CONTENT WARNING: SEXUALLY DEVIANT/SUGGESTIVE THEMES
“Why won’t Mom leave the closet?”
I kept my tone even. “She became fearful when I took a flashlight out of the sink. She had rigged it to shine light down the drain, because ‘they’ hate light.”
“Who hates light?” Elise asked warily.
“The evil creatures that live in the pipes, according to Mother.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this alone. I’ll be there as soon as I get the kids home from softball practice.”
“Just come when you can.” My sister is prone to guilt, I didn’t need to fan those flames.
By the time Elise arrived, Mother was hoarse from screaming. I flipped the closet light back on and went to the window, to watch my sister glide from car to door. Mother hadn’t even noticed the change. “More light,” she kept screaming.
My sister is a beautiful woman. I can say that with conviction. She’s adopted, so I can appreciate her fully. Sometime during high school she stopped allowing hands-on appreciation. I’ve mostly forgiven her for that.
Mother didn’t notice the closet door opening, nor did she register Elise and I standing before her, shading our eyes from the glare of the hanging bulb. “Lights! Lights!”
“Oh, Mom.” Elise fought against sobbing, which made her breasts and lips quiver. She fell to the floor to embrace our mother, who rocked and whimpered like a colicky infant.
I’d done my homework, so we found suitable arrangements for Mother that very afternoon. By then, Elise had calmed her considerably. I sat with Mother and patted her hand while Elise packed some essentials.
“This must be for the best,” I assured Mother, with the same rote certainty she had always used, when I tied for last place, when I lost my final book report, when I totaled my car the day after the insurance lapsed.
Together we led Mother to the door. Passing the kitchen, I stopped to turn off the flashlights in the drain, but mother went berserk.
Elise had to scream to be heard, “Leave them on, please just leave them on.” When full of tears, her eyes glitter like sapphires.
More than one neighbor’s curtains parted as we coaxed our hysterical mother into Elise’s car.
The people at the Home were so kind and friendly, even Elise felt comfortable leaving Mother there. We stayed two hours and 32 minutes, until Mother was calm.
In the parking lot, Elise wanted to cling. She was so sorry for all those weeks that she had failed to visit Mother, she was terrible at managing her time, she vowed to visit the Home every day and –
I promised to call after I locked up Mother’s house. We’d left so hastily, I reminded Elise, that even the closet light was still shining.
Anyway, it was time to retrieve my equipment. The motion sensors had worked flawlessly, making me proud as well as relieved. I knelt under the kitchen sink to unclip the player, unthread the wire, remove the speaker from the dishwasher overflow drain. I played the recording and shook my head. The scratchy laugh of my drain monster was so tinny and fake. Mother had always been so gullible.
Three flashlights were crammed into the mouth of the garbage disposal. Baffling how she had jammed them all in there. I tugged and pulled, was about to give up when suddenly they were free. Now they slid up easily.
As I fiddled with the off switches, I felt a tug at my neck. My tie was stuck in the disposal. I drew back, then yanked away with all my strength. The tie was dragging me toward the drain. The fabric cut into my neck. My pulse pounded in my throat. I dropped the flashlights and clutched my tie. It dragged me forward. My chin bumped porcelain.
It was then that I saw the hands. Maggot-white fingers climbed my tie like a rope ladder, exposing pus-filled knuckles and lacerated wrists. From deep inside the drain came an echoing chuckle, sounding remarkably like the scratchy fake on my tape. If there is a God, he has a strongly developed sense of irony.
I gasped a deep fast inhale and clutched the tie, struggling to rip free of the fabric before those fingers completed their climb.
Thanks for reading!
This story was submitted to us by Sue Perry. For more of her work, visit sueperryauthor.com.