Tom held the joint in his hand as he exhaled through his nostrils. The smoke rose up under the ultraviolet LED lights as he tended to his crops. His future joints. He placed the glowing joint back between his lips.
He was in the spare garage, on his knees with half of his body inside his grow tent. The grow tent was four feet wide by seven feet tall, with black canvas exterior and an interior lined with reflective mylar.
Tom heard the side door slam behind him. In the reflective walls of his tent, he saw his wife’s form walk up behind him.
“I see your crack,” Ashley said as she tickled Tom’s exposed rear with her finger.
Tom reared up, almost hitting his head on his grow light as he shot his hands back to pull up his pants. He got up and took off his wrap around green-lensed glasses so he could look into Ashley’s green eyes.
“No, keep them on,” she said as she pulled them back down on Tom’s nose. “Super hot.”
“It’s function, not fashion, yo,” Tom said out of the side of his mouth.
“Don’t go blind in there,” she said. “That’d be hot.”
“You got it.”
Ashley grabbed the joint from his lips and took a hit.
“You coming inside? It’s getting late.”
“That’s when all my lights turn on, to keep the electric bill down. Peak hours and such. I’ll finish up in a few minutes.”
“Ok, Dr. Greenthumb,” she said, placing the joint back between Tom’s lips. “Hurry up, let’s go to bed.”
Ashley left and Tom heard the door slam behind her as he stuck his head back in the tent.
After a moment, the zipper on his grow tent came screaming down. It zipped down hard on Tom’s lower back, pinching the skin and trapping his torso inside the tent. He squirmed to reach the zipper tab, but it was on the outside, near his ass, and his arms trapped inside.
“Ashley, this isn’t funny!” He yelled, spitting out his joint.
Ashley stepped inside the main house. Ever since they moved in, Tom had spent most of his free time in the spare garage. Like he was almost drawn to it. They didn’t have enough cars to have a need for a spare garage, so Tom had set it up as a makeshift rumpus room. Video games, big screen TV, reclining couch, spare fridge stuffed with beer, and a stash of weed. The guy could spend all day in there. And had. That made Ashley think back to a conversation she’d had with the selling realtor.
They bought the house a year prior. The real estate agent had told them the previous owner had died “peacefully” on the property. They found out later it was lung cancer. Ashley never could connect how dying of cancer could be peaceful. “He was a car guy,” the agent had said. “Have you seen the spare garage out back? The old guy had a full workshop, he’d spend all day in there.” Ashley laughed to herself thinking what the old man would say to Tom if he saw his workshop now.
Tom had managed to wiggle out of the grow tent. The zipper was pulled tight and scratched along his back as he slipped out. Once he was out he realized Ashley wasn’t in the garage. No one was in the garage. Who zipped him up?
Startled, Tom decided it was time to head inside the house. After a brisk walk to the side door, he turned the knob and stumbled out, keeping an eye over his shoulder. As soon as he slammed the door he could tell something was off. He was staring at the interior side of the door. Though that couldn’t be right, as he had passed through the door and closed it behind him. Looking around, his surroundings were not right either, he was still in the garage.
Tom grasped at the knob and wrenched the door open. He looked through and saw a view into the same garage. A second identical garage, mirrored on either side of the doorway. After a few frozen moments, Tom closed the door and looked again. Same result. He slammed the door in a panic.
Through their bedroom window, Ashley noticed the lights in the back garage turn off. Tom still hadn’t come out after a few minutes. She stepped out the backdoor of the house and headed to the garage; she felt something was off.
Ashley turned the knob and opened the side door. She stepped in the dark garage, turned on a light, then gasped. The garage was empty. Not only was Tom missing, but everything was. TV, couch, grow tents, everything. It was as empty as the day they moved in. Shocked, Ashley backed out of the garage and the door slammed in front of her.
After convincing himself he wasn’t tripping out, Tom had began moving the couch away from the roll up door. It was blocking the safety sensor and wouldn’t open. Before he got too far, he heard the side door vibrate. It vibrated the same way it did whenever they shut it. Had Ashley come back to the garage looking for him? Tom whipped open the door and ran inside the mirrored garage. Though it was no longer mirrored, it was completely empty. Everything he had in there, gone. The door slammed shut behind him. He noticed since the garage was empty, the roll up sensor was clear. He tried the button to open the roll-up and it worked.
Ashley had backed a few feet away when she heard the closed side door vibrate. Then the roll-up started opening, and she saw Tom’s shoes on the other side. As soon as the roll up door was a foot off the ground, Tom slid out from under it and ran to Ashley. They held each other, speechless and shaking, staring into the empty spare garage.
Written for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge: Real Estate.