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.