Exhaust Fan

It’s a silly fear, a child’s fear, but one that sends cold shivers down Sage’s back even now when she wakes from a restless nightmare featuring it. Marking her earliest memories, it was her oldest companion, this fear.  

Sage was a girl of seven, or eight, too old to have such silly fears. The thought occurred to her on the car ride to the hotel, it was a vivid image of five sharp blades conjoined in the center, surrounded by a perfectly square frame. Always presiding in the top corner of the shower window, it watched you, naked as you are with nowhere to run. 

No, Sage told herself, it won’t be there, not this time. 

But praying and wishing never kept it away. 

The elevator was ascending now. Excitement sparked amongst the other family members. Mom’s been waiting for this vacation for ages. Dad’s been researching the local scenic spots, eager to fill his new camera with family photos. Even Mai seemed vaguely happy at that moment. 

“Now don’t sit there sulking, Sage.”

But she couldn’t help it. Sage closed her eyes and it was waiting for her: five sharp blades spinning fiercely. 

The bellboy was walking them to their room, and Sage already had her senses on high alert, waiting for signs of its presence. 

The key clicked and the door swung open. Crossing the threshold with her breath held, she listened closely for the persistent hum. It was distant and faint, so quiet, for a moment Sage allowed herself to believe that she imagined it. 

“Help your sister with the bags.”

Sage made herself step forward, following the hum. It was cut off by silence. 


She took a few curious steps towards the bathroom. When the door swung open, she didn’t flinch. 

“What?” her father laughed nervously, “Go help Mom unpack.” He was never a good liar. 

Pushing past him, she grabbed the bathroom door handle. Though there was hesitation, she pushed through. 

The ceiling was too high and the lights too dim. The bathroom mirror only reflected the lower half of the room. It was a room hand tailored to deceive Sage. She knew what she ought to do, so her work commenced.

Her reflection caught her eye —angry and prepared— and ordered her to stay strong. She scanned up to the top of the wall and was relieved to find its corners bare. Inching her focus to the left, she found two more corners that housed nothing but an abandoned spider web. 

One more corner, she told herself. 


One more—

The door was in the way. She’d have to step in to get a proper look. Bracing herself, she treaded the tiled floor carefully. 

Just a little further in. 

The sight pricked fear into her heart. 

“Why are you just standing there? Oh—” Mai’s disappointment could not have been more thinly veiled, “Mom—”

It took a minute for Sage to force herself to look at the Fan. It lay dormant, a subtle breeze might wake it. Its blades were still, too still. If she broke her gaze, they were sure to move, so she never broke her gaze. There was an illusion of safety that the glass shower door provided Sage with, as it stood transparently between Sage and the Fan. 

The Fan grinned slyly down at her, knowing it had the power to pin her in its presence. The glass door that stood between the pair will soon cage her in. It has a long term alliance to consider and no time to spare Sage’s feelings regarding the matter. 

All rights reserved © 2022 Josephine Joyil

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