Billy was sitting on the toilet doing his business while reading his favorite Spider Man comic book. It was difficult concentrating. The image of his dead sister, Mary, kept popping in his mind. He had looked at her face in her casket at the funeral last week but the face wasn’t right. It was too pale and white. Mary always had rosy cheeks and a wide bright smile. This corpse had small thin lips that would never smile.
Mary had died of a very rare skin disease that caused her flesh to rot from the inside out. The doctors couldn’t stop it. All they were able to do was to prolong her suffering. The last time he saw Mary before she was taken to the hospital for the last time, her skin was scaling and falling off; a snake shedding its skin. A week later, his parents told him Mary had gone to heaven. And then came the funeral where he looked at that horrible empty casing that pretended to be his 6-year-old sister.
Billy’s eyes felt heavy. He had been sitting on the toilet for too long and his butt was beginning to fall asleep and get the tingles. He dropped the Spider Man comic on the floor and started to unroll some toilet paper. A soft gurgling noise emanated from the water below his knees. He looked down. Bubbles were forming in the toilet bowl. More gurgling noises and then the bubbles intensified. The foul defecation diluted water was splashing up against his butt cheeks. Horrified, Billy stood up quickly and stared down at the water. The water had turned a fluorescent putrid green and his business had been sucked down beyond visibility. Billy bent his face to peer closer. Several more bubbles popped to the surface. Suddenly Billy felt his entire body sucked into the bowels of the toilet bowl and he was careening headfirst through the pipe like a waterslide. Down, down through the wet gunk and slime until he landed painfully onto a damp and mud-caked surface.
Darkness all around. Slowly, as his eyes adjusted, just enough light emerged to convey he was in what appeared to be a sewer. Small slivers of light shimmered high above him from a cylindrical manhole. Dizzily, Billy propped himself up on his elbows and shook the infested fecal water off him like a wet dog. At the far corner of the room there was a small figure squatting in a little ball. The figure’s head rose and slitted red eyes stared directly at Billy. The figure was a little girl. Her hair was long and tangled with leaves and debris. She stood up and made a strangled noise somewhere between a belch and a hiss. Then she spoke his name, “… Billy…Biiiillllyy.” Billy couldn’t move. To his horror, his mind began to assemble the physical attributes of the girl who was now walking slowly toward him. The dimpled chin, high cheekbones, gangly arms. The same dress his sister wore on the day his parents drove her to the hospital. It couldn’t be her. But she knew his name. She was only paces away and her hand stretched out toward him. Her fingers, disjointed and stripped of their nails, grazed his neck.
That was enough to break his paralysis. He kicked her in the shins knocking her backward while he turned and jumped to his feet. He ran five feet directly into a supporting beam, knocking him right back to the ground, seeing stars. The creature masquerading as his sister jumped on his back and grabbed a knot of his hair, flipping him around with unnatural strength. Spittle flew from her lips as her mouth tried to work out something. “Biiilllyyy… I am… so… looonely… Come plaaay with meeee.”
Billy scooted backwards, breaking from her grasp. The adrenaline allowed him to see the creature even more clearly now. The creature had his sister Mary’s face, no doubt about it. But the skin was peeling off and there were wounds and scabs covering every inch of her exposed skin. She was a rotting corpse. He observed a slug-like form peeking its head out of an oozing lesion on her shoulder. She opened her mouth to speak again, and a rodent squirmed its way out, stifling whatever communication she intended.
Billy scrambled to his feet again, and ran, this time avoiding the supporting beams. He turned a corner and ran down a long narrow passage, slightly more illuminated from a light source at the other side. He screamed soundlessly and felt his heartbeat slamming against his skull. He heard shrieking laughter behind him, weakening as he put more and more distance between himself and the monster. He ran and ran, but the light at the end of the passage never came any closer. He sobbed desperately until he collapsed to the ground in the shallow running water, tasting its filth, sealing his hopelessness.
His head snapped up abruptly as if someone had rapped his chin with a ruler. He was still sitting on the toilet. Spider Man looked up at him nonchalantly from the comic book splayed open on the bathroom floor. He was drenched in cold sweat. A dream? It didn’t feel like a dream. He still smelled the pungent sewer odors all around him. It was seeped into his clothes, absorbed into his pores. He shivered helplessly and covered his eyes with his hands. The feeling of complete terror was very slowly abating, but he couldn’t shake the certainty that he had just looked into his dead sister’s eyes while she attempted to choke the life from him.
Since his dead sister didn’t come after him from the toilet, Billy convinced himself he had had the worst nightmare of his life and proceeded to go about his day. After taking off his clothes (threw them in the garbage) and taking a long hot shower, he went out to play with his friends down the street. They rounded up some other kids from around the block and organized a kickball game. Before long, Billy wasn’t thinking about the nightmare anymore. Soon after he was devouring his mother’s delicious meatloaf with mashed potatoes and watching several episodes of the Flash with his Dad before bed-time. His mother and father both separately tucked him in and gave him a kiss good night. Since Mary had died, they had been particularly attentive about his bed-time routine.
Billy had almost completely forgotten the nightmare. He closed his eyes and fell into a deep and restful sleep. It might have been the second REM cycle, somewhere around 3:30 in the early morning when Mary found Billy again.
In his dream, Billy was playing baseball with his friends, and then driving a race car with his father in the passenger side seat. “What an incredible driver you are, Billy!” His father’s eyes were so bright and proud. Then he was swimming at his friend Alice’s pool and admiring how perfectly smooth Alice’s arms and legs were and how pretty her mouth was when she smiled, when something below him grabbed his ankles and pulled him to the bottom of the pool.
Billy thrashed his arms and kicked his legs but whatever had a hold of him was extremely strong. He felt his foot being pulled into the drain at the bottom of the pool, followed by his leg, and then his torso was being squeezed to fit into the small drain hole. Billy felt his bones being squeezed to the shape of a tennis ball, and then he was flying through the water pipes at least a hundred miles an hour – much faster than the race car he had just driven with his father. Then his crumpled body was spit upon the same darkened sewer from his nightmare.
The thing that resembled Mary was sitting in the same spot, as if she were waiting patiently for this visit. But this time, the creature jumped quickly towards Billy, as if he were a cricket that just twitched in front of a staring house cat. She was upon him at once. He could feel her cold, dead skin pressing against his own flesh; her stinking rotting breath upon his face made him nauseous. Her red eyes were now dancing in their sockets as she began to sing happily: “My brooother! My bro-o-other! He came to pla-ay with meee!” Billy punched her in the face as hard as he could. Her neck snapped back and her zombie corpse face turned nearly 180 degrees around. She slowly revolved her head and her eyes were angry. Her high-pitched sing-songy voice now deepened multiple octaves. “What did you just do to me, you mean, mean, big brother! You are supposed to be my FRIEND!” She slapped him hard and he found himself more repulsed by the feel of her rotting hands than by the force of the blow.
She grabbed his ankles with both of her hands. “It hurt so bad. Hurt so bad for sooo long. But now I don’t hurt. Now I’m just… lonely. Come be my friend, brother. Forever. And ever!” Her eyes became slits of evil and she began that horrible shrieking laugh from before. “You will feel my pain. And then come be with me.” She laughed until she coughed, and blood shot out of her mouth and nose with the effort. “Be my friend, brother. Forever…”
Billy awoke screaming. He screamed until his mother came running into the room, slamming his door open and putting her palms against his cheeks. “It’s okay Billy, it’s okay. It was just a dream.” She caressed his head and kissed him until the screaming turned to moans, then whimpers, and finally to raspy breaths. Billy’s mother read him his favorite stories she used to read to him when he was three years younger and still into baby books. For Billy, the stories felt just fine tonight. He didn’t fall back to sleep, but he did close his eyes and think about what needed to be done.
The next morning after a large bowl of corn pops Billy went upstairs and confronted the doorknob of Mary’s bedroom. Since she was taken to the hospital weeks ago, the door had stayed firmly shut and only his mother would go in occasionally. Billy would overhear her weeping quietly. Billy sensed there might be something in his little sister’s room that could help him. He was terrified of the monster his sister had become in his dreams, but he was sure she wouldn’t have acted that way unless something was terribly wrong. He wasn’t the greatest big brother, but he didn’t think his little sister really wanted him to die just to join her in death.
Billy summoned his courage and put his hand on the doorknob. He noticed the back of his hand was peeling off dead skin. He rubbed the dead skin away. Significantly more flaky skin came off than he was expecting. His hand was left with a large oval red welt. Moderately alarmed, but undeterred, Billy pushed the door open and walked inside.
The room was immaculate. Freshly vacuumed with all of Mary’s toys perfectly arranged in an order that only a mother could be responsible for. Mary was a typical child; she threw her things everywhere. Their father often joked the two of them were his two little Tasmanian devils. Billy scanned the room, looking for anything that might be useful. Mary was obsessed with dolls. She had dozens of them, usually splattered around the room chaotically, but now they were serenely placed around the room, all evenly spaced from one another. All of them looked keenly at Billy with prying eyes. Billy was feeling thoroughly creeped out. He recalled Mary enjoyed one particular doll more than the rest, especially during her last days. It was a brown-haired girl with a green and white checkered dress. There it was, lying face down on Mary’s pillow. Billy picked the doll up and looked at the unblinking eyes, thinking.
Billy walked over to Mary’s little school desk where she used to do all of her drawings with markers and watercolors. There were a few books standing upright between two horse shaped bookends. One of them had a little lock enclosing the pages. It was a diary. Billy remembered how excited Mary was when she received that little diary with the lock and key last Christmas. He tried to open the diary, but it wouldn’t open without the key. Billy looked at the doll he was holding to his side. Did she have any suggestions? Billy noted a little bulge on the side of the doll’s dress. Upon further examination, it was a small pocket with a tiny zipper. Sure enough, there was the key.
The key fit perfectly into the journal’s lock. Billy felt guilty for looking at his dead sister’s journal. But he sensed this was something he had to do. Most of the pages were filled with colorful drawings of flowers and rainbows, other silly girly things. But a few of the pages contained his sister’s childish handwriting. Most of it was boring stuff, like, I luv my Daddy and Mummy. I wish Gramsy wud buy me the princez cassl I askd for.
He flipped to the last few pages. The drawings were all in pencil, no more colors. Lots of faces with sad frowns. On one page she wrote, I hate herting. Its not fare. Mommy sez hevan is butiful but Im scarrd. If I do go to hevan I hope Molly can come with me.
Molly. Of course. That was the brown-haired doll’s name.
Billy’s arm was itching badly. He had been scratching it for the last few minutes while perusing the diary. He pulled up the sleeve and gasped. He had scratched almost all of the skin off his arm. It looked bruised and welty. He noticed something lesion-like growing near the elbow. Just like the marks his sister was getting before she died.
Billy closed the diary, locked it with the key, and put it carefully back where he found it. He left the room and closed the door quietly. He brought Molly with him to his bedroom where he picked up his Spider Man comic book. Then he went to the bathroom to take care of business.
Billy sat on the toilet longer than he ever had before. He was tired of reading the Spider Man comic and his neck was getting stiff. But he held the doll firmly with his left hand and pressed against his chest. He waited. His eyes began to get heavy.
He heard soft bubbling below him. The bubbling grew louder and became a steady gurgling. Billy braced himself and tensed all of his muscles, getting ready for a terrible ride. He felt his body compress to the thinness of a pencil and then he was being sucked downward, this time he was a bullet flying through the drain. He imagined the Flash. The Flash would be brave. The Flash would know exactly what to do. He still held Molly tightly against his chest.
He slammed down hard against the hard sewer floor. Rats scattered away from something dead and decaying they were greedily picking at. He shook the wetness from his clothes and allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness. “Mary?” he called. She was not there.
“I brought something for you. I have your Molly.” He shivered. This had to work.
Then a high reedy voice drifted to his ears from somewhere in the cavernous sewers. “Youuu have my Mooolllyyy…?” And then the voice became low and growled. “GIVE IT TO ME. Give it to me NOW!”
He felt a rush of wind fly by him, and the doll had been knocked to the ground. The creature pounced on the doll ferociously and began hugging it and kissing it. She looked up at Billy. Half of her face was torn off revealing her skull. Most of her flesh was completely gone. Clearly the rats were having their way with her, Billy thought.
"I thought you would want to have her.” Billy croaked. “You said you were lonely. I… I can’t be with you, Mary. I’m still alive. I have to live my life. Grow up, get old and stuff… you know?”
She sneered at him with worms crawling in her few remaining teeth.
"Please Mary. I don’t want to die. Please let me live. When I do die -- a long time from now -- okay? We’ll be together in heaven. We can play then. Okay?”
Then Mary smiled and instead of the rotting corpse, Billy saw the face of his sister before she got sick. She was beautiful and he remembered that he loved her.
“Tell Daddy and Mummy I love them.” A bright light glowed around her like a halo and Billy wasn’t scared any more. “I’m sorry I scared you. I’ll see you when it’s time. A long time from now. But time passes differently now so it won’t be so long for me.”
She touched his shoulder and he felt the itchiness and pain go away. He was cured. “I love you, Billy.”
Before Billy could say he loved her too, he woke up, back on the toilet seat. Molly was gone.