Home > The Two Week Roommate

The Two Week Roommate
Author: Roxie Noir








I stand in the kitchen doorway, fold my arms over my chest, and narrow my eyes. Everything’s perfectly in place, just like I left it: the avocado-colored fridge, the beat-up wooden table, the lemon-yellow formica countertop.

No chipmunk in sight.

“I saw you come in here,” I tell the kitchen. “You’re not staying.”

It’s so cold I can see my breath, because I didn’t have the chance to re-light the wood stove before this squeaky little varmint darted out from behind it, into the kitchen, onto the countertop, and behind the stacks of ungainly, mismatched dishes on open shelving that can’t be less than forty years old.

Neither the chipmunk nor the kitchen responds. Why the kitchen? Now I’m going to have to clean every dish in this place, because I have the misfortune of knowing exactly what diseases rodents can carry.

Little bastard.

I put the lantern on the kitchen table, cross my arms, and wait. I scan the open wooden shelves, the stained white stove, the rounded refrigerator that’s probably older than me. It sounds like a freight train when it kicks on. Sooner or later that furry fuckface is going to make a move.

I wait for it. I can be patient. I’d say I’m quite experienced in being patient for critters.

Said patience is running low when there’s a flurry of scrabbling and a glass falls from one of the haphazard shelves. I practically leap across the kitchen, sock feet thumping heavily on a floor that’s seen better days, and manage to catch it before the it hits the floor.

I feel victorious for half a second before I realize it’s plastic and I could’ve let it fall.

“Shit,” I mutter at the cup in my hand, then scan the counter and shelves again. “Where’d you—”

It’s watching me from the very end of a shelf, the patterned paper lining curled up around its feet. Its nose twitches. Its beady little eyes blink, and it’s exactly far enough away from me that I have a zero percent chance of catching it.

“You’re supposed to be asleep,” I tell it. “Chipmunks hibernate. Look it up.”

The chipmunk seems uninterested in scholarship, because it doesn’t move at all. At least it doesn’t seem rabid. Just more social than a chipmunk ought to be, which is its own kind of concerning. Not as concerning as rabies, but I wouldn’t call it good.

It chatters at me, squeaky and angry. I know when I’m being told off by wildlife. I put my hands up, palms out, like I’m showing the damn thing I’m not armed. As if a chipmunk can tell.

“Okay,” I say, the plastic cup still in my hand. If I get this just right, I can trap the sanctimonious dickhead underneath and carry it outside, like I do with spiders that are too big to live indoors. “Just hold still, I’m not gonna—”

It takes a flying leap off the shelf, to the floor, and before I can get more than one step closer it disappears into a hole in the warped baseboards, scrabbling through the walls. I’m still standing there with a plastic cup in my hand. Fuck.

“Don’t eat the wiring,” I tell the hole. “If you start an electrical fire your furry ass is toast. I’m not saving you.”

There’s the faint sound of more scratching, and for a moment I stare at the wall, the afternoon light already dimming, like I think it’ll come back and say you’re right, I’m being unreasonable, I’ll go now.

It does not.

“Fucker,” I tell the hole, and turn back for the wood stove in the opposite corner. I debate plugging the hole with something, because apparently this chipmunk is unaware that it’s supposed to be hibernating and would rather run amok in the Forest Service’s cabin, but then there’s the risk that it’ll die inside the walls, and I’d much rather have a living rodent harassing me than a dead one rotting somewhere I can’t get to it.

That happened once to some church friends of my parents, and guess who got volunteered to take care of the problem. All I got for my trouble was an overbaked oatmeal raisin cookie and some tossed-off praise about how I was such a helpful young man.

Once the wood stove is going and a few lights are on, everything feels a lot better than it did in the cold darkness. I put my boots in the tray by the stove, hang my coat in front of it, and start downloading my data from my field iPad to the hard drive I brought with me.

Outside, I swear the snow is picking up. Hard to tell at this time of day—it’s barely four in the afternoon, but since it’s just a few days before Christmas, it feels like nine at night—but I think it’s snowing harder than before.

Much harder, actually. When I checked the weather report yesterday morning it said we were supposed to get flurries late this afternoon. This is not flurries. This is a snowstorm.

This might even be a blizzard. I cross my arms in front of my chest and frown at the window, because fuck blizzards. This is southwestern Virginia, and even though we’re in the mountains, we’re not supposed to get blizzards. It’s supposed to snow a little, and then warm up just enough that everything is slush, then maybe we’ll get some sleet and freezing rain and when the sun goes down it’ll all freeze over and make the roads a slip ’n’ slide. Then, three days later, it’ll be gone and everyone will pretend they weren’t panicking.

But what are you supposed to do in a blizzard?

I nearly jump out of my skin when my phone buzzes on the worn wooden table. I swear it sounds like a foghorn.

Reid: It’s snowing? A lot????

Reid: What do I do about Victoria and Fluffy???

Reid: Where are your candles and stuff if the power goes out? I feel like the power’s gonna go out

Reid: Blankets? Emergency rations? Can Dolly double as a blanket?

Me: R-85 and C-347 are literally wild animals, they’ll be fine. They have good shelter.

Reid: They look cold

Me: You’re projecting.

Reid: Are you one hundred percent sure I can’t snuggle either of them?



I ignore that question. We’ve been over this, so I tell him that the emergency supplies are in the same place they were the last time the power went out, and he asks where that is, and we’re still going back and forth when my work phone starts ringing.

Yes, I came to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and had to bring two phones. Satellite technology has made it incredibly difficult to get one fucking minute of peace.

“Gideon,” Dale says as soon as I answer, no preamble. He sounds a little out of breath. “You’re out by Copper Hollow, right?”

“I’m not far,” I tell him.

“You come across that girl?”

I’m staring out the window, snow swirling as the blue-tinted darkness falls. Dread settles over me like a blanket.

“What girl?” I ask.

“The girl chained to a tree.”

I’m already by the stove, stepping into my still-wet boots, because—

“There’s a girl chained to a tree? What the fuck?”

“You didn’t come across her?”

“No,” I say, and my voice echoes off the wood-paneled interior of the Forest Service cabin that, up until now, felt pretty cozy. “Why the fuck is there a girl chained to a tree?”

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