The Veil

by Kevin O’Cuinn

I open the book to The Veil, the last story. It’s gone. The pages are still there, but blank. It looks back at me like a silenced radio. I close, reopen. Nothing. I get out of the bath, check the phone book and call the auth r.

‘Hmm,’ he says, ‘creepy. Who g ve you this number?’

‘I just dialled random n  bers.’

‘Hmm,’ he says again, ‘what     the chances?’

I suspect he’s trying    change the subject.

‘Back to the story...’ I say.

‘Maybe that’s why they called it Best N n Required Non-R ading. I wondered ab  t that, the title.’

‘I paid hard-earned cash for that book,’ I say. ‘I want    story.’

‘It’s not your story,’    sa s. ‘It’s mine.’

I see his  oint.

‘Point taken,’ I say, ‘but I think you under tand.’

‘Well, I’d love to stay on  n  chat but...’

‘But what?’ I say, wi   just the right amount of indig  tion.

‘But, I have a life, see?’ I hear a      t flush.

‘Are you in the bathr  m?’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘You take c lls in the bathroom?’

‘Why not? Writers  re just like n  mal folk.’

I have a t   g or two to say about n rmality but    in   rup  d, ‘You’re breaking up —’ He was g ne, strange.

I remember I had the book        subway and call the transit pe     . I explain my case to Derek, who puts me th    h to Shirley in Lost and Fo   .’

‘Yeah,’ says Shirley, ‘we’re getting a lot of that. Which title pl  se?’

At last, someone who u         

‘It’s called The Veil,’ I say, ‘by Maya somebody or o    .’

‘It wasn’t a Dubos, was it? I have an unclai  d Dubos.’

‘No, it wasn’t a Dubos. And I bet he doesn’t take calls while he’s on the can.’

‘Okaaay,’ says Shirley. ‘And you tr ed the fri   , right?’

‘Affirm tive.’

‘S  k drawer?’

Maybe I’m tired, but I can’t locate my s  k dr    . It could be the failing light, the grow    sh dows.

‘Nothing,’ I tell Shirley.

‘Well, it doesn’t sound good,’ she says. ‘What about HLT?’

‘    ?’

‘Helpl  e for Lo t Stories. They’re really goo . If anyone can find The Veil, it’s    . Let me gi e you their  um     .’

I   ank Sh    ey,   mm    her on her listening skills     hang up.

I dial the HLT number and an answering machine tells me the helpline is mann d Tuesday, Thu    ay, Sa urday, from     t to  lev     a.m. I can also visit them online and contribute to t   r  oru .

Having given the st ry up for l st, I go back to my b th. I’m shiv ring by now    turn on the h  water. The light recedes from the wi    w, sh dows grow. The sha  ws erase the walls, they er  e the end    the tu , my fee , they erase eve   

Kevin O’Cuinn lives in Frankfurt on the Main; he comes from Dublin, Ireland; he co-edits fiction at Word Riot.