by Joshua Scribner
“Is somebody there?” Byron asked.
“Yes,” a female voice returned through the darkness. He knew he’d heard the voice before, but he couldn’t place it.
“Do you know where we are?” he asked.
“No. But it smells like sewage.”
“I don’t know how long I can stay above this water.”
“Swim until you find the side.”
Byron did. He came to some kind of wall. “It’s disgusting,” he said.
“Yes, well, you can cling to it and live.”
“Yes, but how long can we breathe this air? It’s horrible.”
“Shut up, will you. I’m trying to figure this out.”
Byron was quiet. He tried to think of how he had gotten here. He’d been in Biology class and dozing off. Was this a dream? It didn’t seem like it. Everything just felt too real for that.
There were squishy sounds, and then her voice came. “I just climbed the grimy stuff. It levels off.”
Byron didn’t want to stick his hands any further in, but he wanted out of the water. He climbed. It was only a few feet before he was level.
“Are you here?” she asked.
“I’m right beside you.”
“Good then. Now answer a few questions.”
“Are you a bully?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“There’s not much time. Just answer.”
He shrugged, though she couldn’t see it. “Yes. There are a few kids I pick on.”
“And is one of those kids Sam Price?”
“Well, sure. I mean, his parents are in that weird cult. They’re witches.”
She laughed. “I got it now.” He heard a splash below.
“What are you doing?”
He heard a quieter splash and knew she’d gone under water.
He waited for about a minute, and when she didn’t return, he decided to move. He didn’t go into the water, though. He went the other way, crawling across the floor, feeling ahead into the darkness, until he came to a drop-off and couldn’t feel all the way across. He backed off, sat up and thought of the questions she’d asked him.
He often badgered Sam Price about his parents, and Sam always retaliated with weird little hand gestures. Had one worked somehow? He tried to remember the last one Sam had made. It was hard to remember, though, because today blended in with so many other days he’d picked on Sam.
The girl had seemed to think time was limited. He hated to go back into the water but he had no idea what else to do. He moved back to where they’d climbed and slid back in. He went under and swam around. He found the wall and then found an opening. He felt his way up. He came to the surface and realized he was on the other side of where he’d been. There was light, and he heard voices.
“Jenny Carter was just in here, soaking wet and smelling foul. She said she’d been hexed. She said she’d gotten up in some sort of daze and asked to be excused from class. Then she’d come here. The next thing she remembered was trapped down there. She said she had just returned to normal size and gotten her memory back when I walked in.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that someone would hex her. She’s extremely rude and vulgar, and she doesn’t care about anyone other than herself.”
With that, Byron remembered the last set of hand gestures Sam had made at him. He’d started by brushing off his hands as if to say he was washing his hands of Byron. Then he’d used his right hand to make the shape of a “U.”
He understood the hex now, and the vague memory of asking to be excused and then going into the wrong bathroom also came. He tried to crawl out of the drain then, just to call out, but he was too late. The faucet came on and he was sucked back through the U-bend and into the sewer line.
Copyright © 2008 by Joshua Scribner