The following is an excerpt from VHS, a literary novel by Pablo D’Stair being released in various e-formats, absolutely free-of-charge (and in limited edition print-editions-by-part through giveaways). Information on the project, including links to what is currently available, can be found at www.vhsbook.wordpress.com.
There was a distinct moaning coming from the sink drain in the bathroom of my basement—it didn’t start as distinct, in fact I hardly even heard it at first, had just ducked in to the bathroom to wash my hands because they’d felt sticky, and it took a few times thinking I’d heard something indistinct to focus and then it wasn’t until I had my ear over the basin it got clear, the moan.
I stared at the opening, put two fingers in it, looked in the cabinet space under the sink, mostly because I wondered if the sink had a pipe went straight down or what—pipe curved and vanished back in the house somewhere.
The moaning went on, I sat listening, trying to puzzle could it be this could it be this could it be that.
I said “Hello?” with my lips right to the drain opening. “Hello,” I said again, elongating the sound.
The moan wasn’t regular enough I could imagine it was anything but a voice, it changed tone and depth and pitch. A moan.
“Do you need help?” I said, loud, because it sounded kind of pleaful, like there was something no good at the bottom of this all.
Went and called Vladimir on the cordless phone—would have called Lexi but I seemed to remember she’d mentioned something about going around to yard sales with her sister for some kicks, that day—it took six rings and I really worried I was going to have to leave a message about the whole thing, but he finally picked up. I brought him up to speed on the situation and told him I would hold the phone over the drain when he asked if he could hear.
“I didn’t hear anything.”
“Are you sure? It’s a moan, I can hear it even right now.”
No, no, he couldn’t hear it, so I held the phone there a little longer, closed the bathroom door in case somehow the sound was going funny due to some subtle thing in the background.
“I don’t hear anything, man.”
“Come on, you’re kidding, right?”
“I think you might be kidding, why would your sink be moaning?”
“Well, can you come over, maybe you can hear it better if you’re here.”
“I can’t right now, I’ve got a lot of different things I was just about to do, I barely even decided to answer your call and now I wish I hadn’t because this is a waste of time.”
“Vladimir, are you seriously telling me you don’t hear this moaning?”
“I am. That’s just what I’m telling you. And for no other reason than because I honestly don’t hear it.”
I held the phone over the drain and counted down all the way from sixty, then from ten again just because the moaning got a little bit louder toward the end of my first countdown.
“How about then?”
“Maybe it’s just something because of your phone, Des, okay? It could be this moaning is very much happening but is not, you know, coming over the telephone lines for some reason—that happens, you can’t always hear everything that’s going on over the telephone, right? Can we just agree that I believe you about the moaning and then I have to go?”
“But what about it?”
“I don’t know. Even if I was there, listening to the moaning, I probably wouldn’t care after a minute. Call the police or something.”
“I don’t know if it’s done anything wrong.”
“Ha ha ha, yes, I just mean to get the thing officially corroborated, who knows, maybe it’ll turn out there’s some way to wrangle prize money out of it.”
“Hold on, listen one more time.”
“It’s louder, now, just listen, it’s freaking me out.”
And he started saying Desmond, again, but I moved the phone back over the drain, then from a bit of a distance I started to moan, then I slowly moved in, making odd moans that didn’t even really sound like the moans from the drain, moved in a smidgen at a time toward the back of the phone, moans echoing and lengthening off the porcelain of the basin.
Abruptly, I brought the phone to my ear, excitedly said “Do you hear it now?”
“I’m telling you, I don’t hear anything. I do not hear anything and now you’re starting to worry me.”
“You didn’t just now hear that?”
“No, Desmond. Go for a walk, okay, you shouldn’t hang out in basements, your own or anyone else’s.”
“You didn’t hear, just now? This last time you didn’t hear all that moaning?”
“I didn’t, no.”
He didn’t seem to be lying and now the moaning had taken on more of a feminine lilt, it was more like someone sleeping very soundly, less like someone squirming and fatigued from lack of nourishment.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Alright, well, then you don’t believe me.”
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About Caleb J. Ross
Caleb began writing his sophomore year of undergrad study when, tired of the formal art education then being taught, he abandoned the pursuit in the middle of a compositional drawing class. Major-less and fearful of losing his financial aid, he signed up to seek a degree in English Literature for no other reason than his lengthy history with the language. Coincidentally, this decision not only introduced him to writing but to reading as well. Prior this transition he had read three books. One of which he understood.