There wasn’t very much time left and I was running behind. I stepped back and looked at the writing on the mirror. The red glistened nicely and I hoped that with the light off, that it would emanate just a little bit so that whoever might come in would have their interests piqued before throwing on a light. I was running out of time, but I still felt compelled to look around the bathroom. It was tight – even for someone smaller than me, it would be restricting. The mirror was gross before I even started working on it – flecked with water trails and the splatter of toothpaste that had crystallized into sickly streaks that trailed down the glass. The bathtub sat right by the toilet and I wondered how the toilet roll wasn’t always soggy and stuck together between layers.
I scanned back over to the mirror. “HES IN THE HOUSE!” The missing apostrophe added something, I felt – an urgency that communicated my tone nicely. If I cut the apostrophe, then did I really need the exclamation mark? I decided against it. I rubbed my hand against the glass but only managed to smudge the mark a little bit. I licked my hand and tasted the iron and sugar of the blood on it and swiped at the punctuation. More smudging.
Just then, I heard the house door slam shut. The master bath that I was in was upstairs, which bought me a moment to gather what I needed and clamber into the tub. I pulled the shower curtain closed around me and tried to breathe quietly. It was a dark blue, heavy cloth shower curtain with black and gold arabesque detailing every six inches from the top of the curtain to the bottom. It would do a great job hiding me. I looked around and felt like I had forgotten something. The fucking lights were still on. Because the bathroom was old, the lights were on a timed switch, like an old microwave. The quick ticking coming from the wall syncopated with my racing heartbeat. Before long, I could hear myself whispering “fuck, fuck, fuck, turn off turn off.” My stomach knotted up and then I heard the stairs creak. Whoever it was was coming up my way. “Fuck fuck fuck.” All of a sudden, like a miracle, the lights shut off and the room went dark. The quiet was a godsend. My breathing was ragged and the butterflies in my gut fluttered so that it felt like my insides would break right through my skin.
Sweat caked my forehead and the longer I hid, the more I wondered if I had made the right choices. Was the bathroom the best place to go? Or should I have hidden in the basement? The dark, damp, cool basement would probably have concealed me better. There was a water heater down there, a furnace, untold numbers of boxes and suitcases that would have been a perfect place to blend into, away from peering eyes. Or the attic? Maybe a tougher space to navigate from, but what drama that would have been! Hiding in the attic would have been theatre – I would have been like the Phantom of the Opera, waiting to swoop down onto his soon-to-be-bride. Did the house have a chandelier? Was swinging on one out of the question? Then I noticed the door. Was it open or closed when I came in? Is that the kind of thing that they’d remember? It was too late to do anything about it. I saw a shadow loom on the other side of the door and I held my breath. They paused for a moment right outside. I heard quiet muttering before whoever it was moved along.
I let out a breath and clutched at the knife that I picked up from the kitchen before making my way upstairs. I was holding it in the classic way, hand upright and the blade going away from my body so that I could slash if I needed to. The urgency of the moment passed and suddenly I was waiting. Breaths turned into seconds, turned into minutes. I couldn’t check my watch – my wrist was too covered in blood from where I made the cut so that I could write out my mirror message. I settled against the wall behind me and felt a cold, metal bar. I turned slightly and saw bolts glint in the light reflected from the hallway.
Right then, the bathroom door swung open and I gasped quietly. I heard the ticker on the wall turn and the light sprang on. I couldn’t see even a silhouette through the curtain, but I knew I would recognize my cue when I heard it. And lord, did I hear it. The light was only on for a second before I heard the person on the other side of the curtain gasp and moments later, a sweet, full-throated shriek. I was so excited by the sound of their fear that I ripped the shower curtain downwards and pulled the curtain rod down with it. The person was a woman. She turned to me for a moment, her face twisted in fright and shock and before I could free myself from the folds around my arms and legs, she was out of the bathroom and thumping her way down the stairs. It sounded like she was limping already.
In a moment, I was free and making haste behind her. Just before I got to the bathroom door, I decided I needed a line for when I emerged: something to scare out what little life was left in the woman’s heart. I was in two minds – deciding between “I’m here to kill” and “fuck you” and without being able to make the choice before hands, decided to go with what felt right. I smashed through the door, knife held high and in my excitement got tongue tied. I managed to pick parts of both sentence and ended up screaming, from the entrance of the toilet, “I’m here to fuck!” I heard fresh cries of “Oh god no. Please, please, anything but that” and I felt stupider than ever.
As I approached the landing, I heard the front door slam again and her arrhythmic stomping come from outside before receding completely. I galloped down the stairs, stealing a quick glance upwards – no chandelier. The room was lit by sporadic gallery lights that would have been perfect for a drama about a family in crisis. I got to the front door, knife still in hand and saw a brief reflection in the opaque pane of glass in the door. My stringy hair was flecked with red and brown. The crude mask I had stitched together from the toddlers that were sleeping in the house was askew and I had tears all through the sunflower-print apron that was quickly becoming my signature look. I was magnificent.
I tore through the door and looked around. The house was dark all around – neighbors had learned better than to be nosey when I was working. I thought the woman I was chasing was running away, but I looked down and saw that she hadn’t gotten more than three yards away from the door before collapsing into the bushes. I pulled her out and immediately knew that she wasn’t who I was supposed to be chasing. She might have been a cheerleader once upon a time ago, but she definitely hadn’t been for the last six decades. I slapped her face to try and wake her up to say sorry. She didn’t answer. I wasn’t able to find a pulse and knew that she died of a heart attack. That was probably what bothered me the most. I did all the prep work to set the scene, did my stalking like I was supposed to, chased the mark like I was supposed to, and when it came to it, I didn’t even get to use the slashing that I was so ready to do. I pulled off my skin mask and dropped the knife next to her body. All I could think about saying was a sheepish sorry and I took off down the road wondering what the person who was supposed to get the knife that night was doing.
Fahad Rahmat is a writer and performer aspiring to be the best Eldritch Monster he can be. His desires are unknowable and maddening to the mortal mind, but would otherwise be super reasonable – HE PROMISES
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