A shadow. That’s all it was. A shadow moving across the mirror. Wes shivered, backing away from the bathroom. Compact as the woman who lived there, his grandma’s apartment was a cozy place full of browns and dark greens. But the bathroom was a blight on the place. The one room that unnerved Wes upon every visit. Whenever his mom and dad dropped him off for their date night, Wes would only enter as a last resort. Or when forced. He always felt watched in there.
“Did you finish brushing already?” His grandma stood behind him wearing a white gown with vertical pastel stripes. Pink curlers stuck out of her hair beneath a hairnet.
Wes shook his head. He had tried lying last time, but she had known somehow. It was as though the curlers were antennae tuned to his lies’ frequency. Sighing, Wes turned back to the door. Moonlight painted the door in a ghostly glow. The shadow moved again.
“Come on, now. Before you start growing beard hairs. Mamma’s gotta take her teeth out.” The woman walked back out of her bedroom, and the sound of her hide-a-bed creaking like a loose floorboard met Wes’s ears.
Just make it fast. Inducing himself to run, Wes stubbed his big toe on the bathroom door and found himself hopping on one foot and made as if to kiss his injured digit. A tear streaked down his cheek, and he set down his foot, careful not to jar it again. He flicked the light switch, but the bulb’s filament snapped within seconds. Groaning with furrowed eyebrows, he squeezed out twice as much toothpaste as he needed, too hasty to exert control. A small glob landed on the coffee cream-colored counter. Wes ignored the spill and brushed his teeth faster than ever before.
As the taste of fluoride stung his tongue, he spat out the paste. When he raised his head to face the mirror, he thought he spotted reflected movement. Wes turned to see if his grandma had returned to check on his progress, but there was no one. He was alone in the bathroom. He turned back and almost screamed. A face was staring out at him. Its feral grin exposed needle-sharp teeth.
Wes took a step back, but furry black limbs reached out from the mirror. Claws extended, it swiped at Wes, slashing a gash into his shoulder. He fell to the floor, weeping and holding his bloody arm. The creature crawled out of the mirror, climbing down the sink’s front like an overgrown gecko. Fox-faced, the creature licked its chops as it inched closer to him.
“Help.” His voice was weak, but he could not make himself louder. Fear had constricted his vocal cords. “Mamma. Help.”
The creature chuckled in its throat. It grasped Wes by the armpits and hoisted the boy aloft. “You’re coming with me.” The thing’s voice was a raspy, guttural sound like a distant, rumbling engine.
He writhed, attempting to escape, but that sent the claws deeper into his flesh. Somehow, the pain allowed him to scream this time. The sound of scrambling feet preceded his grandmother’s arrival in the bathroom. The creature froze in mid-step.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Mamma! Save me!”
The old woman bent down to look at her grandson. “What have you done to yourself? You’re a bloody mess! What did you cut yourself on? Glass?”
“It’s going to eat me, Mamma!”
“Right.” She sighed the way she did whenever Wes talked to her about make-believe stories. “Let me go wet a cloth, and I’ll get you cleaned up.”
Wes watched as his grandma walked away, muttering to herself. The creature pulled Wes to a place of bones. No amount of struggling would bring him back from behind the mirror.