House Sitters by Kathy Lanzarotti

I wonder if it’s snowing at home.

It was a random thought, born out of schadenfreude as much as curiosity. The white stuff had been falling steadily when they left and Lyssa had taken much joy in the fact that she wouldn’t have to shovel for a week.

She was stretched on a lounge chair on a pale-sanded beach under a creamy blue sky. Eyes closed, she listened to the waves and the calls of the seagulls. Around her Sandpipers hopped and stamped tracks on the shore, just out of range of the ocean and its  color gradation from aqua to sapphire.

Lyssa dropped her arm and fished under the beach chair with her hand. Found the edge of her straw hat and walked her fingers along the gritty brim. Tapped over sunglasses, rolled the canister of sunblock, and found her phone.

She sat up and wiped her lotion greased fingers on the green striped resort towel. Clicked the blue icon and watched the pinwheel as it spun and lassoed the hotel’s WIFI.

She paged down from the front door and past the back deck powdered with snow. The tall leafy Ficus in the foyer, the sliding door in the kitchen–


She scrolled back up.

She and Bill sat at the table eating pizza. She clicked the arrow to go live.

They were still at the table. She was laughing about something while Bill stabbed at the lettuce in his salad bowl.

Lyssa brought the phone to her face. The glare of the sun and the haze of lotion and facial oils clouded her view.

Underneath the image the time ticked away.

The current time adjusted for her time zone.

Lyssa watched herself wave her fork around, the way she did whenever something annoyed her on the news.

She shielded the sun from her eyes and looked again.

The figures at the table froze. Turned their gaze in the direction of the camera in unison and lowered their utensils. They both stared.

Lyssa pulled the phone away, then brought it right back. That was her kitchen. The giant colorful metal rooster she’d bought in Key West nailed to the wall, its green and cordovan plumage shone under the recessed ceiling lights.

That was her dinner table. The one she’d waited months for during COVID.

Everything was the way she’d left it, except for the fact that she and her husband appeared to be home even though they were on a beach 2000 miles away.

“The camera’s glitching,” Lyssa said out loud.

“What?” Bill raised an already brown arm up to block the sun. “What camera?”

“The security cameras at home.”

“Why were you looking at the security cameras?”

Lyssa didn’t feel like going into the whole thing about the weather. “It’s showing old footage,” she said as she handed him the phone. “See?”

He wiped the screen with his towel and looked.

“What are you talking about?”

“Go to the kitchen camera.” She reached her arm out and wiggled her fingers at the phone.

Bill nodded. ”I’m on it. There’s nothing.”

He passed the phone back. Lyssa took it.

The table was empty save for the napkin holder and the wooden salt and pepper shakers.

“What the hell?”

“Were you asleep?”

“Was I asleep?” she repeated. “While I was on my phone? No!”

“Well, yeah, you probably weren’t on the live feed.” Bill settled himself back on his chair and shut his eyes. “You probably just didn’t refresh it.”

“Maybe,” Lyssa said quietly. But she had refreshed it. Twice.


At dinner, after their server had removed what was left of her conch fritters she opened her phone and clicked on the icon.

The kitchen was dark and empty.

Lyssa took a deep relieved breath. Maybe she had been half asleep. She’d had a margarita with lunch. That had to be it. She slipped the phone into her macramé bag before she finished the last of the chardonnay in her glass.


That night Bill snored next to her but Lyssa couldn’t sleep.

The whole thing was just weird.

She flipped the pillow, shut her eyes and tried to concentrate on the clicks of the ceiling fan.

She kept seeing her kitchen. The rooster. She and Bill where they should not be.

She had refreshed the feed. She knew she had.

She sat up and lifted her phone from the white wicker nightstand, clicked on the little blue icon and saw her foyer. The Ficus stood in its place the wall.

She looked in the kitchen. Nothing but her empty table.

See? She thought. Forget about it. Get some sleep.

She scrolled back to the empty foyer.

Something moved behind the Ficus.

Lyssa zoomed the camera.

A hand lowered one of the wide, flat leaves. Her own face appeared, smiling. A child playing hide and seek.

Lyssa watched herself appear from around the plant. Long brown hair in a sagged ponytail. Her favorite flannel shirt over frayed leggings. The woman staggered in stop motion closer and closer to the camera.

Lyssa startled when her own nose touched the screen.

She clicked Live.

The woman’s face filled the screen. Lyssa’s mirror image, except for the eyes. No iris or sclera. Just black. A large smile cut into her face. Canines sharp and pointy.

Her lips moved. Lyssa grabbed her ear buds from the nightstand and pushed them over the notches of her ears. She raised the volume on the phone. Heard the static.

“I see you,” The woman whispered.

Lyssa felt her spine tingle.

“Enjoy your trip,” The woman who wasn’t Lyssa whispered, her voice a chilling vapor. “We’ll be here when you get back.”

Kathy Lanzarotti (she/her) is a Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Jade Ring Award winner for short fiction. She is co editor of Done Darkness: A Collection of Stories, Poetry and Essays About Life Beyond Sadness. Her stories have appeared in (b)Oinkzine, Ellipsis, Creative Wisconsin, Platform for Prose, Jokes Review, Fictive Dream, The Cabinet of Heed, New Pop Lit, Fiction on the Web, Dissections: A Journal Of Contemporary Horror, Dark Fire Fiction and Bone Parade.