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The Silent Chatter

When his bare feet touched the cold concrete, he looked down to locate his slippers and saw the scribbles.

By C. L. NicholsPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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John woke one rainy morning and discovered the writing in the floor.

When his bare feet touched the cold concrete, he looked down to locate his slippers and saw the scribbles. They weren’t written on the floor but just below the surface, which was somehow part of the concrete. In sloppy cursive, they spread across the room then faded at the lamplight’s perimeter.

Long unpunctuated lines, tightly stacked one over the next, slanted down like someone writing on unruled paper. John tried to make sense of the writing but the letters reconstructed as he worked to decipher each word. New lines scrambled to overwrite the others in a mad rush to communicate.

He got one phrase, or at least a part of it.

the water

No, now the shapes were all wrong. The message had changed but he couldn’t exactly make it out. Letters morphed here then there. Small loops opened larger then reformed anew.

John was sure, though, that for part of a second, two words had been clear. The water. A warning, perhaps, but he lived on high ground.

The words swapped yet again but were no more clear than before. He gave up on them and looked across the floor. Now he could tell that the writing came from more than one hand. Most of the letters sloped right but a few leaned left, many written large although several were tiny, and some screamed boldly while others appeared meek.

All were too hurried to be legible. Had emotion-charged fingers put them there? Or perhaps they were the direct thoughts, or more horribly the ravings of …

Of what?

Special deliveries of the dead? Manic missives from deep space? Creepy crawlies through some rupture in the fragile membrane of reality? One thing seemed certain. Whatever the source, it must be crowded there.

He laughed nervously.

Whatever, this was pretty spooky.

John slid his feet into his house shoes, then donned his robe as he stood. He looked at the floor. The messages had disappeared. Curious, he sat back down. The writing reappeared, as frantic and distraught as ever. He stood. They vanished.

Heading for the kitchen, John was aware that with each step, he strode across a sea of words. A cup of stout coffee was called for. Something to bring him fully awake, because he must be sleeping.

When he clicked the light, he fell back and stared.

One of the dining chairs had been placed on top of the table. Balanced upon the chair was a tall stack of dishes, pans, and utensils.

John glanced at the locked back door, then searched for shadows poking from behind appliances. He listened for covert steps. Nothing. He realized that he’d stopped breathing, exhaled.

Sitting down, he inspected the high jumble of kitchenware. Piled haphazardly, it appeared so unstable that it didn’t seem possible someone had accomplished the feat. Gravity defied.

He looked down at the floor and felt dizzy. Waves of cryptic script swept against the kitchen walls and surged through the hallway door, flowing toward the bedroom.

But something was different.

John dropped from his chair to more closely examine the scrawl, then gasped in surprise. Slashed across several lines was a single readable word. Printed in thick capitals, it ended with the floor’s sole punctuation.

SET!

What the hell did that mean? Wasn’t Set the Egyptian god of darkness and evil? Hadn’t he killed his brother? Something like that.

The silent chatter below him quickened, a frenzy of alarm. The ominous word remained, overriding all others.

A sharp breeze blew across his face, ruffling his hair. Dishes trembled. The stack tottered then crashed upon the chair, the table, the floor in a cacophony of shattering glass, bonging pans, and jangling silverware.

John spun in a circle seeking an attacker. He was alone. He’d always been alone. Ever since…

Since Casey’s death. His son died in a boating accident. Only twelve years old. The police were satisfied. But Sara had known. She’d looked into her husband’s eyes, saw the truth, and walked away. He’d been alone ever since.

Alone with the guilt.

An accident? He hadn’t meant it to happen at all. His patience had ran out. His anger overflowed. He’d drowned his son.

Now he realized that they also knew. The words on the floor weren’t warnings. They were accusations. The water. Now he recognized the handwriting. Not Set, but the last three letters of his son’s name.

Casey!

Fragments of porcelain and slivers of glass began to jitter then swept round in spirals. As if caught up by a dust devil, they rose into the air. The whirling column stormed toward John, enveloped him in an unforgiving deluge of debris.

Spinning knives gashed flesh through his robe. Tines and needles and shards punctured his skin then burrowed deeper. He sank to his knees, submerged under an ocean of pain. Blood pooled beneath him.

John slumped face down onto the floor, too weak to resist. The sharp whirlwind collapsed around him. As he watched, the motion of the written lines slowed, ceased their relentless shape-shifting. In that instant, the words became clear.

Come in dad the water is fine

John struggled to his feet, stumbled into the bathroom. Still dressed in robe and slippers, he stepped into the tub and sat. He turned the right hand knob full-force then leaned back, shivering. As the water rose, his robe floated up. John stared at the ceiling as crimson water covered his face.

It was so damn cold.

The water chuckled.

Short Story
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About the Creator

C. L. Nichols

C. L. Nichols retired from a Programmer/Analyst career. A lifelong musician, he writes mostly speculative fiction.

clnichols.medium.com

specstories.substack.com

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