So I was in the shower. I don’t know what time it was. Maybe two? Two-thirty in the morning? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I was tired, it was Halloween, and I hadn’t been able to do anything fun thanks to my absolute peach of a boss.
I stank like popcorn, and I was nursing a burn from cleaning the popper that night. As the shower’s water cut on, my mind started to wander to all the faces I must’ve seen in the theater that night. It hit me that each face I saw belonged to someone with a life, hopes, and dreams. That seems like common sense to say, I realize, but it all just hit me then. That’s just the way my brain liked to work, okay?
So anyway, I was trying my best to open the shampoo bottle without aggravating the burn when I got to thinking. It was always so damn creepy in my house, empty and bare as it was when I’d get home from work. Anyone could be hiding in the shadows and I wouldn’t even know. Maybe it was childish, like I was scared of the dark or something, but who cares. It’s what I thought.
I started lathering up, it felt good to get rid of all that damned grease. I closed my eyes to the water as the shampoo washed away, remembering childhood days of tear-proof shampoo and bubble baths with rubber duckies. My stomach dropped out all of a sudden. My knees went limp, I felt like I was going to pass out.
I remembered something.
Under that water, beneath the cold chill of the bathroom air, I used to open my eyes and look out at the world. It was like everything was distorted, warped. Like I had my own little kingdom under the water and only I could see things in just that way. Maybe it was silly. It sounds weird recounting it. But it’s how I felt.
I’d lie there, supine in the tub, naked as the day I came into the world, and I’d will myself to keep my eyes open, imagining each patch of bubbles was some sort of weird iceberg or continent.
I cleared the bubbles away one time to look, and there was an old, wasted man standing naked on the other side of the room, smiling as he watched me.
But it wasn’t as simple as that. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. He didn’t seem like he was really there. To me he seemed like the abstract concept of a man. Like the suggestion of one. To me it was like he had always been there and always would be.
With everything as hazy as it was, he was sharper. Clearer. Like he wasn’t a part of the rest of the world. All of this I thought to myself as I lay perfectly still under the water, holding my breath.
He had great folds of skin that hung down and collected in rolls, like someone had hastily stitched together a body for him. He was sallow, wasted away. But even so, I felt like he could kill me at any moment. Not with his body though. He wouldn’t need that. He could just think it, and I’d be dead. With a single notion he could follow me wherever I went, even after death, and always be there to watch me. Like I would never, could never escape from him. He told me all of this with the look on his withered face.
His eyes were gray, with flecks of blood red. To the average observer he’d seem blind for sure. But they’d be wrong. What he had was a heightened sight, something that went beyond just seeing something. It was like he could be in your skin as he watched you, feel your every organ as it worked its hardest to keep you alive.
There was white foam at the corners of his lips, like he hadn’t had a drink of water in his life. I could tell the foam was fetid just from looking at it. I imagined little fruit flies drowned within it, not even knowing their mistake. Him not even bothering to wipe them away. Maybe he liked them there.
His teeth were pus-stained. Red, but not from blood. I could just tell. He wasn’t smiling so much as baring his teeth like a predator might do. It was all a grand gesture and it was all for me.
There was a moan, low and deep. It was from him, but it felt like it came from everywhere. I could feel its vibration even down there under the tub’s water. Its sound waves rippled the water’s surface.
I don’t remember anything more. The memory just goes blank after that.
I stood there in the shower, propped up against the wall so I wouldn’t fall. I could feel my heartbeat in my skull. Everything was all hazy after that, like the real world was as warped as it looked from under the water all those years ago.
I started to gulp in deep breaths, like I heard you were supposed to when you thought you were having a panic attack. I didn’t know if that was good advice, but I tried it anyway.
It must’ve just been some weird memory I’d made up. Maybe a nightmare I’d had long ago thanks to some horror movie from my childhood. That had to be it.
I turned off the water. The curtain was there, the only thing separating me from my towel.
A low moan slowly built. It felt like it was coming from everywhere. The water at my feet rippled, splashing at my toes like it was boiling. There was a high-pitched whine, and then everything went black.
That’s it. That’s all I remember.