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Archive for February, 2015

Card Challenge: Day 55

Card Day 55: A tiny city and landscape inside of a drop of rain.

The rain feel in sheets against the glass window, just as it had done for the past four days. Nora had hoped that it would let up and grant a reprieve at some point, but that did not seem to be happening. The sky still stretched on in endless, angry, gray waves, dumping more and more water onto the tiny town. It had been predicted as an evening storm, flash flooding possible near the river. She looked out at the roiling waters beneath the window, the streetlamps a tiny marker to the high water. Obviously, the forecast had been wrong. From her attic, she could see the water rushing past and hear it sloshing through her house now. She hoped desperately that she would be able to stay dry in the cramped space, uncomfortable as it was. But if it continued she knew she would be shimmying out the window and onto the roof. She was not thrilled at the possibility.

Her supplies, meager as they had been, were dwindling. When the water lapped up to her knees on the first floor and the voice on the radio said to move up, she had grabbed what she could and made for higher ground. Her foraging had produced a bottle of apple juice, assorted water bottles from her fridge, a couple of cans of soup, a loaf of bread, and three cans of green beans. The loaf of bread, half the juice, and one and a third bottle of water remained.

Nora had been sitting by the open window, straining her ears to hear the rumble of outboard motors brining rescue teams. The radio said they were making attempts to get people—like herself—who may have been trapped in their homes. Given the surprise of the flood, Nora guessed that meant they were trying to evacuate all 3,000+ citizens of Riverrun. She was in an older, less well-off part of town, as distinct a division as such a small town could have. There were no schools or hospitals nearby, and she assumed she was low on the list. Still, she did not want to miss someone coming past, especially given her dwindling food and water situation.

The radio droned on, turned down low, in the corner. It repeated the same general message over and over, with occasional updates. She listened for the trill announcing something new, but otherwise left it as droning background noise. It was better than simply listening to the water rush by or crash down. It helped her feel less completely alone, even though she was beginning to have the strange thought that she was the only human left in Riverrun.

The idea was, of course, ridiculous, and she laughed it off every time it crept up. But there was something about being in a dusty old attic for days, without another human face and only the robotic voice of the emergency broadcast that made her question everything. She distracted herself with the random assortment of junk in her attic, reading the first few pages of some old books, sorting through the clothes she had tossed up here, and trying to find anything that might make her stay more comfortable. Any attempt of distraction was met with the encroaching realization that this was really happening. She had read words on many pages, but found that none of them stuck. They were all swept away by the pounding river in what used to be her street.

Her contemplation of boredom and cabin fever was rudely interrupted by the sound of something thudding against her house. It was a sudden, loud bang that seemed to shake the walls off the house itself. She peered out the window. Probably a car, patio set, or tree branch that got swept up in the current. It was certainly not the first time she had heard something. But this had been different in a way. It had sounded sturdier, and had not bounced back and forth against the walls like most things did. There was no groan of something getting stuck on the corner of the house, no trailing series of bumps as it drifted along on the sidewalk. Just a single, solid knock against the walls. Then nothing but rushing water.

Of course, looking out into the water provided no clues either as there was nothing but a swirling mass of muddy water, always trickling on at concerning speeds. She gained damp hair and a slight, sticky dampness for her troubles. It did, however, show her that the water was now only a few feet below the window. She would have to climb soon and hope for the best. Sighing, she pushed herself to her feet. It would probably be wise to find something that floated if the roof was her last hope.

Ransacking the junk in her own attic she began to hum to herself, trying to fill the silence and drown out her fear. It was not working, but it seemed better than paralyzing resignation to the terror coursing through her. Then came the sound again, this time two knocks. They were slow, steady, and measured. Thump. Thump. Nora climbed back over the items she had unpacked—candlesticks and photo albums would not make acceptable rafts—and peered out the window. “Hello?” she called. Her own voice surprised her, cracking slightly and hoarse with disuse. Maybe that was a rescue boat docking nearby, using her home as an anchor. Maybe they were rowing to conserve fuel or prevent accidents or something.

The wind howled around her, but there was no other response. “Is anyone out there?” she called, but no one was there to respond. Nora looked at the house across from hers, seeing a tiny face framed by their attic window. The neighbor’s kid. The little girl stared at her, eyes round. There was a glimmer of fear in her face, one that Nora recognized. Only the girl did not seem to be looking at Nora, but at something in t hater below. Whatever, Nora sighed, pushing back into the shelter of the attic. There were plenty of things to terrify a seven-year-old in a flood like this.

Still, Nora followed her gaze feeling her own eyes grow wide at the sight. In the water, there was a thing. No, she corrected, her eyes struggling to make sense of what she was seeing, the water was a thing. It pulled back from her house, swelling up into an almost-fist. Nora could see the ground, muddy and sodden, from her vantage. The fist landed against the wall of her home, the same echoing thump from before. Once, twice, and the water settled back down. But she could see now that there was more than pure randomness to the motion. There was a direction to t, a constant change in direction and change of goal that defied the reality of water.

It did not flow, but it seemed to congregate, select, and move in for the attack. While some water flowed on, like water should, there seemed to be a mass, a form constructed of water but held together by something she could not understand.

Nora watched it swell again, moving along the side of her house. It paused just below her window, then crashed forward like a wave. She could not hold in a tiny yelp as the not-quite-water splashed against her face.

In that moment, Nora swore she saw it pause, almost as if it were listening. It spun together, swirling in on itself, buzzing with some activity she could not interpret. Then, she watched as the spiral turned into a column, snaking up to her window. Like a cobra striking, it slammed through the open window, knocking her back and spilling water into the sanctuary of the attic.

Nora sputtered, kicking back and sliding against the wood floor. She quickly brushed the water out of her eyes, spitting out the muddy ooze from her mouth.  By the time she got her eyes open, it was already time for them to fly wide in shock.

The water on her floor pulled back towards itself, assembling into an oddly humanoid shape. It stood on two legs, two watery appendages hanging at its sides, and its head nearly scraping the low ceiling of the attic. It rippled forward, never quite lifting it legs to move, but more flowing forward through the air, the rest of the body following behind. Nora’s mouth sat open in shock, the scream forgotten at the back of her throat. She could not breath, could not move, could only stare in wonder at the creature, hear her own heartbeat racing in her head.

It reached her, watery arms wrapping around her with irresistible strength. She felt frozen, but the chill of its touch kick started her muscles. Nora began to kick and flail, struggling against the impossible figure. It was unperturbed, absorbing any blow that landed and seeming to absorb her into its watery form. Before she knew it, Nora was encased in water, suspended within the thing’s body like a bug in amber.

The creature dove gracefully back into the monstrous body of its host, taking Nora into the depths with it. The scream she had been building finally escaped, a bubble of air bursting through the water and breaching the surface. The water rolled on, moving towards the next house.

The rain pounded on, and the city of Riverrun steadily grew silent, until only the sound of rain and rushing water remained.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 54

Card Day 54: A woman wearing a rainbow-striped skirt reaches for a golden apple.

Linette’s problem was that she knew she was running out of time. The letter had shown up on her kitchen table two days ago, its simple message handwritten in an ornate, looping script. “Linette,” it began, “We would like to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. Pick up the phone. Call us.”

And so she had, dialing the number at the bottom. A cheery woman on the other end answered, greeting her by name before she could even speak. “We’ve had our eye on you,” said the perky voice, no hint of shame or disgust at the creepy message. She had gone on to reveal things that Linette thought no one in the world knew about, and then gave her the promised opportunity.

They—who they were was never disclosed—wanted to offer her enough money to spend the rest of her life in luxury. The only catch was she had to complete a simple task. They would provide everything she needed, a clearly outlined plan for completion, and full coverage should anything go wrong. Realizing the job sounded too good to be true but unable to pause in her excitement, Linette agreed. And the line promptly went dead.

It was a hoax, a practical joke, she assumed. She was the unwitting patsy while some teenagers giggled merrily in some loud and gaudy bedroom.  Of course, her opinion changed when she woke up to a pale grey, metal box at the foot of her bed the next morning. The awareness that someone had crept so close to her while she slept left her frozen there for the first hour, anxiously awaiting the intruder’s return. No one walked in, and eventually curiosity drew her out. She flipped the metal clasps, the sound echoing in her empty room, and looked inquisitively into the dark recesses.

Inside was another letter, this on crisply typed in small font. She set it aside to explore further. There was a small flash drive, two plastic keycards, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, and a brick of cash. Linette’s heart beat quickly as she lifted the cash up, looking at the stack of $100 bills staring up at her. Benjamin was smiling at her, and she could only gaze back in wide-eyed shock.

She quickly grabbed for the letter, trying to figure out what she had signed herself up for. The “too good to be true” feeling was back in full force, currently occupying a pit of snakes in her stomach.

“Ms. Linette Jones,” was the formal opening to the letter. “We appreciate your dedication to our service. We hope that this may be the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Inside this box you should have found one (1) military grade encrypted flash drive, two (2) numbered and identified keycards for Room 1178 and Room 932, one (1) pair of video recording lenses, and the first installment of your reimbursement for service.

“We have a simple task for you to begin, so that you may prove your dedication to our initiative. First, put on the glasses so we may monitor your progress. This will also help to provide you with a small deal of concealment as they are equipped with video recording disruption capabilities. All you must do is go to the two rooms and do simple tasks. Both offices are within your current office building, hence your current utility.  Room 1178 hosts a large collection of mainframes. Find the port and plug the USB into them, then leave the room. Next, go to Room 932. This room should be a plain, but empty office. Take your glasses and break off the left earpiece, and then slide it into the bookshelf, the broken end in between the books. You have until 4:45pm on January 3rd to complete the assignment.

“As you can surely understand, this is a very delicate matter. We assure you, your cooperation in this is for not only your benefit, but the benefit of all those you currently know and work with. However, given the delicate nature of this situation, failure to complete the assignment will result in permanent TERMINATION. “

There was no name or signature, only the crisp words on creamy paper. Linette had gotten up and gotten ready, trying not to think about the stack of bills she had sequestered under her mattress. She shoved the items into the recesses of her purse and went to work.

Now, she looked at the clock, watching the number tick away. It was 4:15pm already, and she felt no more certain of how to proceed than she had two days ago.  There was a heavy cloak and dagger feel to it, and, despite the letter’s assurances, she felt certain there was a nefarious plot underway. Still, the final note about termination left a lead weight in her stomach. She had no difficulty reading through the innuendo, nor understanding that she was far over her head.

Linette scooped up her purse with sudden resolve. She could use the money to flee to Mexico or something, put this behind her, and never open an unaddressed letter again. But she had to survive.

She put the glasses on her face, feeling out of place with the heavy frames. A couple of her coworkers gave her odd looks as she walked past, commenting on the new look. She tried to keep her head down instead.

It felt like an impossible wait by the elevators as the lift climbed from the first floor to the fifth. She hoped no one would join her as she waited, because the thought of friendly chitchat brought a wave of nausea over her. The job was possible, she knew, but only if she did not think about it at all. Finally, the doors opened and she flung herself into the little metal sanctuary.

Cheery music piped in, a sharp contrast to the anxiety flooding her thoughts. Linette felt as if the world had slipped off of its axis, sending her into a tailspin without an emergency escape.

The doors opened on floor eleven—it would be best to start at the top and work her way down, she reasoned. Trying to appear confident, she strode down the pale grey hallway, her eyes scanning the numbers on the doors. What would she do if there was someone waiting inside?

Fortunately, the door swung open onto nothing but rows of blinking computers. She was not a tech-savvy individual, but she did know what a USB port looked like. Locating one was difficult amidst all the wires and displays, but she found one and jammed the device into it. At a half run, she fled the room and exited back into the quiet hallway.

It felt impossible, this conspiracy swirling around her. Everyone she passed was simply going about their day, not a thought or care in the world. She felt like she had a gun pointed at her head, forced to jump through flaming hoops. Worst financial decision she had ever made, she decided as she stood waiting for the elevator again.

This time, a man in a suit and woman in a fitted dress were standing inside, chatting as the doors slid open. They barely glanced at her as she slipped into the small cage, pressing the eleven button just above their ten. She imagined he gave her a side-eye as she did it, that there was a brief hitch in the conversation. Just paranoid, she cautioned herself, closing her eyes and breathing deep. Just paranoid.

Stepping out onto the eleventh floor, she saw even fewer people than before. Now it as simply a matter of finding the door and leaving the frame—

“Lin?” she heard from the other end of the hall. She spun around quickly, trying to figure out who could know her here. No one she knew worked on eleven.

Jason from International Services was standing just a few feet from her, smiling broadly. She tried to mimic his smile, but felt her eyes beginning to crack from the pressure. “Jason, hi.”

“Nice glasses,” he said with a knowing smile, his eyes drilling into her. His smile was genuine and friendly, but Linette felt a slight threat emanating from him nonetheless.

“Yeah, my contacts were really bothering me today,” she lied fluidly, surprising herself with the ease. She let her eyes wander, trying to find the door she needed and trying to find an escape for the impossibly inconvenient conversation.

His lips were moving, her were responding out of force of habit, She could almost feel the time ticking away, second by second. “I didn’t know you worked up here,” he said casually.

“I don’t,” she said, barely realizing the words. He gave her an inquisitive look.

“Then why would you be up here, Linette?” Her name brought her back to the conversation, catching his searching eyes. He knew. And she knew he knew. “Go home, Linette,” he whispered, his voice soft and sad.

She responded with desperation. “I can’t.” the words hurt tumbling from her lips, and she could see they pained him, too.

He sighed. “You know I cannot let you do what you were going to do.”

“Jason, I—“ He put a hand up to cut off her words.

“Please, Linette, don’t make me do something I don’t want to do.” She looked frantically down the hallway, down where the door should be. In her mind, the numbers were there, hovering just against that fourth door form the end.

“I don’t have a choice,” she replied, steel in her voice. She broke off down the hall with breakneck speed, trying desperately to reach her target. What she would do when she got there was a giant mystery, but she could only hope that eventuality had been worked out. Instead, however, she felt heavy arms plow into her back, flinging her forward to the cold tile floor.

Pinned to the ground, the glasses busted against the floor, Linette could see her watch from its trusty position on her wrist. “4:48,” it proclaimed cheerily.

Too late.


I am not too happy with this one. I feel like it is all jumbly, misplaced, and probably rife with logic errors. It was an idea I liked, but then it just wasn’t really working for me today. Oh well. Everyone has an off day. This one was also tough because the card screams Atalanta to me, but I’ve already used that in a few places. So, I was not getting much new from this card. I went with unattainable goals and distraction, but I’m not sure how well it came through. Either way, I hope you found something you enjoyed in reading it. Please feel free to drop me a comment about what you loved, hated, or anything in between. Happy reading!


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 53

Card Day 53: A single die with a devilish figure growing legs and emerging from the pips on the surface.

Natalie felt the heft of the die in her hand. It was small, cold, and surprisingly heavy in her hand. Despite being a single small die, it felt like she was holding a crushing weight. Perhaps it was simply the import of the question.

He cleared his throat, obviously annoyed by her prolonged silence. “So, are you the gambling sort?” he asked again, raising his eyebrow provocatively.

She looked down at the die, feeling surprisingly as if the pips were eyes staring eagerly up at her. They were so dark on the dingy white background, and the sensation chilled her. “I’m not,” she whispered, still not meeting his eyes. At her response, he stood up straight, shrugging his shoulders.

“Oh well, I tried.” His hand, long and slender with crisply manicured nails, reached towards hers, moving to pinch the die from her hand.

Reflexively, her fingers closed over it and held tight even as the edges bit into her hand. “No, I’m not the type, but I have to try.” Her yes met his and she was struck by the lack of humanity in them. They were dark blue, the pupils large and endless pits spiraling back into his skull. There was no life or light in those eyes, instead they seemed to suck the brightness of the hospital room into him, leaving everything feeling dim. As if she had forgotten to take her sunglasses off when she came in. It took her several breaths before she realized that his lips were smiling even as his empty eyes drilled into her.

“You’ll take my wager?”

He looked too pleased with this turn of events, and she thought back to every story she had ever heard. These kinds of deals never went the way you wanted, and there was always a hidden catch. But Natalie felt that she had no choice. She was back against the proverbial wall, and she would cling to the only way out she had, even if that meant dancing with the Devil himself. Behind her, she heard the sounds of the respirator churning, the heart monitor keeping a steady tempo. It all seemed to be counting down the seconds remaining in the offer. She could see him beginning to grow weary with the waiting, almost ready to withdraw the offer from a hesitant buyer.

“I’ll take it. We play and, if I win, no one dies tonight or anytime soon.” She had tried to be very clear in her wording, but even now she wondered if she had left too many loopholes. How soon was soon? Who was included in the “no one” discussion? What if no one died, but everyone spent the remainder of “soon” in a coma? She gnawed on her bottom lip apprehensively as she replayed the discussion. It had all seemed to clear before, but now there only seemed to be holes.

He placed his hand on her arm, the skin dry and radiating an unhealthy heat. “I may not be an honest man, but I’ll make sure you get what you deserve. You win, I’ll make sure you and your family live a nice healthy life together. I win, and no one intercedes. This story unfolds like it should, only I get a little piece of you once your time is up.”

“You will save her, right? If I win, I mean.” There was desperation dripping from her words and she clasped his hand. Obvious discomfort stretched across his face at the touch of her hand. Behind her, the machines keeping her daughter alive continued their steady symphony, unobtrusively metering each measure of her too-young life.

He simply nodded, withdrawing his hand from her and taking a couple steps back, as if the distance between them had suddenly become too intimate. “Do you want to know the rules?” he asked condescendingly. She could see he was growing tired of the mortal game, and she began to fear she might lose him. Still, playing without rules would not win her anything.

“Yes.”

He nodded curtly, pulling another ivory-toned die from his pocket. Its pips were just as dark and deep, reminding her suddenly of the pupils of his eyes. Maybe that’s why she thought they were looking up at her. “You’ll go first and roll your die,” he gestured at her still clenched fist, and she suddenly became aware of the sharp pain, releasing it suddenly. “After that, make a bid—higher than your number—that you think will be the total on both our dice after I roll. Then I roll. If our two dice add up to the bid, I win. If I roll lower than your number but go over the bid, you win. If I roll higher than you and go over, it’s a draw and I roll first next time. The game is over when we roll the same number or if we roll lower than the bid six times. Winner of the most rounds wins. Got it?”

She nodded her head slowly, the different rules and permutations floating around her. Natalie was suddenly aware that, cognitively, she was in no shape to make such decisions. It was hard to even follow his words. Somehow she suspected that would not void her agreement.

“Good,” he purred, moving towards the counter in the corner of the room. “You’re up.”

Her hand was shaking so much, she felt she did not even have to put much effort into juggling the single die. It fell from her hand, clattering across the table. Four eyes loomed up at her in the increasingly dim light of the hospital room.

“Tough one,” he sighed, not a hint of compassion or sympathy in his voice. “Bid it.”

“Seven?” she bid questioningly. He smiled a crooked grin and made a grand show of shaking the lone die with both hands. She watched as it tumbled to the table, three tiny beads facing up.

“Beginner’s luck,” he grinned as he scooped his die from the table, obviously pleased with his performance. She shook her head, trying to hold onto all the rules and decide if there were a better way, Should she have bid higher? Lower? Was it really just luck? Was he cheating? Her fingers numbly gathered the die to her, suddenly terrified of releasing it. What if they matched this round? It would all be over.

“Take too long and we’ll have to call it,” he said with a pleased smile, gesturing at the large clock on the wall. The die plummeted from her hand, bouncing a couple of times before settling.

A six. “Seven,” she bid, and he looked irritated.

“I suppose the luck may be turning. Not much chance for me here,” he growled. Hi roll produced an unfortunate three, and she saw disgust ripple over his otherwise calm features. “All tied up now, I suppose.”

The traded rounds, their scores racking up steadily. The game remained close to her partner’s obviously swelling irritation. They swapped the first player position as well, and she quickly realized that she stood little chance of winning against him if he set the bid. His years of experience quickly became obvious when he had the power. There was a hunger as he played, a revelry in the competition. Yet a darker demon took over every time his lead slipped, and she watched rage boiling below the surface. Natalie began to fear that it might just boil over, scalding her as collateral.

Her eyes were tired and the game was long. They sat at nine games to seven in his favor, and his pleasure at the events was clear. Fatigue wearing on her, Natalie tossed the die again. Another four. “Five,” she answered, slightly more confidently. A four gave her a good chance he would be under her number, good enough that she needn’t risk not meeting the bid to prevent another point for him. Still, only a two or three would give her the point. A one went to him, a four ended the game, and five or six gave him the lead, a results she feared she would not come back from. Fortunately, it was a two that landed on the table. Nine to eight.

She rolled again, she bid again, he rolled again, and they were tied. She felt thunder rolling in her chest as the importance of the situation settled on her shoulders. This was an important roll. She could pull ahead, possibly win. With prayers on her lips to figures she had never really considered before that moment, she released the die. One.

He chuckled. “Tough break. At least you’ll have another chance to win it back.”

“Three,” she stated despairingly.

His die tumbled over the faux wood surface rattling and grinding its way to a rest. She watched the numbers flash as it bounced, her heart sagging as she knew none of them held the answer. A single, solitary eye gazed up at her from the table. He appeared miffed.

“Well, that was an anticlimactic end,” he grumbled. “I suppose the deal is off. Best of luck, and you will never see me again.”

Natalie’s heart bounded into her throat as she saw her daughter, tiny and pale, rapped in the hospital sheets. “Please! One last roll. Winner takes all.”

His lips twisted into a smile, and she realized that she had played right into his trap. “If you insist. Of course, since I am agreeing to your wager now, it is only fair that I take the lead roll.” The five landed on the table, and he smirked. “Last roll, right? Winner takes all? Let’s go with a bid of six, then.”

She gulped, her hand shaking. She knew that the most likely outcome was she rolled a two, three, or four and bust the bid while still being a lower number. Five would not help her, only put her in the same predicament. And a six was just as useless in this sudden death round. With a wish and a prayer, she tossed the die onto the table. She could not watch it dance and spin, seeming to take an eternity spinning on its edges before it finally came to rest.

One.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 52

Card Day 52: A red-headed woman floats, wearing a metal cage as a skirt. Inside, two fish swim.

Everyone who grew up near Lake Wonapango had their own story about the lake. Some were your traditional and expected fish stories, some dealt with summer love and improprieties, and others were tragic tales of misadventure. And then there were the other stories, ones that spoke of great loss, the kind that does not stop when the sufferer passes on. Lake Wonapango held deep, dark secrets on its sandy bed, and sometimes those secrets floated to the surface. I remember well the night I myself came face to face with one of those secrets. All my years of trying to forget have done nothing but burn it more firmly in my thoughts.

I was never the fishing type. While it was the most common past time for those who lived around the lake, it was just never my thing. I did not have the patience or the appetite for the long hours spent catching the local fare. It seemed wasteful to haul them up and toss them back in. Still, like most folks around the lake, I had my boat. It was little more than a rowboat—I mean, it had a tiny outboard motor strapped to it, but I rarely used it. You see, I took the boat out not for fishing or swimming, but just to enjoy the water. I always went out at night, and the growl of the motor seemed overwhelming in the otherwise peaceful setting. So, I used it as a chance to get a good work out in, rowing along to a few of the calm, quiet spots I knew of.

The night in question was one of those nights hanging in between spring and summer. The air carried the heavy humidity of summer, but still settled on the cool side of warm. It was heavy with the hopes and aspirations of summer. The crickets, frogs, and cicadas had all started their raucous chorus, so I would say it was anything but quiet out there. But out on the water, it was still peaceful. There’s something about Lak Wonapango that just feels rights when the critters are singing out of key.

There were two empty bottles in the bottom of my boat, and I was leaned back against the edge, the lake water gently rocking me back and forth. The sky stretched out like an endless canvas above me, inky darkness pierced by diamond light. The moon was full, glowing warmly down on the scene. I know that this memory is colored by nostalgia, cast glorious in contrast to the events that were to come. But I don’t know if I could imagine something better and more peaceful than that evening. Maybe that’s why it had to go so wrong. Perhaps beauty and peace like that simply cannot exist in this world for long. The balance must be righted.

In that moment of peace, there was a splash. Now, anyone who has spent much time on isolated waters can tell you a splash does not mean much. I was surrounded by all sorts of wildlife that may have wanted to slide into the water. Or a tree branch could have fallen in. Heck, it could have even been one of the many local fishes swishing to the surface to snag an unfortunate water skimmer. There was no real reason it should have caught my attention. Part of what bugged me is that it did, though. Whatever thoughts and reveries I had been lost in shattered along with the surface of the lake. I sat forward, scanning about. The boat listed a bit with my sudden movements, the bottles rolling and clanging in the bottom.

The ripples began near an old fallen log that jutted its way into the river. Probably a turtle, I thought, swimming back t the shore after a long day of sunning. I tried to rest back against the boat, slip back into my quiet contemplation, but my ears were on edge, straining for any other sounds.

Silence. Completely and totally save for the water lapping against my boat. The bugs and frogs had quieted down, and their absence made me feel suddenly self-conscious. I grabbed the oars to row back home, suddenly feeling out of place on the lake that had always been home.

As my paddles dipped into the water, I imagined I heard an echoing splash hiding in their noise. It was paranoia, I told myself, or an echo from the banks. But still my ears strained. I finally paused mid-stroke, the oars lying limp in the water, and heard another splash following behind me. I spun around and watched as something broke the surface of the water. It was an arm, long and pale in the moonlight. I felt frozen to the spot, watching as the other arm rose and fell, gentle strokes pulling whoever it was steadily closer. I watched the pale shadow glide beneath the water, the feet arcing into the air and pushing it downward just before it reached my boat.

People did swim in Lake Wonapango, so I assumed I must have surprised a sunbather or skinny dipper with my evening sail. I wondered who it was, since they had obviously made towards my boat and darted away to avoid detection. My mind wandered to a couple particular townsfolk I would not mind stumbling upon skinny dipping, but before the thoughts could get too far, something bumped the bottom of the boat.

I was alert and scanning the water, assuming it must be someone playing a joke on me after disturbing them, I was not too thrilled about the potential baptism I might endure if they took it too far; my goal was relaxation, not swimming in the murky water. I watched for them, trying to see when they would surface. But no one showed.

The second bump was louder, sending me careening into the side and almost overboard. It was no longer a funny joke, and I grabbed the paddles again. They could spend all evening in the dark depths of Lake Wonapango if that’s what they wanted to do, but I was going to go home and put an end to the long day.

The paddle in my left hand barely moved in the water before something latched onto it, ripping it from my hands. Wood splintered as it came free, disappearing into the water behind a trialing white arm. I watched it rocket to the bottom until I lost it in the shadows.

I admit, I was cursing up a good storm out there on my boat. Down to one oar, it was going to take me a while to get myself home. This joke was not funny any longer. I took my remaining paddle and prepared for the long journey home.

Only then a hand appeared over the side of the boat. The fingers were long, pale and greenish in the light. I assumed it was the reflection of the moon on the water or something, but now I’m not so sure. One thing I did note as weird was the webbing between the fingers and the long, tapering fingernails. That hand was attached to a long, slender arm.

Suddenly, a face broke the surface of the water. It was mostly human, but just not quite right. The eyes were too round, not the right oval shape. They also stretched a bit too big and had an unusual sheen to them. The lips were wide and flat, curled into a suggestion of a smile. Overall, the face was somewhat flattened. But she blinked those big, shining eyes at me and I was caught. Her hand—a bit slimy, very cold—trailed along mine, winding up my arm. I felt myself leaning towards her, enraptured at the unnatural beauty. Her hair lay in wet ringlets along her body, and it was clear she was completely naked below the water. I could not tell you what else was going on in the world around me then, because my entire being was consumed with devouring her presence. It was as if I had never experienced human connection until that point. Her lips slipped into an alluring smile, an unspoken invitation to come closer.

I tingled with the feeling of her hand on my arm—I only later realized that the tingle was not simply arousal, but a potent toxin that left my arm numb for hours after. In the moment, however, it was bliss. Every nerve danced with her touch, sizzling to new life as her skin glided over my own.

I was in the water before I realized it, drawn in by her smiling eyes. I felt as if I were diving straight into her pupils, drenching myself in their dark depths. But the muddy water of Lake Wonapango filled my mouth, its vile taste reminding me that this was no paradise. My arms flailed about, the one she had carefully caressed flopping mostly useless in the water. I felt her hands running across my chest, the same burn of pleasure and paralysis following her fingertips.

You would think that I would have been able to realize the danger I was in with this mystery creature, but I felt no threat from her. Even as she gently tugged me towards the lake bed, I felt she was only interested in my wellbeing. She could have held me underwater and watched me drown as long as her eyes held mine. No, it was not the awareness of her perilousness, but the long forgotten admonitions of my parents. You never go swimming if you’ve been drinking. It was a recipe for disaster. Their warnings ringing clear, I made for the boat

I suppose she sensed my intention to scape, because those long nails on her hand began digging into my skin. Fortunately, she had well-numbed most of my upper body by that point. I managed to flop into the boat, my vision going blurry around the edges. Eventually, the moon was the only thing left that and some thunderous pounding against the sides of my boat.

I woke up the next morning, the heat having returned in force. My chest was sticky with blood, my head pounded, and my arms felt like they were filled with jello. It was a long, painful, exhausting trip back to shore. A long road of recovery and failed forgetting stretching ahead of me.

Most people blamed the bottles in the bottom of my boat for the strange report. I must have fallen in, gotten scraped up on some rocks. Others, I think, thought it was suicide gone wrong. But, I now know why the lake has claimed more than its fair share of victims. I know why men and women go missing out there, no sign of a problem in their peacefully floating boat. I stay away from the lake at night. I got lucky once, and I’m in no mood to tempt fate. I don’t think I could resist those eyes this time, and I know I’d make my home on the sandy bottom of the lake if she ever invited me again.


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Card Challenge: Day 51

Card Day 51: A sad looking child holding a slingshot stands with his back to a life-size teddy bear with a tear trickling down its face.

Hannah knew that no one believed in imaginary friends, but that did not change her situation. It also did not change the fact that she was lonely, and Carmen was a very good friend to her.

“I didn’t mean to break the vase,” whispered Hannah from her spot beside Carmen in time out. “It as an accident.”

“I know it as,” Carmen smiled sweetly, seemingly unperturbed by the punishment. “But momma sure was mad, wasn’t she?”

Hannah’s legs hung off the bed, swaying back and forth as they kicked at the bed spread. She spun her braided hair around her finger, looking glumly at the floor “Yeah, she had a real fit.”

“Well, next time you shouldn’t run in the house.”

“But you told me you wanted to play tag!” Hannah said, her eyes widening and her voice rising. Camren still just smiled and fixed her with a friendly stare.

“But like momma says, ‘Imaginary friends aren’t excuses!’”

Hannah crossed her arms, pouting. It was not fair that she had to sit in time out for something that was barely even her fault. Yes, she may have been the one to break the lamp, but it had ben Carmen’s idea. It was really an injustice that the two always had to be punished as one, but she supposed that was the risk with an imaginary friend. No one would blame the person they could not see, but it inevitably meant an innocent party was unfairly tried and sentenced.

“Time out is over. Just try to stay calm and remember to use your inside manners.” Momma was in the door, standing tall but looking tired. Her hair was tucked up into a frazzled bun, letting airy wisps of dark hair float about her face. He eyes were heavy and tired, but still filled with a hearty measure of love and care. She balanced her toddler, Jasper, carefully on one hip, her weight resting lightly against the doorframe.

Hannah needed no prompting and hopped up, trying to find the next activity to occupy their time. Carmen sat politely on the bed, watching as the woman slowly walked back down the hallway. Once momma had disappeared back into the kitchen, sounds of stirring and chopping accompanying her return, she slid off the bed and into the floor. “Wanna play dolls?”

Hannah rolled her eyes, but eventually gave in to her friends exaggerated look of request. The two settled in front of the little house. Its rooms stretched before them, a chaotic landscape of toppled furniture and mismatched doll clothes. Hannah picked up a light-haired man and straightened his shirt and pants before seating him at the kitchen table. Carmen was methodically moving through the house, righting the rooms and assembling the family members. The walls of the house were a cheery shade of pink, spring green trim rounding along the walls. When she reached the kitchen, she lifted the father from his assigned seat, gathering him with the rest of the family. There were two little girls, a little boy, a momma, and a dad.

“What a happy family,” sighed Carmen as if mimicking the weary sighs of adults. She looked down at the collection at dolls wistfully, carefully setting them on the floor. “I don’t have a dad,” she added with that same sigh, gazing at the man in his khaki pants and eternal smile.

Hannah felt a twinge of fear and discomfort at the topic, grabbing the man off the floor and putting him behind the house. “I did, once. He was a very mean man. We don’t need a daddy in our house,” she said with finality. It was weird looking down at the small family on the floor, their home gaping in front of them while they smiled with perfectly painted plastic smiles. The mother’s hair was never mussed and frizzed, and the little girls never wound up with dirt on their dresses. No one broke vases in the perfect doll house.

“What was it like?” asked Carmen, pulling Hannah from the uncomfortably mature thoughts that had been drifting through her mind.

She picked up one of the little girls, setting her in one of the pink rooms with a tiny tea set. “What was what like?”

Carmen picked up the little boy and set him in the room next door, moving steadily closer to soiree Hannah was building. “Having a dad?”

At first, Hannah shrugged, her eyes growing distant as memories she did not want to consider filtered in, their shadows stretching over the idyllic dollhouse. Carmen was placing dolls, moving them through the motions of family life. Sister joined the tea party, brother continued trying to sneak through the door, mother ran between the bedrooms and the kitchen, always a bit frantic. She kept her eyes on Hannah, eagerly awaiting the answer. “He was very mean,” she repeated again, her voice sounding distant, “very bad. He used to lock me in the closets when I misbehaved. Sometimes, he would hit me. A lot of time, he and momma yelled. She would cry, and her face would be all red and puffy. Once, he hit me and I didn’t wake up until tomorrow morning.” The words slipped numbly from her lips, falling to the ground. In an instant, she was back in those moments. There were screams and yells, her pounding heart and rapid breaths. She felt tears stinging at her eyes, begging to be released at the memory.

Carmen’s voice brought her back, tying her paradoxically back to reality. “That sounds really bad. I’m glad he’s not your daddy anymore. I’m glad you can live with me.”

Hannah knew how to respond, putting on her old smile as the nightmares continued to pulse through her head. Nevertheless, she tried to focus on the game at hand, to be the perfect host and entertain her friend. In reality, she sought merely to distract herself, lose herself in a world of fantasy where grown men did not take out their inner demons on helpless victims. But that was a world she did not know, and sometimes she wondered if she ever would. Carmen’s voice again broke through. “Why did he do that?”

Hannah’s smile slipped and she shrugged. “I don’t know. He came home late a lot, smelling bad and yelling. Then he would be really mean. The last time I saw him—“ fear welled up in her throat. She remembered that last time. There had been so much noise, explosions of anger blossoming in their tiny home. She had been in her room, in this room, when it had been green instead of blue. He had come into the room, smelling a stinky kind of sweet and wobbling on his feet. There had been blood and pain and darkness. Even in the memory, she could feel fear clawing its way up her throat, pulsing behind her eyes. She took a breath, trying to refocus. “The last time was bad,” she finished, her voice barely a whisper. “Can we play something else?”

Carmen could sense the tragedy behind the words, even if she was young. It was the way such a friend worked. The two shared so much that even feelings were little more than a river flowing between two banks. She did not have the images or the sounds in her mind, though, and so she could be stronger. Hannah smiled appreciatively at her friend. Carmen was the strength she needed. “How about Pirates?”

With that, the two girls fled to the dress-up closet, donning baggy leggings and eye patches. They spent the evening storming beaches and burying treasure, ruling their ship-room with mostly-cotton-but-occasionally-iron fists. The weight of the previous moments was replaced by laughter and false bravado, daring adventures and death-defying feats.

The flurry of activity followed by silence in the kitchen signaled the play date was drawing to an end. The two were caught mid-mission by momma’a reappearance.

“Time for dinner, Carmen. Clean up and wash your hands.”

“Yes, momma,” she sighed, dropping to a seat on the bed. She began to remove the layers of costume. “Can Hannah have a place, too?” she asked.

A flash of worry brushed across her mother’s face, and she smiled gently. “Sweetie, Hannah’s not real. I know you found that diary, but she doesn’t live here anymore.”

Carmen opened her mouth to protest, but Hannah shook her head. Her mother’s disapproving gaze also helped to silence the matter. “Yes, ma’am,” she sighed plaintively, stomping towards the bathroom. Hannah watched her go, sitting down on the bed, trying to forget what her room looked like after that fateful night, trying to forget the months of loneliness before the new family moved in, bringing the friend she always needed.

Too bad no one believed in imaginary friends.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 50

Card Day 50: A bride and groom stand in the moonlight, suspended inside a bird cage with a black cat watching from below.

May 7, 2011

Maybe this is what they always mean when they talk about a loveless marriage. It’s not a contemptuous one, an angry one, or a bitter one. It’s just loveless. I mean, I remember the feeling of butterflies and dreaminess when we first got married. I’d wake up in the morning and just smile at his face, snoring and drooling. Now I see him and I’m just left with nothing but boredom and abstract irritation at having to wash two pillowcases. Nothing changed between us, there is no major conflict, no affairs, no abuse. I just don’t feel anything. I almost wished I could just hate him, because that would make my path clear. Instead, it’s just like sharing the house with a visiting relative. Just smile, be on your best behavior, and go through the motions. Is this what love is? Is this what marriage is?

May 9, 2011

I wonder if he feels the same. He still kisses me good morning and goodnight with that beaming smile. Am I that good at acting that he cannot see the emptiness? Or has he just got me fooled and really feels as empty as me? I don’t know. I talked with Tracy yesterday—she just wanted to blab on about her newborn, which is great and all, but I felt like it took forever to get a word in. I asked her about how she and Jeff have been, and she said great. Of course she would. But when I started talking and asking about this kind of…lull, she just looked at me like I was discussing something obscene. In her oh-so-perfect way, she just told me she “hadn’t gotten there yet,” and laughed her fake smile.

Maybe this isn’t what marriage is supposed to be like. But we didn’t do anything wrong! We used to do all kinds of things together, share everything, cuddle, and spend hours just wasting the day together. That just stopped at some point, and everything just settled into a rut. And now I look at him, smile, and feel nothing. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be.

May 12, 2011

We had a fight tonight. A big one. I don’t even know how it started, but he ended up just unleashing on me about all of this stuff. And I really couldn’t even feel angry. I felt offended that he would yell at me like a child, but I felt like there should be guilt or sadness or something. It was just annoyance at having to waste time in all the verbal jousting.

He did ask why I had checked out. That was the first time I really felt like I could add something to the conversation .But I didn’t know. I don’t know why I checked out. All I know is that I woke up one day, and I just did not care anymore. He was just a man sharing my bedroom, and we just danced around one another in the circuits of daily living. I wanted to be able to tell him something, but I just had to be honest. I don’t know. He asked if I even loved him anymore. I didn’t answer. I just don’t know.

May 13, 2011

He slept on the couch last night. I wish we could go back to the point where he did not know, because now our lukewarm home has turned artic. I wish I could help him understand that it has nothing to do with him or anything he did. But I don’t think it’s anything I did, either. Maybe people just fall out of love? Is that a thing? Because I think he’s fine, and I’m fine, but we just aren’t fine together. It’s not fair for either of us to sit and flounder in an unfulfilling, unappreciative marriage. Right?

May 16, 2011

We’ve talked. We talked and talked and talked until the words we said really had no more meaning. He was frustrated because I couldn’t explain, I felt bad because he looked so pained. Our words spun in circles and it felt like we were getting nowhere. He wants to do therapy, and maybe we should. I just don’t feel like anything is wrong with me or us. We just aren’t right together.

Somewhere along the way, the two of us enjoyed a bright stretch of life together. Then, we decided that they joy we had should last forever, and we committed to it. Only brilliance like that doesn’t last, but it fades. It has faded. It is not because we did something wrong, but because we tried to make something miraculous and ephemeral eternal under the strain of daily living. I don’t think therapy can help with that. We dreamed, we reached, and ultimately I woke up. I’m sure he will soon.

May 18, 2011

He scheduled the appointment, and I agreed to meet. He guilted me into it with those pleading eyes. The therapist was…fine, I guess. He wasn’t nearly as weird and new agey as I thought he would be, and did not jump down my throat. I mean, I figured he would blame me for checking out, assume I was cheating, or tell me how terrible I was for not communicating sooner. He just listened and nodded a lot, asking a few questions here or there. Chad seemed to feel better when we left, and I kind of did too. Dr. Schwartz told us to make a list of things we loved about each other when we were first together, like that would be hard. It’s easy to remember what I did love, but it’s hard to remember why.

May 20, 2011

Chad gave me his list. He said he loved my laugh, my determination. He loved that I always ate things in even numbers and hid silly notes around his dorm room. He said that he loved the way I argued in class, how I doodled dinosaurs on my notes, and the way I looked when I just woke up from a nap. I gave him my list, and he seemed to be very touched. I felt a little sad. I miss feeling that way about him. I miss the love we had. Dr. Schwartz asked if we were interested in working through, or ready to go our different ways. I said I don’t know (do I say anything else anymore?), but maybe I do.

May 25, 2011

Fake it till you feel it. That was seriously the advice today. Just pretend I love him, and magically it will get better? He said we should act like the people we fell in love with. Maybe this guy is the quack I though he was. Chad did not really seem to appreciate that either, so at least we’re on the same page on this. Still, he’s the one with the degree, so I might as well give it a shot. Not like I can lose anything, right?

May 27, 2011

Chad planned a night out for us. We went back to the diner we had our first date, walked along the park where we first kissed, and he danced with me just like I used to love. He took everything he could from my list. I just tried to enjoy myself, laugh, and be the person I used to be. It was surprisingly hard. About halfway through the date, he stopped me. “Just be you,” he said and sighed. But his eyes looked at me lovingly through the pain. So I acted like I felt. He seemed happy, and it made me feel a little better to see him smile again.

May 28, 2011

I woke up this morning and he had his arm around me. He was snoring, and I was just listening to it, smiling, before I even realized it. It was not love—not quite, at least—but it was something. It was peace. Comfort. I just laid there, warm and content. And maybe that’s the first step.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 49

Card Day 49: A giant eating a city.

Ryan woke up hungry, just like he had every midnight for the past four days. He stumbled wearily from bed, his feet dragging the cluttered wood floors of the apartment toward the kitchen. He had lived in the place long enough to navigate the treacherous span of hallway, living room, and kitchen with ease, leaving lights off to avoid waking his light sleeping roommate. Once he arrive, Ryan bathed the kitchen in the cold light of the refrigerator, searching desperately among the bare shelves. Behind a jar of pickle juice—someone had neglected to buy more—he found a hidden container of Chinese takeout. Led by his ravenous, primitive hunger, he ate the meal straight from the cardboard container by the light of the fridge.

_

He woke up late in the morning, a brief spark of panic flooding him before he remembered it was Saturday. He had not missed his alarm, it had just never been set. Rolling over in the warmth of his bed, he listened to the sound of his roommate opening and closing cabinets in the kitchen. As if on cue, his stomach growled menacingly, assuring he would have no peace lying lazily in bed to while away the day. Tugging on a pair of shorts of indeterminate age and cleanliness from his bedroom floor, he meandered out.

“Did you eat my food?” snapped Garret in greeting.

Ryan grumbled his apology, “Maybe. I was hungry last night.”

“Really? Geez, dude, you’ve eaten everything in the house.” The obviously irritated man slammed the refrigerator door shut with as much force as possible, rewarded only with the unsatisfying “snick” of the seal catching.

Ryan grabbed a bag of croutons from the pantry, shaking them quickly before turning them up into his mouth. “Not everything,” he said around the mouthful of bread.

“I guess it wasn’t everything, but it sure is now.” Garret gestured at the empty fridge and the bare pantry. “Are you going to start munching on the baking soda next?”

“Sorry, Garret,” responded Ryan, casting his ashamed eyes down on towards the ground. “I just—I think something may be wrong. I’ve been starving the past few days.” He gave a halfhearted shake of the empty bag, hoping to find some crumb.

“What, you gotta tapeworm or something?” asked the unsympathetic Garret as he snatched his keys off the counter. “Well, maybe you should get that checked out. I’m going to Jumbo Burger.” This time, the door resounded with a far more satisfying slam.

Ryan tossed the bag into the garbage can, feeling that same gnawing hunger. Maybe it was a parasite or something. All he knew was that, Since Tuesday, he had not felt full once. He had eaten hamburgers, salads, ice cream, canned vegetables, boxed dinners, frozen dinners, and a hearty helping of chocolate, but that bought him mere moments of satiation. Looking into the depths of the overflowing trash can and gaping emptiness of the cupboards, he felt a sense of shame and dread. He scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day, and made sure to leave with enough time to pick up a couple burgers and fries on his way.

_

Arriving home after the appointment, he only felt more frustrated. They had taken blood, checked his vitals, and congratulated him on losing twelve pounds since the last visit. As he told the story about his unending hunger, his doctor looked at him with an empty smile and asked if he had felt stressed recently. Ryan was certain that, even after hearing his stomach roaring in the appointment and producing the $35 receipt from his midafternoon lunch purchase, the doctor did not truly believe how dire this situation was.

He set the groceries on the table, unloading two bags worth of chips, popcorn, bread, and as many calorie-dense food as he could gather on his dwindling budget. He hoped that some of the tests would come back and solve this problem before he literally ate himself out of rent. Garret wandered into the kitchen, eyeing the groceries.

“Sorry about your food. Have whatever you want,” mumbled Ryan in a peace offering. Without speaking, Garret ripped open on of the bags of chips before disappearing back into the living room. The loading music of the latest smash hit game blared from the room, and Ryan grabbed the bag of chocolate candies, stuffing them into his mouth as he tried to fill the endless pit.

He remembered hearing that black holes grew larger and more powerful the more matter they consumed. He began to wonder, mostly in an attempt to stay upbeat about the situation, if he did not have a black hole steadily growing in the pit of his stomach. Then again, he had no proper education in astronomy, so there was no telling.

His afternoon was spend scouring the internet for any relevant information, becoming more convinced that he did, in fact, have some kind of parasite, and eating through the copious groceries he had bought. Night settled heavily on the apartment, eventually silencing the sounds of gameplay from the living room. Ryan heard the floor creak as Garret made his way to his room, and finally pulled his acing eyes from the screen. All the research he did provided no cures, or at least none until he received the report back from the doctor. He could feel the pit in his stomach growing once again. Knowing that there was nothing left for him from his afternoon foraging, Ryan took a couple of hefty shots of whiskey from the communal bottle—the only thing that seemed to have absolutely no effect on his overwhelming hunger—and let the alcohol soothe him to sleep over the protests of his stomach.

Only, this time, he awoke already buried in the fridge. His hands were ice cold, and he saw the torn open bags of frozen vegetables lying on the floor. His mouth was gritty with the raw peas and carrots, and something else. In shock, he realized that the steaks they had frozen for a summer barbecue—once it finally got warm enough—were also missing. Their packages lay beneath the vegetable bags, confirming his suspicions.

Ryan rushed to the bathroom just in time to throw up the amazing amount of food he had devoured. Hunger roared back to life, even more painful than before. He felt every muscle in his body was aching with the hunger, and his stomach knotted over itself, end over end. Sitting on the cold tile floor of the bathroom, he shook with terror and weakness, feeling every fiber of strength in his being rallying to bolster his hunger. The growls of his stomach echoed through the tiny room, haunting him with their commands.

Ryan leaned his head against the toilet and wept. He was quick to flush before his body took over and devoured the expulsion in desperation. Eventually, he felt his vision narrowing, growing dim around the edges. This was it, he despaired. Somehow, he was starving to death despite having eaten as much as he could cram into his mouth. The cool porcelain of the toilet pressed against his forehead as the white tiles faded to black.

_

Ryan woke in his bed, feeling surprisingly refreshed. As he looked at the clock and saw it was mid-afternoon, the alertness made more sense. The memories of the night before felt like a nightmare in the bright sunshine of the afternoon, and he dared to hope that was the case. He threw his legs over the side of the bed, delivered from the impossible hunger. Silence filled the apartment, so quiet he could hear the clock ticking softly on his desk. Garret must still be asleep, he thought, and decided to make a gesture of apology. He would refresh the groceries in the house—real food, this time—and perhaps pick up a lock for the fridge.

Stepping into the hallway, he could see the carnage from the night before still in the kitchen. The freezer door stood open, but at least it was empty, Ryan thought grimly. Packaging laid over the floor, a despicable reminder of his curse. At least whatever it was seemed to have finally remitted. Throwing up must have helped. He wandered in there, his feet padding softly on the wood floor, and cleaned up what remained of his mess. Now, shower and then the grocery store.

He was nervous entering the bathroom, the site of his breakdown the night before. But those thoughts vanished as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Blood on his face, on his chest. Blood caked in his hair, staining his teeth. He felt frozen terror settling in his limbs, forcing him to stand and stare at his horrifying appearance. What had happened?

Feeling certain he was still in a nightmare, Ryan slowly exited the bathroom, still staring into his own eyes as if that monster would leap from the mirror and devour him. Once outside, he slowly turned to look towards the other door in the apartment, hanging slightly ajar. Garret’s room lay on the other side, silent. With a trembling hand, Ryan pushed the door open.

Garret was inside, his eyes wide in fear and pain. There was so much blood, so many chunks of missing flesh with uneven teeth marks running up and down his body. Looking at the mangled body, Ryan felt a disturbing mix of disgust and desire.

He savored the taste of blood on his lips, quashing the revulsion with the sheer pleasure of finally being sated.


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