[Author’s Note: You can treat this story as somewhat of a companion piece to an earlier piece of flash fiction I wrote, “Difficulties in Conversing with Boring Blank Walls,” which you can check out here.]

She had been pacing for close to two hours, her feet seeming to take a life of themselves as they guided her around her apartment’s cramped living room in neat little ovals, around and around and around. As she did this, Caitlyn kept her head down as if she wanted to spend the whole day studying the small stains on her carpet ad nauseum.

“Just, go, outside,” she said to herself each time she made a circuit of the room. The words came out of her mouth in a halting, stilted way, as if the letters in them didn’t want to arrive in the open air. The more often Caitlyn said them, the more these three words became jagged, the J in “just,” the G in “go,” and the S in “outside” growing sharper and sharper.

Her knees began to ache, and she started to feel that at any moment they would give way and the rest of her body would crumble onto the carpet. Since she lived alone, she knew it would be some time before any one would realize she was in need of help. Perhaps after falling, she thought, she would just die there, her last memories being the sight of dust bunnies billowing up before her eyes, and rot. Caitlyn didn’t have the energy to shudder at this thought, though.

She had made up a list of pros and cons about going outside a few hours earlier, just as the sun was beginning to shine through her window blinds. Caitlyn kept the list inside her head seeing as how, outside of a half-opened packet of napkins in her kitchen and a lone box of tissues in her bathroom, she lacked anything to write on. Besides, she didn’t have a pen or pencil or even a crayon.

Pros (the list went)

Fresh air. There isn’t enough oxygen in here. I can feel it. That must be why my head hurts so much. If I don’t collapse first I’ll end up suffocating on the stale air.

Nature. Tree leaves, the wind blowing and whispering through those leaves. Seeing all the little veins spreading through the leaves before getting bunched up into cells. The huge, heaving branches supporting those leaves, veins, and cells, too. Then, of course, what the branches-leaves-veins-cells unite to become: a green-and-brown lung.

Sunlight. Yes, I would burn if I wasn’t careful. But it would still be a relief to feel some heat from the outside. Instead of trying to warm myself inside out.

Animals. Self-explanatory.

Before she recited the list of cons, Caitlyn forced herself to take a deep breath, or as deep a breath as she could take considering how weary her own lungs felt and the jumpy nervousness racing up and down her spine.

Then:

Cons

A tall, too tall, in fact, pale, whisper of a young woman locked in a ferocious fight against the acne on her face, with blank eyes zapped of the soul that’s supposed to be behind them, chattering and jabbering to herself about the fresh air, nature, sunlight, and animals, wandering and roaming and even sometimes just plain walking as boring as that verb seems and, worst of all, this supreme idiot (with some nerve, too) ever being seen.