Drain Presence

A misty arm extends from a dark bathtub in which a laughing, terrible face floats beneath a swarm of flies.

It is after 2 am when the child awakens, woozy. A hazy paleness seeps through the closed blinds. The child’s throat scratches, like a dried-out reed. He climbs down from bed. The floor is cold and gritty.

Darkness seethes in the hallway. The door to the bathroom is open, the usual nightlight off. The tiles, too, are cold. His breathing is ragged.

He hears a faint buzzing, like a fluorescent light about to burn out, but there is no light in the bathroom. He turns on the faucet and no water comes out. The shower curtain shudders. He pulls it back and the buzzing intensifies. Something like dark water stirs and ripples in the tub. The child rasps under his breath “never ask into a hollow.” A voice says “or you just might make it hollower.”

The buzzing stops, and there is only silence.