Sunset Apartments

Materialized by Addison Zeller on Thursday, December 21st 2023.

The old dead and gone live in a block of apartments on South Beall. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t recognized one, an aunt of mine, checking her mail.

It was her walker I noticed, a plastic stick, pink, white rubber tip, and as I followed that stick with my eyes—this was when I was taking a walk, idling, as I do when cooped up and useless—I saw familiar hands too, with deep, bluish grooves, and familiar fingers, turned in toward the palms and somehow friable in look. And so on. And I saw the face: there was no question.

I spent a while by the parking lot. Cars came and went, younger folks, employees of some drab institution, who wear thin colorless clothes, short sleeves and baggy pants and athletic shoes, and who do not appear to put much effort into combing their hair before they come in; they wear no makeup; they all have glossy name tags on lanyards.

I can see, although the sun does its best to blot out the photos and details under the vinyl card holders, that they took pains, once, to look professional.

They come with groceries, sometimes with elderly passengers, no doubt dead, who they help to the doors of what I must presume to be their individual apartments, or compartments: the doors are small, flaplike. They tap their tags to little monitors that extend from discreet, unshining metal boxes under the door buzzers; the monitors blink and the flaps breeze open, like drapery, so the elderly, dead bodies can squeeze past the padded doorframes.

I wish I could tell you the dead and gone are younger now, healthier, or stronger, but my impression is that, if anything, they have grown older, smaller, and weaker.

Their taste buds, from the starchy foods I glimpse—surreptitiously, but clearly enough—in plastic bags the employees carry in, do not appear to have multiplied.

There is not much sound that emerges from the complex.

I have now walked by, to confirm my suspicions, eight or nine times: it’s about that many minutes by foot. The website indicates merely that it’s an apartment block, full up—Sunset Apartments.

When I went snooping, I found my aunt’s mailbox stuffed with donation requests from conservative causes, plus a variety of advertisements, coupon catalogs and the like, booklets shoved there by Mormons or parishioners of local, tiny churches.

If I were to talk to her, I’d say, Well, it’s good to see you, Well, I’m glad to have your address, for Christmas cards, We have missed you, etc., although it’s not true, we’d quickly forgotten her, she was among the easiest to forget of all the dead and gone.

Above all, I wouldn’t ask any direct question, nothing that’d sound like snooping or result in any awkwardness—imagine if, for instance, she said I’m not dead, and I had to explain, me, I had to be the one to say to her…?—but I’m glad it wasn’t like that, thank god.

I did knock on my aunt’s window, just to see what’d happen, and nothing did: nothing at all. I don’t think I even made a sound.

Addison Zeller's fiction appears, or will soon appear, in 3:AM, Cincinnati Review, Epiphany, Pithead Chapel, trampset, minor literature[s], Ligeia, Hex, ergot., and elsewhere. He is a contributing editor for The Dodge and lives in Wooster, Ohio.