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Drowning Without Water

Are you done with 'the apps'? Because they're not done with you... Short comedy horror for Halloween 2023.

By Addison AlderPublished 7 months ago Updated 6 months ago 8 min read
All images by MidJourney

The app goads her. Profile after profile of average men. With each one Erin dismisses, another one appears. It’s hard to believe there are so many single men nearby. And even more incredible that they are all on Fyndr.

She's about to turn off her phone when a new notification pings.

It’s a message from a guy she doesn’t recognise. Someone she hasn’t matched. Which means he paid for to message her.

Haha nice username. What are the chances? lol

Erin chose her username a few months earlier in a more cynical moment: DrowningWithoutWater.

The guy who has messaged her, his profile name is BreathingWithoutAir.

In Erin’s mind, a red flag whips and snaps. He must have changed his profile name to match hers. Weirdo.

She’s about to block him, but she hesitates.

It’s rare that a man does anything more than just swipe right. She knows men pay to be Featured in her feed, or to be amongst her ‘Morning Wakeups’. But no one has ever changed his name for her.

Erin taps on his image. Average guy. Brown hair. Weak chin. Facial fuzz. Positives: full set of teeth. In a rose garden. Sigh.

She flicks through his other pics. No gym guns. No beer in hand. In one he is actually holding a copy of ‘Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway’. Cute. In an ironic way.

She wonders why he picked her. She doesn’t think of herself as especially hot. Well, not in that Fyndr face-tuned, slutty-but-deniable way.

Erin thinks of herself as a good friend. Even a good girlfriend. Someone who is a laugh. And kind. But that’s all irrelevant. The only thing that matters to the app – and by extension, the men – is that she is there.

Over the years she has come to dread the inevitable consequences of matching: the strained overtures, the ill-judged innuendo. Then the repeated, reworded, reiterated requests that they should ‘go for a quick one’.

It’s too much for tonight. She plugs her phone in and switches off the light.


Erin's still half asleep when the letterbox clatters. She swings her feet out of bed, shuffles her toes into her slippers and goes downstairs.

But there is no mail on the mat. Strange.

Through the bubble-frosted glass of her front door, a silhouette is moving. Someone is standing there.

She doesn't move. If it’s the postman, why isn’t he going away?

‘Hello?’ says a man’s voice.

Why is the postman saying hello to me? She doesn't answer.

This is weird, she thinks. Or is it? Someone has knocked on my letterbox and I’m the one frozen in my hallway. Am I making something out of nothing? It's too early for this...

She sighs and steps towards the door. ‘Coming.’

‘Oh! Hi! I wasn’t sure if you’d respond.’

‘Yeah sorry, um...’ she mumbles. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Paul.’ Her hand stops on the latch. She doesn't know a Paul.

‘We haven’t chatted,’ he says. As if that clarifies anything.

The soles of his shoes crunch the bristles of her doormat.

‘Are you... like... a neighbour?’ Erin asks.

‘Ummm no... But I don’t live far away.’

‘OK. Why... why are you here?’

‘Well, you swiped left on me about two months ago.’

She steps back, her hand dropping from the lock, her foot leaving behind an empty slipper.

‘Hey, I understand,’ Paul continues, his voice adopting a soothing tone. ‘I know how it is for women on Fyndr. You’re inundated. I get it. I’m not trying to pressure you or anything. I just thought I’d let you know: I’m still here. If you maybe wanted to think about reconsidering me... But I totally get it, if it’s still a swipe left.’

He makes a whistling sound as he swipes his finger through the air.

‘No pressure at all.’

Erin finds herself trembling. Where's my phone? Charging. By the bed. Fuck.

‘How did you find me?’ she asks.

‘Oh it’s a new feature. I just paid a little extra.’

‘That’s not true.’

Paul sighs. ‘Does it matter? I only want to chat. I’m not--’

He stops mid sentence, and looks over his shoulder, down the path as another set of footsteps approaches.

‘Morning,’ says a second man’s voice.

‘Hey,’ says Paul. ‘Are you here for...’

DrowningWithoutWater?’ says the second man.

‘Haha. Yeah me too.’

‘No shit. Haha. Is she...?’

The second man steps up to the door, his features disfigured by the glass.

‘Hi there, darlin’! You gonna open the door? It’s like Piccadilly Circus out here!’

Fear drenches Erin like an ice bucket challenge. She flees upstairs, barefoot.

‘And she’s off!’ jokes the second man.

‘She was just standing there, not moving, for like a minute,’ Paul tells him.

‘Bit odd that...’

The screen of Erin’s phone is filled with notifications.

‘Someone likes you!’

‘Things are Hotting Up in Your Area!’

More arrive every few seconds.

She looks out between her curtains and sees that there are now three men standing on her front porch. The third man looks up and gives her a wave. She drops the curtain instantly.

‘Is that her bedroom?’ she hears him say.

‘She’s probably putting her face on,’ says another.

She scrambles to dismiss the notifications long enough that she can open her phone app. She gets ready to press the Emergency Call button.

No, this is ridiculous, she tells herself. At this hour, on a Sunday too! Just tell them to fuck off.

Back in the hallway, it is appreciably darker with the throng of men now numerous enough to block the light.

Bonjour cherie,’ says a new voice.

She ignores him. ‘Listen, will you all just leave? I don’t want to talk to any of you.’

‘Jeezers lighten up,’ says one.

‘We just want to say hi,’ says another.

There’s at least ten of them now. They're starting to stack like ants. Heads looking over heads, trainers clambering onto shoulders. Hands pulling themselves up to the fanlight until their leering faces appear in the glass. Staring at her. Winking. Their hands to their ears making ‘call me’ gestures.

She staggers to the kitchen, out of sight, and collapses against the cupboard, swallowing down the fear welling up in her gullet.

She scrolls through her contacts list for someone to call, someone who can help her, someone who cares about her. She scans down a long series of single name entries: Adam, Andrew, Ben, Ben 2, Ben 3...

Then a notification appears. 'New message from BreathingWithoutAir'.

It’s lovely out, if you fancy a coffee later

She hesitates. Then types:

Are you outside?

A few moments pass. The three asterisks start bouncing as BreathingWithoutAir types his response.

Yeh just chillin in the garden

My garden???

More bouncing asterisks. Then:

Hahaha your funny no mine

She thinks then realises something: I never swiped left on him! That's why he's not here. That's how the algorithm works.

She can no longer ignore the babel of bodies knocking and writhing against her front door. She hears their incessant, mindless groaning and swooning. She types back:

U drive?

Yeah can do

She gives him her address and tells him to use the lane behind the house. He tells her he’ll be there soon.

Erin sprints upstairs and grabs her clothes from where she dropped them. The horde of her admirers is now towering high enough to reach the first floor windows. Their cheap watches and stainless steel rings scrape against the glass.

Erin pulls up her jeans then stops herself. Is this a date? Fuck. I can’t wear these...

She drops the jeans and rifles through her drawers for the shiny pleather pair which boys seem to like.

A look in the mirror reveals the tower of men is now level with her. Their vacant eyes shatter her privacy. She can hear the occasional chilling platitude:

‘Don’t worry babe, you look great.’

‘Do you mind if I sit on your bed a second?’

She focusses her attention on her mirror. Her eyes have their usual morning puffiness, exacerbated by the terror coursing through her.

No time for proper make-up, but there was that 2-minute dusky eyeshadow tutorial she’d seen on Denitslava...

28 seconds later: I look like a fucking chimney sweep.

SMAAASH. The window breaks and a squabble of arms and hands reaches into her room, tearing down the curtains. Their eyes find their target and they emit a collective syllable:


Erin grabs her handbag and her flat shoes... No! The kitten heels? No! We’re only getting coffee... The deck shoes?

She hears the front door collapse and panic sets in. Deck shoes it is.

She hurtles down the stairs. The men are so numerous they’ve jammed the doorway, buying her valuable seconds, as she scarper towards the back door.

Her phone pings. A new message from BreathingWithoutAir. Her heart lifts.

Just pulling up, cu in a sec

She yanks the backdoor closed behind her at the exact moment that the building gives an almighty shudder. The ground shakes with the sound of bricks and mortar falling. The front wall of the house has collapsed.

Immediately she hears the profusion of men pouring in, tumbling into her front hall, filling her rooms with their laddish insouciance and hormonal emissions, ambling in their collective brainfog, echo-locating her with sonaring sperm wails: ‘Babe?’ ‘Hon?’ ‘Love?’ ‘Darling?’

In the lane, a little Hyundai pulls up. Erin scrutinises the driver. He looks like BreathingWithoutAir – except he’s wearing glasses.

He didn’t fucking mention that on his profile.

She stumbles over, trying to keep her hair in place. He watches her, circumspectly, then gives her a thin smile. ‘You’re an early riser...'

‘Thank fuck you’re here,’ she splutters, leaning against the passenger door.

‘I'm Tom,' he says.

'Yeah. Great. Fuck!!'

The sound of splintering wood snaps Erin's attention to her back door. Arms flail through the gaping hole. The lolling heads and rolling eyes of the swarm of blokes scan for her.

She grabs the passenger side handle. It's locked. 'Open the fucking door! We've got to go!'

Tom doesn't unlock the door. He just looks at her.

Erin glances down the lane to see a tidal wave of men surging around the corner. Their limbs tangled, faces torn and bleeding, hands grasping and tearing at their neighbour for purchase to pull themselves ahead in the race.

The white zeroes of their eyes are all fixed on Erin.

‘Can we please just get the FUCK OUT OF HERE?' she splutters, clawing desperately at the closed passenger window.

Tom drops his head and sighs. He seems oblivious to the monstrous mass of maledom bearing down on them.

'Do you know I wasn't in my garden just now?' he mutters. 'I was in my bed. Because it's eight thirty in the fucking morning.'

'Wh-- what?' stammers Erin, still yanking the door handle.

'And also: I liked the look of your profile. You seemed nice. So I thought I would pay the stupid fucking Fyndr fee just so I could send you a message. And then you left me on 'read' until this morning when... What? Why did you even respond? What's the angle? Am I paying for breakfast now? Or am I just saving you the fare into town?'

He turns the key in the ignition.

‘Wh- what are you doing?’ she gasps, stifling a sob. ‘I'm sorry... Let’s just go somewhere nice... We'll grab a quick one...’

‘Don't worry about it. Listen, I'm sure you're drowning in men--’

'You don't see them?' She gesticulates back down the lane.

He looks at her blankly.

'No, no, you don't understand!' she pleads. 'Most of them, those other ones, they're monsters!'

Tom shakes his head. 'Yeah? Well I'm a human being.' He presses his foot down, the car moves away, as he mutters: 'Fucking crazy...'

Erin hurls her deck shoes at the back of his receding vehicle.



About the Creator

Addison Alder

Writer of Wrongs. Discontent Creator. Weird tales to enthral and appal.

All original fiction. No reviews, no listicles. 👋🏻 Handwrought in London, UK 🇬🇧

Buy my eBooks on GODLESS and Amazon ☠️

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Comments (2)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock7 months ago

    That was so much fun it was scary. Or so scary it was fun? Anyway, I enjoyed this thoroughly. Oh, the nightmare that is....

  • Susanna Kiernan7 months ago

    Too close to reality. Thanks for the chills and the rage.

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