Friday, September 21, 2012


I was covered in water, I could feel it—a great, rising river tickling my palms and face and feet.  So when I wake up to find that it’s raining outside I’m not at all surprised. I lift my head from my pillow and squint at the red numbers on my clock. Three fifteen in the morning. I should go back to sleep. I only have about two more hours before the alarm goes off and I’ll have to get ready for school. I re-tuck the covers around me, up to my neck. I’m freezing. I must have kicked them off before. My fingers are numb and my legs feel stiff. I turn my face towards my pillow and bury the tip of my nose in it to warm it. It’s still summer, I should be sweating right now, especially since my parents always keep the thermostat set to eighty  degrees.

“Maybe I’m coming down with something,” I say out loud to the captive audience of stuffed animals on the window seat. They stare blankly at me and I smile to myself as I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep.

When I’m still awake twenty minutes later, I give up and get out of bed, trailing my quilt behind me. I’m still so cold. I rub my hands together and blow on them. The faucet’s dripping in the bathroom down the hall. I can hear it—could from my bed too—which is probably why I’m still awake. I tiptoe down the hall, taking care not to wake up my mom and dad. The house is silent, tomb-like. There’s only the gentle patter of rain outside and that annoying faucet. I usually like this type of stillness, but tonight there’s something off about it, something just plain wrong. I shiver and pull the quilt closer. When I get to the bathroom I hesitate in the doorway. The shower curtain’s closed. I have an overwhelming instinct to run back to my room and lock the door. I can feel someone behind it.  But then the faucet drips again, a good one that lets out a fat stream of water and the feeling goes away almost as quickly as it came. Still, I walk over and pull the curtain open. No one’s there, but the bath tub faucet is leaking too.

“Wow, a little paranoid aren’t you?” I grumble to myself. I grip the tub faucet and tighten it, but it keeps dripping. I try the sink and the same thing happens.

I walk out into the hall and towards the kitchen, curious now if maybe all the faucets are leaking. Maybe the storm messed with the pipes somehow? I pass through the living room on my way, already certain that I can hear water dripping from the sink in there as well when I spot someone sitting in the chair beside the fireplace. He’s got the reading light on above him and a book open on his lap. I can’t see the title, but it’s thick and leather bound. I let out a scream that startles us both and accidentally topple the lamp on the sofa table beside me. It crashes to the floor. He holds up both hands.

“It’s okay. I’m supposed to be here. I can hear you.” This last bit makes no sense.

“My parents are in the next room,” I say, hoping that knowing this will make him leave.

He cocks his head to the side and considers this. “You think they’re here?”

I fidget under the quilt. If it’s possible I feel even colder and my lips stiffen, making talking difficult. “Um, yes,” I say. I put a hand to my neck. My throat hurts. I rub at it. It feels a little swollen.

I really am coming down with something. “Where else would they be? And I’m sure that they heard you and are calling the police right now…”

He stands now, placing the book words up on the ottoman beside his chair. He takes a step toward me and I move in the opposite direction to maintain the distance between us. He looks normal enough with his halo of thinning gray hair and black buttoned up sweater and pants. He’s wearing a white shirt underneath. I can see the collar peeking out and it’s sharply pressed—not exactly the type of outfit I’d imagine a burglar in, but still, I don’t like him. He scares me.

“Why don’t you just go and check on them.” He doesn’t seem concerned about the police showing up here at all.

I don’t know what to say to this, so I do what he says, retracing my steps back down the hall. There’s a pain in my leg now and I start to limp. I put a hand on the wall to steady myself. Water runs down the back of my hand, so much water that the carpet squishes beneath my feet. I hadn’t realized that it was raining so hard outside. Our house is flooding. Real panic settles in my chest now and I hurry towards my parents’ room. But when I get there, the bed is empty…and different. The bedding isn’t blue and brown, it’s solid white. Lightning slashes the room’s shadows in half and the pain in my throat and leg intensifies. I’m so cold that I can’t feel my hands anymore. I take off for the living room again. All of this has something to do with that man. What happened to my parents? What’s happening to me?

The man isn’t where I left him. He’s moved to the door which is wide open. He’s looking out at the lightning shredded sky and hasn’t noticed that I’ve come back. I move past him to the kitchen.

“It’s time for you to go now,” he calls just as I make it past the refrigerator. “You shouldn’t be here anymore.”

He may be right if the house is about to flood, but I’m not leaving without my parents and I’m certainly not going anywhere with him. I have to find out what’s happening. Now. I try to grab the phone from the counter, but I can’t make my fingers curl around it. They’re frozen at odd angles, as unmovable as granite.

“What’s happening?” I scream to myself…to the man by the door…to anyone who’ll listen. My voice gurgles and water bubbles up from deep inside my throat. I start to choke. Suddenly the kitchen window explodes inward and a torrent of water pushes its way in, practically knocking me off of my feet. I pull myself up and over the counter and back into the living room just as the other windows give way and the house fills up with muddy water. The current pushes me forward, right into the man who looks as shocked as I am to find me so close. He shivers when my hand brushes his. I grip his shoulders and try to ask him what’s happening, holler my questions right into his face as best I can as water pours out of my mouth. He puts a hand between us. It’s trembling.

“I can help you. Please listen to me!” he shouts in the midst of my screams and the howling of the wind. “You have to go. Leave this house. There’s nothing left for you here.”

His words have some kind of power behind them. It drives me out into the yard. All around me the storm rages on and the lightning flashes so fast that the man looks like he’s moving in fits and bursts. The pain in my leg and neck flares back up and I lose my balance and fall forward, flat on my stomach and face first into the grass. I look up and watch the man pull a tiny bottle from his jacket pocket and sprinkle something on the door frame and across the front porch. He’s speaking, saying a litany of words that I can’t hear from where I am, but that I somehow feel inside my chest. I struggle to get up, but I can’t move at all now. I’m more statue than girl. I start to cry, the tears running into the grass and mingling with the rain.

The man finishes what he’s doing and comes to where I am. He looks out across the yard as if he doesn't know exactly where I am. “You have to let go now. It’s time,” he says.

I don’t know what’s happening. All I know is that I want my mom and dad. I need to see them, just one more time. I’ve always needed that. But they’re never here. It hits me like a sudden clap of thunder.

They’re never here.

Overhead lightning cuts across the sky again, a brilliant flash of white that blinds me temporarily.

When it’s over, I’m not lying in my yard anymore. I’m standing behind my high school, down by the river. But it doesn’t look right. Almost every window is busted out and the football field is drowning in knee high weeds. I turn my attention to the river. I watch the water tumble over the rocks, follow its path downstream to where someone is lying face down in the water. A girl with hair the same color as mine. Her leg is nothing but bone and is bent at an unnatural angle and her skeletal hands are tied behind her back. The man is with me again, standing just behind me.  I can feel him there, but I can’t see him.

“It’s me?” I ask him, but I don’t need him to answer. I’m not sure that he even heard me.

“You can go now. Your family is waiting for you. They have been for a long time. Can you see them?”

There’s a flash of movement on the other side of the river bank. I turn away from the girl and look up. My mom waves at me. She’s wearing the same jeans and sweater that she was wearing the last time I saw her, but there’s a glow about her that wasn’t there then.  And she’s young, like in the pictures of her when she met my dad. Dad smiles and I smile back. I turn towards them and the cold that’s been taking over my body begins to disappear. The sun is out overhead, so bright that I have to squint to see.

“It’s time,” the man says. His voice is so far away that I barely hear it as I move towards my parents. The sounds of the river fade and the sun gets brighter. I can’t see my mom and dad anymore, but I know they’re just ahead of me, leading me forward.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
 Photo posted with permission by artist, Phoebo Rudomino.


  1. Wow, Amy. What a tale! Lots going on here and the final image before her letting go is quite haunting from her POV.

  2. Great story with chilling details. I love the line "You can go now."

  3. Oh wow, I love it. The ominous dripping. the missing parents. The strange man. Such a creepy story.