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Water - A Short Story
February 26, 2011
“I hear water next door…” …she whispered in his ear.
He opened his eyes. It was late, or early. Either way, he could barely see her. Just dark circles where eyes ought to be. Her arm propping her up in bed.
“What do you mean?” He was still mostly asleep. “I hear water next door.” He listened. He couldn’t hear anything. The apartment’s thin walls usually let everyone in the building know when anyone was doing damn near anything. “Maybe they’re just taking a shower.” “No. It’s not like that.” “Go back to sleep.” “This is important.” “Maybe it’s just raining.” “It’s not raining. It sounds…thick.” “What are you talking about?” “Just listen.”
Like a shore line of a lake.
“What the hell is that?” “I told you.” He got up, leaving her alone in bed. He opened the front door, creeping out into the hallway. He pressed his head against the neighbor’s door.
He heard nothing.
He went back inside, fumbling his way through the darkness back to the bedroom. “I couldn’t hear-” He stopped. She was gone. He checked the bathroom, but it was empty. “Sweetheart?” He searched the entire apartment, but she was gone. The sound returned. Water. Louder this time. He went back to the front door, but stopped suddenly.
It was wet.
He opened the door.
The hallway was gone. The whole building was gone. He looked out, and just saw water in every direction, his apartment floating on this dark sea.
He felt lonely.
He closed the door. The sound disappeared.
He went back to bed. She was still gone. He wrapped himself up tight and closed his eyes.
“I hear water.” It was her. He opened his eyes to see her standing in the doorway. “Where did you go?” He asked her. He sat up, studying her. He saw now, she was drenched. Her hair was dripping water onto the floor, a small puddle forming at her feet. “What happened to you?” He asked. She didn’t answer him. Instead, she turned and walked away. “Hey!” He jumped up to follow her, but she was gone. The hallway was empty. He had to follow her. Footprints. Wet footprints in the carpet. He followed them, one by one, until they led him back to the front door. He hesitated, scared of what he might see. He opened the door. The normal hallway greeted him. The footprints were gone. He closed the door again.
He could think of nothing else to do except try and sleep. It was still late, or early. Either way.
Back in bed, he did his best to sleep. He tried to think of things that were not her, that were not water, that were not of loneliness. He discovered that is a difficult task while alone at night.
He thought of her. He imagined water. An overwhelming wave. The deep dark impenetrable depths of an impossibly deep ocean.
He thought of loneliness.
A small droplet landed on his head. He wiped it away.
Another. He opened his eyes.
His ceiling was dripping. Swelling, bulging, like a torrent of water was about to crash through. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw her.
She was there, in bed with him, except… She was swollen, bloated, her skin was washed of all color. as if she’d been under water for weeks.
She’d been dead a long time now.
He jumped out of bed and raced to the front door. He charged out and landed with a splash. The building was gone. It was just water, everywhere he looked. He scrambled back onto his door stop, but the door wouldn’t open. He was locked out. He pressed himself against the door overlooking a vast ocean.
Below him, he saw her. She was there, in the depths, looking up at him. It was dark where she was, dark and cold. She didn’t look happy, but she didn’t look sad either. She just was, as if she was where she was supposed to be. That was her place.
He thought of her, he thought of loneliness. He dipped his foot into the water, just to test it. Her expression was inviting, and he felt that if he joined her, he would be happy. No more loneliness.
He fell awkwardly into the water and went under. Water filled his ears. He couldn’t hold his breath for too long, and tried to swim to the surface. Her arm reached up and grabbed his ankle, stopping him in place. For a moment he panicked, his oxygen was running low. He desperately tried to swim upward for air, but she was pulling him further and further down. Down to her.
He couldn’t breath, but she held him tight. She looked in his eyes. Her eyes held peace, tranquility. He relaxed.
The air left his lungs as water poured in. He tensed for a moment, but just for a moment. It filled him. He was with her now. No more loneliness, no more sadness.
Just quiet, calm.
Today is well past the first day of the rest of your life.