What the Lake Knows
Sabrina stared at the old Polaroid in her hand. In it, a beautiful lakeside home winked back at her. Its siding a cheery yellow trimmed in a white so pure it looked like icing on a birthday cake. It seemed fitting that she would wake up in a place like that, considering tomorrow was her thirtieth birthday.
She had been dreading thirty for some time now. Especially since she lost her job, a position she held for almost four years where she busted her ass to get ahead, but only ended up further and further behind her peers. Her days were spent getting side eyed by her chauvinistic boss, passed over for opportunities, and feeling like an absolute failure. On top of that, she was single after a passionate, but rocky, relationship. In truth, she had known things with Jax were doomed—come on his name was Jax for crying out loud—but she liked his tattoos and eyebrow scar too much to turn him down. But when she discovered that no one was turning him down, not even her best—well, ex-best—friend, she officially called it quits. Those two could have each other as far as she was concerned.
Sabrina was a free agent. She didn't need a man. She didn't need a best friend. And she didn't need a job. Well, that wasn't true at all, she did need a job, and pretty damn soon actually. That was going to become a very harsh reality if she didn't do something. When the attorney contacted her about her great aunt Agatha's last will and testament, it felt like a sign. A gorgeous-two-level-original-hardwood-flooring-private-beach-access-sign.
She inherited a lake house. Her prayers had been answered. Her plan was to drive out to the house, spend the night, assess the property and put it up for sale. She'd turn a nice profit and her financial crisis would be abated while she found her new career path.
Turns out her shitty luck wasn't actually changing after all.
Sabrina lowered the Polaroid and glared at the hellish reality that stared back at her. The charming yellow cottage, with the delicate white trim, was a lie. The monstrosity that stood before her looked like the yellowed teeth of a rotted cadaver. The upper floor windows were busted and boarded over and the front porch, so sweet in the photograph with its swing and hanging plants, looked like it was about to give way under even the lightest of breezes.
"You have to be fucking kidding me," Sabrina grumbled. She flicked the photo onto the driver's seat of her beat up Grand Am and wrestled her duffle bag out of the backseat. Hoisting the bag over her shoulder she turned and screamed as she was face to face with an obese, grey haired, sallow eyed man. He screamed back at her and held his hand to his chest.
"Mr. Treeger?" Sabrina asked when her heart finally left her throat and rested in its usual place. It was the lawyer that had contacted her about her aunt's will. He looked much older than she was expecting.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," he replied, bending to rest his hands on his knees. Sabrina worried he was having a heart attack. She really didn't need involuntary manslaughter added to her list of bad luck. Also she didn't want this man to die, of course.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "You just scared the shit out of me."
"You and me both." He stood to his full height, looked to the sky, and took a deep breath. When his attention returned to her, his eyes fell on the bag she carried. "Are you staying here tonight?" He asked his eyebrows rising in surprise.
Sabrina shrugged. "That's the plan. Though, to be honest, I was expecting something a little more...well, more." She said.
Mr. Treeger turned to look at the lake house and sighed. "Yes, well...it certainly has potential, doesn't it? Just look at that view."
Sabrina was going to argue, but her eyes finally rested on the lake and, she had to admit, it was pretty spectacular. The white caps rolled along the water's surface, toward the sandy shore, as birds rode the breeze. It suddenly seemed so familiar to her. Images and sensations assaulted her brain like camera flashes. Feeling his warm fingers entwine with hers. Watching a small girl build a sandcastle. Looking down at her toes dipping into the wet sand as the water washes them clean. Staring out into the dark water, oddly calm in the moonlight, but warm as a fresh drawn bath.
"Miss Delacort, are you alright?" She jolted back to reality when Mr. Treeger addressed her. She realized she was crying and hastily wiped the tear from her cheek.
"I'm fine. The wind just blew something into my eye. Most likely from this heap." She turned her attention back to the house. Anything to avoid looking out at the lake.
"Yes, well..." Treeger rummaged around in his pocket until he produced a set of keys. "Here you are. The electricity does work, as does the water, don't let it fool you. Just bang on the pipes a little to get it flowing." He pressed the key into her waiting palm and stared into her eyes a little longer than necessary. "My you do look like her, don't you?" He whispered.
"Like who?" She asked.
"What?" He replied looking startled at her question.
"You said I looked like her. Her who? Agatha?"
"Oh just rambling. I've had a long day and I really must be going. Please enjoy the house and remember just give the pipes a good what-for if needed."
And, with that, he was in his car and heading down the red dirt path, kicking up dust along the way.
“Come As You Are, Leave Anew.”
The invitation in my hand was simple in design; blocky lettering in shimmering, mother of pearl against charcoal black. I had read very little about this place. Any mention of it was always removed immediately from message boards and websites. Bloggers who had tried to expose the establishment were silenced, their pages suddenly showing nothing but "404."
I didn't think it really existed, just an urban legend, until Seth showed up to work a completely new man. He left on Friday a beaten down, worn out, slovenly grump and returned Monday with a spring in his step, a wink in his eye, and wearing a tie without coffee stains for once. Even so, it was more than just some outward enhancements. He was a different man. Not literally of course.
I smacked the invitation against the open palm of my left hand as I glanced around my quiet surroundings, straining to hear anything from beyond the door. Even just a couple sounds to give me a clue as to what I was in for if I went in would help me decide. But it was silent. Too silent. How could this place be so quiet? This was too weird, I shouldn't be here. This wasn't for me.
I had just made up my mind to leave when the door in front of me silently opened.
My breath caught in my throat, I was parched. The foyer beyond the threshold was dimly lit, like a movie theater. I should leave. I should not go in there. I had a report due on Monday and a bathroom faucet at home that needed fixing. I should turn around and walk away.
My feet carried me forward as if of their own accord and I stepped into the darkened room. The door shut behind me without even a whisper and a cool lightness washed over me.
"Welcome," voices greeted me from somewhere beyond my sight. They were masculine and feminine all at once, each one echoing the other. I wasn't sure if, or how, I should respond and my throat was paper dry now. I couldn't have spoken even if I wanted to.
The space around me was empty, just a marble floor surrounded by dark walls. Suddenly a light winked on before me shining down on a small table that I hadn't noticed before. Had it even been there? On the table rested a small silver tray on which a crystal vial sat. Inside the vial was a shimmering substance; a soft blue smoke rolling and undulating, wanting to be free.
"Are you predator," the voices surrounded me again, the sound like fingertips caressing my neck. "or prey?"
I stared at the vial, the roiling substance growing brighter under my gaze. I barely registered the invitation slipping from my grasp as I reached for it. It needed me. I needed it.
"Predator or prey?" The voices were repeating the question over and over; the echo inside my head almost maddening as the room grew warmer.
I lifted the stopper from the vial and watched as the smoke drifted up in ribbons toward my face. I inhaled, my head snapped backward, eyes rolling back as my vision filled with images of parting grasses, the ground racing under my feet, satin sheets, and tensing limbs. My ears filled with the sound of thundering footfalls and labored breathing. The scent of Leather. The feel of Lace. The crack of a whip. My head snapped forward again as my body trembled and quaked.
"Predator or prey?"
The vial fell from my hands to the floor. I never registered a noise. All I heard was the question over and over in my ears. My upper lip curled into a snarl, I flexed my fingers and ran my hands through my hair as a curtain parted to my left. My head rolled slowly in its direction and I stalked toward the red lit hallway.
"Predator," I growled.
"Alright, Lily, one more push should do it," the doctor encouraged.
"You can do it, babe," Gabriel smoothed his girlfriend's hair back, the sweat from her brow slicking the strands.
Lily groaned and threw her head back in exhaustion.
"Come on, Lily," the doctor demanded. "One more big push."
Gabriel grabbed Lily's hand.
With a determined nod, Lily sat up, leaned forward and as Gabriel placed his other hand on her back, she bore down with one final push to bring her child into the world.
"Oh my God..." the doctor breathed.
Lily fell back against her pillow completely spent.
"What's wrong?" Gabriel asked, the excitement in his voice fading to concern and fear.
The nurse screamed in horror and ran, stumbling from the room knocking over equipment in her haste to escape.
"Is it a boy or a girl?" An exhausted Lily asked weakly from the bed, completely oblivious to the eruption.
"It's a monster!" The doctor exclaimed.
Before Gabriel could respond the doctor unceremoniously heaved the child onto Lily's chest and bolted from the room following the nurse.
The lights dimmed and began to flicker and the temperature began to rise.
Gabriel stared after the doctor in shock before looking down at the mewling infant his girlfriend now held in her quivering arms. The child's skin was pale and still covered in the blood and mucus of birth, but more startling was the long tail that twitched and curved around Lily's arm as she held the child close to her breast.
"Oh my..." she whispered in awe.
Gabriel stood in shock staring at the pair, his eyes widening as the child opened its mouth to cry, revealing a tiny forked tongue with each hissing wail.
"There, there," Lily cooed, nuzzling the child's face gently. The infant's cries calming at its mother's touch. "Oh Gabe, look what we made...together," Lily said, reaching out for his hand, grasping it tightly.
Slowly he moved in closer, staring down at this child, his child. He watched as it slowly opened its eyes to stare back at him, the irises a flickering shade of yellow and orange surrounding a serpentine black void.
"What do you think?" Lily asked, looking from their child to him.
Gabe tentatively reached out, his fingers lightly trailing over the child's cheek.
The Hunger Gnaws...
She dangles her hand off the side of the bed unknowingly tempting you with her delicate flesh. You remember the taste, the satisfying feeling of fullness. Unable to resist any longer you slink from the recesses, your yellow, aged claws flexing, old bones creaking like wooden floor boards in an empty hallway. You're not as strong as you once were.
"Soon the fear that feeds you will again be yours."
Your approach is slower than you remember. Your steps halting and uncertain. Traveling on shadows used to be much swifter. You pause as the space around you shifts; something isn't right. The walls are no longer pink. Gone are the winged horses and fairy tale princesses. The dollhouse is missing. In its place sits a glowing square of light. You raise an arm and hiss softly.
"Hurry. Before it's too late."
Each step takes enormous effort and your breathing is labored, the air whispers through you like wind moaning through branches long dead. Your slivered eyes search for the raggedy bear she clings to, desperate for something familiar; something to let you know all is not lost.
Your scarred skin, once stretched taut over rippling muscle, now shrivels and erodes into the air like Sandman's sleeping powder.
It's gone. It's all gone. Sometime between then and now she aged and grew. She moved on and forgot all about you hiding in the closet, in the darkest corner, under the bed. As the last shred of you vanishes into distant memory you realize...
"She wasn't afraid of you anymore."
I wrote this piece as a response to a writing prompt in a writing group. The prompt said to write something that ends with "She wasn't afraid of you anymore." I really liked my piece, so I wanted it to be posted here, too.
Should Have Bought Soap for My Mouth
I went grocery shopping by myself for the first time today (I know, a charmed life I lead). I was meticulously following the grocery list and doing my very best to triple check it so that I didn't have to double back (because it seems like my husband and I ALWAYS have to do that) and I get a few aisles in and realize that I already forgot something in a previous section. Usually I have my husband to talk to during these moments, but I'm alone now, so naturally I start talking to myself. I quote: "For fuck's sake I already fucked up." That was when I looked up and made eye contact with a nice old man who just sort of nodded at me. I smiled and hurried my ass to a different aisle.