The letter read:
You have been sentence to indefinite imprisonment. Please use the form on the back of this notice if you wish to file an appeal.
Jake looked at it blankly and scratched his neck. He stuffed it carefully back into it's white windowed envelope.
"What'cha got there neighbor? Another bill racked up by the missus?" His neighbor laughed at his own joke as he sprayed his Volkswagen with a jet of hose water in the later afternoon sun.
"I'm not married," said Jake, not looking up. He shuffled back up the pathway to his door from the mailbox, and tightened his bathrobe around his chest. Once inside the door he leaned heavily against the hallway wall and let out a long, slow breath. He dropped the letter on a pile of similar envelopes on the hall table.
Jake looked down the hallway towards where the kitchen had been. A black chasm had been growing inside the house, and it moved around slowly, eating furniture, the wooden floorboards, the walls, everything, molecule by molecule. When it passed, it left a portion of the elements it had consumed, rearranged. The kitchen now looked it had been constructed by honeybees. The walls were at severe angles, the appliances still recognizable, but unusable, warped and brittle, stuck into the walls. The metal from the old wiring was stripped and curled. Useless, but pleasantly ornate in its rearrangement.
The chasm now sat in the middle of the hallway. The oak floor eroded away into matte blackness. Jake did not know how far the chasm extended into the basement. He reached up and pulled his weight onto the length of clothesline he had rigged up on the wall with nails and brackets. He brachiated passed the chasm, careful to raise his toes up so he wouldn't loose his slippers, and landed on the staircase. He took the steps two at a time and ran into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. He slept the rest of the afternoon and night away.
He awoke to dull, jagged morning light invading his window. He squirmed under his blankets, trying to block it out. He felt a tug on his sheets. He pulled. It pulled back.
Jake bolted upright and pressed his back against the headboard. He immediately started sweating. At the foot of his bed was a shard of the chasm, floating mid-air, slowly sucking in his sheets. It was slightly transparent, in the beam of direct sunlight, showing a criss-crossed of denser, more opaque structure. Jake picked up his long-unplugged alarm clock from his side-table and threw it at the shard. The clock grazed the top of it, but the shard caught the cord like glue--the clock bounced and swung down. The shard slowly slurped the cord in along with the sheet.
Jake opened the drawer of the side table and pulled out a pair of slender scissors. He leapt up and cut the sheets and blankets free, balling them up and throwing them in the opposite corner of the room. He stood up on the mattress and looked down at the shard.
"Go away!" he screamed. It didn't.
He stepped down off the mattress and backed towards the bedroom door. The middle of the door was rearranged, with bits of chewed up wood sticking up out of painted portions. He flung the door open and it fell off it's hinges--the wood there crumbling to dust. The staircase was canted, rippled, tracing the path where the shard had detached from the main body of the chasm. The chasm itself had grown overnight--or thinned and spread--to encompass all the visible floor below. Jake crossed to the other bedroom, which was empty except for piles of unread newspapers and his ex-wife's ample magazine subscriptions. He closed the door and sat against the opposite wall, under an unblinded window, staring at the door. He clutched his angry-hungry stomach. The room was still and became hot. He fell asleep.
There was chattering. It was midday. Jake's eyes fluttered opened. He coughed and then listened. The chattering was from outside. Jake turned around, knelt, an peeked out the bottom of the window. There was nothing but blue sky, so he sat up on his heels to look down. There were three children standing on his lawn, conversing with punctuations of laughter.
Jake stood up and tapped on the glass.
"Get off my lawn!" he yelled. The children looked up at the window. "Get off my lawn!!" Jake screamed. The children stared and didn't move. Jake struggled to open the window, which was partly sealed by a poor paint job. With a jolt, the entire window dislodged and fell to the ground. "I'm coming to get you if you don't get off my lawn right now!" The children screamed and ran off.
Jake looked down at the window opening. Tiny shards of the chasm dotted the wood of the casement, like spots of mold. He backed up, and picked up a folded up newspaper. He pushed the end of it it into the wall next to the window opening. The wallpaper gave way. The wall behind it crumbled. Dots of light from outside poked through. Jake tightened the sash of his robe. He slashed at the exterior-facing walls of the room with the newspaper again and again, dislodging the eroded bits, until only a latticework dotted with black remained.
He opened the door to the room. The chasm was right outside, filling up the door frame completely.
"Go..." said Jake softly. "Go."
The chasm flexed then relaxed, showing what looked like the outlines of large matte crystals.
"Fine," said Jake. "Then you have to let me file an appeal. This isn't fair you know. It doesn't matter what I've done."
The chasm did not react.
"I won't do it. You can eat this whole house, but you won't eat me. I'm not guilty. I'm not ashamed."
Jake stared at the blackness, then grimaced, and slammed the door shut. The wood turned inside out. Black crystals shot through the door and into Jake. His eyes widened and his mouth gurgled up blood. The crystals pulled him through the jumbled wood of the door. His hands went limp and his head lolled backward as his body was reeled inward.
Down on the sidewalk the mailman whistled out of tune as he deposited a white envelope in Jake's mailbox.