The Visitor

📅 Published on May 21, 2020

“The Visitor”

Written by Luis Bermudez
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.25/10. From 4 votes.
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“Duérmete niño, duérmete ya…
Que viene el Coco y te comerá.”

When he was a little boy, his abuelita would tell him stories to keep him good, and Catholic. Brush your teeth, eat your vegetables, and don’t hold that girl’s hand, or else a creature with sharp teeth and long claws would come and get you at night, when mom and pop were asleep in bed. For him, growing up in the deserts of Arizona, it was called El Coco. All his friends had different names for them. The Cucuy, the Boogeyman, Baba Yaga, Krampus, and of course, old hat Lucifer himself. But he remembers meeting one kid, quiet a lot of the time, a transfer. He called it something else, he called it The Visitor.

He remembers hearing him say it. The way it made the air in the room stale and stiff, like walking through molasses. The way it rolled out of his mouth, and hit the floor in that empty gymnasium. The look on the faces of the other kids, how they all felt the gravity that the name held. He almost forgot how tired that boy’s eyes looked…

Arthur lived the quiet life of a middle management banker in the city. He went to work, he came home. He never saw anyone on the way back, not without an appointment, and a 24-hour reminder. Private. But Arthur, introverted as ever, was a man of some social significance. A year ago, he met a woman who resembled everything his mother ever warned him about. This, in effect, was a form of endorsement.

What Arthur could never have expected, was that the woman he was fraternizing with regularly and rather carelessly, was Married to the city’s Mayor. This quickly became something of a massive scandal, costing the mayor incumbent the election. Six weeks after Mayor Ozman gave his resignation, his family was seen leaving town. It was the last time that anyone would see the Ozman family. Their car was found several miles out of city limits, Linda found dead in the passenger seat, her throat slit. The children, and Mayor Ozman, nowhere to be found. A suspected murder/suicide. It was presumably brought on by the social humiliation, and the infidelity. Four months later, and Arthur still got emails from Online Gossip Columnists asking for a new statement about the murder/suicide.

Arthur never responded.

Of course, he didn’t, why should he? It’s not like Arthur was the one who pulled the trigger. He never knew that she was married, least of all to a major public figure! And as soon as the scandal came to light, as soon as he was made aware of what he was unknowingly participating in, Arthur called the whole engagement off, before throwing his phone into the river.

Arthur severed ties with everyone. Anyone who knew Linda knew her husband, and his friends and colleagues from University. He couldn’t live with the pity they had for him. The morbid curiosity they always shared. The strange questions they would never want asked of them, but were frequently employed as ice breakers.

“Hey, you’re Arthur, right? Aren’t you the guy who fucked a marriage to death?”

He was paraphrasing, he would admit, but the formula was there. It was now, in his bed at 6 am, that he was recalling the events of the prior year. Recalling the countless mistakes, the immeasurable heartbreaks, and the constant disappointments that people provided him. It was no surprise that Arthur lived a completely private life. So why then, Arthur wondered to himself, could he hear someone breathing outside of his bedroom door?

Arthur didn’t move a muscle. Didn’t even dare to make a sound, but instead tilted his head up ever so slightly to see that he was alone in his bedroom. The red display of his alarm clock, illuminating the objects in his room with an evil tinge, casting shadows of horrible creatures with spindly fingers and wiry hair. He must have imagined it, must have been half asleep and still dreaming when he heard it. It couldn’t have been breathing.

But there it was again, just as strong and distinct as the first. Long, ragged breaths, as if the lungs in this person’s body were filled with something thick.

Every cell in Arthur’s body was electric. Every nerve in his body on high alert, the hair on his arms, legs, and the nape of his neck standing on edge as if he had been struck by a bolt of lightning. He couldn’t help but think to himself, that this must be what deer felt like, staring into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Powerless, in the face of something you have no comprehension of. Like looking into the eyes of God, and finding that his expression is one of hatred, and not love.

The breathing suddenly stopped all at once. And for several painful minutes, the only sound that Arthur could hear was the dripping of his bathroom sink. Then…


A massive roar that rocked the very foundation of Arthur’s home. He could feel his bed rocking back and forth, vibrating from the force of the sound. A sensation he had only felt once during an earthquake. He stifled out a short yelp, covering it with his hands as the sound escaped his lips. A primal sound, one made by an animal informing the members of its pack, that signals a more dangerous predator is near. A reaction baked into our DNA by our ancestors who slept in caves, which were frequented by hungry wild animals. It was at this moment, that suddenly, Arthur understood the stories his grandmother had told him. About things that came bumping in the night, to take away naughty children.

There was the sound of something yelping out in pain, a break of something that sounded like bone, and the sound of something heavy and wet, slamming against the floor. Still, the door remained untouched, and undisturbed. Arthur began to wonder once again, if he must be experiencing auditory hallucinations. Imagining that something was behind his door, but too terrified to open it and check.

After several more moments of silence, and the sound of sloughing wet material striking his hardwood floors left his memory, Arthur began to feel more confident that he had come completely to consciousness. He slowly stood up out of bed, still feeling the need to be cautious.

Placing his feet slowly on the ground, half expecting rotting hands to shoot out from under his bed and grip his ankles, Arthur slowly came to stand at his bedside. He turned slowly to face the door, waited several moments for something to happen, for something to break his confidence. But no breathing, no growling, no bones breaking, only silence. Not a single sound. He took a step, heard the creak of the wood underneath his feet slightly, and waited several more moments. Again, he was greeted with complete quiet. He took another step, and then another feeling his confidence begin to swell.

He got within a few steps of the door before a thought suddenly occurred to him. Something felt wrong. He couldn’t quite peg down what it was, but it reminded him of when he would forget his wallet on the nightstand. There was some small detail he was missing, and as he took another step towards the door, he realized what it was. His sink. Why wasn’t it dripping anymore?

Suddenly, the pipes in the walls began to creak, and strain. He could hear the steel swelling just underneath the thin plaster walls. It made the walls in his bedroom look as if they were breathing, swelling up and down like ineffective lungs. Then there was the sound of a crack, a crash, and the rushing of water. Arthur began to slowly step away from the door, making his way back to the safety of his bed. The sound of rushing water increased in strength, and pretty soon, Arthur was able to see what appeared to be a muddy red substance the consistency of warm syrup, creeping in through the crack under his door.

He stared at it with abject terror as it continued to stream in, stretching out first a few inches from the door, then several feet, making the puddle a small pool.

“What do you fucking want?” Arthur called out to whatever had come to his home in the dead of the night, unsure of what he would do if he received an answer.

But as the desperate plea left his lips, the sound of the rushing water subsided. The pool quickly making its way towards his bed ceased all movement. It was odd to him that liquid, if that’s what this was, could just stop flowing suddenly. The moment of silence was quickly filled, with the voice of someone he did not know coming from beyond the door.

“Will you let me in?”

Arthur did not answer. Couldn’t, in fact, as the air had left his body. Whatever this thing was, it spoke to him, clearly and in English. But it sounded like a man, his voice like rocks tumbling down a mountain.

“What if I don’t want to let you in?” he asked nervously.

“You will, when you realize the alternative.”

The voice was certain, matter of fact, even. He tried to process the information, considered his options, and formulated a response. For now, he needed more data; he needed to have some idea of what he was dealing with.

“What are you?” It was the next logical question.

“Can’t you guess? You called me here, didn’t you?”

Was that true? Had Arthur truly called this creature here, just by remembering a story from his childhood? El Coco, the Cucuy, the Boogeyman.

The Visitor. He remembered the dead look in that little boy’s eyes. Remembered that three weeks before, his parents had died in a horrible accident. Just before he was being transferred to a new school. 11 years old, no friends, no family. Suddenly in an entirely new state and school.

And the thing he was most terrified of? The Visitor.

“What do you want?”

“I want to come in.”

“Then why can’t you?”

“Because you have to let me in. That’s how this works.” The Visitor’s voice took on an amused quality to it, as if he was aware of some joke that Arthur wasn’t, or as if he were playing to an audience.

“Believe it or not Arthur, you called me here. You brought me to this place, and once called, I cannot be sent back. I must be invited in, or you must forfeit that which holds the most value.”

“What does that mean? What am I forfeiting if I don’t let you in?” Arthur pleaded. He hated not knowing the rules to whatever game this thing was playing, but for whatever reason, he was safe in here. This thing couldn’t get in on its own, even if it wanted to. But he had to know what would happen if he didn’t play by The Visitor’s game.

“What’s to stop me from leaving my room, or just waiting until morning?”

“Morning will not come. And if you would like to leave, that is perfectly allowed. Only choose whether you would like to use the front door, or the window. Personally, I’m partial to the door…”

The door started to rattle, and with it, the floating shelves along his walls, adorned with his school awards and collectibles. The figures, still bound in their packaging, tumbled to the ground, some splintering open, breaking the toy inside to several pieces, scattering them across the room. He watched a framed picture of his grandmother fall to the ground, the glass shattering on impact, the wood frame breaking into two pieces.

Arthur let out a tormented scream, unable to maintain his composure. He had never felt terror like this. It felt like his heart, beating as fast as it was, would stop beating at any moment. His chest felt like it was being gripped in a vice, and he could swear that he was on the edge of passing out. He was brought back to reality by the sound of laughing. He watched, as the pool of maroon liquid suddenly began to retreat backwards under the door. As if there was some kind of sponge, or vacuum system sucking the substance back up.

And there, on the floor in front of his bed, a cell phone. His cellphone.

“What the fuck…”

“I told you. You called me here.”

Arthur couldn’t breathe, couldn’t focus on anything but the pounding of his heart in his chest. It felt like it was fighting to get out, to abandon him to whatever fate was awaiting him.

“PICK. IT. UP,” the voice like rolling thunder said.

Arthur hesitated, looking back down at the floor and the darkness beneath his bed. Now he truly did believe that something may reach out and grab him. But the alternative was angering The Visitor. So he gingerly placed his bare foot on the ground, and after several agonizing seconds of waiting, felt secure enough in his lack of bed monsters to place the other foot down.

Walking over, he knelt beside his cellphone. The screen was cracked in one spot, but otherwise, it looked mostly untouched. Surprising, he thought, considering he had chucked it into the river. He could still remember that day. The news had just broken about their affair, and Linda had all but pretended that he didn’t exist. And standing there in the freezing cold winter, the rushing water beneath the bridge out of town sending a frigid mist into his face, he couldn’t help but feel betrayed.

Linda had always told him that they would leave together one day. That they would get married, as soon as she got away from her husband, as soon as she got custody of the kids, as soon as the time was right. The time, it appeared, would never be right. They had played with the idea once, getting married. They mused about it one night, lying under the sheets, Arthur tracing patterns on her shoulders.

“What do you think you would wear?” Linda chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a suit. Can you even tie a proper Windsor knot?”

“I’ll have you know that my Grandmother did in fact teach me how to tie a tie. Is that right? It sounds weird, like there should be another verb for tying a tie. It just sounds silly.”

Linda laughed gently, before pushing her head into his chest. Her hair smelled like honey and cinnamon.

“I’m never going to meet her, your grandmother, am I?”

“No… She passed away a long time ago. I think she would have liked you. She always had a good read on people. That, and she could always spot a haunted house. Every time we would pass one, she would say some old Cuban lady bruja shit about, ‘El Mal de Hojo’, or ‘Spiritos malos’.”

“She sounds like she was amazing.”

“The best.”

Arthur snapped back to reality, seeing the cracked screen of the cellphone he was still holding. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach, but didn’t voice his discomfort.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Turn it on.”

He held still for a moment, before swiping his finger against the screen, hoping that nothing would happen. But he wouldn’t be so lucky. The screen lit up, and unlocked to reveal his screen saver. A picture of his grandmother, holding him up in the air so that he could grab clothes off of a laundry line. It had been his screensaver ever since she passed.

He glanced at the screen, the image surprisingly clear, and noted that there was an error indication on the top next to his notification banner. Written across the screen, in small nearly opaque text, he saw the message, ‘Failure to Authenticate’.

“I… I can’t open it. The face scanner must be broken, or something.”

“Or, it doesn’t recognize you anymore…”

The message felt ominous, and was maybe even a bit of an insult. He began turning the phone over in his hand, inspecting its various surfaces, when he heard a second chime. He quickly turned the phone back around, and saw on his screen, a single text message. It was from Linda. And in all capital letters, ‘HELP ME.’

He dropped the phone on the ground, and turned his head towards the door. He could feel it just beyond the thin layer of plywood, watching him. Was it amused? Pleased by his terror and misery? He couldn’t be certain, but now he was flooded with a new emotion, rage.

“Just what the fuck is this?! Are you trying to torture me before you do whatever the fuck it is you’re here to do?!”

“My purpose here is self-explanatory, Arthur. Did you see her text? You should really respond.”

“No! Fuck you! I’m not playing this game with you! I refuse to take part in this. Linda is dead! Her psycho husband slit her throat and disappeared! She’s gone!”


Another message. Arthur froze. He didn’t dare to move, didn’t dare to look down at the phone that he knew was at his feet.

“She sounded rather desperate in her first message, don’t you think, Arthur?” the entity beyond the door chided. It was taking pleasure in this alright, but he knew that there was only one way out of this, to play this game until it was bored enough to leave. He reached down, gripped the phone in his hand, and turned it over. Brightly displayed on the screen was a new message:


Could it really be Linda?  Or was this thing just playing some cruel joke on him before it took him to whatever hell it crawled out of? He swiped his finger across the screen a couple of times, attempting somehow to unlock the screen manually. He couldn’t respond to her message on his screen saver, and couldn’t call the police. His phone was as useful as a brick.

“I swear to God, if you somehow have her, if you’re doing anything to her, I swear to Christ!”

“Neither is present, unfortunately. Perhaps their invitations got lost in the mail, or maybe they simply burned the invite. Really though, Arthur, this is your party. It’s your job to have fun, not to force your guests to provide all the entertainment.

“Fuck you!”

“Ask yourself, Arthur, why am I here? If not to serve some greater purpose, than what? Have you ever seen a miracle? Water to wine, five loaves and two fish? No? Well then, maybe you should stop praying to entities you’ve never seen, and focus on me instead. I’m very, very real. And I’m right here with you. All you have to do is let me in.”

“And if I let you in, what will happen? The kid who told me about you, he told me what you did to his parents. Is that what you’re going to do to Linda?! To me?!”

“Perhaps. But you’ll have to open the door to find out.”

Arthur felt his blood boiling. How much more of this could he take? He walked back to his bed, sat down, and listened for the dripping of his sink. He stared absentmindedly into the screen of his cellphone, at the message displayed therein. For some reason, who couldn’t help but remember the day his abeula died. She was 98 years old, a fantastic age for a woman who grew up in Havana, malnourished and pressed under the thumb of her militant government.

She had grown up in a small neighborhood, where the houses sat on steep hills, made mostly of concrete and granite. It was those streets, those houses, with their unforgiving surfaces that raised her to be the strong woman he loved to this day. She had taught him everything about being a man, at least, all the things his father never seemed willing to. Senora Rosie, the neighborhood called her. Everyone back home knew who she was, and loved her. She would cook food for the homeless and leave plates for them outside of her home, the same for the stray cats and dogs. She would go to neighbors’ homes and cleanse them with her old bruja magic that she swore worked wonders.

But as strong as she was, not even an all-powerful witch like her could withstand the trials of time. On her 76th birthday, she fell and broke her hip. By her 80th, she couldn’t walk anymore. And by her 90th, her mind had started to go with the rest of her health. That is to say, out the window. It tore him apart to see her in such pain all the time. To watch her get confused about simple things, forgetting what channel her favorite novellas were on, losing track of her medications and if she had taken them, forgetting his name.

It was hard, probably the hardest thing he ever did, putting her in a home at 95. But he felt that with the level of support she needed, he just couldn’t maintain his own life and take care of her too. He still maintained daily visits with her until he was 27. And then the visits started to decrease in frequency. Once or twice a week at first, and then once or twice a month, to sometimes just a phone call. He hadn’t thought about it for a long time now, but he felt a pang of guilt strike him in his chest. What he would give, he thought to himself, to hear her voice right now.


Another message flashed across his screen, this time partially cut off because of its length.

“Arthur, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. It was never my intention to hurt you. I just need you to know that I–” The message cut off.

“Aren’t you going to reply?” poked the voice again. This time, he sounded more… together? Whole? It was an odd nuance that he was able to pick up. And the voice was now starting to sound more human. Familiar, even.

“I already told you that I can’t! Why don’t you just tell me what the hell all of this is about?!”

“Did you love her?”

“What?” The question caught him off guard. He had never considered it, but he supposed he did. They had planned for a future together, seen each other every week for several months, sometimes twice in one day. But was that love? He knew the sex was electric, the conversations equally as charged, but while he enjoyed her time, he never thought of Linda as his. He always suspected that, one day or another, she would sort things out with her husband, or find a new, more interesting partner to occupy her time with. He supposed that he didn’t love her, but then what was this pain in his chest?

“Have you ever heard of Dante’s Inferno? It’s the story of a man who journeys into Hell, to recover the soul of the woman he loves. She’s been sent to Hell for leading a life of sin, and he refuses to leave her to her fate.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, the entire time he’s walking through Hell, taking in its immeasurable suffering, he has a guide, a man who walks with him and makes the nightmares make sense. He was the great poet Virgil, the real-life Dante’s idol. Think of yourself as Dante, right now. You’re wandering through Hell, trying desperately to make sense of it all.”

“And what, you’re Virgil?”

“No. I’m Hell, just waiting on the other side of this door, one choice away from having you, one choice away from you letting me in. And then, Dante, you can see what it was all for.”

“So that’s it? I’m being punished for what happened to Linda and her family? How was I supposed to know?! She never told me, never told me she was still with her husband. All I knew was that they had a terrible fight, and she came to me for help–”

“She came to you for comfort, in the form of raunchy hotel sex. The only one who had any illusions about her being an innocent and delicate flower was you, Lover Boy.”

“So what was I supposed to fucking do?! Play 20 questions, interrogate her, force her to tell me that she was still fucking her husband and making her kids’ lunch bags before coming to visit?!”

“So, you did hate her children.”

“No! I didn’t… I mean, I never got to meet them, they weren’t… No, you know what? Fuck this! Fuck. You! I don’t have to put up with this. You’re not real. You’re some figment of my imagination, something I ate that didn’t agree with my stomach. You can’t be real. This is all too fucking crazy!”

There was a sudden silence. No sound anymore, not even the dripping of the faucet. And it made his blood freeze in his veins. He glanced over towards the door, waited for it to burst open to reveal some horrible and hideous entity. For the wood to splinter open and reveal the corpse of Linda’s dead husband. He imagined what his body would look like at this point, after months of decaying somewhere even the police could never find, his rotten eyes peering through a crack in the door, like the scene out of The Shining.

But there was nothing. He stood up cautiously, walked over to the door, and leaned his ear against it, trying to hear anything on the other side of it, even if it was just breathing. What he heard instead confused him. Crying. The sound of what could only be a grown man crying. He could hear the man mumbling under his voice, the words completely unintelligible.


He nearly jumped out of his own skin. The crying on the other side of the door ceased altogether, and he backed away again, towards his bed. He leaned against the small iron railing and looked at his phone’s dimly-lit screen again, the battery now below twenty percent, the red battery symbol flashing ever so slightly. He glanced down at the new message once more, this one also cut off due to its length:

“He has my kids, Arthur. Please, you have to know what you meant to me, what all of it meant to me. Being with you was the last time I ever felt truly normal. You–”

He started to weep. He couldn’t contain it anymore; the tears started to flow.

“Good. You’re almost ready to let me in,” said the disembodied voice on the other side of the door now.

Arthur didn’t care anymore, and continued to weep. He cried over how hopeless it all felt. How meaningless his life had been up until this point, trying to find meaning in his job, with Linda. He spent most of his early twenties taking care of his grandmother; he never had time to just be a kid. His mother wasn’t able-bodied, and he was also the only breadwinner in his household. So while his friends went out drinking and partying, he stayed home, or went to work. That changed when he met Linda. She was crying on a park bench. He walked through the park every day to feed the birds, but that day he found her instead.

They stared at each other at first, neither saying a word. Her face was covered in snot and tears, her makeup running for the hills. He didn’t have a handkerchief to offer, so he took off his sweater and held it in the air, with what Linda described as ‘the kind of smile a guy gives you when he’s trying to convince you he isn’t a threat’. It made her burst out laughing. And he just stood there, taking it in. Her laugh wasn’t cute like they tell you it will be in movies. It was unguarded, authentic. The kind of laugh that would show your dentist if you had any cavities. He started to laugh too, and then they talked for hours. They exchanged phone numbers, went their separate ways, and for three months he didn’t hear from her.

But on the seventh day of the third month, he received a desperate phone call. Linda had gotten into a physical argument with her husband. He had bruised her up pretty bad, and she was hardly able to speak over the phone without sobbing uncontrollably. He drove three hours out of his way to pick her up. He didn’t even remember agreeing to do so, or hearing her ask him to, but nonetheless they met up, and he took her to a hotel where he made a hot bath for her, and they made love for the first time.

“So you did love her then.”

“Wait… what?” said Arthur, his stream of consciousness suddenly interrupted by The Visitor.

“You just said it, you made love to her. So you did have feelings for her, despite your best efforts. And before even the first time? Bit eager of you, isn’t it? Just a tad desperate.”

“You’re in my head?”

“Is that so surprising? Come on, surely you’ve grasped it by now, Arthur.”

“GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HEAD! You’re not real! None of this is real! Not the phone, not you, not Lin–”


Arthur looked down again, his eyes wild and frenzied with rage and desperation. There was a new message from Linda, yes, but at the top of the screen, he could see a new message where once it said ‘Failed to Authenticate’. ‘Scanning’, it said. And then, suddenly, the screen opened up, and he could see all of Linda’s messages in front of him, could see the dates and timestamps as well. The messages were from a year ago, the day that Mayor Ozman was seen leaving town.

2:13 am. “HELP ME.”


2:26 am. “Arthur, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. It was never my intention to hurt you. I just need you to know that I never intended to keep any of this from you. But we just kept seeing each other, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

Arthur felt his head start to spin. He started to feel dizzy, and nauseous, his equilibrium suddenly off-kilter. He felt unusually cold, like he just came from the outside, the chill setting into his bones and rattling them in his skin.

“What is this? This is from the day that she… that he… that son of a bitch! It was you, wasn’t it? You did this to her! It’s you, Mayor Ozman, isn’t it?!”

“No, I already told you, Arthur, I’m Hell, and you are Dante. You must pass through fire, and give up all hope, ye who enter here.”

Suddenly, there was the sound of rushing water again. From under the door, liquid started to pool and rapidly crawl its way towards him. Arthur jumped onto his bed as the water continued to pour in endlessly.

“No, you said you can’t come in unless I let you in! I haven’t done it yet! You’re not allowed to come in!”

“Arthur, you’re not done reading yet…”

Arthur tried to steady his breathing. The water was continuing to rise, but the door stayed secured. He still had a chance to get out. He ran over to the windows, tugged at them to try and get them to open. But when he pulled the blinds open and looked outside, he couldn’t understand what he was seeing. Everything was cast in a grey-blue light. The street lamps below his second-story bedroom outside turned off, the grass swaying oddly. Wait… no. Not grass. Kelp? Or seaweed? And then, a river bass suddenly swam into his vision, floating through the air. No, not air… Water?

“I told you, you could choose the window or the front door. You still haven’t read all of your messages, Arthur.”

Arthur turned on his heel toward the voice, and then back to the window. Panic was starting to set in again. Was he underwater? How was that possible, his whole house, under water? He kept tugging at the window, trying to pry it open, but he couldn’t get it free. He glanced at his nightstand and his alarm clock. He wrenched it out of the wall and swung it above his head like an impromptu flail. He swung it with all of his force into the window, several times. The window never even so much as cracked.

“Just tell me what you want! Tell me what I have to do!”

“Oh, I don’t have the answer to that, Arthur. That’s something you’ll have to figure out. Are you going to open the window and jump? Or are you going to open the door and let me in?”

“If I let you in, will you kill me?”

“It’s a possibility, Arthur.”

Arthur grabbed his head in his hands and let out a mournful scream. He looked over at the window, and then back at the door. Finally, his eyes landed back on the cellphone. He ran over to it, the water in the room now at knee height. He swiped open the screen and continued reading.

2:30 am. “He has my kids, Arthur. Please, you have to know what you meant to me. What all of it meant to me, being with you was the last time I ever felt truly normal. You made me feel like I was human, like I wasn’t used up and broken. It’s not your job to do that for anyone, but you did it for me. And I wish I had messaged you sooner, but I figured you hated me. I love you, Arthur. Please, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

Arthur caught his breath. Not just because of the content of the messages, but because he realized now, that he remembered reading this before. In fact, in his message thread, he could clearly see that he had read these messages nearly a year ago. He became more confused, and suddenly had a question for The Visitor. The water, now waist height, made it difficult to move, but he made his way to the door, wading through the murky liquid as it continued to fill up his living space.

“What happened to her? Tell me the truth! Did you have anything to do with this?”

“No, I was completely innocent. I never could have known.”

The response suddenly lit a light bulb in Arthur’s mind. He quickly turned back to the phone, reading the next message.

2:32 am. “He’s got me locked up in the guest bathroom. He tied my hands, but didn’t do a great job, so I managed to get out. Luckily, he forgot to take my phone from me. I don’t know if you’re angry with me and ignoring me, or if you’re just asleep, but I guess I deserve this. I lied to you. I kept my husband’s identity a secret, but I want you to know that you were the single greatest thing in my life. I love you, Arthur. Please forgive me.”

“Life is unfair,” The Visitor said. “It takes, and it takes, and it takes. There’s no rhyme, or reason to the cruelty. We’re all just flotsam and jetsam in the great sea that is the human experience, just trying not to drown, or to crash and splinter into pieces. Sometimes, the end is painless. Sometimes it’s brutal, and horrific. And none of us ever know which it will be.” He sounded resigned, tired, like he just finished a boxing match. He continued, “It’s so easy for us to point the blame at anyone else but ourselves, to see the cruelty and say, ‘Well, not my problem. Why should I care? I had no part in it. It’s surely not my fault! Me, completely without fault!’”

Arthur started to speak, picking up where The Visitor left off. “I abandoned my grandmother. I abandoned Linda. I left them to die a cruel, lonely death. How am I supposed to live with that?”

“You try. You do what you can every day, each day, until you can’t anymore. And then you keep fighting anyway.”

“I’m just so tired.”

“I know, Arthur. I’m so sorry.”

“What are you?”

“I think you already know, Arthur. Come on, bud, one more message to read. Then it’s time to make a choice. Just remember, it’s always harder climbing down…”

The room fell silent, the water still rising, and now just above his chest. Arthur looked at the screen, tears still streaming from his eyes. Trying to see through the salty liquid at Linda’s final message.

2:41 am. “He came in and gave me something to make me sleep. I don’t think I’ll ever wake up again. I just want you to know, Arthur, I was so excited to give my whole future to you. I love you, and I’m so sorry. Please, when you wake up and see these messages, don’t blame yourself. This isn’t your fault. You are completely innocent. You never could have known. I love you. Goodbye, Arthur…”

The water finally crested over Arthur’s head, and he was submerged beneath the briny substance. He felt his body slowly lift off the ground and he began to float, feeling his head just hit the ceiling before he bobbed uselessly in the water. He threw a glance toward the window, and then back at the door. Decision time.

He swam toward the door, gripped his hands on the knob. The water was freezing, and biting into his flesh. He could feel his eyes stinging with the cold as he tightened his fist around the knob. He pulled against the door, trying to get it to open. But it wouldn’t move. It was like it was frozen in place. ‘It’s always harder climbing down’.

Arthur placed his feet on either side of the door on the adjoining walls. He tightened his fist around the doorknob again and began to pull, throwing his legs and back into the equation. He strained so hard that he could feel the veins in his neck starting to pop with the force of his pulling. He could feel the air in his lungs starting to burn now. The phone slowly floating away from him, spinning slowly as if in space, showing him the picture of Senora Rosie, holding up a little boy who loved to pull down freshly washed laundry. He thought about the day she taught him how to tie a tie. Thought about all the conversations he had with Linda, all the way into the wee hours of the morning. Thought about all the times he laughed so hard with her that he couldn’t see straight.

It was beautiful. His life had been beautiful.

With the last of his strength, he pulled one more time, the air escaping his lungs, bubbling up out of his mouth, letting the water in, as the door slowly started to peel open, and he could see light pour through, and a voice calling him.

“Hey, asshole! Get the hell down from there! What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You tryin’ to die?”

Arthur snapped his head up suddenly. He looked around him, out to the trees that outlined the river in front of him, and felt the freezing mist splash his face. He looked down at the rushing waters, and at a man standing on the bridge, flailing his arms. In his right hand, he held his broken cell phone, with a huge crack in one portion of its screen.

“Ey, buddy! Come on, man, don’t do it. Please! You got someone I can call? Come on, let’s just… let’s just have a chat.”

Arthur looked at the man, dumbly. He couldn’t think of anything to say, so he just said, “I… I think I want to come down.”

“Alright, alright, that’s great! Just, be careful, man, it’s always harder coming down. I’ll be down here. Take it slow and easy!”

Arthur did just that, slowly making his way down the beams and supports, before reaching the ground. The man, Arthur could now see, was a man in his late 50s. Arthur looked once more out at the river, and then back down at his phone. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a paperclip, removing the memory stick.

“What, uh… What are you doing there, bud?”

Arthur didn’t answer, but instead chucked the phone into the river, hearing it crack against the rocks before splashing into the water, never to be seen again.

“What I came here to do,” he answered quietly.

“Oh. Okay, then. That’s all you came here to do?”

Arthur shook his head, “No, that wasn’t all I came out here to do.”

“Ah. Well, I’m glad I came then. Let me take you back home. You live in the town just a ways off?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Alright, well, I only got two rules about riding with me: no guns, and no rolling down the window.”

“Got it.”

They walked over to the man’s truck, which was parked in the nearby stone bank. The same place that Linda’s body was found. He stood still outside the passenger side door, looking into the forest beyond, and listening to the river. He pulled the door open, then sat down in the passenger seat before asking, “Hey, do you have a phone?” he asked the stranger. “Mind if I make a call real quick?”

“Uh, sure, here. Go for it.”

Arthur grabbed the man’s flip phone, typed in a 9-digit number, and waited before he heard someone answer.

“Hey, yeah… Yeah, it’s me. I’m sorry I haven’t called in a while. I’ve just been really busy… No, I’m not. I’m really not okay.”

Rating: 7.25/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Luis Bermudez
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Luis Bermudez

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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4 years ago

It’s going to take a really good narrator to make this story work.

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