In the Wee Small
Hours of the Morning
Randy woke. He put his feet
into his slippers
by feel and trudged through the dark to his office bathroom down the hall. He
always used his office bathroom in the middle of the night so he didn’t wake
In the living room, he
scratched his belly, enjoying the cool dark, remembering the way. There were no
Legos underfoot, no dog toys to trip on. Those were all gone a long time ago.
Reaching the bathroom, he
turned on the light with one hand and flipped his penis out of his pajama fly
with the other. He could have done that in the dark, too, but having the light
on kept him from peeing on his legs and feet, or maybe the wall. It also made
sure he was awake. He hated the dreams where he dreamed he had to pee, and did,
then woke up panicking that he had wet himself. Sometimes when he was too
tired, he’d fall asleep again and have a second dream, or even a third, in
which it happened again. Better to just turn on the light and verify he was
awake and pointed in the right direction.
Finishing, he flushed,
tucked himself away, and turned to wash his hands.
There was a man sitting on
the edge of the sink. Medium-tall, thin, dark hair combed back from his face,
he was dressed in a white seersucker suit with a white shirt and cream-colored
tie. He spoke quietly and casually.
“You should consider
killing your wife. Really. Talk to you soon.”
And with that, in the space
of a second, he smiled slightly, became translucent, then transparent, and
Randy blinked, looked down
at his feet, saw his brown slippers on the beige tiled floor, and wiggled his
toes. He looked up. The man was still gone. He washed his hands, laughed
nervously, and went back to bed.
Two nights later, Randy got
up in the middle of the night again, thinking as he often did that he was too
young to do it, just 45. Too much coffee during the day.
Assuming the position
again, he sighed and voided his bladder. He tilted his head back, closed his
eyes, and felt the pressure draining from him. Sweet relief.
A hand shoved him brusquely
between his shoulder blades. He lurched forward, spraying urine on the lid of
the toilet, the wall, and his foot. He caught himself on the wall with one hand
and was shoved again. He fell awkwardly onto the toilet, shock stopping the
flow as he looked at the man before him. The same man, now in a powder blue
suit, so faintly blue it was barely discernable. His shirt was a hint of pink.
He wore a grey tie. His eyes appeared to be red-rimmed with black. The man
“Thank you for not soiling
my suit. I can’t say you’ve had the same luck. If those bottoms didn’t need
washing before, they do now.” He clapped his hands lightly, snapped his
fingers, then grabbed the hand towel from on top the counter and tossed it
lightly onto the floor.
“As you can see, I am
real. I am not a dream. You can see me, you can hear me, your towel has been
moved. Kill your wife.” He looked down again. “Perhaps after you change your
Randy looked down. His
urine stream had started again, arcing onto the floor. Embarrassed, he sat up
so the stream went in the bowl. When he looked up, the man was gone.
The next night, he didn’t
go to the office bathroom. He trudged quietly to the master bath, closed the
door gently, and turned on the light. He scanned the room. He was alone.
He did what he needed to,
bracing himself against the wall behind the toilet with one hand, just in case.
When he finished, he tucked himself away, flushed, and turned toward the door.
He took two steps toward
the sink and quietly washed his hands, making sure to use the correct bar of
soap, not the decorative scented soap in the shell-shaped dish to the right of
the sink. He made that mistake once, years before. Never again.
He whipped his head to the
left and right, looking over both shoulders. He saw nothing. His pulse raced
and he broke into a sweat.
“I’m still here.”
There, in the mirror in
front of his face, was the man. Just his head, in the space in the mirror where
Randy’s reflection should be.
“Here I am. I’ll always be
with you, Randy, every night. Until you kill your wife. Do it now. Go into the
kitchen, pull a knife from the drawer – I suggest that nice 6-inch one you
carve pumpkins and turkeys with – and do the job. She’s still asleep, lying on
her side. Put the knife up to her temple and lean on it. It will slide right
in. It’s sharp. She may not even wake up. Put her down and get some sleep. I’ll
be waiting until you do.”
“No,” Randy said weakly.
Surprised by his own voice, he shook his head and cried louder, “No! NO!”
The man faded from the
mirror and Randy heard another voice, from the other room.
“Hon, you okay?”
“Huh? Yeah, fine. Just
going to pee. Saw one of those centipedes behind the toilet. Be right there.”
“Okay. Can you check the
heat? I’m cold.”
“Sure yeah. Let me wash my
The next day, Randy barely
drank any liquids. Two cups of coffee – just enough to stay awake – and a
little bit of water. Another glass of water with dinner, then nothing. That
night, he didn’t wake up at all. When he woke the following morning, it was as
if he had been born again.
He went to the kitchen,
made the coffee, poured himself a cup, and put bread in the toaster. Soon
Sherri would wake up and shower before heading to work, and he’d be working in
his home office, alone.
He remembered reading that
coffee, in significant amounts, could affect your mind, creating
hallucinations. Maybe he should switch to tea like Sherri had told him, though
two cups a day seemed to be far too mild for anything like that. He didn’t even
have a history of hallucinogen use to warrant random flashbacks. Regardless of
whatever had been the cause of his problem, it seemed to be over, and for that
he was glad.
That night, Randy woke,
used the office bathroom and washed his hands, still watchful for the man in
the suit. Seeing and hearing nothing, he went back to bed, enjoying the coolness
that had set in on the mattress while he was gone, and the contrasting warmth
of his wife next to him. He relaxed and drifted off, smiling slightly as he
went to sleep.
He dreamed, his dreams
following the path they did on any other night, through snippets of the day he
had just lived through, past bits of television and the internet still
smoldering in his brain, to moments of his youth and bits of wonder and
absurdity far short of James Joyce, Little Nemo, or Lewis Carroll. The path
continued until he found himself clearly and solidly at one moment, a real
moment he had forgotten.
He and Sherri were standing
at a door. A white door. The door of their new home. He was about 30, she was
29, and she held their blonde, toddler son Christopher as Randy fumbled in his
pockets for keys. Based on Sherri’s dress and Christopher’s little suit with
short pants, they had just come from church.
While Randy patted and dug
through his suit
pockets, Christopher, bored, reached out and grabbed the area of Randy’s neck
exposed above his shirt collar. The boy’s hands had the shockingly powerful
grip baby hands do, causing Randy to flinch and push the hand away.
at Daddy,” Sherri chided. “Did you
leave them in the car, hon?” she asked.
so,” Randy replied, wondering if
he did, thinking he didn’t, then hoping he didn’t. The day was already hot. He
didn’t want to spend an hour or more outside, waiting for an expensive locksmith.
Just then, Christopher grabbed
again, this time digging his nails in, almost certainly drawing blood. Randy
yelped, reached back, and grabbed the toddler’s hand. He brought it in front of
his own face to look at it. The nails weren’t very long, but long enough to
need a trim and do some damage.
He curled the fingers around
into a little
fist, then squeezed the fist hard enough to leave nail impressions in the
whined, pulling back his tiny
feel good, does it? It hurts! Don’t
do that to people!” You little bastard, he added, silently. Serves
you right. Then he found his key.
Randy woke with a start,
gagging. The sheet was
pulled over half of his face, filling his mouth, making it hard to breathe. His
mouth felt dry from the sheet soaking up all the moisture, but his face was wet
with drool. He pulled the sheet away, wiped his face on the back of his wrist,
and frowned as hot residual pain throbbed at his neck where Christopher
scratched him, though it was nearly two decades ago.
The pain faded as he rolled
to his back,
panting, trying to calm himself down. The dream wasn’t very frightening, but he
did feel guilty, remembering how he vengefully wanted Christopher to feel pain
in his tiny hand. Yes, it was to teach him a lesson, but also he did it because
he was angry. He wanted to hurt the boy, to punish him, to get even. That was
wrong, and for that he was ashamed. Deep shame is what woke him, not pain.
He exhaled hard into the
night, trying to find
the cool air in the dark. The soothing air that would return him to sleep.
If I feel bad,
it means I loved him, he thought. If
I feel bad it means I’m a good man. I know right and wrong. I love my wife and
The scratches on
your neck felt like thorns,
didn’t they? Said another voice in his head. A calm, not unpleasant one.
As a matter of fact, yes.
a crown of thorns.
Yes. Fitting. Poetic. Yes.
Just like that.
I am the thorn.
I was there. I am there now,
scratching at your neck. Deny me, fail me, and you’ll never sleep peacefully
again. Rest will be something you can’t even remember. Kill your wife.
Kill your wife.
Randy laid on his back,
his eyes wide. The room
was silent, save for his own rapid breathing.
Kill. Your. Wife.
Sleep escaped him the rest
of the night.
I’m losing my mind,
thought. God help me, I’m losing my mind.
The next day, he sat at
his desk, sipping tea.
It became progressively cooler, and he sipped it less, but he still sipped it. He
took little notice of the passage of time, absent-mindedly aware of his heart
beating and the fact that he was breathing. He simply thought, and sipped, and
stared at the top of his desk, at his folded arms as he leaned on them, and out
Around noon he gulped the
tea, looked at his
computer monitor, and finally did some work.
For the rest of the day,
he drank and ate what
he wanted, knowing he’d be up at night. It was inevitable. The torment was
inevitable. As certain as the reaper at the end of days. He braced for it the
way he once braced for the impact, and the sick jarring thud, the second before
he was in a car crash in his 20s. Bracing didn’t keep it from happening, but it
lessened the damage.
That night, around 1:00,
he woke again and
trudged to the office bathroom. On the way, he pinched himself to keep the
urine in until he reached his destination. He arrived and looked into the bowl
as he voided his bladder.
Finishing, he looked up
and over his shoulder.
The man in the cream suit was there leaning on the edge of the sink, smiling.
“Hello, Randy. Another
A chill ran down Randy’s
spine, and at the same
time, a clawing feeling ran from just above his left nipple, down into his
stomach, where it became nausea.
he said, tucking his member away.
He flushed without looking, keeping his eye on the stranger. Not quite a
“So, you know what
you must do. Go do it. Put
your pillow over her head and lean for a while. Think of something else until
she’s gone. Or put your longest screwdriver over her heart and give it a good
rap with a rubber mallet. The one in the front closet. Go grab one of her old
Xanax out of the medicine cabinet, take it, and tomorrow say you remember
nothing. You might get off.” He smiled more widely. “I can make sure you do.”
Randy’s heart pounded
hard, then harder until
he felt it in his ears.
“You need me.”
The man cocked an eyebrow.
“You need me to do
it. You can’t. You can’t
kill her, but you need her dead. I don’t know what she’s going to do, or when,
but I bet it’s soon, and you don’t want it to happen. You really don’t. So you
want her gone, and you want me to do it because you can’t.”
“That makes her important,
and by proxy, me,
too. I love my wife. You can’t have her. Even if I never sleep or piss in peace
again. Never. So you can fuck right off.”
The visitor’s smile
faded, replaced by a sneer
as his face and even his eyes became redder.
Without uttering a word,
leaving behind the smell of burnt matches.
Randy sighed and washed
has been a professional writer and editor for 30 years, working in all forms of
media, from books and magazines to blogs. He has written, edited, or co-written
more than a dozen books of nonfiction, as well as eight books of poetry. His
most recent book of poetry, “American”, featuring work from four different
artists, was an Amazon best seller, ranked #60 in the category of American
poetry. His fiction has appeared in multiple publications, including Electric
Velocipede, the Albatross, KSquare, Coffin Bell Journal, Schlock! and Black
Petals. His short story, “Fence Sitter” was nominated for a Best of the Net
award in 2020.