27 February 2005
Six bodies lay strewn about the room. Two of them were barely recognizable as human, just dry husks whose shriveled faces were frozen into screams. The others had died of stabbing or slashing wounds, the room covered with splatters of blood and bullet holes. In the center of the room stood a man with hair that was just barely starting to gray on the edges of his sharp, light bronzed face. He waved his hand slowly over a knife, and the blood on it rose from the blade to follow.
"I did warn you," he said, flicking his wrist so the floating blood flew into the face of a dead man in a suit. "I told you it was dangerous to get in my way, that pushing me would not end well for you." He straightened his posture and tucked the knife into a holster in his jacket. "Really, you've no one to blame but yourself. Pity you had to take your associates with you." He turned to walk out when a woman's scream ripped through the room. He turned suddenly, raising his hand in the same posture as it had been over the knife, and found the ghost of a young woman. Her hair was blonde and drifted through the air as if it was in water.
"Matteson!" She yelled, floating toward him.
"Who are you? What business do you have with me?"
"I smell him! Where is Matteson?!"
"I am Jeremiah Matteson," he said, lowering his hand, "and I would appreciate some answers." She stopped just in front of him, her toes danging a foot off the ground so her eyes could be level with his.
"Where is John Matteson?"
"John? I don't...wait, Henry. Did Henry have a son? A son who draws the attention of ghosts?" She took a deep sniff of him, then scowled.
"You share blood with him, but you have nothing more of value to me." She began to float away from him.
"Wait! What do you know about John Matteson?"
"You are not him." With that, she vanished. Jeremiah stood for a moment, then smiled.
"It's been a long time, Henry. Perhaps too long." He turned and, with a wave of his hand, vanished.
13 December 2004
The television was not plugged back in come morning. It seemed too much of a risk at this point. Roger took the note he had written, reminding himself to turn off the water, and placed it directly opposite his bathtub so he could see it when he emerged. He turned the shower on, checked that everything was where it needed to be, and climbed in.
It was while washing what hair remained on his head that he noticed the change. He closed his eyes to rinse, and when he opened them, the water coming down his face was red and thick. He raised his hands to look, and saw the liquid pooling in his palms and rolling over the edges of his hands. It had every semblance of blood, down to the smell of it, and as soon as the thought registered to Roger he screamed. He tried to back away from the water, find some way to stop the liquid from continuing to rain on him, and in his efforts he slipped and fell out of the shower. The shower curtain came down with him as he tried to catch himself on it, and he hit the corner of his sink with his head and collapsed onto the floor.
The sound of the thick drops still pouring down in the shower echoed through the room and, with his vision blurred by the strike, disoriented him. He groaned and tried to stand, but his ankle gave out as soon as he tried to put pressure on it and he fell back onto his chest with another scream, this time of pain. Taking a deep breath and trying to focus, he remembered that his phone was on the other side of the apartment, back on the small table next to his chair. He needed help, and that was the only way he knew to get it.
His vision was still blurry and he couldn’t tell if the blood dripping from his head was from the sink or the shower. He reached out and began to pull himself, slowly crawling toward the bathroom door.
Have you ever known what it feels like to be helpless? Roger froze in place as his face went pale. He knew that voice, but there was no one around. He hadn’t heard that voice in decades, at least not outside of his own dreams, but God how could he ever forget it?
Crawling like the worm that you are, old man? Roger took a deep breath and continued, inching his way into the short hall. The room was spinning. That must be it, all of this, just some kind of delusion.
“No, no, it can’t be you. There’s no way it’d be you,” he yelled out, pulling himself further along. He flopped down, his face in the carpet, and tried to catch his breath. This was so much harder than it had any right to be. How hard had he hit his head? “You’re not real! The real Alethea is—”
“Dead?” The voice sounded more real, almost like it was spoken by an actual person instead of just inhabiting his head. He lifted his face and was met by hers, young and solid as the day she died, her hair dripping wet and her eyes red from crying, her nose almost touching his. Despite how blurry their surroundings were, she was perfectly clear and vivid. The whole world seemed to be revolving around her, but she remained fixed and unmoving before his eyes. He began to take quick, shallow breaths, and his eyes grew wide. “Oh, you did well enough at that, Daddy.” Her lips curled into a threatening, almost maddening smile, as she cocked her head slightly and stared with unblinking eyes at him. “You didn’t honestly think I’d forget a detail like that, did you?”
“Have—have you come to kill me?”
“Yes.” He swallowed hard, then closed his eyes tightly and tried to slow his breathing. When he opened them again, she was gone.
“Then do it!” He screamed. “If you want to kill me, why don’t you just kill me?”
You didn’t just kill me. His breath grew more rapid and his vision more blurred. He knew he had to get to the phone, and continued pulling himself along as quickly as he could. You only killed me when it was no longer convenient to keep me as your toy, remember? The edges of his vision were beginning to grow dark. Roger cursed under his breath and tried to push with his good leg to speed his progress. Do you remember the time I tried to say no, and tried to fight back, and you kicked me? I believe it was the fourth rib on the left that time.
“No, no, please,” he pleaded, pulling himself forward. He screamed as he heard a rib in the left side of his chest snap and the pain shot through his body. Tears were rolling down his cheeks and he grunted as he forced himself forward.
Or the time I wasn’t fast enough, and you grabbed me by the arm and threw me onto the bed?
“Please! I’m begging you, I’ve changed!” He collapsed into the rug as his arm was pulled out from under him. He couldn’t move it, as though it was being held away from him, but there was no one there to grasp it.
No you didn’t. You just ran out of victims.
“No, no! I swear! I’ve changed!”
I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether or not you’ve changed, father. Because I haven’t. You took that opportunity away from me. His shoulder popped out of its joint as he was lifted by the arm and hurled across the room. Roger blacked out before he hit the wall.
12 December 2004
Roger spent the rest of the day obsessively checking every spigot in the apartment. If he got up for anything, he tested each one to be sure it was off. He found no signs of a leak, no indication that the spigot in the bathtub was loose or moving on its own. He had to consider the possibility that he really had forgotten, somehow, and after the guys were done cleaning up the bathroom and taking note of any repairs that would be needed, he wrote a note for himself and left it outside the tub.
Aside from the visit and his new ritual of checking the water, the day went the same as every other, and ended with Roger sitting in his armchair half watching the news and counting out his pills for the week. The image and audio on the screen flickered, and Roger looked up to see the news. He looked down again to resume organizing his pills and noticed another quick change to the screen. He looked up to see the news again. He scratched his cheek and continued watching, hoping to catch it this time and see what was happening with the signal.
He watched the news anchor hand over to the weather, then return. Just as he was sure the problem had passed and was about to look away, the video cut to a bathtub. He could hear soft crying, and see a pair of knees pulled close to the screen and the water in the tub. For a moment, it looked like someone else was there, a pair of boots on the edge of the bathtub. Before he could make sense of that fleeting image, he was distracted by the setting. It only took him a moment to recognize it as the tub from his old apartment, back before…
The camera looked up at a young black man standing partially phased into the shower curtain in jeans and a hoodie. The sound of a door opening. The sight of the strange man started to fade and as he realized what was about to happen, Roger grabbed his remote and began trying to change the channel, but nothing happened. Footsteps drew closer to the tub and the camera slowly panned to the shower curtains, those old, off white, shower curtains. A shadow was moving on the curtain, growing larger. Roger screamed and tried to turn the TV off and while the light on the remote flashed every time he hit the button, no change was made. The figure was right up to the shower curtain now, and the camera was trying to move away but had nowhere to go. Hands reached around the curtain. A girl’s scream. Roger stood, unsteady, and hobbled forward. He tripped, catching himself on the tv and sending some of the figures and a glass clattering and breaking on the floor. The image was coming from under the water now, thrashing, churning. The shower curtain was pulled tight until it came down. He reached his hand around to find the plug. The shower curtain fell, pulling its bar down with it, and for a brief moment Roger stared into the eyes of his younger self, and saw only hatred and disgust. He pulled the plug and the screen went dark, the image of his face mid-murder replaced with the reflection of a frightened old man.
Roger knelt in front of the television taking rapid, shallow breaths and holding his chest. Slowly, after a few minutes, he grabbed the old television with both hands and pulled himself up. He haltingly made his way back to his armchair, collapsing into it as soon as he was close enough and taking a large drink of his water. He stared at the blank screen, trying to talk himself down, for about twenty minutes until he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke with a start after a half hour, certain he heard Alethea’s scream, but found the apartment dark and the television still off and unplugged.
12 December 2004
Roger was awakened by banging on his door. Charles Osgood was on the television, introducing some segment or another. Roger grabbed the remote and turned the volume down, then called out to know what was going on as he made his way to the door. When he opened it, he found his landlord, who looked grim.
"I need to check your plumbing," Mr. Helms, the landlord, explained. Roger stepped aside and watched him enter, before closing the door and following him to the restroom. When he got to the door, he found Mr. Helms scowling and reaching for the running faucet on the bath tub. The tub had overflowed, and the floor was soaked.
"What...," Roger began, leaning on the door frame.
"Roger! Do you have any idea how much damage you've done! I got called by the tenant below you because the water is in their unit! Why the hell did you leave it running?!"
"I didn't...I didn't even turn it on last night."
"Well it sure as hell didn't turn itself on! I'm gonna have to charge you for this, you know! I've had enough complaints about your forgetfulness that I'm tempted to break your lease!"
"Joey, I promise-"
"Don't 'Joey' me, Roger! One more fuck up like this and I have to get you out, you understand? I can't have this on my hands!" He stormed past Roger, then stopped as he opened the door out of the apartment. "Look, I know you won't be able to clean this up. I'll have one of the guys come around in a bit. But I'm serious, Roger, you need to get your act together if you want to keep living here." He closed the door behind him as he left, and Roger was left with a flooded bathroom and the dim voice of the television.