There’s something strange that happens every night as I lay down to sleep. There, alone in my house, I hear someone. And she drips.
It started about a month ago, at a distance. I could hear the faint tap-tap coming from downstairs. Almost a loose faucet, but the sound was padded, softened. Water falling on carpet. For a while it was easy to forget, easy to ignore. But persistent.
I made my way downstairs, looking for the source. Stepping through the living room, the kitchen, I found nothing. But as I returned to climb the stairs, I stepped through it: a damp patch on the hallway carpet.
That was all.
I stood and listened, but there was no sound, no dripping. I rubbed my feet dry on the carpeted stairs. Returning to my room, I slept in the silence.
But the sound returned the next night. And this time, I thought I could also hear the creak of the stairs. It was this new sound that scared me, filled me with a fear too familiar to women living alone. I crept from my room towards the landing. I peeked carefully down the darkened, empty staircase. I stepped down a creaking step, and then another. I had almost reached the bottom when my foot felt wet carpet and pulled back. Standing very still, I listened to the silence. There was nothing to see, nothing to hear, but I could feel it: a decided emptiness. I took in a breath of air and knew that someone else had breathed it before me.
This has gone on for many nights—all the same, but different. The sounds, closer each time, and me rising to find a new patch of wet floor, closer. And that feeling. Standing in a hollow spot, an impression pressed into the air of my house. I feel the fabric of my reality rush in to reclaim its space, balancing itself, until I can’t be sure if the thumbprint I had felt in that moment had ever been anything more than imaginings that I entertain night after night.
It is no longer fear that draws me from my bed. I’m not sure what I want this sound to be, yet each night I rise to meet it, only to find it gone. But there is something left behind in that closing space. An almost-warmth, so different from the cool, wet floor beneath. So different from the loneliness. As the sound comes closer and I arrive sooner, I can almost name a fragrance in that moment. A smell of sand, salt, seagulls. But only almost.
Last night, as I stood by my bed, the sound began behind me. I listened to the gentle tapping and breathed in the ocean’s wetness that came and went with a warmth against the back of my neck. And I felt her—not as an absence, but a presence. I turned to reach for her and felt the subtle breeze of the shifting air, moving to fill an emptiness that had only just been carved away.
Tonight, as I lay in bed, I don’t move. I don’t even open my eyes. Not at the seaside scent, not at the creak of sudden weight on my floorboards. Not even as the first drop of water falls to my waiting lips.
Writing from the boreal forests and abandoned mines of Northern Ontario, Miriam H. Harrison writes poetry and fiction varying between the eerie, the dreary, and the cheery. Updates about her published works can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/miriam.h.harrison) or her website (https://miriamhharrison.wordpress.com/).