by Kevin Corvus
When I first mentioned the water tasted wrong, my wife said it was fine. When I became more earnest about it, she humored me. “Maybe it’s a little bit off,” she would say. When I began bringing home bottled water, she gave me an odd look, but didn’t say anything.
Then she started with the passive-aggressive stuff. When I poured her a glass from one of the bottles, she said the spring water tasted funny. She offered visitors water and then pointedly filled their glasses from the faucet. I’d try to warn them, but she would glare at me and then laugh and tell them I had a “thing” about the water. She simply refused to believe there was something wrong.
It was then that I realized something was actually in the water. That explained why it tasted wrong.
Now, I don’t mean the water tasted exactly bad. I mean it tasted different. From one day to the next. That shouldn’t happen unless something is wrong. Really wrong.
I asked around but the neighbors all seemed to think their water was fine. A couple of them goggled at me a bit when I asked them to really think hard before answering, so I wondered if they knew something they weren’t telling me.
Finally, I warned my wife it was bad for her and she and the kids should stop drinking it. She said she’d had it with me and the water. The next day I came home and she was gone. The kids said she went to take care of her aunt, who was in the hospital in Petoskey. I think the water made her leave. Or it did something worse.
My brother-in-law came by a couple days later, asked me how I was doing with her “gone.” I told him I was fine. Then he asked me about the water. I urged him not to but he insisted on tasting it. I watched closely when he sipped and I could see a sour expression on his face. He denied it when I challenged him, of course, but there was a look in his eye that said he was uneasy about something. I’m sure he could taste the difference but he couldn’t admit it.
After that, the kids vanished. I called my brother-in-law to tell him but he didn’t seem surprised. He said they’d gone to Petoskey, even though they had never liked my wife’s aunt. There was something distant, hollow in his voice. Was he lying to me? Had the water become so potent that just one taste could get to someone?
Eventually, it dawned on me. I can be so stupid sometimes. If something was getting in the water and the neighbors seemed to be okay, it must be my house that has the problem. I needed to check the plumbing.
It was night, and it was raining, but I was too excited by the inspiration. I got a shovel from the garage, put the yard light on and went outside. I started near the foundation where the water pipe comes in from the street. It was tough digging, lots of roots and years of compaction. Not to mention the rain kept caving the hole in and filling up the bottom. The puddle made it hard to see what I was unearthing but I kept at it and, after an hour, I had exposed a few feet of pipe.
I didn’t see it at first, ankle deep in muddy water with rain running in my eyes. So when I did realize what else was in there with me, there was a lot of it uncovered already.
Wrapped around the water pipe in black greasy coils was something like a slug or a tapeworm. It must have been several feet long and was thick like a python but looked softer and squishy. The thing pulsated and writhed to an alien rhythm. I hesitated a little—transfixed, I guess—before I began hacking at it with the shovel. Grunting and gasping for breath, I swung the shovel up over and over again, chopping that devil into pieces. I don’t think it fought back. The thing just wriggled and pulsed, and its pieces kept on heaving in the ditch until the chunks of it all seemed to stop moving at once. Then they dissolved away into the water.
I dragged myself, sopping, out of the hole and limped inside. While I showered, I realized why I was limping. I hadn’t noticed, but at some point, swinging the shovel, I must’ve clipped my own ankle with it. The gash was pretty bad, but I bandaged it up and the bleeding stopped.
I’m not sure what to do next. It’s been a few days. The water tastes normal again. But when I unwrapped my ankle this morning, I saw it was swollen, black and greasy, and throbbing and pulsating to its own rhythm.