Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
The faucet is dripping in the bathroom. It has been the whole night. I haven’t gone in yet. Yet.
I moved here two months ago. It’s my first house and I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve been tearing down wallpaper, ripping up carpets, painting everything. And now I’m here, in my bedroom with half my stuff still in boxes, listening to the faucet drip. Listening to water fill a bathtub.
By the second weekend I was here I already needed to mow. The yard looked like a jungle. When I started in the front, a guy came out of the house to the left. I waved and shut off the mower as he waddled over.
We introduced ourselves. His name was Morris and he was fleshy, with a rubbery face. Sweat ran down his forehead as he smiled at me in the already humid, wet morning air. We made small talk for a few minutes and then, as I got ready to take my leave of the conversation and start to mow the grass, Morris leaned in to me and lowered his voice.
“So, umm, what’s it like in there?”
“In where? My house?” I asked. I looked back at it. Standard ranch, split level. “Oh you know. The usual. Needs a little TLC. Some painting. Why?”
“Oh, I thought,” he said, his voice froggy and low. “I guess I thought it’d be a little more, umm, you know…”
“No, I don’t. A little more what?” I asked.
“Well, you know. With what happened. In there…”
“What do you mean, “what happened?” Did somebody die in here?”
I looked at my house. “Oh my god. Somebody died in my house?”
“Nobody told you?” Morris winced. “Oh. Sorry.”
“The guy who lived there, he, umm, he died. It was, umm…”
He said “umm” the way people say “om” in mediation: repetitively and with great belief that something will happen if he continues to repeat it.
“It was pretty bad, umm. That’s what I heard. At least. I didn’t see. I’m glad I didn’t. He was a nice guy.”
Hs looked at me and smiled. His teeth were all yellow in the hot air.
“He was a good neighbor.”
Later that night, as I was trying to get to sleep, I heard the water drip for the first time. A plumber, I thought, I’ll have to call a plumber tomorrow. Before I fell asleep, I thought I could hear music from a far away place. A sound that almost sounded like singing.
The doorbell rang the next day. It was Morris, slightly damp from the light rain that had been falling.
He sat down in my kitchen and took a mug of coffee I offered him.
“I’m sorry to, umm, just barge in on you,” he said, blowing on the steam. The black surface of the drink rippled.
“It’s ok. I’m not too busy today.”
“I wanted to stop by and apologize for yesterday. I didn’t tell you everything.”
“Really?” I said, sitting down across from him.
“Really. You see, the guy who used to liver here, he, umm, he used to talk to me sometimes. About stuff he used to hear in here. He thought he was going crazy.”
“Really?” I asked, “what did he think was going on?”
“He thought there was something living in his pipes.”
“That’s what I, umm, I said,” Morris looked at me. His eyes had little splashes of color in the sclera. Little brown discolorations. “I said, you’re crazy. Ha ha ha!”
After he left, I realized it must have been raining harder than I had thought out there. His seat was all damp. Everything felt damp.
The plumber came the next day. He couldn’t get the dripping to stop. He explained he needed a part, and he could be back the next day. Maybe the day after that.
That night, I listened to the dripping. I had gotten used to the rhythm. I kind of liked it, almost. The way it sounded like a song I almost remembered….
Right as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a weird noise, a sloshing sound sound. It sounded almost like stepping. I looked from my bed, without sitting up, and peered out into the hallway. I saw a dark figure moving, slowly, very slowly, to the bathroom. There was the wet noise of wet footsteps. The shadow moved into the bathroom. The water drops got louder. I could swear I recognized a song.
I woke up the next morning. I didn’t know I had fallen asleep. The bed had wet spots on it, like something had been dripping on it.
I rushed into the hallway outside my bedroom. The ground… There were wet footprints leading into the bathroom. The footprints had too many toes.
I called the plumber. The part was still on order. Maybe he’d have it tomorrow. I knew I needed to get out of the house. I emailed my real estate agent. I demand she tell me everything she knew. She got back in touch in a few moments. She didn’t know much.
The guy who lived there before me had died. The house was willed to his sister. She was the one who sold it. My realtor sent me the email address she had for the dead man’s sister.
I emailed the sister immediately, begging her to tell me more. As I paced about, I stared out my window at Morris’s house. In the hot weather, it shimmered, like it was underwater.
The sister emailed me back in a little over an hour. She thanked me for my condolences and said all she knew about her brother is he got very sick living in that house. She said he seemed paranoid, worrying about his neighbor, telling her about things that lived in the sewers under the house. Things that had moved there from the ocean. They sang songs, he claimed.
She said he had seen the drain was knotted with hair one day, and he tried to clean it out. He said he pulled on the long, black hairs and then they were pulling him into the drain. They wrapped around his wrists, in between his fingers, dark and slippery, like ropes in fetid water. He let go, he told her, and they wrapped around his wrists and tried to suck him under, to pull into the pipes, into their singing.
She wrote he was very sick. And she wished she could have helped him more.
She wished me luck in my new house.
I should have left. You would have, as you read this, that’s what you tell yourself, I know. That’s what I would say too, if I read this. But I have heard their songs, their incomparable drowned melodies. They want me to go to them. They want me to live with them, in their strange beautiful world of underground rivers and pale bodies and seaweed hair.
Morris has been telling me all about it. He’s helped others go into their palaces. He’ll help me too. They sent him up here to do that. To help people like me. He is in the bathroom now, filling the bathtub with water. I’m waiting for him to tell me to strip off my clothes and submerge myself in the porcelain, to dive into brand new oceans, to grow a beautiful new body.
The moon in the sky is dry and beautiful and very far away. In the bathroom, the songs are starting. I recognize every word.
Credit: Kevin Sharp