The Depths, Keith LaFountaine
Don’t look at the faces in the water. If you already have, it’s too late.
I know it’s your bathroom. Your bathtub. It wasn’t full before. You haven’t bathed in ages. And yet the water ripples, disturbed. Breaking and frothing like lapping waves. Like the ocean you once went to when you were five, when Mom was okay. Before the cancer riddled her insides and chewed at her cheeks and gave her that wheezing cough.
Don’t look. If you did, you would see that glob of black hair, peeking out like a submarine’s periscope. But you’re not looking, right? It’s so very important that you avert your eyes.
They have come for you. And if you look, they will have you. But don’t leave, either. This is the test.
Don’t look at the faces in the water.
The water froths. It’s angry you’re not looking. But you’re doing so good.
DON’T LOOK AT THE MIRROR.
That was close. It almost had you. Stay very still. Don’t think. Don’t look. Don’t breathe.
You can feel her, can’t you? Elizabeth. It’s not her. But still, her hands are on your shoulders. Her lips on your neck. She’s dead. Don’t be fooled. But you want to turn, don’t you? Want to apologize for that night, when you were so hopped on pain pills you didn’t get her phone call. And every night you turn over in bed and wonder what if you’d been able to answer? If you could have told her to sleep at the office, that the roads were too slick and icy.
It’s okay, she whispers in your ear. Look at me.
I am here.
Listen to me.
It’s going to be okay.
I need you to shut your eyes. Clamp them, as if your life depends on it. Because it does. Shut them tight, and when the bathroom lights start to flicker, I want you to take one step forward. Just one, so you slip away from her grasp. She’ll disintegrate. She was never there in the first place.
What are you doing? Don’t open…
She’s rising from the depths now. How did your bathtub ever get that deep? I know you’re wondering that, just as much as you’re wondering what this face is, this horrified bloat with milky eyes and pale skin and dead hair that clasps to its skull just so. You’ve already looked. I can’t help you, now that it’s rising faster, now that it takes the shape of a woman you once knew, a woman you no longer remember. A face you once laughed with. A face that is no longer human.
It’s erect, standing, reaching dead arms that are blue with twisted varicose veins. A body that stinks of lake water and rotting fish.
Oh, God. It’s too late.
She embraces you, and when she does you feel the seeping wetness of her limbs drench your clothing. Her fingernails, long sprouts of bone that you didn’t notice because you were too focused on her face, dig into your back, peeling away flaps of skin, digging deep. Streaks of blood spurt out, but you’re caught in this embrace. Caught in the tarnished dampness of her flesh.
Now, she’s pulling you back, back. Toward the bathtub. Gravity fails, and you’re still staring into her milky eyes because they seem so familiar. But then you’re diving deep into the wet darkness. Deeper. Deeper still. Trapped.
You should have listened to me.
Keith LaFountaine is a writer from Vermont. His short fiction has been published in various literary magazines, including Dread Stone Press, Wintermute Lit, and Bewildering Stories.