The Shower was inspired by my Facebook and blogger friend, Linda Mansfield, who responded to my call for a writing prompt so I could exercise my writing muscles. Her idea was to expand on one of my 2-sentence horror stories called The Shower. Here’s the expanded version of that story.
The house was eerily quiet and the path to the kitchen was particularly dark at this hour. But Macey didn’t need to turn on any lights. She’d walked that path so many times for so many years, she could do it with her eyes shut.
A storm was coming, bringing with it high winds and suffocating humidity. Her feet clapped against the cold ceramic tile floor when she entered the kitchen. She opened the cabinet and pulled out a recyclable filter and pressed it into the coffee maker. As she reached for the bag of coffee beans, she saw a shadowy figure in her periphery. A terrified gasp escaped her and, almost in the same moment, she knew it was nothing at all. She inhaled deeply to catch her breath then noticed the coffee beans had fallen to the floor during her fright.
“Geez, way to go, Macey,” she whispered to herself as she shook her head. “Jittery much?”
She bent down and cleaned up the beans from the floor. Her heart beat erratically, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She couldn’t figure out why she was so jumpy. She laughed at herself, realizing she probably shouldn’t drink any coffee. It might’ve made her more jittery. She scraped the last of the fallen coffee beans into the trash.
As she began to stand, she felt a warm breath against her neck. She popped up so quickly that she banged her head against the edge of the counter. She pressed her hand against her head and massaged it as she looked around. Her heart beat so hard and fast, she could feel it in her throat. Seeing no one and hearing nothing, she took a deep breath and started grinding a new batch of coffee beans. Once in the coffee maker, she started the brew.
As Macey stared at the brewing coffee, she had two revelations. First, she finally understood that she would forever be ostracized from the small community she once proudly called home. Second, she had reached her limit as to how much hell she’d endure with of all the whispers and cold shoulders. It was one thing to be snubbed because her husband was a convicted rapist and murderer of his seventeen year old student. It was quite another to continue being ostracized after Josh had been exonerated when new DNA evidence proved he didn’t do it. The same DNA evidence that the prosecutors buried ten years earlier so they could advance their careers.
Still, Josh’s exoneration didn’t seem to change the hearts and attitudes of the community. All they could see was a teacher who had violated the trust of his student. And when his student, Arielle, wouldn’t succumb to his advances, he raped and murdered her. That’s how the prosecution framed their case. That’s how the jury received it. That’s how the court of public opinion remembered it.
Macey had found the side-eyed glares unnerving as she attempted to participate in community events, gallery auctions, bake-offs, and even as she maneuvered through the aisles of the supermarket. Her one ally, Shaila, began pushing away a few years after Josh was convicted. It had started with Macey’s name being omitted from mailing lists followed by a rush of apologies from Shaila after the events were over. The blame was always placed on some clerical error or oversight of a new volunteer or computer glitch. Then it graduated to excluding Macey from barbecues and trips to Shaila’s lake house. Finally, Macey’s phone calls and text messages would go unanswered for days at a time, until one day Shaila had stopped answering altogether.
At the refrigerator, Macey stared at its meager contents. It was way past time to buy groceries but she dreaded seeing the hatred and fear in people’s eyes everywhere she went, particularly at the supermarket. Sometimes, she’d just order her groceries from one of the online grocery stores that delivered. It would have been worth the upcharge. But after a while, even the people who delivered her groceries got wind of who she was. Some of them were on her side, some pitied her, and others despised her as if she’d committed the crime herself.
A carton of leftover shrimp fried rice and two slices of pizza from the other day were all that remained. When she closed the refrigerator door, she saw movement, again. This time, there was no doubt she had seen something. She pulled a butcher’s knife from the wooden block on the counter and cautiously walked toward the den where she had seen the movement. This wouldn’t have been the first time someone got into her house. She’d had so many threats against her life over the years, she had learned to defend herself.
Upon closer investigation, she noticed that she’d left the ceiling fan on and the note paper had blown off of coffee table, flopping around the floor, propelled by the fan’s wind gusts. She heaved a sigh of relief, picked up the note paper and anchored it with the heavy centerpiece. Back in the kitchen, Macey returned the knife to its slot on the butcher’s block then grabbed her favorite mug.
Macey headed back to the bedroom with coffee in hand. A tree branch knocked against the tempered glass pane in the study as she passed by, startling her. The unexpected noises were unsettling. She heard the distant rumble of thunder as the wind picked up, whistling through the drafty windows. The lamp light from the bedroom began to flicker as she climbed onto the bed.
“The storm is getting close,” Macey said in a whisper.
She felt the bed dip on Josh’s side. She watched him stand, running his hand through his hair, walking toward the bathroom. Then she heard the shower spraying.
“Josh?” Macey’s voice quavered. She got up and slowly walked toward the bathroom which quickly filled with steam. This was all very odd and surreal to Macey because Josh had been cremated two years ago.
Macey leaned against the wall and closed her eyes as she slid down into a squat. Was she losing her mind? Had the antidepressants somehow caused some hallucinogenic effect? She said in a whisper over and over again, “It’s not real. It can’t be real.”
She had watched Josh die in his hospital bed exactly two years ago. He’d been beaten into a coma by a group of angry locals who believed Josh had raped and murdered Ariella. Nobody was ever arrested for the beating even though there were dozens of witnesses. He’d been beaten so badly, his facial features were indistinguishable. A few days later Josh died from his injuries. And, incidentally, they stopped investigating Ariella’s rape and murder. Macey cremated Josh and spread his ashes in the Atlantic like he had always said he wanted.
The shower stopped. The steam cleared. Macey watched Josh walk to the bed with a towel around his waist. He sat on the edge of the bed and set the alarm. He looked at Macey and smiled.
“Coming to bed?” Josh asked. His voice was softer and raspier than she remembered.
Tears streamed down Macey’s cheeks. She knew she’d finally lost it. She thought she was having hallucinations. That somehow she conjured up this apparition of her one true love. Her one true heartache. Her one and only confidante.
Josh pulled the covers over his head and then he was gone. Macey didn’t move from that spot until the sun pierced an aperture in the curtains. A small part of her hoped that Josh would appear beside her — what she’d give to feel his arms around her, comforting her. A larger part of her was grateful the vision had disappeared.
Realizing it was some sort of vivid dream or hallucination, probably brought on by stress and/or her medications, she stood, and in a zombie-like gait, slowly walked to the bed, curling under the covers. She chuckled a little — just a light ‘don’t be so ridiculous’ chuckle. She figured that the isolation and loneliness were finally getting the best of her.
And just as she began to doze off, the alarm sounded from the clock on Josh’s side of the bed.
[(c) 2016 Michele Kimbrough]