Prompt Day #261: Dramatize a character fighting with an everyday inanimate object for his very life.
Death Wrapped in White
Jeff looked around at his room for the night. Adequate. Bed, night stand, lamp, and a private bathroom. It was all fairly mundane, exactly what one would expect from an asylum. Only four rooms had been prepared for this. His and the other three contestants involved in a radio contest/stunt for Halloween. “Spend 24 hours in the country’s most haunted asylum”. He’d entered it on a whim. Last man (or woman) standing would receive twenty-five thousand dollars. That’s where the fine print came in. Only one could win, so it was a minimum twenty-four hours but really, you stayed until you were the last one standing. When he’d been chosen and showed up for the orientation, they assured the four of them that no one had ever lasted longer than six hours in the place, so the contest was unlikely to last longer than a day.
He didn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings. This was going to be an easy win. He’d sized up his competition; a fifty-something high school English teacher (Sharon), a hipster college student majoring in art history (JP or PJ or something), and a road worker about Jeff’s age (Wes) who kept whooping every time they talked about the ghosts said to haunt the place. They were not allowed to bring phones or other electronic devices, which was fine with Jeff. He’d brought some books and was frankly looking forward to some quiet time to read them. With the new baby at home and the other two in soccer, he never seemed to have a minute to himself.
The radio DJs had certainly played it up. The four were brought in and they were given a tour by a medium with the two DJs in tow. She was dramatic, exactly what Jeff would have expected from a psychic. She felt cold spots and touches. She had Sharon convinced that in the treatment room, she too had an encounter. The teacher swore she’d felt hands run through her hair. Jeff had to admit that room was unsettling with the electric shock therapy chair and the large tub with the dunking chair used for ice water baths. He shivered just thinking about it.
A nice hot shower would help get the chills out of his system. And then he could curl up on his bed and read one of his Clancy novels. As long as it wasn’t a medical journal, he’d be happy.
The water came out red from rust in the pipes. He mentally patted himself on the back for not freaking out at the “blood red” water. He wondered which of his three compatriots might overreact to that. There was good pressure though, so there was that. The shower curtain smelled like a pool toy. It was stark white and obviously brand new, put up for this challenge. The creases where it had been folded in the package were deep still. The plastic rings attaching it to the rod were clear. Basic and cheap. That was fine with him. Probably why they could offer such a big pot to the winner because the contest itself cost basically nothing.
The water cleared and he stepped in. He let it run down over his head. Let it wash away all his nervous energy. After the tour, the medium wished them all luck and did some kind of blessing over each of them. The DJ’s made some stupid jokes and locked them in. They were given a flashlight (with the radio station logo on it of course) and a walkie-talkie type device to be used only to call to be let out early. They didn’t socialize much before retreating to the perceived safety of their respective rooms. Jeff had his eyes closed, head back when he heard the scream. It sounded like it was coming from inside his own head.
Jeff jumped and slipped in the wet tub. He fell against the shower curtain. The cold, wet vinyl hugged his naked skin. He panicked. The scream pierced his eye socket. He thrashed at his attacker. The curtain pulled away from the rod. The cheap plastic rings gave way, some shattering and rained down on his head. They were dive-bombing bats attacking him for his blood. His mind, which had shut down all zones but the very primitive focused only on fight. He was now functioning only on instinct as he flailed about in the downpour. The curtain, now flaccid wrapped around his neck and body as a result of his own crazed locomotion. He slipped again and fell into the tub, hitting his head off the soap dish jutting off the wall. The anaconda like shower curtain slapped against his face, smothering him with the scent of childhood summer pool parties.
Jeff clawed at his face but his fear made him inhale sharply, vacuuming the thing to him. He kicked and rolled tightening the rolled up plastic around his neck and tightening it which made him inhale harder, starting the terrifying cycle all over again.
He no longer heard the screaming. He didn’t hear the pounding on his own door either. Reality was rapidly fading away along with the oxygen level in his blood. Water filled his ears and the curtain covered his face. Suddenly, he was in a sensory deprivation chamber. He was floating. There was nothing to be afraid of anymore. There was nothing at all.
“Mr. Morley? Jeff Morley? Are you in there? You are the final contestant left in the house.” A voice said.
“You’ve just won twenty-five thous….oh shit. What the fuck? Shit. Turn the live feed off. Turn it off!” The smooth, deep disc jockey’s voice screamed.
“Is he dead?” The other one asked peering into the tub at the purple, bloated body apparently strangled to death with a shower curtain.