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I open my eyes.

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Blinding, yellow lights.

Soft hum of water.

Porcelain tiles, white with the purity of this room.

The shower head faces my nude body, prone in the tub.

It rushes from that metallic outlet, flowing; cascading, diving. I feel the tantalizing sensation of heat rushing over me. the droplets permeate my skin, the warmth encasing me. It's marvelous. The flesh is a vessel for warmth, a capsule, and I am over-saturated.

Warmth numbs me from head to toe, the individual spits of water coating my epidermis; I don't believe I've ever been more serene. The pleasant feeling of the water caressing my stomach, trickling down and off of the surface only to accumulate in a pool of heat at the base of my upturned feet.

I do this often.

It creates an unrivaled sense of clarity. The water is a respite; the pouring liquid enters my head, covering my scalp with organizing waves. I feel the mish-mash conglomeration of my thoughts untangle, wriggling in place as they stand in neat little lines; my train of thought once again back on track.

More and more disjointed thoughts become decipherable; I can finally hear myself think. I begin to form the knowledge I need to assess my situation once again.

Drip, drip, gush, soak.

Yes, It's clear again.

Beyond the whitewashed walls of my bathroom, through the dark wooden door; there are things.

Things that must be ignored; things that must be kept at bay.

They come in all shapes and sizes, around me at almost every point in the day. When I walk to the store, all I see are them; moving their carts around, walking, going about their business. I watch them, I fear them. They are nightmarish creatures, twisted and contorted, bodies moving in erratic ways, shifting and shambling. I am terrified to go out, but I must. I have to eat, I have to drink; I need to exercise. And god, oh god, they talk to me sometimes. Their mouths make the most inhuman movements; I can barely understand what they mean. It's so hard to get through every day. At night, the fear grips me tighter and tighter, and I have to let the water guide me so I don't go over the edge.

I want to know where the people went. I know they're still out there; those things haven't replaced them all; I know they haven't. I know this because I get emails sometimes asking for my copywriting. I don't understand them at all. I can't fathom why they'd ask for work when they can see what's out there. I tried to ask them what it's like where they are, but I didn't ever hear back. Maybe those things got them.

But why don't they hurt me?

They look at me all the time, in the street, at the park, they even watch me on the TV. So why don't they hurt me? Their hideous features can mean nothing good, and I know what I'm seeing. Am I part of their experiment, a test subject?

The only thing that keeps me sane is the water.

The soothing, grounding warmth that saves me from the terror every day. It makes everything so clear, so tranquil. I'm lucky I can work from home, or I'd go crazy. People from before it all changed might call me a hermit, but I don't care. I can't trust anyone, not when people don't reply to me about urgent matters.

Social media is out of the question as well. They watch me on there, too. I've seen it, their warped eyes peering back at me while I view what should be authentic profiles. Those things have taken my family, my friends; I can't trust anyone at all, not like this. "Sandra Marshall" under that sickly, distorted picture that cruelly mocks me with its' gaze is a lie. A terrible, devastating lie.

The only people I talk to are clients of mine, and I never see them in person. Even if they are whatever I'm seeing, I need money. They don't attack me, not yet; if they wanted me dead, I wouldn't still be here. They must enjoy torturing me.

I can barely sleep anymore; I see them in my dreams; I keep a knife by my bed. The paranoia of what might happen the next day makes me exhausted. I stopped answering the phone a while ago, and I blocked all my contacts. Every time they call, they try and impersonate people. They tell me that they're my mother, and that I should tell her where I'm living now; that everyone is worried about me. They'd send the police if they really were who they said they were. I think the police are compromised, anyway.

As if I'd believe that. My mother was taken, and I'm not stupid. I bet they already know; I bet they just want me to cower in fear again and again. Perhaps they don't know. And if they don't, I'm safe, at least while I stay in the house and don't tell them. No one will knock on my door any time soon.

Hold on.


The water has stopped.

I scramble to my feet, careful not to slip out of the tub, water dripping from my still naked body; my gaunt, thin frame showing the damage these things have done to me.

My hands clasp around the cold metal doorknob, swinging it open. My apartment is musty; I cannot be expected to maintain it while this crisis is happening. It's only been three months and already my walls are starting to mold. God, why me?

I check the various valves and pumps in the adjacent room to the bathroom, my hands trembling; desperately wanting this to be a quick fix.

The boiler isn't working.

Was I really using it that much...

....No no no no NO.

That's it, I have nothing, no one to trust, no one to help me. I need a plumber, anyone god please. It can't be broken, please; the water is all I have left.

I sink to my knees.

I can't function without it. It's a sensory withdrawal; my escape from this harrowing reality. And now it's gone for good. I can't hire a plumber, that'd be suicide, inviting one of them into my home.

And then I realize.

They did this.

It has to be. They want to draw me out of the house again; they want to kill me.

I feel angry. They've tortured me, toyed with me; and now they've taken my sanctuary.

Well, no longer.

I take the knife I've kept for so long in my hands.

I can't take their harassment any longer.

I stagger outside, eyes wild, the blade clutched in my hands. I gaze around, furiously, murderous intent burning inside of me. I'm not taking this any longer; the pain is too much to bear; I've reached the limit of what I can cope with.

I walk down the street gingerly, searching feverishly for the defilers that took my life from me.

My eyes lock onto one, unmistakable as it trots along the sidewalk, morphing and contorting; face warped and shifting constantly as it talks to itself with something in its' hand, high pitched and insufferable to my ears.

I scream in blind anguish, brandishing the sharp blade as I rush towards it. It seems to make some garbled noise akin to what I assume to be a shout as I grapple with it. We fall to the ground, tumbling and tugging at clothes; my arm slashing around. I find purchase on the thing's arm, pinning it to the floor; heart racing as I thrust the knife down towards the torso.

I breathe heavily. The creature is dead, no longer a threat. I grimace as I pull the blade from the thing.

I sit there on the sidewalk for a while, clutching my head. The shower's clarity is wearing off. That sense of bliss and utter crystal clearness is waning; I feel my cognition begin to blur again. Sounds start to muffle and distort; memories begin to flow out of my mind like a river. I can't think straight; I can't feel properly, the previous understanding giving way to a jumbled fog; mismatched snapshots with no beginning or end.

The muffled wail of sirens can be heard.

It's no use.

I can vaguely feel myself being hauled to my feet after the knife gets ripped from my grasp; two things in uniform begin talking to me making that horrible noise, their mouths becoming that malformed mess they all have.

God, just make it stop.

I begin to fade as I'm pinned to the side of the car, the two things tightening handcuffs behind my back. I don't even struggle because I'm too worn down; the disjointed thoughts in my head are too much to handle anymore.

But as I catch a glimpse of my captors in the rearview mirror of the vehicle, my heart stops.

There, staring back at me; are not two deformed, misshapen faces full of malice.

There are three.

Written by ZugZuwang
Content is available under CC BY-SA