When Clara Early hears her grandson Boyd is in the Itawamba County emergency room mindlessly raving about man-eating lobsters, she isn’t surprised. She is told he arrived drenched like a drowned rat and not from any immediate downpour.
“The young man’s sweatin’ buckets and his hearts racin’ like Nascar,” the resident, a Dr. Stockwell says. “Got some cuts on his face too. He’s in and out of delirium. Best we keep him overnight for observation.”
“And what exactly caused this?” Clara asks, knowing full well the answer.
“Well, we’ve seen a lot of this lately. It’s called ‘Red Dove’. It’s a bath salt kids are buying legally, then smoking and snorting. Vanilla Sky. Ivory Wave… got different names. It can cause paranoia, hallucinations… suicidal thoughts.”
“And it’s legal?”
“Yup,” Dr. Stockwell says, sighing. “At least for a while until the government clamps down… or enough people die.”
Returning home, Clara storms Boyd’s bedroom. “I may be old but I ain’t stupid,“ she hisses. In the closet, she finds the duffel bag Boyd has poorly tried to hide and begins to pull the packets out. There are over a hundred, labeled Ivory Wave. Clara’s bones crack. Her spindly fingers ache from arthritis that has set in over the years and her slowly deteriorating hip stabs and stings. “Sixty-eight and here’s what I got,” she says to Raymond, her gray Tabby who has followed her into the room.
“A no good grandson living and stealing from me. Spending it on this. No more.”
The bathroom steams tropical. Clara dips a stubby toe into the hot bath water and stirs it about. On the floor, empty packets of bath salt lay scattered like weekend sunbathers. An intoxicating aroma hangs in the thickening air.
“Ivory Wave?” she murmurs. “Pure Paradise I’d say.”
She drops her robe, averting her eyes from the aged and sagging reflection in the mirror and lowers herself into the tub. Easing back, she closes her eyes, her body; a round egg coming to a simmering boil. Her fingers gently tap and play along the surface like piano keys creating snickering splashes. She imagines little fish jumping in the now sudsy foam. She smiles and takes in a deep breath. “Now this, I deserve.”
It is then she feels a change. Opening her eyes, her breasts poke the surface like a rising archipelago. They seem firmer - feel firmer - younger, the brown areola strangely now the color of corral. Below, there is a tingling. Her bottom shifts down like a sunken ship on the ocean floor and between her thighs, a deeper stirring begins. Her mind reels in darkness, a switch turning off. Something slithers over her hip and between her thighs along the seaweed trench. The bathroom is burning a fever. Clara struggles, her mouth puckering like a dying fish. Her foot rises through the suds. It is black; the toes melded together, a curved black fin. It cuts the water, pushing an ivory wave back and forth, back and forth. She tries to scream but she has no voice. As her eyes roll white, she sees the scissors next to the tub, their silver edges serrated like shark teeth. She grabs it and begins to stab.
Boyd arrives home around two. He is dull and annoyed. He notices the open bathroom door. He notices the glistening red packets, pink fur on the floor, the bathtub crimson. He never notices her standing behind the door.