by Simon McHardy
It rained this hard only once or twice every summer, Chad and Steven were going to make the most of it. Their greatest joy and terror was riding the creek behind their house on their bodyboards every time it flooded. Their father had told them he didn’t want to see them near the creek when it rained; this was all thanks to a story he caught on the evening news about a boy who had been sucked into a drain and drowned. But Chad, at fourteen and two years older than his brother, didn’t see the problem, they always bailed out well before the drains. They had sat around all morning waiting for their parents to go shopping, watching raindrops as thick as knitting needles splash on the ground outside and listening to the thunder rolling down from the surrounding hills.
Just before midday they waved their parents off with goodbyes and promises not to go near the swollen creek. The rain was still filling the dry patches in the driveway where the car had been parked when Chad and Steven ran past with their bodyboards and expectant smiles on their faces.
The boys entered the churning waters of the creek at the back of their house, Chad went in first, the water was warm and muddy, bits of debris floated past him, branches, plastic bottles and even a traffic cone.
Steven slid in beside him, “We gonna race?” he said.
“You bet, I’ll give you a ten second head start.”
“All right you’re on, but bet I don’t even need it.” Steven let go of an overhanging root he was holding and was swiftly carried away in the swirling water. Within a few seconds he was around the bend and out of sight.
Chad saw his brother disappear and pushed off. He grinned madly at the speed with which the water swept him along; the creek had never been this fast before but then he couldn’t remember when they had had this much rain. About halfway through the ride he started to get a bit worried, he had glimpsed Steven only twice and each time his brother was just disappearing around the next bend. He didn’t feel like he was making up any ground and he cursed himself for giving Steven a head start. When he turned the last bend, Steven was rushing past the dead elm tree that marked the end of the race.
“Get to the bank,” Chad shouted gesturing at his brother who had turned to give him a victorious smirk oblivious to the swiftness of the waters which were torpedoing him to the stormwater drains.
Aware now of the danger Steven began to kick wildly towards the closest bank but the current was too strong and he was whooshed into the sewer, his desperate shrieks rising above the roar of the water. Chad was in the same predicament but at the last minute he was able to grab the edge of the drain where he hung suspended, struggling against the current and screaming his brother’s name, the only reply a wet echo.
With no sign of his brother Chad dragged himself to the embankment, trembling from fear and exhaustion. “Dad is going to kill me,” he sobbed.
Neither Steven nor his parents were home when he returned. He took a long shower and waited for his parents’ arrival.
“Can you help unload the car please, Chad, where’s Stevie?” his Mother asked as she piled supermarket grocery bags on to the kitchen table.
“I don’t know, Ma, he said he was just going out for walk a while back.” His mother looked concerned. Chad gripped his legs with his hands to stop himself from shaking.
“How long ago did he go?”
“About an hour.” he tightened his grip, the pain showing in his voice.
“Why did you let him go out in this weather, he’s only twelve,” his mother glowered at him angrily.
“He didn’t want me to go with him.”
“I’ll go look for him,” his father said shrugging into the rain jacket he had just taken off, “he’s probably down at the shops playing arcade games.”
Chad’s parents were in and out all evening taking turns on the phone and driving around the streets looking for Steven. At ten o’clock they called the police who, by late the next day when the rains finally stopped, extended their search to the creek despite Chad’s protesting that his brother would not have gone near it. On day two his father found out that Steven’s and Chad’s boards were missing. Chad insisted that they had lost them last summer and didn’t tell him because they didn’t want to get in trouble.
Steven woke in the wet darkness, he began to move, a bloated and lumbering thing. The pipe had narrowed to the thickness of a man’s thigh but his soft, water-logged body moulded into the tight space and he writhed on, worming his way upwards, searching, an entity animated by one need only, vengefulness.
A week after Steven’s disappearance Chad lay in bed listening to the pipes in his bathroom groan and gurgle, he could go and tell his father but he knew the old man would not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night for such a thing. He opened the bathroom door and peered down into the dark circle in the sink, some black filth belched out of the hole.
A voice gurgled up from the darkness, “You left me down here to die.” Chad jumped back, his eyes bulging in terror.
“Stevie, is that you?” Chad began to inch forward to the sink. A smell of rot wafted up from the hole.
“Have you left any other kids down here to die?”
“Are you trapped, Stevie? I’ll go for help.” Chad was peering into sink hole now, almost expecting to see the twinkle of his brother’s eye staring up at him.
“Bit late now.”
“Why? we can get you out.”
“You killed me,” Steven roared. Chad fled the bathroom and ran down to his parents’ room screaming that he could hear Stevie in the drains. His parents, groggy with sleep, sat up in bed and listened with growing fury and horror as Chad told them about Steven disappearing into the sewer. Armed with this new information the authorities blanketed the sewers. The boys’ bodyboards were uncovered but when no trace of Steven was found along the length of the waste water system the night search was called off.
Lying in bed, Chad heard a wet, plopping sound coming from the bathroom, he imagined mincemeat falling on to the floor in small increments. He drew the covers up around him, counting the plops into the thousands before emotionally exhausted he fell asleep.
Towards daybreak Chad woke to a shuffling sound as if something were sliding across the floor of his room, that stink from the bathroom was back but this time it was stronger, he reached for his bedside lamp and flicked it on. He was confused by what he saw, a pink mass of spoiling meat covered the floor like a carpet and crept up the bed and under the covers.
“Come rot with me below, brother.”
Chad opened his mouth to scream but the meat enveloped him, flooding the yawning orifice with its decay and gore. The mass slithered back to the bathroom, its prey cocooned and began to squeeze itself through the drain hole, a space the size of a silver dollar. Chad cried out in agony as the bones of his feet snapped like dry kindling, fibula and femur followed, his hips dislocated as he was pulled down, the large bones cracking and splintering noisily. He felt like a boiled lobster living through its own culinary dissection. By the time his ribcage began to snap apart Chad welcomed the mercy of oblivion.
Chad was floating when he regained consciousness, drifting on a stream of shit and piss. The sewer, the dripping reek of it, was all around him. He could hear somebody screaming, it took him a moment to realize that the voice was his, and yet it wasn’t, there was someone else screaming with him, inside him, Stevie, they were one now. As they had wormed their way down the pipes together they had merged, Stevie’s rotten flesh had melding with his own, a putrid mass of heaving pulp. In the darkness they cursed each other vilely and screamed at the agony of their own putrefaction.
About the Author
Simon McHardy is an Australian archivist and historian. He has published numerous fantasy and horror short stories which have appeared in such publications as Jitter, Kzine, Devolution Z, Five on the Fifth and 9Tales Told in the Dark. He is currently working on a short story compendium which will be completed in 2018.