I'm Thinking of Ending Things Page 1

Author: Iain Reid

Genres: Horror , Fiction

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Iain Reid


To Don Reid

I’m thinking of ending things.

Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me. It doesn’t go away. It’s there whether I like it or not. It’s there when I eat. When I go to bed. It’s there when I sleep. It’s there when I wake up. It’s always there. Always.

I haven’t been thinking about it for long. The idea is new. But it feels old at the same time. When did it start? What if this thought wasn’t conceived by me but planted in my mind, predeveloped? Is an unspoken idea unoriginal? Maybe I’ve actually known all along. Maybe this is how it was always going to end.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

You can’t fake a thought. And this is what I’m thinking.

It worries me. It really does. Maybe I should have known how it was going to end for us. Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.

The road is mostly empty. It’s quiet around here. Vacant. More so than anticipated. So much to see but not many people, not many buildings or houses. Sky. Trees. Fields. Fences. The road and its gravel shoulders.

“You want to stop for a coffee?”

“I think I’m okay,” I say.

“Last chance we’ll have before it becomes really farmy.”

I’m visiting Jake’s parents for the first time. Or I will be when we arrive. Jake. My boyfriend. He hasn’t been my boyfriend for very long. It’s our first trip together, our first long drive, so it’s weird that I’m feeling nostalgic—about our relationship, about him, about us. I should be excited, looking forward to the first of many. But I’m not. Not at all.

“No coffee or snacks for me,” I say again. “I want to be hungry for supper.”

“I don’t think it’ll be a typical spread tonight. Mom’s been tired.”

“You don’t think she’ll mind, though, right? That I’m coming?”

“No, she’ll be happy. She’s happy. My folks want to meet you.”

“It’s all barns around here. Seriously.”

I’ve seen more of them on this drive than I’ve seen in years. Maybe in my life. They all look the same. Some cows, some horses. Sheep. Fields. And barns. Such a big sky.

“There’re no lights on these highways.”

“Not enough traffic to warrant lighting the way,” he says. “I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“Must get really dark at night.”

“It does.”

IT FEELS LIKE I’VE KNOWN Jake longer than I have. What has it been . . . a month? Six weeks, maybe seven? I should know exactly. I’ll say seven weeks. We have a real connection, a rare and intense attachment. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I turn in my seat toward Jake, grabbing my left leg and bringing it up under me like a cushion. “So how much have you told them about me?”

“My parents? Enough,” he says. He gives me a quick look. I like the look. I smile. I’m very attracted to him.

“What did you tell them?”

“That I met a pretty girl who drinks too much gin.”

“My parents don’t know who you are,” I say.

He thinks I’m joking. But I’m not. They have no idea he exists. I haven’t told them about Jake, not even that I’ve met someone. Nothing. I kept thinking I might say something. I’ve had multiple opportunities. I just never felt certain enough to say anything.

Jake looks like he’s going to speak but changes his mind. He reaches out and turns up the radio. Just a bit. The only music we could find after scanning through several times was a country station. The old stuff. He nods with the track, humming along softly.

“I’ve never heard you hum before,” I say. “That’s a quality hum you have.”

I don’t think my parents will ever know about Jake, not now, not even retroactively. As we drive down a deserted country highway to his parents’ farm, this thought makes me sad. I feel selfish, self-centered. I should tell Jake what I am thinking. It’s just very hard to talk about. Once I bring up these doubts, I can’t go back.

I’ve more or less decided. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end it. That takes the pressure off meeting his parents. I’m curious to see what they’re like, but now I also feel guilty. I’m sure he thinks my visiting his family’s farm is a sign of commitment, that the relationship is expanding.

He’s sitting here, beside me. What’s he thinking about? He doesn’t have a clue. It’s not going to be easy. I don’t want to hurt him.

“How do you know this song? And haven’t we heard it already? Twice?”

“It’s a country classic and I grew up on a farm. I know it by default.”

He doesn’t confirm that we’ve heard the song twice already. What kind of radio station plays the same song over again within the hour? I don’t listen to the radio much anymore; maybe that’s what they do now. Maybe that’s normal. I wouldn’t know. Or maybe these old country songs all sound the same to me.

WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER ANYTHING about the last road trip I took? I couldn’t even say when it was. I’m looking out the window, but not really looking at anything. Just passing time the way one does in a car. Everything goes by so much faster in a car.

Which is too bad. Jake told me all about the landscape here. He loves it. He said he misses it whenever he’s away. Especially the fields and sky, he said. I’m sure it is beautiful, peaceful. But it’s hard to tell from the moving car. I’m trying to take in as much as I can.

We drive by a deserted property with only the foundation of a farmhouse. Jake says it burned down about a decade ago. There’s a decrepit barn behind the house and a swing set in the front yard. But the swing set looks new. Not old and rusty, not weather-beaten.

“What’s with the new swing set?” I ask.


“On that burned farm. No one lives there anymore.”

“Let me know if you get cold. Are you cold?”

“I’m fine,” I say.

The glass of the window is cool. I’m resting my head against it. I can feel the vibrations of the engine through the glass, each bump in the road. A gentle brain massage. It’s hypnotic.

I don’t tell him I’m trying not to think about the Caller. I don’t want to think about the Caller or his message at all. Not tonight. I also don’t want to tell Jake that I’m avoiding catching my reflection in the window. It’s a no-mirrors day for me. Just like the day Jake and I met. These are thoughts I keep to myself.

Trivia night at the campus pub. The night we met. The campus pub isn’t somewhere I spend a lot of time. I’m not a student. Not anymore. I feel old there. I’ve never eaten at the pub. The beer on tap tastes dusty.

I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone that night. I was sitting with my friend. We weren’t really into the trivia, though. We were sharing a pitcher, chatting.

I think the reason my friend wanted us to meet at the campus pub was because she thought I might meet a boy there. She didn’t say that, but that’s what I believe she was thinking. Jake and his friends were at the table beside us.

Trivia is not something I’m interested in. It’s not not fun. It’s just not my thing. I’d prefer to go somewhere a little less intense, or stay home. Beer at home never tastes dusty.

Jake’s trivia team was called Brezhnev’s Eyebrows. “Who’s Brezhnev?” I asked him. It was loud in there and we were almost yelling at each other over the music. We’d been talking for a couple of minutes.

“He was a Soviet engineer, worked in metallics. Era of Stagnation. Had a couple of monster caterpillars for eyebrows.”

This is what I’m talking about. Jake’s team name. It was meant to be funny, but also obscure enough to demonstrate a knowledge of the Soviet Communist Party. I don’t know why, but this is the stuff that drives me nuts.

Team names are always like this. Or if not, then they’re blatant sexual innuendos. Another team was named My Couch Pulls Out and So Do I!

I told Jake I didn’t really like trivia, not at a place like this. He said, “It can be very nitpicky. It’s a strange blend of competitiveness veiled as apathy.”

Jake isn’t striking, not really. He’s handsome mostly in his irregularity. He wasn’t the first guy I noticed that night. But he was the most interesting. I’m rarely tempted by stainless beauty. He seemed a little less part of the group, as if he’d been dragged there, as if the team depended on his answers. I was immediately attracted to him.

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