Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
As I lay awake tossing and turning in my bed I kept thinking about how stupid my co-workers were. Thanks to a few choice idiots screwing up a report I had to stay past time and consequently couldn’t get to the pharmacy to collect my sleeping pills, plus since it was a Friday I could look forward to a long weekend without rest. I took a large gulp of water from the pint glass on my nightstand and wondered if it was ironic that one could have dry mouth and need to go to the bathroom at the same time.
With a grunt, I hauled my exhausted lump of a body out of the bed. As I made my way down the hall, I experienced something like a head rush that left a metallic taste in my mouth. Looking up groggily as I recovered, I noticed a light coming from under the bathroom door. I thought for sure I’d left the door open, and had I left the switch on? I didn’t think so, but then again it had been a long day.
Smacking my chops to get that weird taste out of my mouth, I turned the handle and was met with a wall of steam. As I was waving my arms in front of my face in an effort to disperse it I noticed something strange- the toilet was on the opposite wall. I took a puzzled step forward and looked to my right to find a foggy mirror over the sink, just like…
“Just like Grandma’s bathroom…” I finished aloud to no one in particular.
What in the Hell-
I felt the slightest of bumps against my right big toe. At the same time I heard a noise that sounded simultaneously real and imagined. It was the voice of a child, calling out my name; no louder than a whisper but sounding panicked all the same. I peered down and saw what looked like a toy car on the floral tile pattern, and bending down to pick it up I saw that it was indeed a toy car, specifically the blue one I’d bought for my nephew a few weeks back. Rising to my feet, I didn’t notice anything had changed until I looked left and realised that I had to stand on my tip toes to get a look into the pink bathtub. My vision seemed to swirl along with the water silently flowing down the drain. I rubbed my eyes, and as I peeled them away they seemed to me to be the hands of a child.
“I don’t understand…” was all my dumbstruck mouth could muster; then I heard the dripping.
Looking towards the small space between the tub and the toilet I saw a small puddle of black liquid, as black as black can be. My gut told me there was something terribly Off about this puddle; I experienced this incredible, primordial kind of fear the likes of which I’d never felt before. Every instinct I had was telling me to run but I couldn’t. Couldn’t take my eyes off it much less my legs. As I watched transfixed, a series of drops from above splashed onto the puddle, except there was no splash, each drop simply disappeared without so much as a ripple on the surface.
Soon the dripping began to slow, until finally the last drop fell, somehow making a sound louder than a prison cell door being slammed. The liquid then slowly bulged in the middle, and began to rise for what could only have been a minute but felt like hours. It then finally solidified into something like an egg shape with a series of bumps down the middle. When I saw another black shape rise up from the top of the egg it dawned on me that those bumps were vertebrae. The creature sat at a height of no more than two feet with it’s back to me, glossy black skin gleaming under the fluorescent lights.
I felt like a deer with a broken leg watching a lion in the distance, knowing that if it noticed me there would be no way to fight back. As impossible as the creature was there was also a sickening familiarity to it, like I’d seen it a hundred times before and never took any notice. My breath caught in my throat as this, Thing, raised an improbably long arm onto the edge of the toilet bowl. It slowly wiped it’s hand down, leaving an ugly smear of viscous, jet black oil on the porcelain.
“I’m not supposed to see this.” was the odd thought which ran through my head, and as soon as it did the creature’s neck stiffened to attention.
“Dear Christ it’s heard me! And it’s watching me!” I exploded internally.
It’s eyes could not be seen but somehow it’s gaze was felt, burning into the very soul. Soon there came a sound like the whistling of a tea kettle, rising to an unbearable level. Vision blurred as the room itself seemed to twist around the hideous creature’s back. The taste and smell of copper grew to be painfully overpowering. Skin bristled, tingled and began to spasm as though a voltage were passing through it. Every sense was being pushed beyond normal limits. Time lost all meaning as the mind overloaded.
Just before the point of no return, it finally shut down; head hitting tile as everything slowly faded…
I awoke with a start. After a series of terrified moans I registered the fact that I was lying on a bathroom floor, my bathroom floor, and that the sun had come up. I was still very shaken as I made my way over to the sink. Splashing water on my face, I heard my phone ringing from my bedroom.
“No.” I whispered to my reflection.
I ran to my room, all the while screeching “No, No, No, No!” as I dashed for my phone, barely registering the fact that it was my mother before answering.
“Derek honey it’s me. I have some bad news.”
“What’s happened?” I asked, even though I already knew.
“It’s your Grandma, She’s had a fall in the bathroom-“
The phone slipped from my fingers as I sat on the edge of my bed and put my face in my hands.
After regaining my composure, my mother told me that Grandma had been found dead that morning. I listened in a daze before agreeing to meet mom at the morgue. It took me about twenty minutes to get ready. I took a T-shirt and pants out of the closet in an automatic movement before laying them out on the bed, then stood staring at nothing in particular. How was this possible? You hear about this type of stuff around a campfire as a kid but pretty soon you learn that it’s all just make believe, something parents tell their kids to give them a little scare before bedtime. I’d always believed the world was somewhat logical, or at least rational, and this just didn’t make sense. I needed some answers, but who the hell to ask? I walk to the bathroom, suddenly I’m five years old and then-
“David.” I breathed aloud, snapping out of my trance. I looked again at my clothes and briefly considered having a shower before putting them on but then thought better of it. In a rush, I slipped them all on, grabbed my things and left the house.
As I sat in my car, I fumbled for my phone and found my sister’s number. It rang six or seven times (me cursing all the while) before she answered.
“Hello?” She sounded exhausted.
“Sarah! Where are you?” My tone was sharp, but I couldn’t care less.
“At Mom’s. Did you-“
“Is David with you?”
“Yeah, of course but-“
“I’ll be there in twenty.” I finished, hanging up before I heard her response.
In reality it took me around fifteen minutes to reach my Mother’s house. In retrospect I drove like a maniac, but by some miracle I made it there in one piece. I pulled into Mom’s driveway and scrambled out of the car, nearly tripping on the way out. This caused me finally to pause and take a breath before heading to the house. The front door opened before I got a chance to knock and my sister came out, understandably looking worse for wear. She pulled me into a hug before I could say anything.
“Oh Derek, have you heard? It’s so awful!” She sobbed.
“Yeah I heard, mom told me. Are you okay?” I asked in what I hoped was a soothing tone. “It was you who found her wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” She replied, wiping away tears. “Oh Derek it was awful. We went to visit Nana in the morning to see if she wanted to go to the park but she didn’t answer when we were downstairs then David went up to the bathroom and he screamed and then, then…” She couldn’t finish, but buried her face into my chest.
“Shh shh it’s okay” I said, rubbing the back of her head, eyes all the while on the house.
“Did David see?” I asked calmly, although I felt anything but calm. “How is he?”
“Oh he’s completely shut down, hasn’t said a word since; oh God Derek it’s so horrible!” She finished, voice cracking.
“Where’s David?” I asked while trying to hide my irritability.
“In the living room. I’m really worried about him, a kid his age can’t process something like this, shouldn’t have to, not again-“
“Can I have a moment alone with him?” I enquired, cutting her off in the process.
“Yeah” She said through a shuddering breath to compose herself. “Yes of course; there’s a pot of coffee in the kitchen, you want some?” She asked with an almost business-like air.
“Later, thanks.” I replied with a brief smile before walking into the house ahead of her.
After a few deep and deliberate breaths in the hall I turned the handle of the door to the living room. Sitting in the opposite corner by the fireplace was a small boy playing with a little blue car. His sandy haired head did not rise from the task of moving his little toy back and forth along the oak floor with his left hand.
“David?” I broached. He gave no sign that he heard me. Under any other circumstances this wouldn’t have bothered me. Even before losing his Dad, David had always been an extremely quiet boy, possibly even bordering on the spectrum. He never said much and even more rarely did he establish eye contact. Since the accident he and I had grown close as I’d found we had a lot in common when it came to people; right then however, I didn’t have much in the way of patience.
“David? David look at me.” I held a firm tone as I crossed the room.
“David, Look at me. Look at me. Hey!” I clapped my hands in frustration and the boy visibly flinched. This sight brought me some ways back to the realm of reason as I decided to try again. Sighing, I hunkered down beside him and tried my best to seem calm.
“I’m sorry David, I didn’t mean to snap…how are you?”
“David, your Mom told me that you were the one who found Nana” I stated as plainly as I could. “Could you…could you tell me what you saw?”
David mumbled something unintelligible.
“I’m sorry?” I said lightly, craning my neck.
“I Didn’t see anything.” He mumbled more clearly, eyes still fixed on his toy car.
“But, David your Mom said you screamed when you saw her- do you remember that?”
“I didn’t see.” He stopped moving the car. “I tasted.”
“You tasted? wh…” I trailed off before it hit me. “Was it metallic!?” He didn’t answer.
“Pennies, you tasted pennies?” I said, nodding my head.
“So, you tasted pennies and knew that Nana was inside. That’s when you called for your Mom right?” I asked excitedly, trying my best to edge him on.
“No…” He began, almost guiltily. “I called mom after the door was closed.”
I was perplexed. “You mean you went in and then closed the door yourself?”
“So the door was already closed?” I knew what he meant now, just like I knew I had left my bathroom door open the previous night. “David?” I began carefully. “When did you taste the pennies? Was it last night?”
I sucked on my teeth unconsciously. “And when you did, you saw the door was closed didn’t you?”
For a moment he didn’t say anything. I was about to ask again when I saw the tears rolling down his cheeks.
“I’m really sorry Delly!” He blubbered. “I tasted pennies just like last time with Daddy and I closed my eyes and I asked for you and I couldn’t look I just couldn’t cause you’re not supposed to look and I didn’t mean to and, and…” My nephew dissolved into tears and held me tight.
Any other time I would have returned the favour, only something he said struck a chord so deep I was frozen solid. It jogged the memory of his Father’s funeral, where David wouldn’t even look at the corpse. When pressed he just kept saying “You’re not supposed to look.” over and over again. At the time I put it down to him being scared to look at a dead body, a feeling I could relate to, and I didn’t have the heart to make him open his eyes. Now however, I could see that it had a much darker significance.
After a few moments, I licked my dry lips and tried to sound it out in a shaky voice.
“D-David…you said…you said you’re not supposed to look, what did you…” I trailed off.
David couldn’t hear me over the sound of his own sobs so I placed my hands lightly upon his shoulders and gently straightened him up.
“David…What happens when you look?” I finished with little more than a whisper. David quietened completely at the question.
“What happens when you look David?” I repeated. The boy began to whimper ever so slightly, so I put my hands either side of his face to steady him.
“David?” I enquired pleasantly. “Come on David. David tell me; what happens when you look?”
He began audibly moaning, so I shook him once to shut him up.
“David? David! David stop-“
The child tried his best to pull away, I responded by tightening my grip and shaking him properly twice before finally raising my voice.
“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOOK!?”
There was a perfect moment of pure silence as I stared directly into the little boy’s face. I watched his small blue eyes flutter for an instant before finally meeting my own.
With a sharp intake of breath, David released a tremendously powerful scream more harrowing than any sound I had ever heard. My nephew’s face was contorted into such a sheet white expression of terror it was almost comical. Every ounce of strength I had remaining drained completely as little David fell backwards hard onto the floor, somehow still screaming all the while. He was struggling to crawl backwards away from me when Sarah burst through the door.
“DAVID!?” She yelled before even seeing the scene. She knocked me over on her way to her son and scooped him up still screaming.
“Shh shh shh baby it’s alright.” She placated through her panic before turning on me.
“Derek what the HELL did you do!?” She roared.
“I…” I couldn’t think. I raised myself clumsily from the floor before taking a single step forwards, arms outstretched to offer some kind of apology. As soon as I did so, David reacted with a fresh scream of an even higher pitch. Sarah turned her son away from me protectively and eyeballed me fiercely.
“Get out.” She commanded darkly.
“NOW!” She boomed.
I blinked stupidly, then slowly turned around and exited the room.
The front door was left open; the car keys were found in the front left trouser pocket without looking at them. The key turned in the ignition before the car slowly backed out of the driveway. The car then drove at a leisurely pace, taking the usual directions back to the place where it started that morning. The front door to this house had been left unlocked. The blackout blinds in the living room were rotated using a beech wood pulley at the side of the front window, leaving the room in a good amount of sun light from the bright day outside whilst leaving only thin, intermittent lines of shadow. From the glass faced cabinet over the kitchen counter next to the fridge, a highball tumbler was taken. A bag of ice was removed from the freezer and a bottle of scotch from the cabinet by the sink. All were placed onto a small glass table by the black leather armchair in the living room.
Slowly, after maybe seven or eight glasses, I began to remember who I was and why I was here. I came from my Mother’s house, probably hours ago judging by the thickness of the shadows cast by the blinds. I talked to my nephew, David, about my Grandmother dying. She slipped getting out of the bath and hit her head on the toilet bowl. Then she bled out. I knew because I was there, instead of David, who shut his eyes because he knew he wasn’t supposed to look. I wasn’t supposed to look, but I looked, and I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to-
“Ow!” I cried aloud. I wasn’t even aware that I’d been chewing on ice cubes until I’d bitten through a large chunk of my cheek, flooding my mouth with blood. The taste of scotch and copper made me wince as I used my tongue to push a cube into my wound to sooth it.
As my eyes were shut, something hit my forehead. I raised my hand to it before opening my eyes to look. On my hand was a smear of viscous, jet black oil.