Monday night:“Who is Billy Connolly, you idiot!” On the television screen, the tall, lanky contestant guessed ‘Eddie Izzard’ and winced as the buzzer told him what Regina Kinney, wallowing at home in her recliner, already knew. What a goddamn moron. The other contestants declined a chance to answer and Alex let them know that the correct response was, in fact, Billy Connolly. Regina gave them the finger. A chime sounded signaling the end of the round, and Alex redundantly informed the players of this fact. “I’m afraid that last question cost you a thousand dollars Jeff,” Alex’s voice sounded hollow coming from the cheap television speakers. “But you still hold a commanding lead with twelve thousand eight hundred dollars over Susanna, who is in second place with seven thousand. Ian, you’re still in it with four thousand four hundred, and we’ll be back to play Final Jeopardy after these important commercial announcements.” Good, thought Regina, wheezing as she struggled to work her 350 pound-plus frame free of the armchair, because I have to pee. She made it up, maneuvering carefully around between the coffee table and the television tray where she kept her empty pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream like a tugboat working its way out of the harbor, then headed to the bathroom with as much haste as she could manage in the narrow confines of the apartment. She wanted to get back before the commercials were over, although given the group of dipshits they had on tonight it was pretty good odds that they were all going to blow the final question anyway. Every room in the tiny fourth floor walk-up she shared with her husband Eddie was cramped, but none more so than the bathroom. Between the toilet, the shower stall and the little sink/medicine cabinet combo, there was barely enough room for her to turn and sit once she was successfully ensconced and had the door shut. She swore as she clocked her elbow on the shower door while pulling her housedress up over her ponderous hips. Her funny bone jangled. Panties down, sit, adjust. She slid her hands under her legs and rolled her thighs apart slightly in an effort to keep her business a dryer one. As always happened during these private moments, she felt a brief self-loathing for the gobs of flesh that hung over the edges of the seat… and as also always happened that thought was immediately replaced by a burning hatred of Eddie. After all, it was Eddie’s fault that she had gotten so big over the last few years. Working all those hours, all those nights, leaving her here alone in this miserable little apartment with nothing to do but eat. What did he expect? And she just knew he was looking at other women, skinny women; after all she had seen the magazines he kept hidden under the mattress. What did he think a thing like that did to a girl? Motivate her to diet? Oh no, her size was definitely all his fault, the lousy bastard. Regina relaxed her bladder and felt more than heard things start happening, all the while continuing her favorite mental pastime of Eddie-bashing. He was a loser, a bum. He had to be the only plumber in the whole city that wasn’t rolling in money and lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills. Not to mention that while she may have gotten a wee bit bigger over the years, he certainly hadn’t aged all that well either what with his big old beer gut and his stupid receding hairline and his flabby white ass. Her mother had been right; she never should have married the goddamn schmuck. Why he… She suddenly felt something inside the toilet raking across her buttocks. It was sharp. Regina heaved herself off of the bowl as though it were electrified. Unable to stop, she felt the last few squirts of her urine trickle down the backs of her legs as she fell against the door. Desperate, panicked animal sounds filled her throat. She thudded to the floor in the fetal position and lay there, her heart banging away like machine gun fire as she fought to catch her runaway breath. What the fuck was that? After a minute or so the indignity of her position began to slowly penetrate her consciousness. Embarrassment fought with fear as she slid her panties back up into place and huffed to her feet. More than anything in the world she just wanted to bolt from the bathroom, run back down the narrow hall to her safe little nest and her comfy chair with her ice cream and her television, where Alex and the Idiots could keep fucking up trivia from now until doomsday as long as she didn’t have to please lord look into that godforsaken bowl. Anything but that. And yet she knew, carved deeply into that part of her racial consciousness where lived the ghosts of Pandora’s Box and the apple of Eden, that there was no way in hell she could leave that room without looking. Stomach alive with dread, she slowly turned and raised her eyes to the toilet. What met her gaze was something out of a nightmare. The thing in the bowl looked almost like some sort of tentacle, fat and sickly pink. It lay coiled around itself, flopping and twitching, the hook-like protuberances that covered its surface occasionally breaking the water with a light plop. The thought that it had been in there the whole time while she had been peeing and then lying on the floor went through her like a hot needle and she gagged, nearly vomiting down the front of her housedress. Instinctively, Regina did the only thing she could think of. With a scream, she lunged forward and smashed her hand down onto the flush handle, nearly tearing it off in the process. Water rapidly filled the bowl as the toilet strained and gurgled against the load it was being asked to process. The tentacle immediately ceased moving, tensed for a brief moment as if pondering its limited options, and then with a whoosh it disappeared down into the pipes. Free now of the blockage, the toilet quieted as the water slipped away then steadily refilled. Gone. Regina leaned over as far as she dared and tried to see into the pipes. There was no sign of the whatever-the-hell-it-was. The surface of the water was as calm as a pond on a hot summer’s day. A snake, she told herself, (mentally blocking out the fact that she couldn’t remember ever having heard of a snake that had hooks on its skin), it must have been some sort of big, ugly snake. After all, they were always printing stories in those tabloid papers she loved so much about there being giant snakes running around loose in the sewers, snakes that liked to climb up into the pipes and come out in people’s toilets. By the time Regina had scooted back to her chair in the living room, she had almost successfully convinced herself that was exactly what had happened. A snake. Nothing but a great big, weird-assed snake. On top of which since Eddie was a plumber and the snake had chosen their toilet to show up in, the whole episode obviously had to have been his goddamn fault somehow. This made her feel infinitely better about it. When Eddie finally got home from work at quarter past midnight, she gave him a toned down version of the snake story and made him go check the toilet. He did it grudgingly, (as would anyone who had just pulled a double shift and then come home only to be asked to do their job again the instant they walked through the door), and unsurprisingly found nothing amiss with it. No weirdness, no problems, no wee beasties lurking in the u-bend… just a plain old American Standard off-white commode with a chip missing from the tank lid. He told her as much while he guzzled the first of the four beers he would pound down to unwind before he went to bed in an hour. The evening would actually conclude with his sleeping on the couch. Not finding anything was the worst mistake he could have made as it took the fear, embarrassment, and humiliation Regina had felt earlier, lit it up with the match of her unreasonable blame, and set the whole works off into a huge bonfire of an argument which had her shrieking things at him that would have put a Tourettes sufferer with anger management issues to shame. Spent, she finally stomped off to the bedroom where she intended to bitterly masturbate herself to sleep, slamming the flimsy door as one last angry punctuation mark on the conversation. Eddie, who had gotten used to it over the years, made himself comfortable and had another beer. At no point during the argument had either of them mentioned the toilet.
Tuesday Night:Regina looked at the toilet seat, looked at the shower stall, and felt her face grow hot as she clumsily pushed into the stall, squatted, and peed into the drain. She’d been doing it all day. Upon awakening that morning she had considered using the toilet as though nothing had happened the night before, but found that she could not. Her fear of whatever had been in the bowl was still too great to allow her to just sit there, all naked and vulnerable while who knew what could be slithering around underneath her. The fact that Eddie’s traditional 9:00 a. m. cargo drop had gone off without a hitch had done nothing to alleviate that fear either; rather it had jacked her terror up a notch if that were possible. What if the snake (tentacle) was only out to get her? She had briefly considered talking to Eddie that morning about her paranoia, but had dismissed the thought almost as quickly as it had occurred. Not only was she insanely jealous of his ability to still use the toilet, but she also still well and truly pissed off at him. Plus she already knew exactly what he would say, so it would be a waste of time anyway. First he would tell her she was being foolish, and then he would tell her if she was all that hepped up about it to just go next door or somewhere else and find a different toilet to use. Yeah, right. Like every bloody toilet in the city wasn’t connected. She wasn’t that stupid. Who knew where in the millions of miles of pipes that snake, tentacle, or whatever the goddamn thing-a-ma-fuck it was could be hiding? If it wanted her, it would find her. Didn’t matter what toilet she sat on. Regina finished and ran the shower briefly to wash away the traces of her shame. She gave herself a moment to air-dry, being unwilling to endure even the minimal amount of contact with the toilet that flushing a wad of toilet paper would involve, and then yanked her underwear back into place. Once adjusted, she carefully edged her way out of the bathroom, refusing to turn her back to the toilet for even a second. It merely sat there, mocking her with its harmless benevolence. She flicked off the light and practically ran back to her chair.
Wednesday Night:Regina crouched in the bathroom doorway, arms around her midriff. What she had to do this time couldn’t be done in the shower stall. Her bowels gave another croak of protest and she thought for a moment that she might lose it right there in the hall. A mixed sense of mixed relief and fear filled her as she found that she was able to keep it in once again. She knew, however, that she was rapidly running out of options. In an ironic twist on the old maxim, she would have to shit or get on the pot. She did a sort of knees-locked shuffle into the bathroom and, arming herself with the toilet plunger, cautiously used it to lift the lid. She was fully prepared to bolt from the room should anything be lurking inside the bowl. Her entire body was tensed like a sprinter awaiting a starter’s gun. The lid whipped up with a clack and she instinctively hopped backwards. The bowl was empty. She could see the water, cool and inviting. The scratches on the porcelain where Eddie had snaked it out that one time when her bracelet had gotten dropped in and flushed accidentally. The dark mouth of the u-bend. Other than that, nothing. No snakes, no monsters, nothing out of the ordinary at all. Regina’s stomach, free now of the horrible tension that had held it in check for the last few moments, clenched violently and the time for a decision had arrived. It really was no contest. Her fear of the toilet was overridden by her much more immediate fear of messing herself and she quickly began a litany of self-convincing as she yanked her underwear down. It will be fine. There’s nothing in there, I looked. I’ll be quick, just sit, go, and right back up again. Only take five seconds. Oh god, oh god, oh god … Panties down, dress up, and she was pushing out almost before she sat. Her first indication that something was wrong came the instant her thighs made contact with the seat. It should have been cold, or at the very least cool. Eddie had been gone since that morning, and she hadn’t used the toilet in three days. But it wasn’t. It was warm. As warm and soft as flesh. By the time her brain registered this fact it was already too late. She didn’t even have time to scream. In a spray of water and blood, the tentacle came lunging up from between her legs. Huge chunks of flesh were torn from her body as it whip-sawed up her torso and wrapped itself around her throat like a noose. Her entire world exploded with pain. She flailed at the thing in a blind panic, unable to breathe, unable to think, and succeeded only in ripping her hands to shreds on the hooks that covered its surface. Her middle finger was torn almost completely off, hanging only by a single, wormy tendon as it flopped and danced like a fish on a boat deck. Blood splashed out from around the tentacle, painting her face clear to her eyes and running down her chest in a stream. Suddenly she was hammered to the floor as the toilet folded itself impossibly outward, collapsing down and then ballooning open until it filled half the room. What had been the inner surface of the bowl erupted with a thousand jagged things that might have been teeth, all twitching and convulsing with naked hunger. It loomed over her on all sides, waving like a plant in the wind. Regina convulsed in the midst of this horror, her eyes beyond seeing, her mind filled with the screams that her savaged throat was no longer capable of voicing. Blood sprayed freely as the pressure being applied by the tentacle sent it sluicing out like a thumb being held over the end of a hosepipe, and everywhere it struck the now-living porcelain it was immediately absorbed. The thing which had once been a toilet quaked and let out a low, rumbling moan that might have been ecstasy as it soaked up her life. Pathetically, her bowels finished their job and evacuated themselves with a wet burble a split-second before the jaws of the toilet snapped shut over her like a venus fly trap on a piece of hamburger. It stood there swaying for a moment, filling the tiny bathroom like a giant sculpture of hands at prayer as it fought with the twitching lump in its base, and then it flexed… and then it squeezed… and then, with a noise that sounded very much like “glorp,” she was gone.
Later Wednesday Night:“Honey, I’m home,” called out Eddie, as he dropped his toolbox by the door. There was no sign of Regina in the living room, although the television was on. He sighed and started struggling out of his work boots, already thinking about that cold beer waiting for him in the fridge. God forbid he should go get it first though. Let the bitch catch him walking through the house with his boots on and he’d be shitting sideways for a week. Free of his Huskies at last, he wandered into the kitchenette, cracked his numero uno, and chugged the top half as he stood there pondering the empty recliner where Regina usually sat. His eyes wandered from there to the hallway which led to the bathroom. Moving out of the kitchen, he could see that the bathroom door was open and that it was unoccupied. Thoughtfully he took another swig of the beer. Could it be? Was tonight the night? Eddie went back to the front door, grabbed his toolbox, and made his way clankingly down the hall to the bathroom. “Regina?” he called out, checking the other doors as he went. The closet was empty, likewise the bedroom. She wasn’t in the apartment. He felt his heart began to race as he stuck his head into the bathroom and looked at the toilet. It sat there, happily benign, the same as it always had. Plain old American Standard off-white commode with a chip missing from the tank lid, just like he’d told her the other night. Little AS logo on the flush handle. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. Exactly like a million other toilets in a million other homes across America. Eddie noticed there was a tiny streak of blood running from beneath the lid and down the side of the bowl. Absently he wiped it off with some toilet paper, which he then wadded up and flushed. Sonuvabitch, it actually worked. He rooted through his toolbox, and pulled out the book that his co-worker Ortiz had given him last month after the umpteenth night of being subjected to Eddie’s traditional bitch-fest about his miserable home life. Ortiz was a great guy, an illegal up from Jamaica who worked his lousy plumbing job for cash under the table even though he was brilliant and spoke like five different languages. The book was old, really old, and bound in some kind of leathery material that Eddie didn’t want to think too hard about. Some of the newer pages were written in English, the rest were written in something that was not quite French and not quite Spanish, some mystery language that sounded like a record being played backwards whenever Ortiz spoke it. He’d given the book to Eddie last weekend along with a small glass vial of powder. “Pour the dust in the bowl mon, then open da book to where I got it marked. Read dat out loud, flush da dust, and all your troubles dey will be gone mon. Just you be sure dat she’s da next one to use de toilet. You don’ want it to be tinkin’ about you instead of her now, trust me on dat.” Eddie whistled a cheerful tune aloud as he carefully set the book on the back of the toilet tank. He’d return it to Ortiz tomorrow night at work, along with a massive expression of eternal gratitude. Meanwhile, he thought he might leave it in the bathroom. After all he was as regular as clockwork, and he knew he’d be in there first thing in the morning to do his daily duty. He could look through it while he was on the can, give it a quick read, check out some of the illustrations. Should make for some very interesting bathroom reading material.
x x xSomething tells me that Eddie might get to know more about his toilet bowl buddy than he thinks. Should make him flushed with surprise. (My first really bad pun of the new year. I’m slipping.) -GM