It was one of those winter evenings that makes you forget the sun; the kind of evening that feels like a kind of an interminable twilight, search a cold limbo between the gray of day and the black of night.
My tea was going cold on the table in front of me but I dared not move from my chair to warm it. Silence was my ally. Silence would keep the house still and dark until my husband returned home. Silence would allow me to rest my head upon the table and close my eyes. Silence would get me through the coming hours.
I clutched my cooling tea and prayed for quiet. How long could I sustain it? Could I keep the house still for an hour? I had done everything in my power to prepare for this. The dishwasher was off. The television was unplugged. My phone was set to silent. The lights were dimmed.
The door to the room upstairs was closed.
I took a tiny sip of tea and set the mug down. The light thump of ceramic upon the wooden surface echoed in the kitchen. I held my breath. Be more careful, recipe I said silently to myself. Be more careful!
You know what’s at stake.
I let my breath slowly. I strained to hear if there was any sound coming from the second floor.
Ten minutes passed. Still nothing.
Twenty minutes passed. Still nothing.
And then – THUD.
The door upstairs rattled.
I held my breath. If I held still enough, it would stop. Hold still.
My heart pounded in my ears. Still I held my breath. If I could just…
The shriek pierced the darkness and I leapt up, spilling my tea and knocking over my chair. I ran for the stairs. Maybe I can stop it.
I lunged for the door, grabbing the knob with both hands. I shoved it open and was stopped in my tracks by a sickening, gut-churning stench. I fumbled for the light and…
The next scream I heard was my own.
I fell to my knees. The scene in front of me was horrifying beyond my imagination. The floor. The walls. It was vile, sickening. I retched. The smell…
And in the middle of this grotesquery sat my baby…
“MOMMY MOMMY MY POO!”
… holding in her hand what looked like a soaking brown rag.
“MY DIAPER MOMMY I CLEAN IT!”
The horror. The horror.
She was covered from head to toe in her own effluent. A viscous streak of brown ran from her toddler bed to her spot in the middle of the room. The floor around her: brown. The dresser beside her: brown. Her clothes: brown. Her very blonde hair: brown. Everything, everywhere in that room, was covered in thick, wet brown poo.
“MOMMY. I CLEAN IT!”
She had soiled her diaper during her (hard-won) nap and it had woken her up. Upon discovering the mess, she decided to clean it herself. She removed her diaper and attempted to dispose of its contents and – lacking cleaning supplies in her bedroom – use the soiled diaper as the cleaning instrument. Having deposited the primary contents of the diaper in her laundry bin, she proceeded to use the soaked, brown diaper to wipe everything down. Which, of course, made everything more brown, so she just. kept. scrubbing.
Would I have wanted her to have her own supply of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on hand in her bedroom? If you had asked me in that moment, I might have wavered. As it stands, 18 month olds should not be changing their own diapers, and certainly not cleaning their excrement, so, no. But would I have wanted my own massive supply of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on hand to tackle the scene? Dear gods, yes. The horror that confronted me could not be tackled efficiently with paper towels and spray cleaner. It could not be tackled efficiently with mops and bleach and cleaning rags. It took days to get that room back to a habitable condition, and even then, we still decided to sell the house that same year. (Because of The Night Of The Living Poo, you ask? Well, it wasn’t entirely not because of that.)
I still sometimes wake up at night, the stench in my nostrils, the sound of my own screams echoing in my ears.
I’ve never recovered from it, really. I probably never will.
The above is a true story. It is also sponsored by Clorox and #ClxMysteryMess, who were, sadly, not on hand when this actually happened. Share your own messy horror story on Twitter with the hashtag #ClxMysteryMess for the chance to inspire a horror-style movie poster designed by Charlie and Andy of How to be a Dad.