It began with a dare.
A stupid dare.
We were supposed to be adults, but there I stood locked in my bathroom with three lit candles and water rushing from the faucet. Outside the door I hear my idiot roommates drunkenly giggling like tittering children. We might have had one too many drinks when we waxed poetic over early childhood fears.
Monsters under the bed, the claustrophobic confines of the dark, and schoolyard urban legends. You know the ones. They either happened to a kid who used to live down the street or goes to another school. Of course, you can’t discuss childhood urban legends without spending some length on Bloody Mary.
My buddies all swore on various items of questionable importance to have performed the ritual. I had not and remained inconspicuously quiet on the matter, but after persistent prodding and challenges to my manhood, I confessed. I would like to say after some light teasing, we moved on like mature grown-ups, but no.
No. Names were called, dares were made, and ego got out of hand. We spent three hours researching the proper way to summon Bloody Mary. Once we settled on the best ritual, they gathered the ritual components, and I supplied the idiot. Myself – if you haven’t been following.
“I can’t hear you!” Said a voice through the door.
“Yeah! Say her name! Make her come!” Another voice called out before the three melted into a pile hee-hawing jackasses.
“Geezus! Hold on!” I shouted back.
I held two fingers beneath the icy water for a moment or two. Then brought them to my forehead, and finally pressed them against the mirror. One…two…three.
“Oh shit! He’s doing it! He’s doing it!” My roommates crowded outside and shushed each other with stupid levity.
“Bloody Mary.” I held my breath and closed my eyes. I was listening to that terrible name roll off the tongue of my internal voice. Her twisted features manifested in the imagination, and I realized I had been trembling. I could hold her name at bay no longer, “Bloody Mary.”
Opening one eye, then the other, I stood alone staring at my reflection. “That was stupid. Guys?”
I flipped the key in the door, but the knob wouldn’t turn. I flipped the key again. And again. The door refused to open.
“Very funny, assholes. Let me out. Guys? Guys? Guys!” I pounded my fist against the door. Rattled it against its frame. My roommates were trash. I flipped the light switch. Click. No lights because who needs lights after finding themselves maliciously locked in a bathroom post demon summoning? At least the candles worked.
An eternity of silence passed as I dwelled on all the moments where my life had gone wrong, but I trusted my buddies would get bored and set me free at any moment. Nothing. Nothing but silence. No snickering. No crass commentary. No mocking. Just enough silence to let me know my buddies had gone off and forgotten about me. Again, trash. I beat my knuckles raw against the door. Screamed myself hoarse. Not only had they forgotten me, but the lack of rescue led me to believe they were probably passed out in an alcohol induced coma. I settled into the bathtub preparing to hunker down for the night, and probably for much of the following day. Drawing the curtain around the tub, I imagined all the ways I would make my roommates regret their life choices.
Through the curtain I could see the soft glow of the candles dancing along the vinyl material. Towering toothbrush silhouettes hung like spiders from the ceiling swaying alongside other essential toiletries in the light of the flickering flames. Anger melted away as exhaustion set in. The room was calm. Safe.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how long I had fallen asleep before something brushed up against the tub. My eyes sprung open and I was painfully aware I was no longer alone. I strained to listen. The temperature plummeted and I could see my breath rise before me.
Beyond the curtain came a soft humming. Like that of a little girl at play.
“Who-who’s there?” I asked with all the courage of fly before a spider.
The humming stopped. I strained to listen for movement, breathing, humming, anything, but nothing. I laid there quietly a for several moments before finding the courage to sit up. In one moment of panic driven bravery I whipped back the curtains and leapt out of the tub with the grace of a bird slamming against a window. My chin smashed against the sink on the way down to the filthy tile where the rest of body waited in a crumpled heap. A sharp pain shot up through my leg. I had slammed it against the tub during my aerial dismount. It should be illegal to make decisions while intoxicated.
“Who’s there!” The disembodied whisper sounded like it belonged to a five-year-old girl who had been smoking for the last thirty years. Thick with mucus and gravel. The whisper was less a question and more the mockery of a schoolyard bully.
Through the biting pain I managed to hobble to my feet, leaning against the clawed-foot bathtub for support. There was no one else in the bathroom, but I wasn’t convinced I was alone. I limped to inspect around the tub, behind the toilet, and even in the cabinets beneath the sink.
“Hello?” I said.
Uneasy silence answered back.
I spit a glob of blood and saliva into the sink and examined my reflection. I had bitten my tongue and scraped the underside of my jaw. It hurt, but nothing required immediate attention. I washed up before resting against the toilet.
My head swam from the combination of alcohol and terror. A reminder of all the bad decisions and the likely cause for the hallucinations I experienced. None of the things I thought heard could have been real. It was all in my head. Right?
My thoughts were interrupted by a tapping from the sink. No. Not the sink. The mirror above the sink. I tried to ignore it. It wasn’t real.
“Nope.” I said defiantly.
The mirror began to rattle. Slowly at first, then picking up force and speed until the entire wall shook.
“Leave me alone! Please! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
I don’t remember diving into the tub, but I must have, for the next thing I knew I was laying in the fetal position trembling against the cold porcelain. I remember screaming. An inconsolable high pitch screaming. Ego be damned. The entire room rocked and it provoked screams reaching ranges on a scale I didn’t know possible.
“L-leave me alone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!”
Suddenly the room didn’t rock anymore. Quiet fell. The only sound remaining was my hyperventilation and sniffling. It was not my finest moment, but I could not have cared less. I stopped crying when I heard the door unlock and creak open a few inches. Light from the hall spilled into the bathroom.
I peered over the edge of the tub. The candles on the sink had melted down to nubs, barely able to keep their wicks alive. I scrambled out of the tub as quickly as I could and bolted for the door, but the moment my hand was in reach of the doorknob, the door slammed shut with a deafening click of the lock.
My heart dropped. I followed suit crumpling into a puddle on the floor. It was never going to end. This night was never going to end. I summoned some ancient evil and now I paid the price for my sins. I laid there in the pool of myself for some time waiting for the end to take me. I wasn’t in a rush to die, but I wanted it all to be over. I was done.
She must have felt my defeat because in that moment the humming began, and a little girl emerged from the shadows. Her skin was pale. Grey. Decaying. Large patches of flesh hung in strips along her tiny frame. Her eyes were missing. Empty hollows stared through me. She cocked her head to the side. I almost saw pity cross her disfigured face, but it was immediately replaced by a grimace, and then a god-awful screaming. She launched herself at me, jaw unhinging.
Everything went black.
I awoke sometime later. My clothes were gone. I sat up and found I was not in the bathroom, but somewhere else entirely. The tile floor, the tub, the toilet, and the sink remained, but darkness spread out forever in all directions. Above the sink floated a mirror like the one which had been in my bathroom. I stood and gazed through the glass. Not into the mirror, I couldn’t see my reflection, but through it. My bathroom was on the other side.
The door opened and I watched myself enter the bathroom and flip on the light. The me on the other side grabbed my toothbrush and began brushing his teeth. My teeth?
“Hey!” I cried, slapping a hand against the mirror. “Hey! Who are you? Hey!”
The other me ignored my attempts to get their attention. He rinsed and spit before staring directly into my eyes – not his eyes, my eyes – and flashed a sinister grin.
“Thanks for the new digs.” He said. “Don’t worry. I’ll take real good care of it.”