Friday Flash Fiction: Bath Night.

This story has nothing to do with zombies.

Friday nights were special for Miranda. Alone in her new apartment, Friday was her night of self-pampering in a relaxing bubble-bath with a romantic novel and favourite music. A cat’s lick and promise under a shower with a limited supply of hot water had been the best she could hope for when sharing a home with two younger brothers.

The roar of water drowned the tune from the CD player resting on the closed lid of the toilet. Steam, fragranced with lavender, rose from the bath to fill the room like drifting fog.

From the bedroom she collected a tray holding two lighted aroma-therapy candles an open bottle of wine, a glass and a new novel. The bath was now three quarters full, with a frothy layer of creamy-white foam An extractor fan was doing its best to clear the steam from the room with limited success. Miranda placed the two candles on the surround, either side of the bath-head, along with the wine and glass. The novel, she left on a chair within easy reach. Turning the electric light off, the room was illuminated by the twin flickering flames reflected in mirror-glass tiles, and the yellow glow of a street lamp shimmering between slats in the window blind.

She removed her working clothes. A red sweater, which she eased over her head shaking blond curls free, she dropped into a plastic basket ready for tomorrow’s excursion to the launderette. A knee-length black skirt and items of black matching underwear followed in rapid succession.

She turned and stepped into the bath, wincing at the unexpected heat scalding her feet and calves. Several minutes passed before her legs grew accustomed to the temperature and she could ease her body into a sitting position. Gasping as hot water engulfed her abdomen, she lay back until the water swirled in eddies around her shoulders. She poured wine into the glass then reaching for the book, turned to the first page and began to read.

Miranda was part way into the third chapter and the second glass of wine before concluding the novel did not meet her expectations. She tossed the book onto the chair and closed her eyes, relaxing to the strains of Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune. The hum of the extractor fan sounded like a large, flying insect trying to escape from the steam filled room.

Then she was jolted back to reality by a sound coming from beyond the closed bathroom door. The sound of singing, faint but audible above the music from the speakers. A small child chanting a nursery rhyme.

“Wee Willie Winky… runs through the town…”

But how could there be a child in the apartment? She lived alone.

“Wee Willie Winky, in his night gown…”

The child’s voice came nearer…

“Up stairs and down stairs, running round and round…”

…approaching the bathroom; perhaps it came from the apartment below.

“Wee Willie Winky, where can he be found…?”

Miranda felt the breath freezing in her lungs, paralysing her with terror.

“Wee Willie Winky, papa knows what’s best…”

“Under the floor boards, they laid him to rest!”

Those were not the words she remembered from her childhood. She dared not move for fear the splashing of water would draw the nightmare to her.

Then the chant ceased, leaving only the hum of the fan, the sound of Iron and Wine singing Flightless Bird from the music player, and the kettle-drum thrumming of her own heart. Miranda breathed again, wheezing as she sucked air with difficulty through a strangulated windpipe. It felt like an asthma attack, something she had not suffered since childhood.

Perhaps the radio in her CD player had picked up a signal from some nearby transmitting station. Or the singing could have come from outside the window. Yes, a child in the street. That made solid reasoning and would explain why it sounded so far away. She breathed easier…for a moment, she tried to laugh…until a new sound startled her.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!”

At first she could not make sense of the noise. It almost seemed as if it was in the bathroom with her.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!”

The source of sounds moved from the door.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!” as if wet feet walked over the tiled floor.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!” The feeling of horror returned. There was no one, nothing in her view.

The room was silent. The music player had come to the end of the disc. Even the extractor fan, its task completed, had switched off. Fear ran like a centipede up and down her back. There were no logical thoughts in her head now. There were no thoughts at all, only mind numbing terror.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!”

Something was heading toward the bath…

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!”

…Something invisible.

“Slip, slop! Slip, slop!”

Her eyes followed the sound that continued the full length of the bath and stopped at the foot, the end with the taps. An age seemed to pass before anything more…

…until one small splash followed by a second.

Her eyes stared at the ripples where someone, or something had climbed into the bath with her. She bent her knees, pulling them with her hands toward her chest. She shuddered as if the water had turned ice-cold as the Arctic Ocean. She wanted to scream, but no sound would come.

There was movement at the corner of her eye.

She felt nothing, saw nothing to cause the action, and yet the wine-bottle moved of its own accord, rising above the bath. With slow deliberation the bottle inverted, tipping a shower of wine from the open neck into the water.

Suddenly, with one swift movement, the bottle sliced down against the edge of the bath with a crash of explosive force.

Miranda shrieked, her paralysis, like the bottle, shattered at the violent impact. Flying glass and wine sprayed out in all directions.

She felt the sting as several shards lanced into her legs and arms. She tried to stand, to clamber from the horror in the water. Her feet skidded on the slippery surface and she was falling, sliding back into her original position. The back of her head and neck jolted against the sloping back of the bath, stunning her. She lay, watching with terrified awareness as the jagged neck of the bottle approached her face. Now she did scream, a last futile attempt at self preservation. She raised both arms to shield her eyes, and the razor edged glass slashed a cavorting prance left and right to lacerate her wrists. Blood, erupting from the severed veins and tendons, pumped into the water with each slowing pulse of her heart.

© 2011 Robert A. Read.

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6 thoughts on “Friday Flash Fiction: Bath Night.

  1. Spot says:

    That was amazing! You did a great job of describing the terror she felt at her unseen menace. Very well built tension.

    Stacey

  2. I love it, such suspense almost like a Hitchcock movie when you can see the bomb, but don’t know when it’s going to go off.

  3. W. J. Howard says:

    You made me want to take a bath, at first. Creepy. I would have jumped out of the tub at the first sight of a ripple.

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