Drabblecast 379 – Water Spots


  •  Feature:  Water Spots  by  Rebecca Gomezrueda
  •  Genre:  Drabblecast  Horror

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Drabblecast Water Spots Lissa Quon“They found your brother…”

Her mother leaves the sentence unfinished, and she wants to tell her not to go on. He can be anywhere, in the water, in the fire, and in the end there’s little difference between burnt bones and waterlogged bones.

“Did you hear me? I said they found your brother.”

“Mhm.” So she’d have his bones. What did she want with them?

“Rachel, they found Charlie. He’s at a hospital upstate. He’s alive.”

Water Spots
By Rebecca Gomezrueda

“They found your brother…”

Her mother leaves the sentence unfinished, and she wants to tell her
not to go on. He can be anywhere, in the water, in the fire, and in
the end there’s little difference between burnt bones and waterlogged
bones.

“Did you hear me? I said they found your brother.”

“Mhm.” So she’d have his bones. What did she want with them?

“Rachel, they found Charlie. He’s at a hospital upstate. He’s alive.”

#

“Someone noticed him lying in the street.” The nurse says to her once
they get into his room. “When he came in, his hair was stuck to his
face with mud.” Rachel narrows her eyes as she presses her skinny
fingers into Charlie’s temple. His skin is colder and paler than she
remembers it.

“Do you know what happened?” Her mother asks, looking at Rachel’s
probing fingers like she isn’t sure whether or not to push them away.

“There was no evidence of physical injuries, but he’s clearly
traumatized. Ever since he’s been here he hasn’t spoken a single
word.”

As her mother starts to whimper Rachel realizes that she could give
him a scar if she pressed in hard enough with her nails. His eyes are
closed, and even though the nurse warns her to be gentle with him she
passes her fingers over them and presses.

“Charlie.” She says, like she’s scolding him. When he opens his eyes
they’re wide and they’re burning and they stare at a spot on her cheek
for much too long but they are his eyes, they are their eyes, dark and
round and familiar even in their panic. “You can’t stay here.”

Three months earlier he’d sneered at her after dinner like he was in
on a joke and she wasn’t. She’d laughed about it, loved him for it,
because the curve of his lips was the curve of hers. That night, when
he’d told her he was going out, she didn’t say anything to stop him.
She only reminded him to watch out for the rain and to not wake her up
when he came back. “We have to go home Charlie.” She tells him,
remembering how it felt to find his bed empty in the morning.

Chipper looking men and women with grating voices and sympathetic
smiles tell them what they should and shouldn’t do, feed him this,
give him that, push him here, leave him there. They swarm her parents
first, and tell Rachel simply to be strong. It’s an absolute waste.

“Come on.” She says, taking his larger hand and pulling him towards
her as gently as she can. He can only stare as she cups his cheek in
her palm and taps at an old scar.

#

His room is three months empty and it seems to shift on its axis when
she walks him inside with a hand on his elbow to keep him upright. She
doesn’t ask him what needs to be asked, only sits him down on his bed
and watches him, shushing him when he lets out scared little noises.

“Honestly.” Her hand is shaking as she smoothes down a lock of his
hair. They match that way.  “I’m your little sister, remember? What
can I do to you?”

She feels him watch her back as she leaves and thinks that he must
recognize her just fine.

#

She doesn’t need to be taught how to care for him. Before he’d
disappeared they’d been friends, laughing at the same jokes and
playing the same games with matching expressions; matching freckles
across the nose. In a few days her kindness takes the fear from him,
He’s still mute but he at least smiles, at least nods or shakes his
heads to answer her questions and glares at her when she’s sarcastic.

Her parents ask her how he is. She resents them for it. “Better.” She
tells them.

Later her mother calls Rachel’s aunt and soon there are other children
at her doorstep, cousins she used to see every weekend.

“I can’t believe they found him.” One of the youngest says, looking
like she’s close to tears. “Can we see him?”

She finds Charlie in the bathtub; hands pruned and eyes droopy as
though he’d just woken from a nap. “What are you taking another bath
for? You took a shower this morning.” She tugs at his arm and he
leaves the warm water with a sour expression and a shiver. “There are
people here to see you, people that missed you. Family.”

She leads him into the living room with a hand on his
wrist, but even though he’s extra clean his cousin’s flinch when they
see him. She clears her throat, trying to break up the silence, but no
one offers up any words to make up for it.

“He can’t talk, you know.” Some of her cousins look shocked at the
sharpness of her voice, but others just continue to gape. They look
from Rachel to Charlie like they’ve both lost their minds and Rachel
can’t take more than a minute of it before she’s hot with outrage.

“If you’re so uncomfortable, then why don’t you just leave?” It’s more
of a command than a question. Many of her cousins turn and run,
Charlie’s hurt and Rachel’s anger proving too much to handle, but one
boy stays behind. Rachel sees him give the exit a frantic look of
longing before he turns back to her.

“Rachel.” His voice shakes, and she hates him for it. “I need to talk to you.”

He stares hard at her brother, and she can feel him flinch against her shoulder.

“Just get out.” She tells him.

Her cousin looks at her helplessly and takes her wrist in his hand and
pulls. His fingers sting on her skin. “Isn’t there somewhere else he
can stay while he gets better?”  She’d never noticed how unpleasant it
is to have words whispered into her ear. “Rachel, listen to me!” It’s
much easier to throw him out.

She goes to her brother’s room that night. He’s all wrapped up in
blankets but she can see the curls of his hair peeking out of the
cocoon and it makes her smile.

“I don’t care what happened to you.” She says, sitting beside that
peek of hair.  She hears the blankets rustle as he lifts his head, and
it hits her that he had only pretended to be asleep, and had probably
only been pretending to be asleep the other nights she’d checked on
him. “You’re still my brother.”

She slides her body down until she’s able to curl around the blankets
at his back so she can press her cheek against the covered jut of his
shoulder, and after a few minutes she falls asleep. He doesn’t.

When she sees him again his mouth is blue. The water is colder than
she remembers.

She wants to tell him to watch, to watch her swim. Keep looking. But
he can’t. The spaces where his eyes should be shine a lovely pearly
white, and she wants to trace the sheen with her fingertips.  The
water is cold enough to hurt and his grip is tight enough to keep her
under.

He doesn’t speak to her the way he sometimes does in dreams, just
opens and closes his mouth like a fish and it makes her giggle. The
bubbles she makes rise over her head.

There is her brother. And he’s being dumb as usual, why’s he grabbing
her like that, like he’s afraid she’d swim away if he let her go?

“Where’s your tongue Charlie? Where’s your tongue gone? It’s not in your mouth”

He should let her look for it.

She wakes up shaking with her brother’s hands on her shoulders and the
taste of blood in her mouth. She’d been shivering so violently she’d
bitten her tongue, and she folds it in on itself, trying to rub away
the hurt.

“You took me with you.” She says, pressing her palms flat against the
bed. She can barely hear him breathing. “You took me with you.”

#

She doesn’t notice the smell for a few days, but when she does she can
barely keep herself from throwing up. Her brother reeks, like rust and
salt and gasoline and blood and a million other vile scents in one.
She asks her parents about it because she can’t believe she didn’t
notice it, but they play dumb, mumbling into their hands and hiding
from her eyes. She doesn’t realize Charlie had overheard her until she
catches him scrubbing his skin raw during his fourth bath of the day.

“That’s enough, that’s enough, it’s okay.” She has to get in close to
pull his nails out of his arm, but she’s able to breathe through her
mouth and bear it. “It’s alright.” He still can’t talk, can’t thank
her, but he lets her kneel behind him and dry his hair. She falls
asleep in his bed again and dreams of fire.

When she wakes up it’s to her mom’s scream and a hunting knife waved
near her face. Her dad’s knuckles are white around the handle, and she
can feel her brother shaking with fear beside her, curled in on
himself with his hands covering his face.

“What are you doing?”  She sits up onto her knees but a tug at her
elbow has her falling back and her dad lurching forward.

“Don’t touch her!” Her dad spits, while her mom watches helplessly
from outside the room. “Get away from her!” Her dad swings his knife
again, dangerously close to Rachel’s cheek.

Her brother had made himself so small that when Rachel pushes him
behind her and sits up he’s hidden from their father completely.

“Rachel, move.” Her dad says with frustration. The wild look in her
father’s eyes knocks the breath out of her, but when she feels her
brother’s hands grip her shoulders she finds her voice.

“Leave him alone!” She says, stretching her arms out in an attempt to
make herself look bigger than she is. “Are you crazy? I’m not letting
you hurt my brother!”

“Rachel…” Her mom’s voice reminds her of her cousin’s right before
she’d kicked him out. “Rachel, that’s not your brother.”

Charlie freezes and the air in Rachel’s lungs does the same. “We got a
call just now. They found him in the river today. His body had been in
the water for weeks Rachel.”

Her shoulders sear with pain but she can’t find the breath to scream.

“Rachel.” Her father holds his hand out like he’s trying to coax a
skittish animal from its hiding place and she recoils. “Rachel, come
here.”

It’s not the right voice, not the voice she wants, and she can’t help
but flinch back into the body behind her, false as it is.

She’s betrayed Charlie, of course she has. Accepting that thing as him
was the worst betrayal she can think of. She’d let it sleep in his
bed, for God’s sakes. She’d stayed by its side and acted as its
protector and loved it enough to burn herself out.

She wants to run, to leave, she swears she does, but then the thing
that isn’t her brother says a single word and her waterlogged ears
pop.

The tone is wrong. It’s twisted and harsh and it sounds like he’s
speaking through glass on his tongue or a hole in his throat. She
looks over her shoulder and catches its face as it shifts, just a
little bit. There’s something gummy about the cheeks, something off
about the freckles. They’ve stopped matching hers, but she decides
it’s enough anyway.

She shuts her eyes and falls onto her side. She’d never been any good
at saying no to Charlie.

#

When she wakes up she’s in her bed with a different shirt on and achy
marks on her shoulders. It’s been days since she’s slept in her own
bed, and for a moment she’s not sure where she is.

“Charlie?” She calls, remembering too late that her brother no longer
speaks. If she’s in her bedroom, then Charlie must be right down the
hall. Her fists are clenched as she steps over the fallen figures on
the floor and makes her way to his room.

“I’m coming in.” She warns before she pushes his door open. Her
brother’s head snaps up when he hears her close footsteps, and
something in her stomach turns painful when she sees his eyes, black
like coal and aberrant.

“Honestly.” She says with a sigh, leaving him for a moment to go get a
washcloth. She returns to an expression that is more guarded than it
has any right to be. “Hold still.” She says as she swipes the
washcloth lightly across his chin where the worst of the gore is
gathered. “What a mess. Come on, how old are you?”

His only response is to grip her thin wrist with his filthy hand.
“Knock it off.” She says, schooling her face into a stern expression,
and he eases his hold on her and lets her arm fall against her thigh.
“What? Are you scared again?”

His eyes are too dark to read properly, but she thinks he looks more
startled than scared. If she thinks about why that is she’ll lose her
nerve, so instead she fakes a frown and puts her little hand against
his cheek, thumbing at the blood near his temples.

They’d always had the same eyes. If his are black, then hers must be too.

“You took me with you.” She says to her brother, to the cut above his
eyebrow and the thick black tongue suspended in his mouth. “You took
me with you to the bottom of the river.”

Her wrist bleeds where he’d touched it. She forgives him for it.

Play

Episode Art:  Lissa Quon

Twabble:  “I met the alien; we shook hands. I smiled; it became angry. I coughed; it forgave me. We have much to learn from each other. ”  by  Scarcrow


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