The Bottom of a Well is Also a Home
The creature who lives in the well makes noises at night. Small noises as if it doesn’t want to disturb us.
It disturbs me.
Right now, everything disturbs me: taking dishes out of the dishwasher, folding laundry, talking with Rebecca.
“It could be a frog,” Rebecca says.
It’s not a frog.
Truthfully, I haven’t seen it, but then neither has Rebecca. Until we see it, we’re both equally wrong and equally right about what it is.
I know it exists because of the noises. I know it is not a frog because of the scratch marks on the windowpane – neat little crosses etched into the glass.
“Maybe a bird flew into the window,” Rebecca says.
A bird didn’t fly into the window.
When I tell her this, Rebecca shakes her head. She takes off her reading glasses which she wears on a beaded chain. She is thirty-four. I am thirty-one. We own a house in Indiana, and one of us is slowly disintegrating.
“I don’t like to see you obsessing,” she says.
While Rebecca is at work, I stay home. I pull out blank sheets of paper from the printer and line them up on the ground. I take a thin-tipped Sharpie and draw the creature over and again.
Sometimes I draw it as something round and furry. Sometimes it is scaly, slithering, sinister (left-handed). Mostly I draw a faceless, human figure with sharp, thin toes (it walks on tiptoes) and sharp, thin fingers (perfect for etching neat little crosses). The figure stretches long and longer until it fills the floor. Its empty face becomes a black hole and if I don’t lean back, I will be sucked all the way in.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” Rebecca says.
“I can’t,” I say.
“Try,” Rebecca says.
“It’s not anything,” I say. “Or it’s everything. I don’t know.”
“Would it help to get a job?” Rebecca asks.
“I’m trying,” I say.
“You could do anything,” Rebecca says. “You’re so talented.”
“Please don’t use that word,” I say. “It feels so far from where I am.”
Rebecca puts her head in her hands, her elbows on the kitchen table. Outside the creature in the well is silent and the cornfields are eating themselves into darkness.
“It’s exhausting,” Rebecca says to her palms, “trying to get you to love yourself.”
Tonight, the creature is on the roof.
I hear when it moves – bright pinpricks of sound. Spindly toes tapping against shingles, spindly fingers rapping like a polite but insistent visitor.
Let me in. Let me in.
It is testing the roof. It is looking for vulnerabilities.
Rebecca has her arms around me, and I am having trouble breathing. The night is interminable. The day is interminable. The night is interminable after that.
It is Sunday, and Rebecca is visiting her mother in South Bend. I walk out to the well in the backyard. It is surrounded by ragweed and panic grass. I look down the well, tunnel into the unknowable.
The sun is thin today and fighting against the cement-blank sky. I imagine what it would look like to see the sun from the bottom of the well.
The creature starts to make noises. Small noises but getting louder. I can hear its fingers tipping and tapping and picking out crevices in the well-wall and pulling itself up.
I walk back into the house.
It is Monday. Rebecca calls and tells me she will be staying with her mother a little longer.
“I need to clear my head,” she says. “My mom needs help around the house.”
She pauses and then says, “I would ask what you need, but you never tell me.”
“I’m trying,” I say. “I’m trying.”
I am trying, but the creature is in the house.
Everything disturbs me: the taste of water on my tongue; the sound my heart makes; Rebecca calling and me not answering. I am unable to hear her voice above the echoes.
I am lying on the bed. The creature is lying on the ceiling. Direction has become meaningless is up is down.
Dark water drips from where the creature’s face should be.
Rebecca stands at the foot of the bed and watches me.
The creature has wrapped itself around me, holding me tight. Its toes dig into the backs of my heels. Slender fingers caress my throat, draw lines along my jugular, trace lines down my forearms.
The bed is damp, and dark water is welling.
If I could tell you what the problem is, I would.
Laur A. Freymiller (they/them) is a fiction writer originally from small-town Indiana. Their stories have been published or are forthcoming in Entropy Magazine, Hobart, and Nightmare. They write character-driven horror with an emphasis on exploring the contradictions of mental illness/ health and the experience of being a queer person in an often antagonistic world.
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