It’s 3 am, or close enough to it. The red numbers of my alarm clock stare back at me, silently accusing. ‘You should be asleep.’ those numbers say, but the call of nature tends to be a little more pressing. I grumble and rise out of bed. Sleepily I shuffle my way out of the bedroom, and down the short hallway to the bathroom. The house is dark, and the moonlight that comes through the curtains seems only to cast more shadows. I curse under my breath as my hip bumps into a table, and I feel my way along it, to make sure no more of the edges decide to attack.
I open the bathroom door and flip the light switch. Four large bulbs over the mirror turn on and wash the bathroom in light. I slam my eyes shut. They are adjusted for the dark and the sudden brightness is like a knife. Refusing to open my eyes more than a crack out of protest for the light and my wakened state, I move into the bathroom. I close and lock the door behind me, then take my seat on the commode. I can’t say at what point sleep snuck up on me, but waking with my head resting on the counter there is no denying it. I rub my eyes, blink a few times, then collect myself. Finished and flushed, I wash and dry my hands. I reach for the doorknob but stop. I could swear I saw something move in the brass reflection.
Was it me? I wave my hand and my misshapen reflection waves in tandem. That wasn’t it. It’s almost like I had just caught the movement in the corner of my eye. It had to be nothing, right? Still, my gut tells me to check. There’s only one obvious hiding spot in a bathroom, so I decide to look there first. I hesitate, hand hanging in the air. Curiosity and anxiety culminate, and I swallow hard before I grab the shower curtain. Fortunately, pulling it back reveals only my bathtub and it’s yellow rubber resident. I nod, and the duck remains stoic. He’s always been more of a listener than a talker. Not really sure what I had expected to find, but glad to find nothing, I slide the curtain back across the tub. That’s when I see – or think I see – movement. Again managing only to catch the smallest glimpse reflected in the tub faucet.
I admit, I’m not the most thorough or regular cleaner, so I don’t have the shiniest bathroom fixtures. Still, the faucet reflects enough that I’m now confident I saw movement. Luckily I’ve now eliminated the largest and most dangerous of possible intruders. My confidence returning, I leave the shower curtain hanging as it is and turn to face the rest of the bathroom, and come face-to-face with myself. I look myself over. A rat’s nest of hair over a face that appears to have been wrenched from slumber by a cataclysm far greater than a pest in the bathroom. My robe hangs open, and my pajama pants hang loosely on my hips.
“Heya handsome.” I say to myself with a cheeky grin. I stare at myself in the mirror, and once more I begin to think that maybe I am just paranoid.
Maybe there really isn’t any kind of pest in the bathroom and my tired mind is simply playing tricks on me. I receive an answer for a question I didn’t ask. Movement on the edge of my vision. I turn my head, and am not surprised to find it was another reflection. This time however, as my eyes fall upon the makeup mirror mounted on the wall, I catch a dark shape move off the pane just behind my left shoulder. I spin, and almost spill myself onto the floor as the bathmat twists up under my foot. I catch myself on the counter and straighten. Frantically I scan my eyes over everything in front of me. Yep...it’s a bathroom… I think to myself, but nothing stands out and I tell myself to just leave it for morning. I slap my hands on my cheeks a couple times and rub my eyes. I’m just tired is all it is. I need sleep. I’m already starting to feel glad that there’s nobody here to watch me growing more and more frantic.
I reach for the door and freeze. The fun-house reflection of the doorknob shows me reaching out, and behind me, a shadowy figure. Unable to look away I watch the figure, trying to see if it’s moving. Trying to convince myself it’s just a smudge on the brass. A chill runs down my spine and I become very aware of how dry my mouth is. My throat sticks as I try to swallow and I forgo common sense in the name of defending myself and my home. I wheel on my intruder, coiling to pounce, but I feel all the fight drain when I turn to face an empty bathroom.
Paranoia sinks it’s yellow teeth into my mind once more as I study the spot where I saw the figure. Dare I look around the bathroom another time? I curse myself for leaving my phone in the bedroom. What time is it now? How long have I been here? How long until my alarm sounds off to wake me for the day? The answers might have prompted me to end this nonsense, but I had no way of getting them without leaving the bathroom. Something I’d have done by now if I didn’t suspect I had something – or someone – trapped in here. Finally my eyes settle upon the makeup mirror once more, and what was paranoia becomes fear.
The makeup mirror, in its magnified reflection, shows me standing in front of the bathroom door. To my left, standing in the bathtub, is the dark figure. The pulled shower curtain is all that currently separates us. I am not short, but the shadow dwarfs me – stretching easily above the curtain rod. Though I cannot make out proper details, I can’t help but feel that it is also looking at me through the reflection. My blood drains as the figure slowly turns it’s head to look directly at me.
I scream and throw myself back into the corner, turning to face the shadow. My arm shoots out and searches frantically over the counter, knocking several things over before my hand closes on something solid. Before I can register what it is I’ve already launched it at the shower curtain. It hits the curtain with a hard thwap and I have a brief moment to see that it is a bar of soap, before it clatters into the tub. My breath comes in gasps and shakes and my eyes jump around the shower and tub.
In frustration I rip the shower curtain down, and the rod drops with it. It smashes into the top of my head and I stumble, stars dancing in and out of my vision. I take no time to recover, throwing the shower curtain from my hands. I twist and sweep the bathmat up with my foot, launching it at the wall across the bathroom. It lands folded over itself next to the toilet. I yank the hand towel from it’s ring, knocking more things over. Ignoring this – even as a bottle of hairspray falls to the floor – I throw the hand towel to cover the makeup mirror. I miss and the towel falls uselessly to the floor. I stare into the makeup mirror. In it’s reflection I see the figure, still standing in the tub. The figure seems to be unbothered by the shower curtain and rod that occupy the bathtub. In fact, it seems almost, amused. Is it, laughing at me? Does it derive some sort of twisted entertainment from driving me mad?
No. I will not have this. Not in my home. Not in my damn bathroom. My blood boils and I grab a jar of cream off the counter. I throw it at the makeup mirror without thinking. The mirror shatters on impact, tinkling glass and bits of metal to the floor. All I see is red, and I continue my rage, tearing the bathroom apart. Pulling and dumping drawers, throwing towels – anything that happens to be between me and where I choose to direct my frantic search, is simply knocked aside. I scream in anger, but the sound I make is deranged and barely recognizable. I eventually exhaust myself, and collapse onto the toilet, resting my head in my hands as I catch my breath. I stay in that position a moment, as I calm down.
When I’m ready, I take a breath and let out a deep sigh. I lift my head from my hands and observe my surroundings. It’s as though a series of bombs had been dropped directly into my bathroom. I stretch my back and stand up. Feeling defeated, I begin to clean the mess I’ve made. It takes some time, but as the bathroom slowly gets back in order, I feel myself doing the same. As I kneel the pick up the broken glass of the makeup mirror, I see movement again. A shadowy reflection moves through dozens of reflective pieces. This time, I choose to ignore it, opting instead to continue cleaning.
Satisfied, I look over the bathroom one final time. I’ll have to sweep a bit in the morning, but other than that, the room looks just like it did before someone decided to have a mental breakdown inside of it. I turn to the mirror, and lock eyes with myself. I lean over the counter and point at myself. I open my mouth to say something but lose it. Behind my reflection, the re-hung shower curtain rustles, and I barely register the sound of curtain rings clattering. I watch in horror as a long, gnarled hand reaches out from the shower. The fingers – long, with too many joints – fold over the shower curtain, gripping it. The hand pulls the curtain slowly, revealing the rest of the thing that now stands within my bathtub. It is doubled over and contorted to fit, long limbs bending in wrong directions. Bending too many times. The creature – if it can even be called one – leaves the curtain half-pulled. It shifts, all at once, limbs twisting and bending. I want to scream, to run. Every fiber of my body is electric, trying desperately to make me move. I am unable to take my eyes off the mirror, as the being’s head cranes around the shower curtain. Eye sockets that are hollow but not empty stab into me like needles. The creature’s lips peel back to reveal teeth belonging to a hundred different mouths, and I realize in abject horror that it is grinning at me.
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