The first New Voices story of 2023 comes to us from Yiwei Chai. “Fishing” narrates the story of Nathelie’s return from the boonies, upon which she finds herself locked outside of her sister’s house. Across the short space of this story, as something sinister seems to lurk in the shadows, behind every closed door, it becomes clear that Nathelie’s state of mind is deteriorating. Watching it all unfold is Fish the cat. Read our first story of 2023 below!
There are pictures of their mother, too, and a few of their father as well. She turns them all face-down, so that the burglar will not be able to recognize the faces. The family portrait above the couch is the most difficult to hide. She has to put down the shovel again to prise it off the wall, kneeling into the couch with her arms outstretched to grip each side of the canvas.
She thought going to the boonies would help things, but after a month and a half she is back. Her sister only picks up after the third consecutive call.
“I’m outside your house,” she says.
“I rang the doorbell and everything. Are you trying to avoid me?”
“God, Nathelie. I’m not home. It’s Tuesday. Are you really there?”
“I can hear someone inside.”
She can hear noise in the background over the call, too. Voices, indistinguishable. There is a sudden absent sound, as though her sister has pulled the phone away from her mouth, and then brought it back.
“Just—okay. I get off work in two hours. Can you just, I don’t know, there’s a park at the end of the street, you know the one I’m talking about. Go hang out at the coffee stand there. I’ll meet you when I’m done.”
“Who’s in your house?” Nathelie asks.
“I don’t know. No one. You’re probably just hearing the cat.”
“It sounds like a person to me.”
There is silence, like her sister is about to say something, but changes her mind. She says, “Nathelie, there’s no one there, okay? Look, I have to go, I can’t keep talking on the phone while I’m at work. Just go to the park, okay? If you don’t want to do that, go home and I’ll drop by when I’m done.”
Her sister hangs up. Nathelie keeps the phone at her ear for a moment, just listening to the beeping tone. Then, she turns her attention back to the house. It hasn’t changed. The last time she was here, they got into a screaming match in the backyard. She can’t remember what it was about. Her sister’s husband just stood in the corner over the grill. She still doesn’t know what her sister sees in him. The daughter was there too. Nathelie left after the girl started crying.
The house is painted a pale grey color; two modest stories in a squat suburban style. In one of the ground floor windows, the curtain hasn’t been drawn shut all the way. Nathelie can see the living room through the gap; the family portrait is hanging over the faux-leather sofa. It looks like their mother’s house, only one of the daughters is missing. As far as she can tell, there is no one in the living room. Whoever it is has to be further back in the house. If her sister isn’t lying, then maybe it is a burglar.