IF HE POSITIONS his head perfectly, it’ll align with the drops of water streaming down his head and ears so he can’t hear. He becomes born again, without hearing. Instead: vibrations that soothe and shut things out. Long showers have always been his “thing.” Letting them whisk him away. Fleeing stupidity-riddled reality tidbits that munch on him instead of the opposite. A halted flow of nonsensical memories getting shunned from the bathroom. He gradually amps up the heating, as his body acclimatizes to the warmth, finally almost scolding himself — lobster-like MO – it’s a must as what was once steaming quickly transgresses into bland nothingness that holds no value. Voices, screams, shouts, yelling, barks and … others… are forgotten during those brief, minuscule minutes that he inhumes himself in a tomb of running water. Outside the door is the world where people send eggplant emojis reminding him of his own, belly-hidden penis somewhere to be found amongst his pubic long grass. There are expectations outside that door. The world of an adult. No one explained that life is a horrible experience where every day is about survival until, one day, it’s not. He writes sometimes. Every. Single. Word. A failure. So he showers. Stating proudly — oddly — that he’s always been keen on long showers. He says it out loud, then shuts up — no one to hear him. Embarrassed. Who brags about that? Who lies? Cause it’s not just the shower. It’s about painkillers. Water close to searing temperatures is fine — without paracetamol or ibuprofen, it’s meaningless. He takes them, then stands there. Letting the chemicals seize his drenched body. This is his puny secret. The world outside doesn’t know, nor should it, or anyone sending eggplant emojis, ever learn. The world record for the longest shower is 174 hours. That’s nothing. Maybe he can beat that? Someday. But. Suddenly. He slips. He bangs his head. The water turns red and one of his eyeballs swells. The other one too. Not red. Just tears. He tries to get up. Feeling that his mouth got thrashed in the fall. His grip is weak with raisin-like hands so he falls again and his cheekbone gets dented — tasting the iron. Painkillers could help. He used to have a stash somewhere, but he’s unsure where it is now — his mind is foggy. If he had someone to call, he could’ve maybe dialed them up, but he left his phone on the living room table next to the book he borrowed at the library as it had been described as a “transformative literary journey,” and maybe it could’ve inspired him — he hasn’t even leafed it. With blood gushing, he won’t be able to read anyways. Sadly. He manages to get on his feet. About to leave the shower, instead — a spur of clarity — he sits down. This could maybe be “it.” Some parts of his body don’t seem to cooperate. He lets his hand run across his scalp, discovering something gaping. He allows this hole of his to simply exist for a while. Still showering, but on his butt. Dizzy. He could cry out for help, but there’s no one home. Not sure when’s the last time someone visited? Easter? But which year? He lets his finger poke around inside the void, realizing that some gentle, soft movement with the tip of his index finger works just as well as painkillers — all goes away for a second or two. And there’s so much of it now — pain — an ever-growing surplus. So he digs deeper. His right eye clogged with all that red. A tooth seemingly loose. He presses down. Not just the index finger, but thumb too. And ultimately, his need for conditioner or a masculine shampoo called “Jungle” that pumps up the volume of his diminishing hairline, is gone. No must for a shower gel, promising up to 12 hours of smelling like sandalwood. Instead, it’s just him. About to set the record for the world’s longest shower. — JULIUS OLOFSSON
Julius Olofsson is a Sweden native who works as a narrative designer in video games and writes anything from flash fiction and books to games and screenplays. He’s been longlisted in The Bath Short Story Award, The Bath Flash Fiction Award and The Aurora Prize for Writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Roi Fainéant Press, Lavender Bones Magazine, JAKE, The Airgonaut, Sage Cigarettes, and elsewhere.