Today, we are pleased to share with you the second place winner in our Flash Fiction Contest, “Lions in the House” by Beejay Silcox. This is a lovely, taut piece of flash. Through a discussion of nighttime noises in a house, this story reveals how two people in a relationship experience their anxieties differently.
“He’s never heard the lions in the house—this man, this husband, your husband. He has always slept in a way you can’t understand.”
There are lions in the house. Two, maybe three—it’s hard to tell. Filling the dark with their breathy territorial huffing, their stretched yawns and big-cat rumble.
It’s simple physics, acoustic trickery—the zoo is directly across the park and the sound carries. But there’s nothing simple about lions in the house. When you leave the windows open there’s something about the way the noise leaps around that makes it seem as if the lions are behind you in this new, old house—stalking you from kitchen to bathroom to bedroom, a kind of ventriloquism. If you close the windows, you can still hear them pawing against the glass.
No matter what you tell yourself, there’s that ever-open caveman eye in your brain that’s been waiting and watching—just for this, just for lions in the house. A hot-blooded part of you that always knew they were coming. And on nights when they do not come, when there’s wind or traffic or drunk street noise, this house with its rheumatic floorboards and recalcitrant hinges knows they will be back. It aches and strains and cracks its bones, and you’re awake, you’re awake, you’re awake.
He’s never heard the lions in the house—this man, this husband, your husband. He has always slept in a way you can’t understand. A careless sleep: reckless, unvigilant. When you first met you envied it, but now it terrifies you. How he can sleep through fire alarms and police sirens. How he once left a gas burner hissing and slept, as room-by-room, the air filled with oven fumes. How he can even sleep through your asthma attacks, that brutal underwater heaving that is so loud in your blood you can feel it echo for days.