“Are you gonna jump or not?” Carrie asked with her hands on her tucked waist. Her figure was intimidating, accentuated in all the right places by her red and white high-waisted polka dot bikini. She flicked her head and her coal-black hair shimmered like wet tar in the setting sun.
They stood atop the little water testing building that sat at the end of a long buoyant walkway in the middle of the Altoona reservoir. The air was dense with humidity even as the sun set; so thick it seemed you could carve it like a pumpkin on Halloween. The summer sky had a sort of psychedelic quality—some hippy’s tie dye experiment gone haywire. Violet that seeped into hazy neon pink, melted orange crayons, and scald-your-flesh blue. The reservoir was surrounded by dense woods full of oaks, maples, and pines. Secluded and silent except for the crickets that provided the soundtrack to northern summer nights.
Blake looked at his reflection, the only thing visible in the murky water before it was sucked into the drain pipe, and made its way to the water treatment plant. “I’m working on it. Just give me a minute.” His broad shoulders and long chestnut hair rippled as he kicked a twig into the water.
“We’ve been here for an hour.”
“I’ve never done anything like this before, Carrie.” Blake turned away from the edge of the roof and sat down cross legged in the middle of the thing. He picked at the skin along his thumb nail.
“I know,” Carrie sat down next to him, “but it’s just a little jump. Maybe 20 feet.”
“That’s the least of my worries. I’ve never done anything illegal before.”
“It’s just the reservoir. Look around. No one knows we’re here. Just a little jump for freedom. A jump to say, ‘Screw you’ to that asshole.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Blake said as he watched the last crescent of the sun descend behind the trees. The air was still sticky, Carrie’s hair reflected gold in its inky blackness.
Blake had never known freedom, not really, and the idea of it scared him. He had been the captive of a man who watched his every move with a microscopic lens for as long as he could remember. Every memory was a flashback: a smaller version of him with a #2 pencil and a sketch pad, radio quietly pouring out some sad melody sung by a broken-hearted man, inside a tiny room with too much furniture and no room to live. He’d hear a curse, a guttural growl emitted from the troll who roamed the world beyond his small den of safety, and then the pounding footsteps approached. One second. Two. Blake knew his quiet moments were numbered. The he would appear; red faced, spittle gathered at the sides of his mouth, tongue like a cattle prod, and he would destroy Blake with words that would settle in the fragile nooks and crannies of Blake’s tender mind. You’re nothing. Worthless. Stupid. Ugly. You don’t matter. And if Blake could survive being nothing, then, the beatings began. Then, the shunning. Forced solitude. As big as Blake was, inside he was still small. Inside, he was just a little boy that needed a savior.
Carrie saved him. Kind of. When she saw him curled up on the playground under the shiny silver slide in 4th grade she took his hand and saved him. When he died, lung cancer, before Blake had a chance to tell him off; Carrie saved him. Now, two months later, she was trying to save him again. Carrie was trying to convince Blake to taste life, because life was more than sketch books and Bob Segar songs.
“It’s getting dark,” Carrie said.
“Maybe we should just go.”
“No way, Blake. We didn’t haul our asses all the way up here to the middle of the boonies to stare at grimy water and sit on a dirty roof. Which I am pretty sure is going to give me a rash on my butt.” Carrie smiled and nudged Blake hard. He teetered but righted himself before he fell over. “Let’s do the thing.”
Blake sighed and rubbed his hands on his knees, “Alright. Let’s go.”
Carried and Blake hoisted themselves up and walked to the edge of the roof. Their dirty toes were side-by-side gripping the edge. Carrie’s were painted a vibrant ruby red that matched her swimsuit. Blake looked over the side and into the water. His reflection was gone now, replaced by darkness and the shimmer of the full moon that had begun to appear in the distance. Tiny winking pinpoints mirrored the sky on the surface of the stagnant water.
“On the count of three?” Carrie said.
“One,” Carrie announced and bent her knees as if she were a professional diver preparing her form.
After a long quiet moment and several deep inhales Blake breathed, “Two.”
Carrie looked at him and smiled, her perfect white teeth glinting in the pale moonlight. She grabbed Blake’s hand, heaved herself forward, and shouted, “Three!”
Blake’s hair whipped up into the air as he plummeted toward the water. His brown eyes watered against the force of the wind. His body felt weightless, unencumbered by gravity, by memories, by fear. For an instant, as he drifted toward the waiting water, he was unattached to a world that confused and neglected him. Carrie’s lilting laugh tickled his eardrums and made the moment brighter despite the purple night and the silhouettes of once green trees.
Only for a moment. Just after that brief, monumental instant when Blake tasted freedom his eyes shifted to the water that would strip his soul of the evil that tormented him despite his departure. But what awaited Blake wasn’t the glassy serene surface of the reservoir. The water had begun to churn, bubble, froth as if it were being heated by some unseen coil. Blakes eyes grew wide with fear; searching for the source of the commotion. Carrie let go of his hand, flailed her arms, screamed.
Blake saw it. A long, thick tail that came to a sharp point surfaced and disappeared. Fins. Whatever it was, it was circling. Waiting. Blake felt as if he had been falling forever. He wished he could, because he knew eventually he’d make contact. So would Carrie, and he couldn’t save her. Whatever it was would be waiting. Blake began to hyperventilate, sucking in tiny bits of syrupy air, gnats that hovered just above the water’s surface, and it was all too fast now. He didn’t manage a good gulp of air before he was cocooned in the cool muddy water.
Carrie’s head emerged above the surface of the bubbling water. Her black hair matted to her face, she used one hand to brush it away. Carrie gasped for breath while she kicked furiously to tread the dark water. “Blake!” she yelled into the night. When she received no reply, Carrie sucked in a slimy gulp of air and submerged herself into the depths of the once quiet reservoir.
Beneath the surface the water was thick and blurry. It was filled with large particles of dirt and muck stirred up by the thing lashing about in front of her. Swarms of bubbles clouded the writhing figures battling in the fog. Carrie pressed forward, emerged from the water for a fresh supply of oxygen, and then she descended again.
Blake’s legs swirled around, his muscles strained with useless effort as he attempted to force himself toward air. The enormous creature had him locked in place, its tail twisted around his waist, keeping him from gliding to the surface. Carrie moved frantically, her body a torpedo of will set to save her friend from whatever beast now clutched him. Her eyes ached as the debris scraped her corneas.
Out of the mire appeared a flash of razor wire teeth, longer than a human thumb. They somehow glittered in the muddy water; catching impossible rays from the luminescent moon. Its mouth could have swallowed Carrie whole, and she had no idea why it didn’t. The monster emitted a low, trembling growl and a storm cloud of tiny bubbles. Had she not been terrified, had she not flung herself back into the abyss, Carrie might have found the bubbles amusing. Its great silver eye narrowed and examined her, and then turned for Blake who was losing his battle in the absence of air. It inched closer and closer, sniffed him, his legs and his feet and his arm pits, and then it struck. Its wide jaws opened and closed around Blake’s abdomen. Carrie could see Blake’s face contort. His mouth opened in one long agonizing, terror-filled scream, and the brown water turned the color of bricks as his blood leached into it. The monster shredded the pieces after the initial bite.
Carrie turned and violently shuttled to the surface. She gasped for air as she blinked through wet lashes and crusty water. Carrie screamed, “Blake!” but no one heard her. Not in the wilderness. Not out here, where no one was supposed to be anyway. She swam with the last of her waning energy to the grassy bank of the reservoir where she sat shivering with her knees tucked up to her chest despite the heat and humidity.
The full, yellow moon hung high overhead now. Carrie looked out at the water, the glassy black surface interrupted by a bleeding spot of crimson. She hadn’t been able to save Blake in the end. The monsters were always going to torment him, maybe they were incognito, around every corner waiting for their chance to attack. It could’ve had her too if it wanted. She had offered it both. It only took what it needed, though. The ones who couldn’t be saved.
But Blake did know freedom, eventually, and he would know it forever. He would live on in the people of Altoona. The pieces of him that escaped would filter into the water. The whole town would drink him, bathe in him, brush their teeth with him.
Carrie smiled. I bet the sprinklers are about to kick on.
#HumpdayHorror #DarkWater Copyright 2018 Kira McKinney
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.