Pillowtalk by S.S. Mandani

Some day in November, I woke up to the sound of giggles.

The plush surface of my pillow had deepened. Its shadows became wrinkles. Its creases formed a face. It couldn’t stop laughing. Its lips fibrous, the inside of its mouth, a pure darkness. Tongue and toothless, how did it form words?

“You’re supposed to be inanimate. I bought you from Bed, Bath, & Beyond.”

“Bed, Bath, & BEYONDDDD.”

“Don’t tell me… ”

“I’m the—”

“Please, no.”



“Really? I’m a lost soul. Or maybe I’m a figment of your imagination projected out onto the thing you take for granted.”

Lightning made of lava; an anger thundered in me. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. You’d be nothing without me. You’re just a silly boy. All you do is sleep. Sleep, sleep, sleep. And drool. Stop drooling on me!”

“I don’t drool,” I said plainly, as I flicked one of the pillow’s droopy corners.

It threw itself on me, punching my face with each of its corners like I was its personal speedbag. It didn’t hurt. Because it was a pillow.

Finally, I got a hold of its love handles and body slammed it into the mattress, bending its torso, folding it in half. I plunged both of my hands into its back, changing its feather distribution, gripped the fabric, the pillow’s satin skin, tensed up for a moment, and pulled apart as hard as I could. Sinister, cavernous roars.

Then a sharp tear, feathers snowing across the room, and the dissipation of laughter.


A few days later, my father called me. From my voice he could tell something was off. I begrudgingly told him about the pillow.

He laughed, kind of like the pillow, but a bit more warmly.

Lovingly, he said, “There comes a time in every person’s life when an inanimate object taunts you. It just means you’re growing up. The important thing to remember is to keep your cool.”

“I ripped it up. It’s gone. Destroyed.”

Dad laughed his airy, deep laugh again. Billowing with laughter, “You’ll always be my boy.”


My phone pinged. It was Dad. He sent me twenty dollars through cyberspace. “Get yourself a new pillow, son.”

“You didn’t have to do that. Thanks, Dad.”

“Love you son, talk to your mother when you get a chance. She needs to hear your voice.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell Dad pillows cost a lot more than twenty dollars in this economy. Especially the hypoallergenic ones I was accustomed to. It didn’t matter anyway. I never bought a pillow again. The mere sight of them creeped me out. My neck hurt, sure, but the pain reminded me of Dad and to always keep my cool. And fuck pillows.


S.S. runs Saltwater Coffee in New York. His stories appear in Shenandoah, Passages North, 3:AM, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions (2x). His work has been supported by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Kenyon Review, Martha’s Vineyard Institute, Periplus Collective, and Bread Loaf (4x); recognized as notable in Wigleaf and The Best American Food Writing; and anthologized in a forthcoming book on craft from Columbia University Press. One time, a mac and cheese shop handed out two of his stories to 10,000 customers. Cool.