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The water rained down on me from the white showerhead. I turned in the cramped space doing my best not to slip. I watched the soap bubbles turn in an odd dance a few seconds before sliding down the drain. I tilted my head to the left and wonder what was down there. I stared at the drain for a few more seconds and then decided to crouch down and take a look. The water hit the back of my head and traveled down my face as I stared into the black depths of the drain.

I heard something, so I tilted my head again to get a better focus on the sound. I definitely heard something. It was a scratching, kind of like hard plastic on metal. I felt my heart beat speed up and I swallowed hard. I knew I shouldn’t but my fingers weren't listening to my brain screaming. I stuck one finger at the edge of the drain; it was poised there, waiting. I took a deep breath, knowing I couldn't stop the curiosity now. I slid my finger barely inside the drain. I swallowed hard again, waiting for something, but not knowing quite what it was.

My heart was racing, thumping in my chest. It felt like there was a lump in my throat, threatening to forbid air from passing. My finger went deeper into the drain. The scratching was getting closer. Something brushed against my finger. I yanked my finger back to me and examined it. It was unmarked. I let out the breath I was holding.

I was suddenly aware of the water hitting my back, it was getting colder. How long had I been here? I stood, swallowing hard one last time. My eyes were still focused on the drain and the scratching that was coming from deep inside. I finished my shower and stepped from the tub. I heard a strange gurgling sound and forced myself not to look back at the drain.

I finished drying off and dressing. I looked back toward the drain one last time before leaving the bathroom. I must have just been imagining things. I shuffled out of the bedroom, which was connected to the bathroom, and into the living room. I pulled my robe around me tighter. I felt a draft, but not on the outside. No matter how tight I pulled my robe around me, I could still feel the breath of cold air. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my skin tightened as little bumps rose to the surface. I shivered and pulled my feet under me.

I sighed and found myself wishing I wasn’t alone today. This was a bad time for Tammy to have to go to her doctor’s appointment by herself. I didn't usually get scared, but for some reason I was nervous to be alone. I looked up at the clock and let relief escape my lips in a silent breath. Just another hour, that’s all I had. Just an hour and she would be home. I didn't know why I was waiting for her to come home, she was more scared of drains than I was.

I reached for the remote; it fell off the table into that small space between the end table and sofa. The space was just big enough for my arm if I willed it to be small enough. I looked down into the space and, somehow, heard the scratching down there that I heard in the drain. How could this be? My heart raced and I found myself swallowing again. How could I be hearing the noise from the drain? There wasn't any metal down there. My eyes were wide as I slowly slid my arm down beside the couch. My fingers barely brushed the remote’s solid surface. I shifted my weight and leaned forward rather than to the side. I swallowed again, trying to calm my heartbeat. I was afraid my heart would beat right out of my chest if I didn't. I squeezed my eyes shut and stretched for the last inch that I needed. My fingers closed around the remote and I pulled it up. I pushed the red button and an ear splitting scream came from the television speakers. I jumped and then laughed at myself. My laugh quivered and I realized that I was trembling inside. I got sucked into the movie on TV, it was Evil Dead. I forgot that one of the channels was running an Evil Dead marathon today. I was subconsciously aware of the faint scratching sound that came from above me.

Subconscious turned into conscious about halfway through the movie. I heard the scratching right above me. It was as if whatever was in the drain was following me through the house. It was coming from the air duct. I looked up at the duct that was right above me. I tried to focus on the movie again, but, I couldn't help but to become osbessed with the thought of the thing, crashing down on me. Eventually the scratching became too distracting and it seemed to get louder drowning out the movie.

Not being able to stand it any longer, I stood on the couch to try to get closer to the scratching. I stretched as far as I could and my finger tips barely brushed the ceiling. As soon as my fingers brushed the surface of the ceiling, the scratching stopped. Everything was still. A bit too still. I tried to get closer to the ceiling. I stood on the arm of the arm of the couch to give me those few inches. That gave me just what I needed. I was able to lay my palm on the ceiling. I tilted my head, listening. I heard some faint scratching and then something fell. I jumped and a squeak passed my lips. I slipped off the arm of the couch. Luckily I fell on the couch and not to the floor.

I laid there on the cushions, listening. All was quiet again. I started to get up and heard another thud. This one was louder. My heart raced, thumping against the wall of my chest. My eyes were wide, staring up at the ceiling. I was expecting something to crash through and pin me to the couch, tearing me apart with it's claws. I laid there paralyzed.

When I was finally able to move, I rolled to the floor. A cold sweat had broken out on my brow and I was panting. My chest hurt. There was a slight wheeze coming from my lungs. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch trying to convince myself to calm down.

Honey. I'm home,” Tammy said as she came through the doorway.

A scream exploded from me. Darkness closed around me and I passed out. When I opened my eyes, Tammy was standing over me, a damp towel pressed to my forehead. She was looking at me with wide eyes. She looked as scared as I felt.

“Denise? Are you ok?”

I slowly sat up and nodded. I told her I was ok and then proceeded to tell her about the scratching. Her eyes were wide and I could tell she had heard the scratching too. Her face got pale. She looked as pale as I felt.

“Probably just mice,” she said after a long pause. “We should get some traps.”

“I don't think it's mice, Tammy.”

“What do you think it is, Denise? What else could it be,” she was impatient.

“I don't know, Tammy. If they are mice, they are some big damn mice. We may need to just move out and let them have the house,” I was trying to lighten the mood, but a bit perturbed at her attitude all of a sudden.

“Rats then. We will pick up some traps tomorrow. Ok? We'll get it taken care of and everything will be fine.”

All I could do was sigh. I didn't think it was mice or rats, squirrels, opossums, raccoons or anything else along those lines. There was something up there and I had a strange feeling it was stalking us. I didn't want to say anything to Tammy though. She would just say I was being paranoid or delusional or both. She didn't believe or understand my feelings. When I got a gut feeling like this it was usually right. And something didn't sit right with this.

The night plodded along and soon it was time for bed. I watched the clock and listened to Tammy breathe. I stared at the ceiling, trying not to move. Tammy was sleeping so soundly. She had work in the morning. I had the day off. A three day weekend. I would have been excited if that damn scratching wasn't so damn loud.

I couldn't stand it anymore. I threw the covers off of me and shot out of bed. I think I may have hit Tammy with the covers, because I heard a hushed moan come from her. I flipped on the bathroom light and stared at the drain. The scratching was louder than I remember it. It was playing with me. Mocking me. It could have been because it was 3 o'clock in the morning. It didn't matter what it was. It was keeping me awake.

I decided to get the drain cleaner. I knew we had some under the sink. I opened the cupboard and there it was. Right in front. I reached for it. Good. Almost half a bottle left. I opened the container and tipped it upside down over the drain.

“Scratch this you s.o.b.”

Not long after the bottle was empty, a foul, greenish smoke rose from the drain. It smelled like a cross between rotten eggs and scorched flesh. It made me gag and I have a strong stomach. Luckily I was able to keep my stomach from emptying itself. That is, until the drain started bubbling. At first the froth was white, then it turned pink and thick.

Luckily I was in the bathroom and right beside the toilet because my stomach decided to empty. I tried not to look at the drain again, but I no longer had control over my body. It was on autopilot. When I looked at the drain, a small eyeball had risen to the top of the thick, pink sludge.

There is was. Stuck in the goop bubbling up from the drain. It just hovered there. Staring at me. Mocking me. I couldn't pull my eyes away from it. The stench came around for a second time and hit my nose again. My stomach flipped again. A bubble popped in the ooze, shifting the eyeball. Not enough though. It was still watching me. There was intent there. I knew there was. Somewhere inside me, I knew that eyeball was plotting against me.

I forced my eyes to blink. I need to break the eye's gaze. I heard myself scream when a hand clamped on my shoulder. It was Tammy. She jumped when I screamed. I thought she was asleep.

“You ok?” Her face winkled and she pinched her nose. “What is that smell?”

I pointed to the tub. I couldn't hold my stomach anymore. Thank goodness I was still in the bathroom.

Tammy looked in the tub.

“You got it! What did you do? That's so gross,” she mumbled the last part.

Did she seriously expect me to answer her right now? As soon as I was able to pull my head out of the toilet, I told her about dumping the drain cleaner down the drain. At least I didn't hear the scratching anymore. I found myself wondering if the thing had any friends down there.

My day off was a relaxing one. It was quiet too. No scratching. Tammy went to work and I set about cleaning the house. It needed it. I hadn't had a day off in a week and a half. It was ok though. I loved my job. It was Good Friday and the gym was closed, so we all got a three day weekend.

The cleaning went pretty smooth. That is, until I came to the bathroom. The sludge had dried for the most part and the eye was encased in the hardening gunk. I pulled on gloves. Luckily the smell had dissipated for the most part. As I was cleaning I realized there was coarse hair mixed in with the hardening remains. This made me gag. I decided that I couldn't think about what I was cleaning. I stopped for lunch once my stomach had settled from cleaning the tub.

Tammy and I were going to dinner and a movie. It was our first date in a few months and we needed the time together. Not that we were having problems, just that our jobs kept us so busy we didn't have much time together. The new movie based on a Stephen King novel was out and we both loved him.

I had just finished getting ready when Tammy came home. It didn't take me long to get ready for anything. Make sure the clothes are appropriate and nice, just enough make up to take the old off. It was the hair that took the longest. Many times it would argue with me and I would have to spend more time coaxing it.

Tammy and I left about twenty minutes after she got home. We stopped for a nice healthy meal at a local restaurant and then off to catch the nine-o-clock show. It wasn't terribly busy and, for the most part, we had our choice of seats at the theater. We got there ten minutes before nine. I like getting to movies early. I love the coming attractions.

We got home at about midnight. I was ready for bed. The first thing I noticed when we walked in the house was the quiet. There wasn't any scratching. It wasn't until I let my breath out that I realized I was holding it. Tammy and I got ready for bed and slipped in at the same time. I fell asleep smiling and holding Tammy in my arms.

My eyes flew open and looked at the clock. 4:50am. Something wasn't right. I could feel it. I heard the scratching again. I turned over in bed and realized that Tammy wasn't there. She did that sometimes. She couldn't sleep, so she would get up and watch TV in the living room, that way she wouldn't wake me up. I laid there. Perfectly still. Listening. I didn't hear the TV. Somewhere inside, I knew I wouldn't.

I threw the covers off of me. My naked feet hit the cold floor and made me tense up. I stood up and went into the hallway. I called out for Tammy and paused. I was listening. I went to the stairs, called out, and paused again. I did this all the way into the living room. I was answered each time with silence. On some level, I knew I would be.

I looked for Tammy for a good thirty minutes. She wasn't in the house anywhere. I even looked outside. Her car was still there. All of her belongings were untouched. I knew, just as I knew I wouldn't find her in the house, that she didn't leave voluntarily.

As I walked around the house, I heard the scratching again. It seemed to follow me room to room. It also seemed to be getting louder. I covered my ears and ran upstairs. I began throwing clothes in a bag. I stopped. I couldn't leave. I didn't have the money to leave. I felt my insanity beginning to slip away from me. It felt like a splinter slipping out of the skin.

By noon I was pacing the house, doing anything to drown out the scratching. I turned the radio up full blast about two hours ago. I realized I was talking to myself. Rambling really. It seemed to work somewhat. Then the scratching began to get louder. And it seemed to follow me through the house. There was another sound underneath it. A mournful wail. I didn't know if it was because my insanity slipping away from me or what, but I though I could hear my name in the wails.

I hadn't eaten and my stomach was growling. It was also cramping, but I couldn't bring myself to stop long enough to fix something to eat. The movement was giving me something to focus on.

By one, I had started sobbing. I felt the loneliness closing in on me. It was being carried by the scratching. The scratching and the wailing. I couldn't hear myself think. My skin itched. All of it. Arms. Legs. Front. Back. Eyelids. Even the insides of my ears. Unconsciously I scratched every place I could reach.

By three there were spots all over me where I had scratched myself raw. That was when I realized what was making me itch. It was my sanity leaking out of every pore of my body. My sanity leaving me was making me itch. The scratching throughout the house was getting louder.

By five I was weak with hunger. I was still pacing. I hadn't stopped moving since before noon. Over five hours. I hadn't sat down or eating. I had picked raw spots all over my body and hadn't been to the bathroom. I couldn't bring myself anywhere near a drain. I knew if I did, something would escape and take me. Take me somewhere below the house. I think I may have pissed myself, but couldn't be sure.

I had started pulling out patches of my hair and the rambling continued. It actually got worse. I was making perfect sense to myself, but I am sure that would have been a different story if someone where here listening to me. If a madman rambles in the woods and there's no one around to hear him, does he make sense?

By seven-thirty I had stopped long enough to get something to eat. Microwave popcorn. It was quick and I could keep moving while making it. I was now positive that if I stopped moving, something terrible would happen. I wasn't quite sure what, but it wouldn't be pretty. And it would happen deep under the house. In a drain.

Somewhere deep inside of me, on a cellular level, I was becoming aware of the source of the scratching beginning to emerge. It was crawling out of the bowels of Hell, or wherever they were lurking. They weren't just in the drains anymore. They were in the air ducts. In the walls. Watching. Waiting.

There was a whisper in the shadows of my brain. It was telling me to go to the kitchen sink. I obeyed. I stood there. At the sink. Staring into the drain. Then I saw it. The clawed fingers. They looked more like dried twigs than fingers. I didn't want to see what they were attached to, but I couldn't look away. I was frozen there. Caught in a trance.

I saw an eye glinting up from the drain. Whatever it was, it was trying to pull itself up into the sink. I had to force myself to move. The second clawed twig gripped the opening of the drain. That was all I needed. My hand reached out and flipped the light switch on. My eyes were wide and I felt my heart trying to burst through my chest. A scream caught in my throat. The blades in the drain growled to life. They grabbed the thing and it's screams were drowned out by the chewing of the blades as they ate the thing alive.

The blades caught and there was a strained hum. The creature still had one clawed hand gripping the outer edge of the drain and it worked on pulling itself up. The disposal finally cut through and thick pink pus exploded from the sink, splattering my face.

I gagged and brought one, shaky hand up to my face, wiping the entrails. I wasn't sure, but just before I flipped the light switch I could have sworn I heard the thing speak. Whisper. It sounded like 'help me.' I shook off the thought and blew it off to my rapidly fleeing sanity. It couldn't have said anything. Could it? Rats can't speak. Can they?

I stood there for a long minute. Staring into the drain. Listening. I didn't hear anything. No scratching. No whispering. I didn't want to celebrate just yet though. I was sure I was going to hear the scratching again. Just like I did before when I poured the drain cleaner in the tub.

I was alone. Tammy had disappeared and the scratching had fallen silent. I set about pacing the floor again. I was alone with my thoughts. As scattered as they were. I felt my sanity hanging on by a thread. A glass thread.

Before long, I curled myself in the corner, pulling my knees to my chest. Movement caught my eye. They were drawn to the dark corners of the house. Something was jumping between the shadows. Playing an evil version of the kid's game “shark”. I heard a chanting whisper splashed with clicking sounds. Not the clicking of nails on hardwood floors. It was the clicking of a tongue on the roof of the mouth. I couldn't see them, but I could sense them. They were getting closer to my corner. I pulled my knees in tighter.

Within seconds, my eyes got heavy. They clouded over and all I could see were shapes. I saw hunched figures about the size of rats coming toward me. Their muzzles were short and ears were tall and skinny. Their eyes were set close together and the nose was a little more than small holes in the middle of their faces.

They were alternating between walking on all fours and walking upright. I couldn't tell if they had tails. One of them laid a dry, three clawed hand on my ankle. It was cold. The cold of death. That was all I saw. My eyes closed with a heavy thud.

I opened my eyes as fast as I could. My eyelids felt like they weighed fifty pounds each. I blinked at the shapes around me. I couldn't see any details. It looked like I was seeing the world through grey scale infrared glasses. The only light was about three feet above me. A perfect circle. I reached out my hands. The walls were warm, but felt metal. Damp. I suddenly realized I was in a drain pipe. My only thought was to escape.

I heard muffled voices above me. I began to move toward them. I was thinking, perhaps they could help me. I would plead my case. Whatever that was. I moved steadily toward the voices and all I heard was the scratching.

© July, 17, 2011 Kristy Elliott

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