Some short projects from Creative Writing 450: A Scary Bathroom

Another piece from my creative writing class. We had to choose three piece to revise and my original bathroom piece, I thought, wasn’t scary enough. Here is the revised piece, and I’ve added the original at the end. Note I’ve used 2nd-person point of view.


You are racing down a flight of dark, crumbling stairs, looking for refuge from the screams and gunshots. Confusion is reigning above. Your only thought  is to escape from the madness, to hide, to close your  eyes and ears, and curl up into a tiny ball and wait for people in charge who know what they’re doing to make things right again. You hear running footsteps echoing, but can’t tell if they are coming from above or below.

Now you are running down a short corridor lined with crates of beer stacked floor to ceiling. Shadows surround you, billowing and shrinking. Who is behind me? you startle. But you see no one; the shadows must be your own.

You round a corner. Two doors stand side by side. “Ladies” is scrawled on the left and  “Gents” on the right in big, thick Magic-Marker  loopy letters on the scratched, flaked paint. A place to hide, you think. My refuge.

You push open the door marked “Ladies” just a crack. You peek inside. A fluorescent fixture provides some light and you don’t see anything that might warn you of danger. You hear more shots and screams above, and you quickly move into the room and push the door closed. You are in a room with a row of sinks on your left and a row of five stalls on your right. The smell is overpowering and you are afraid you may retch. You see some movement in your peripheral vision, and are about to scream, but realize it must be your panting, shaking, heaving self in the mirror.

You hear a creak.

You see a window half-way up the wall. Its frosted glass is being flogged with alternating flashes of yellow neon from the strip joint sign across the street and blue and red from police and ambulance lights. The flashes stain the walls – yellow. Stop. Blue. Stop. Red. Stop and over and over again.

You look in the mirror to your left. Its silvering has flaked so badly that your face looks like a portrait printed on a doily. You look down at the sinks and see them dirty and stained and covered with spider webs of cracks. There are rusty, sanguine stains around the drain. You see drops in the sink. Muddy drops. And a muddy handprint on the wall above. Or is it mud?

You hear another creak. It is coming from inside one of the stalls. Your heart jumps into  your mouth and for some crazy reason you think about this cliché and now realize why someone made up such a silly-sounding one. You realize there are two possibilities: another victim, like yourself, or the one who is trying to escape from police.

You don’t want to be here. But you are too afraid to leave.


* * * *

A BATHROOM – Original

One approached down two flights of dark, crumbling stairs and then round a corner to an evening gloomier portion of the basement where the silence aggressively overtook the throb of the music from above. Two doors stood side by side, their signs long ago chipped, faded or defaced enough so as to make them ambiguous as to the gender served within. Although a peek within the door on the left revealed no urinals, the overpowering smell was usually the trademark of the men’s. Only the lipstick stains on the mirror seemed to attest that this was the bathroom meant for the finer sex.

A single working bulb in the ceiling was bravely—but not very successfully— trying to do the work of three, as the second was burnt out, and the socket of the third gaped empty. The on-again-off-again neon flashing from the strip joint sign across the street spasmodically colored the walls a sanguine red. Emerging from the gloom were a row of sinks to the left and a row of stalls to the right. Spider webs of cracks covered the chipped sinks and dripping faucets had eroded and left rusty, irregular stains around the drain. A slurry of cockroaches scurried along the edge of one of the sinks and up the wall, disappearing into the electrical socket. The silvering on the dirty mirror above the sinks had flaked off in places, leaving a sad, abstract filigree of black around its perimeter . On the very left side of the mirror, a muddy (one hoped it was mud) handprint started at shoulder height and dragged itself down to the level of the counter. To the left of the sinks hung a useless hot-air dryer: it’s electrical cord had been ripped from the back and lay coiled on the floor, still plugged in, its terminal wires a silent threat to the unwary. Graffiti covered almost every square centimeter of the room, wallpapering the stall doors, the walls, the bowls of the sink and even slipped over onto the mirror: names and phone numbers, vulgar suggestions, nebulous philosophic sayings.


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