Melanie didn’t like Labyrinth Laundromat. It was dark and gave her the creeps. Why did the lights keep flickering? Oh well, she had no choice in a new town without a car. At least this place was right next to her apartment building. She took out the romance novel she’d brought and tried not to think about the shadows in the back of the laundromat.
Finally the washer finished, and Melanie jumped up to put her wet clothes in a dryer. No need to hurry: she was alone in here. But that made her feel even more creeped out. She noted that all the dryers had tape over the coin slots except the very last one, the one farthest from the door.
She quickly stuffed her clothes in the dryer, put in coins, and started up the machine. It was so cold and damp back here. Smelled like mold and ashes. Yuck! The dryer sputtered and made a strange yowling noise, like a cat in heat.
“Yikes!” Melanie said, glancing around. She wished someone else would come in to do laundry. Too nervous to read now, she paced in front of the dryers as the one in use creaked and groaned.
“Only forty minutes more,” Melanie muttered, hugging her arms around her torso, trying to reassure herself.
Then the lights went out completely.
“PSSST,” someone said. “Why did you abandon me?”
“Who’s there?!” Melanie shouted.
“Just me.” A fluorescent light flickered on overhead to illuminate a sock on the floor. It was black with multi-colored toes.
Melanie had a vague recollection of having a pair of similar socks back in junior high.
“You left me behind the dryer with spiders and crickets. That was mean. I hate you!”
“What?” Melanie decided she must be hallucinating. It was probably from that weird tea she drank after dinner.
“And me!” A frilly white sock with tattered lace trim dangling off materialized next to the other sock. “I went to your confirmation and then you let Buster chew on me.”
“I was a little kid!” Melanie objected. “That wasn’t my fault.”
“What about us?” random mismatched socks fell all around her. “You left me at the stinky gym. You dropped me in the street and I got run over by a car. You never tried to find me. You never cared about my mate. You forgot me at your nasty boyfriend’s house and now I smell like smoke.”
Melanie couldn’t keep up with all their accusations. She stopped answering as they literally rained down on her, thirty years of lost and abandoned socks spilling their grief and anger onto her. She figured they’d be done venting soon and she could go.
But then she noticed they were looping together into a chain and making a circle around her. “Hey, what’s going on?” she said, panicking. She tried to run, but it was too late.
The socks quickly knotted themselves and moved up to Melanie’s waist. Then they yanked her to the far corner of the laundromat, where the floor sloped down.
“Stop!” Melanie yelled, but the linoleum back here was so slippery, and she lost her balance, falling, and sliding down down down with the rope of socks. She screamed at the demonic images she glimpsed along the walls as her descent twisted downward faster and faster…
Toby didn’t like this laundromat. It gave off a bad vibe. Oh well. He put a load in the washer and sat down to wait. Someone had forgotten their book: Love’s Wicked Flames. He rolled his eyes. Chicks and their dumb romance novels. The lights flickered.