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He barely notices the heat of the water as his dull flesh settles into the tub. It consumes him, first his toes; then feet and ankles, calves and thighs, navel and chest. Only his head remains visible, his back resting against the white porcelain while his eyes focus on the faucet between his knees. He sees nothing, feels nothing, and his mind tosses wildly. No thoughts, just currents of electricity ricocheting through his skull. The water is too hot, and he barely notices.
He craves the water. The world is too violent, the storm in his head too loud, but beneath the waves, in the bath water, there is calm, peace, gentle currents to carry him on. He hears the siren’s call, and aches to slip beneath the surface and fade from the white hostility of the bathroom lights and the swirling clouds that gather in his brain. He takes one shallow breath and his shoulders descend beneath, and then his head is under, submerged.
It’s calm, like he knew it would be. It is soft against his skin and he fades in its softness, the currents eroding him into sand to carry him off to distant shores. There is barely a sound, just gentle notes passed on the great aqueous flow, and no light penetrates from above. No light, just sweet, embracing darkness.
But electricity still thunders between his ears.
Like song it calls to him, further,deeper, this is just a taste. He feels it, his weakness, the need for peace, the need for silence. He imagines the rolling of waves and the pull of currents, and allows it to happen, allows it all to happen like he always dreamed it would.
Take it from me, he thinks, just take it all. The water obeys and continues to assault the body. He withers, piece by piece. He feels it aging him, his fingers wrinkling faster than time would allow, degenerating as he is freed from the chamber and becomes nothing but mind, drifting aimlessly on the current. So soft, this peace, so comfortable.
And then there is the beat, a hammer falling against hot iron on the anvil, and he notices the heat of the water. Then there is the second strike of the hammer, and then a third. The clash of metal against metal, bursting in the water like an atom bomb and filling the void until it is gone. The world clangs and he learns that this is the beating of his heart – the sirens drown in its clamour but through the noise he hears for the first time what it wants to articulate, what it demands.
And in the clamour his chest constricts and begins to ache, and the muscles of his neck tense and the relentless panic sets in. He fights the urge, remembering the calmer beauty of the siren’s song, but the clamour is so loud and the crushing of his chest so intense that he needs the air and the thunder and the rain of the storm above, wanting to stay but needing to feel the rush of air and so he pushes back, erupting through the surface to take the first breath again, his body hauling in air with rattling chest trembling throat and spluttering mouth, his breath spinning before him before it settles, before he reaches out and catches it.
His shoulders sink against the white wall of the tub while his unsteady hands grip the sides with stunted fingernails. His wet flesh gleams where it emerges from the surface and he swallows his own spit in the revealing light of the bathroom, noticing how calm and silent the air is. He moves a hand to his neck and runs it up to the back of his head and down again to the shoulders and chest where they meet the water and his bulk disappears beneath. He sits unsmiling, staring absently at the crook of the wall and ceiling and a muscle twitches in his jaw.
His mind anchors itself to a new thought, focused at the crook in the wall: he wonders about his body, where the bone connects to the muscle. He wonders about the muscle and the nerve, and the nerve and the spine and the brain. He thinks about it all for a second, then settles the thought, finds his satisfaction. Electricity.