Gary Sump’s Hidden City

That guy over there, the skinny one with the big glasses and pinched nose, sitting alone at Java Stop having a tall regular, his name is Gary. He has a miniature city in his backyard. I live next door, and I’ve watched him from my second story window. Gary is dull—plain yogurt without sweetener—except for the secret city.

It started simply, just buildings made of spare wood, a couple of bricks he had lying around next to his house. Maybe he’s lonely, I don’t know. I never see the guy on the phone; he never goes out except for a tall regular at Java Stop. I’ve watched him since before his wife bailed about six months ago.

Anyway, he made roads, parks, and a lake—just like The Sims in his backyard. You remember The Sims, right? Scott used to play for hours back in the dorm, probably why he dropped out. Well, the people came later. Little critters—they look just like you and me, wearing clothing, everything. No, they aren’t dolls or action figures. They move around. They live in the little buildings. They’re alive.

After a while, I started watching them instead of Gary. I hooked up a camera looking out over their city so I could watch what happened when I’m at work. Eight hours of video zipped by in about twenty minutes on high speed. They work, too. The little people cook, create art, worship. They rearranged some of Gary’s buildings, made one of them into a kind of church. I don’t know if he ever noticed.

Gary goes to work at eight in the morning, returns at five-thirty, and turns off his television at ten. He’s an accountant or something. Dullsville. On Saturdays he comes down here, has a cup of coffee and reads the paper. Not a lot of variation.

I’ve seen him in his bedroom, sobbing like a baby. One time I saw him look at the label on this bottle of pills—an orange one, like for prescriptions. Maybe Gary was pondering the undiscovered country.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he goes outside, tilts a house on its side, snatches a few of the people, and squeezes their heads until they swell and burst. Poof—little red cloud. After killing two or three this way, he slumps onto his porch steps and sobs, kind of like he did that night in his bedroom with the blinds closed. He tosses the stained little bodies into the city. After a while, he goes inside slams the door.

They have funerals. They dig holes and plant the headless ones in a section of dirt over by Gary’s begonias. Kind of creepy, really—they have this whole funeral procession thing and play sappy music. I’ve watched those people do everything, work, play, swim in the lake, even have sex in their little fenced-in backyards, but I only feel like a sleazebag when I watch one of the funerals.

Mostly, I feel sorry for Gary. The guy made a whole city and he still isn’t happy.


Aaron A. Polson  Aaron A. Polson's website When Aaron Polson isn’t arguing about the definition of irony with his English students, he can be found chipping away at a twisted tale in his basement dungeon. He currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit, enjoying every mood swing in the midwest weather. His stories have appeared in Reflection’s Edge, Necrotic Tissue, Monstrous from Permuted Press, and other publications.

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