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.