, he waved before turning and walking out of the park. She watched as he walked alongside the thread that ran along the ground behind her.

She picked up the thread that lay on the sidewalk, following it to the point where it entered her skin. She worked up the nerve to yank it from her skin. She expected pain but received none. The thread did not budge no matter how hard she pulled. She huffed and sat down next to her dog, who had resolved to sit in the shade and wait out her tizzy.

They sat there for no more than a few minutes before standing and gathering the thread, hand over hand, as she retraced her steps. The city was now bustling with people around her. She paid them no mind as she continued to follow the trail she had left. She walked around a light pole three times. A smear of black crossed her palm as she handled the thread lying in the crosswalk.

The thread ran through her apartment, not wanting to reveal its source. The items around her were in a delicate state of balance, threads winding this way and that. With only a whisper, a domino effect could cause the thread to knock over tables and break glasses, to tear pictures off the wall, to break her furniture, to generate an earthquake of sorts. With every move she made, her muscles tensed and the thread tightened.

She tiptoed down the hall, pulling her legs up high every foot or so to climb over a tangled mess. She passed the bathroom and noticed the shampoo bottles teetering and the way her toothbrush hung in mid-air. As she walked into her bedroom, she looked back down the hallway and smiled to see her dog crawling under the thread to follow her.

The thread in her bedroom crisscrossed so tightly that it took her 15 minutes to make it to her bed from the door. She crawled under her covers and lay still. As she rolled over on her pillow to cry, she noticed the thread coming out of it. She yanked the pillowcase off, and the thread remained. She tugged at it attempting to pull it out, but it remained steadfast. Her head throbbed, and her eyes drowned as she lay her head where the thread attached to the pillow and fell asleep.

She woke up to the sound of her dog whimpering and looked at the clock, marveling at how late she had slept.  Her body felt so relaxed into the bed. She rubbed her eyes and tried to remember the strange dream she’d had. Before she could think about it, her dog was at her feet, holding its leash.  She smiled and followed it to the door, grabbing her keys and wallet as they walked outside.

The thread remained taut but did not pull.

Musepaper Story Prize #63

Ally Gregory is a curious person with a penchant for nonsense. She’s been telling tall tales her whole life. Currently, she lives in Chicago with her wife and their dog, Radar. Her namesake, Jack Allen, is one of her biggest inspirations.

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