In the mildew and mold that lined the tiles of the shower, there was a building sense of regret: the regret of a life once lived, idle thoughts, and salty tears that had collected and been stored in the green-black fungi gathered along the walls. The regrets had been building since the breakup of the last owner—who had sung bitter laments to the shower walls—and from the owner before that—who had bemoaned the loss of his livelihood to a torrent of hard water. They gathered there in the liminal space between existence and nonexistence, bound together by the bonds of sorrow overwhelming silence, and manifesting into semi-tangible form.
So was the birth of Mari.
She blinked reflexively—more out of habit than necessity—then stopped blinking when she realized there was no dryness to correct. No dryness about anything around her. The shower was still damp from the traces of its previous user, the outline of their hand fading as the waters began to cool. Tentatively she reached towards the hand, overlaying her own and watching the droplets visible under her palm. These fell at random, allowing her to patiently watch and contemplate where she was. Who she was. What she was. If she was anything at all.
There was a jiggling of the doorknob, a rattle that made Mari pull backwards into the shower’s wall, and the bathroom door opened. The intruder was a tall, gaunt girl with eyes darting around as if expecting someone to jump out and attack her. Mari watched the girl close the door behind her, averting her eyes as the other undressed: a base instinct in the deep heart of her saying that some measure of privacy was necessary.
Water began to come out of the showerhead in a torrent, cascading across the tall girl’s body and pooling onto the floor. It spiraled into the drain, and Mari watched the lazy droplets becoming streams before allowing her eyes to travel upwards. The shower had become warm again, almost oppressively so, the tall girl tracing lines onto the glass door that stood between her and the outside world. No, not lines. Letters. Each one spelling out an indelible truth.
I AM HERE.
Mari sounded out the letters step by step, the mouth newly formed giving credence to words only a few minutes younger than she. But there must have been some whisper, some slight exhalation of breath at the action. Just enough to perk the ears up. Just enough to alert the girl shampooing her hair now, who peered around cautiously, wary eyes never resting. “Is someone there?”
Without context or understanding, Mari reached out towards her warmth. It was a natural thing, a moth to the fleeting flame that was human connection. Would that she could touch this girl, would that she could bridge the gap between her transience and that blazing reality. For the briefest of moments, they connected—spectral fingers ever so slightly touching true, warm, human skin. The natural result was a shrill scream, followed by the intruder dashing out of the glass door without any clothes on and straight out of the bathroom. Mari tried to follow her, to reassure her that she meant no harm. But every time she sought to leave, the universe barred her movement, imprisoning her within a transparent prison.
Translucent fingertips trailed along the fading words again, mustering what little energy they could to keep them alive. I. A. M. H. E. R. E. Transient, fleeting words of affirmation. For the briefest moment, Mari smiled at the mark she had made upon the world. Then, as the steam cooled in the absence of warm fog and body heat the letters began to fade, and as they did she did too. Back into the mildew and mold, back into the hollows of the tiling, lying in wait for the next person to appear.
Kyle Tam is a dreamer, writer, and full-time complainer from the Philippines. Her fiction has been publishing in Idle Ink, Mineral Lit, and Analogies & Allegories.
header image: Hannah Xu via unsplash