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Tom Hadrava is a Czech writer based in Prague, Czech Republic, Europe, teaching English and constantly daydreaming during his lessons. His Czech fiction has appeared in the XB-1 magazine. In English, his flash fiction has been published in 365tomorrows, EveryDayFiction, and Theme of Absence. He likes jogging (you can daydream while doing that, too), trekking in the mountains, and playing invisible drums (lots of cymbals included, of course). Every now and then he peeks in cardboard boxes, just to make sure. He lives in a cozy flat with his charming wife and a "curiouser and curiouser" one-year-old son.
This is what you find when you return:
34 leaflets and newsletters, plain or glossy paper with no moon runes, ink-chants or scarenocks. None of them folds itself into an origami puffin or a kangaroo when prodded with a finger.
1 post-it note on the door, about an electricity blackout. Signed "Mrs. Trelawney, your trusted neighbor," dated two days after you entered the Realm. Text already a little faded, in English. Only a touch of perfume, no cinnamon, cockatrice-feather, or wild-dryad smell.
1 rug, oval, orange-white. The colors stable, not moving around or floating five centimeters above the floor. There are no whispers from the fabric, even if you put your ear very close.
121 personal emails. None of them starts with "Greetings, shimmering friend."
838 emails, belonging to the SPAM category. None of them call you "Gentle being" or "The one gifted with a passage-key to the realm."
13 cobwebs, no smell, no coruscation, no visible star-patterns.
5 spiders, usual size, speechless and rather dumb. No apparent stargazing during periods of clear night sky.
1 cup, with a silver line around the top, no quickrust. It does not warm up when asked to do so. A sign that says THE BEST MUG 4EVER in tacky letters, but you can see the bottom and the handle does not curl up your forearm, softly promising to stay forever.
2 apples, disappointingly tasting like apples.
10-12 fruit flies, usual size, speechless, simply hovering about. They do not dance in the air, show simple icons, or connect into a little arrow.
1 piece of bark of a giant spreentruce, found in your pocket after searching the whole flat for any other signs. There are a few lines of text, written in charcoal: "Follow the flies in, unfollow them back. Rugs tell the truth, cups tell lies. Keys can only be turned once."
1 cardboard box, large, labeled FRAGILE and DO NOT TILT. No matter how many ways you position it or fold yourself inside, you still come out in the same place, a small kitchen with frayed orange curtains and a musty smell, here.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 17th, 2016


Arriving back home from our extensive trekking holidays with my wife has always been a rather tiresome experience--tons of emails, leaflets, newsletters, all the unpacking and household duties, with the world of wild mountains, forests, rocks, and lakes light years behind us and out of reach. I put this notion together with the idea of a world where spiders behave like little astronomers and where cups speak ancient tongues and there it was--a list story I have always wanted to write.

- Tom Hadrava

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