there were tires in the living room. a stack of four black rubber generic automobile-type tires. so generic in fact that they lacked any of the typical raised lettering describing their particular fit and function and whatever other informative prose might be customary to tire sidewalls. they had tread, unworn, unusual, of an utterly unfamiliar pattern. the tires sat stacked, all four, beside the settee in the living room of his grandmother’s ninth floor apartment in an assisted-living high-rise. she didn’t seem to have much use for them — that is, she wasn’t paying any attention to them. which was of course peculiar. how long had they been there? no more than three days, as he’d last been by to see her on friday before he left town for the weekend. she seemed to somehow not even realize they were there, though she otherwise was attending to other familiar objects nearby — dusting the china cats on the coffee table, visiting the newly-minted kennedy half-dollar in its cardboard printed presentation sleeve propped against the lamp on the end table on the other side of the settee.
‘gran, what are they doing here?’
she asked him if he’d had lunch, and took a pudding from the refrigerator. he stood aghast and uncomprehending. margaret entered moments later having stopped to run a quick errand on the way. so far dan had not entered the living room (for reasons he could not explain), but stood staring at the tires from the kitchen. he had the unsettling experience that they were somehow moving, or shifting… breathing.
‘what’s going on?’ margaret had been offering greetings to the elderly woman, who responded with scattered nonsensical remarks, half-english, half-german. innocuous remarks, nothing to comment on, but it was daniel standing unmoving in the passageway that got her attention and led her to the sight of the ominous black stack sitting comfortably like a well-worn guest in the corner, as though at any moment it might pick up a paper or the tv remote and ask for a cup of tea.
it was unexplainably horrifying, the animation emanating from the thing. not four things; one thing. one thing of four parts. four tires. four tires? were they tires? they weren’t exactly tires, were they? or were they? what else could they be? what were they doing in the living room?
no answer forthcoming from dan’s grandmother. he and margaret excused themselves and went to the front desk to investigate but no one had any explanation, no tires had come in nor out of the building in the past three days.
there had been a knock, not exactly a knock, on the door to gerta’s. a thump, really. a thump at the door. that was friday night, probably around eleven. gerta’s sleeping habits were anything but habitual, she was up at any hour and down at any other. she hallucinated a lot, her hearing having left her for the most part, her eyesight fading (she was 92), but the thumping was there, persistent. normally she would have become rather paranoid, a door thump at nigh midnight. but she felt rather dazed, enticed maybe, to go to the door.
and there at the door was the first tire. upright, on its tread, looking up at her. looking up at her? so it somehow appeared. gerta felt she was gazing upon a stray cat, or a small child looking for a lost ball, and mindlessly opened the door for the tire to enter.
it rolled slowly in, seeming to examine the flat, the layout, the traffic patterns if you will. after a time it settled, not unpleasantly, by the corner of the kitchen nearest the entryway of the apartment. gerta, having followed its behavior, seemed equally satisfied and went to sit before the tv, which inactivity she continued late into the night.
at four a.m. she got up to venture to her bed when another thumping called her to the door. another tire, identical to the first, but not exactly; it was somehow individual. it scouted out the apartment in its own style, skittering about a bit more than the first, then came to consult its companion momentarily before retreating to the living room to lay itself down, as it were, by the settee.
nothing happened of much significance during the following day except this: the colors in the flat seemed to almost imperceptibly be draining away. the room was desaturated, the textures transparent. gerta’s irises glowed secretly.
around one in the morning the other two tires showed up.