My family was doing pretty well until about a decade ago. My dad developed a bit of a problem with the ponies, a problem that certain businessmen decided needed to be solved with his death. Without his job and with him having bet his life insurance away a long time ago, my uneducated mother just couldn't handle this present job market. My sister and I both dropped out of high school and started working two jobs, and after moving into the shoddiest apartment complex this side of Cabrini-Green, we'd finally been doing a little better. We might have been able to save up for a real house in a couple more years, too. It's just a shame that that was the year that our turn came to be visited.
Among the many things that the social worker that got us into this place didn't tell us about was that the pipes are pretty bad. Every couple of years, terrible clogs would effect toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. They would resist any attempt by supers and professional plumbers to deal with them and sometimes flood entire floors of apartments in the middle of a winter's night. Then at some point, all fixtures would unclog as mysteriously as they clogged and the cycle would begin anew.
The saddest thing about this was that the clogs always seem to leave at least one person dead. Mrs. Lincoln, this cool old lady who seems to have lived in these apartments since the dawn of time, told me all about it.
"Mind you my memory's not what it was, child. But as far as I can remember there's been at least one death of a baby or a toddler, usually several, every year of these clogs. Now, some of these are just the usual deaths that happen to the little ones when there's standing water around. The poor little thing will see his reflection in the water or something and get all curious and fall in and drown. But some of them were different," at this her cheery brow collapsed.
"Different how?" I said.
"1960 was the first really bad year," she said after some hesitation. "That was the summer that we lost the two McGee toddlers and little Sandy Dugan. Poor Mrs. McGee. She lived in the apartment right below me. She was a delicate little thing, couldn't hurt a fly. I still remember the night that she found her two little ones drowned in the clogged tub," Mrs. Lincoln paused to wipe her tears. "I didn't know her really well, but I could tell from the screaming those last few nights that the kids were keeping her up."
At this point I noticed that Mrs. Lincoln had gone from sadness to shaking a bit and looking over her shoulder. "What's wrong, Mrs. Lincoln? Are you ok?"
She smiled, "Bless you, honey. The world needs more of your type. I just wish that you weren't stuck in this damn pit. It's no place for a child with her whole life ahead of her."
"Thanks. We're gonna be ok," I said. "My sister and I are determined to get out of here somehow."
"I can barely remember a time when I had your spunk," Mrs. Lincoln said. "Just promise me you'll never compromise on doing what's right. That's what's been my downfall."
"Ok, I promise," I said.
"I don't know exactly what happened over the next few days other than the screams. I only know what I'd been able to gather from old gossips. What I can tell you is that the McGee toddlers had been having terrible nightmares in the days leading up to their mother finding them in the tub. They would wake her up screaming and caterwauling saying that there were voices beckoning to them from the water. They were scared of something they called "The Dead Sailor." Mrs. Lincoln shivered and crossed herself.
"They said that he had gotten their daddy (Mr. McGee was a dockworker who had died in a warehouse collapse years before) and that he was coming to hurt them. Several times Mrs. McGee had woken up to just barely pull one of them back from the clogged tub and then, one night..." Mrs. Lincoln began to sob.