Jangling the handle again, he gently knocked his head against the heavy door, then returned to sitting on the toilet. The remaining light still worked, so there was that.
He looked back at the mirror he’d shattered earlier on.
How much earlier?
Sucking his teeth, he hated that he didn’t know.
No one wore watches, and his phone was on the other side of the door. He’d always left his cell out of the bathroom when he went in. As she liked to say, he was a little too obsessed with cleanliness.
He never saw it as a bad thing, though.
Bringing something he routinely put near his mouth into the same room, where he pissed and shit, never made sense to him.
“No good deed…” he grumbled, wincing.
He didn’t like the sound of his voice echoing off the plain white tile walls.
It was pale; sounded too much like him, so much that it was alien, different.
No talking, no speaking, no humming, no noise.
On this side.
Outside, on the other side of the door, there was noise, there were voices, there was talking, but there was no hearing.
He’d bashed the door until the tiny bones in his hands throbbed, then swelled, then bruised and hurt and ached and hurt.
He’d made noise.
A lot of noise.
But the ones who could talk and move on the other side of the door, couldn’t (wouldn’t?) hear him. They’d knocked a few times at first, rattling the door knob asking,
“Is anyone in there?” or “You doin’ okay?” or “C’mon man, I’m dying out here. Hurry up, man.”
And he’d spoken and responded.
“Yes, I’m in here! I think I’m stuck. Can you help me?” and “No, I’m not alright. The door is stuck.” and “I’m trying to get out! Just open the door! Get help! I’m stuck and I can’t get out! Help me!”
But they couldn’t hear, and soon after, or a long time after, he’d grown afraid of his voice, and even more of his whisper, and especially of his yell. Because when he yelled the room got smaller, was filled up and there wasn’t space to breathe, to turn, to think.
It was a blanket.
Immoveable, and he couldn’t shake it off, couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how he turned, until he chewed his cheek, pressed fingers into his eyes, and did his best not to think of the thing in the bathroom with him.
He’d kept the shower curtain shut, completely shut this entire time. The ends were pulled taut to the tile, by him, and he almost didn’t do it.
But when the first bulb in the dual light fixture burnt out, and the darkness grew, he’d looked at – noticed for the first time, though having seen – the shower curtain and known, had realized that something was on the other side.
And it didn’t speak.
But it heard.
And after his last bout of shouting, when high pitched tones still rang in his ears, and his throat was passing bloody perfume to his tongue, his nose, he saw the curtain twitch.
From the corner of his eye he’d seen it twitch
move back and away, like something had been peering out.
He hadn’t seen it, but he knew it was there.
He knew it was on the other side, just as the people were on the other side of the door.
Stuck, between two things he couldn’t see.
And then he’d broken the mirror.
His forehead was still bleeding from the bite.
He’d broken the mirror earlier (later) on.
No, it was earlier. Because the light coming in from under the door was brighter then, and now it was becoming
er. So, yes, he’d broken the mirror earlier, but only because he thought it was a window.
But it was, for a second.
For a moment, while he’d stood under the single glowing light looking at his face reflected, his face hadn’t been his face. It had been the face of another person, looking in on him, showing him in their stillness, in their quiet, that they could hear him, that there was a way out.
It looked the same – the face – as it had always had, but there was, for a moment, a disconnect, a sense of doubt. He looked and he saw what he thought had always been there. But now there was doubt.
“Why am I doubting?” he’d whispered. Then, over the shoulder of his reflection, he saw the shower curtain ripple. Whipping around, he pressed back against the sink, leaning away from the now (always?) static curtain. He watched and waited, knowing that the thing in the shower, the thing that was listening to him, was waiting as well.
He bit plastered a hand over his mouth and he cried, shaking, convulsing, while he suffocated himself to keep from making noise.
To keep the thing from hearing him.
And the crying stopped suddenly, and he turned quickly around to look back into the crack window, but now it was splintered, and his face was warm, and ice was tearing at his face, enticing, torturing, prodding him into screaming.
But that would be noise.
Looking over his shoulder at the (always?) still shower curtain, he breathed deep, ignoring the bite of the once window, now mirror, wondering if the thing had heard him.
The curtain was still.
The thing was quiet.
So, quietly, he walked back over to the toilet and sat down, looking over at the bottom of the door, to watch the light, to focus on the sounds on the other side; to listen to the one’s who couldn’t (wouldn’t?) hear.
And then he blinked.
And then the light was gone from under the door.
No more soft warm light.
, and for a moment, he thought the sounds of the unhearing people were gone too, had gone too, were darkened too. But then he listened harder, more desperately, and he heard them.
The shuffling about.
The tip toeing by his door.
Why are they tip toeing by?
He was angry that he felt a bubble of comfort in knowing that the deaf were still about, but it was there – the comfort – and he didn’t know how to fight against it.
So, he sat and sat, looking at the door, never at the curtain, and listened and told himself it would be alright, then that he was going to die in here, then laughing (quietly!) that he’d let himself go like that without a fight, then telling himself that he had fought to be heard, and becoming depressed that it had yielded nothing, then chastizing himself and arguing (silently!) that
“You should have tried harder.”
“I did try harder though. I did!”
“Yeah, you beat down the door alright, but did you”
“Did I what?”
“try anything else?”
“What else is there to try?”
“What about busting off the door knob? What about messing with the hinges?”
“I don’t know how to do any of that.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I can, and I do, but not…”
Then (they?) he looked at the curtain, halting and understanding that silence was a valuable resource. A life saving resource. Worth the pain, worth the shallow breaths. Worth the fear.
“Are you sure there’s even anything in the tub?”
His eyes went wide, horrified that maybe the thing had heard the thought, that it could sniff it out, could sniff them (him?) out and that it would open up the curtain.
And he (they? he.) stayed quiet, not bothering to think so loudly anymore, but going on thinking.
Just a little quieter.
Vision moved, traced back and forth, sloooooow, a tide – to the door, then the curtain, then the door.
And he thought about what they (they? he? they.) had discussed, about prying open the door by breaking the handle and removing the hinges. About looking behind the curtain, tearing it down to face the thing, if there was one (there was), head on.
“I could die, if I do that.”
And that conversation was over.
But it didn’t dissuade. So, he thought on it longer, and deeper, and harder. On and on and on he thought, while the
below the door got stronger, and the voices turned to whispers, and the curtain rustled (it didn’t. it did.) openly, and the last light began to flicker.
Dying fast, and telling him so.
Or maybe it was a thermometer, assessing his life.
“Is mine over?”
“Maybe, but if it is, I’ll go on for you.”
“That’s not comforting.”
“It should be.”
“And what if you’re the one to die? Does that mean I’ll go on living for you?”
“I’m not going to die.”
The flicking continued, popping gently, cracking knuckles, the blackness stretching out further and further; a god getting ready for bed.
“So. Is it the door, you try? Or the curtain?”
He sat for a second longer, thinking thinking thinking, and then.
Ashleigh writes paranoid and contemplative fiction, and has been the featured author on Drunken Pen Writing, twice in 2017. When not writing, he spends his time fishing, exploring art museums, and volunteering with kids programmes.
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