The lake gently lapped against the rocks lining the pier, and I closed my eyes and leaned back against the sun-warmed metal of the lighthouse, tilting my face toward the sky. Normally, I wouldn’t have ventured this far out on the pier. Currents in the huge lake changed constantly, often making it treacherous. But today, it was almost placid, and I needed to find the peace the water usually brought me.
I needed it desperately. My chest ached. There was a gaping aching hole where my fucking heart had been. Hailey had taken it with her when she’d gone. My friends had tried to warn me. Hell, when her mom found out I was going to propose, even she’d tried to make me see reason–her own mother. That should have been my clue.
I’d been walking around in a daze, barely functioning, since I’d come home from work a week ago to discover she’d moved out. She’d left a note on the fridge, a rainbow magnet holding it up next to the list of contact info for the caterer, the ceremony venue, the seamstress who was supposed to be altering our dresses. The only things of hers left in the entire apartment were a couple hair ties wrapped around the handle of the brush we shared and her wedding dress hanging right next to mine in the front hall closet–both of them looking like ghosts of a love lost.
An icy wave hit my lap, and my eyes flew open. I must have dozed off. The calm water had vanished, leaving roiling crests in its place. Huge pewter-colored clouds crawled across the bleak light of the afternoon sky. I scrambled to my feet, grabbing at the riveted steel of the lighthouse as another wave slammed into me, the metal ringing dully as my head bounced off the side.
I squinted at the shore. Churning water washed over the pier, making the distance seem a hundred times farther than it actually was, and lightning flashed overhead. I didn’t have a choice but to try to make it to the beach. Bracing myself against the now howling wind, I crept away from the meager protection the lighthouse offered and inched toward shore.
My jeans clung wetly to my legs, and my shoes squished uncomfortably as I tried to push forward through the gale. Water swirled around my feet and ankles, tugging at me as the lake flowed away from the barrier, only to wash over it again eddying around my feet.
It was getting harder to stay upright. If the storm got any worse, I’d end up in the lake, dashed against the rocks. I made the mistake of looking down as the next wave hit. The water dragging at my ankles looked like hands. Hands that were pulling me toward the edge.
The muscles in my thighs trembled as I tried to keep moving, tried to pull free of what could only be an illusion created by grief and fear. But the thrashing water took on more discernible shapes, and I stopped walking and watched in paralyzed horror.
The hands around my ankles flowed into wrists, and arms formed, evolving into shoulders and heads with coiling, undulating hair. On either side of the pier, the watery figures rose and fell with the storm swells, gaining in strength as they tugged me toward the edge.
“Let me go,” I choked out through my growing horror.
Eerie laughter filled the air—part wind, part water, all terrifying.
The waves continued to violently batter me as the creatures became more agitated–fighting over my body, now yanking on my arms as their sodden grip tightened. I tried to break away, but watery fingers climbed up my neck to tangle in my hair, yanking my head back.
It must have exerted enough force to free me from the creatures on the left, because I went tumbling over the right side of the pier, my knee cracking loudly against one of the jagged rocks lining the concrete. Agony shot down my calf that now dangled uselessly in the water as I tried to swim toward shore. The clinging hand in my hair tugged me back across the scant distance I’d managed.
“Please,” I forced out through chattering teeth. “Please let me go.”
“You have something we need,” they murmured, their voices as oddly sinuous as their bodies.
Their creepy laughter twined around me as the figures pulled me beneath the tossing waves. The surface grew darker the farther down they dragged me. I struggled, my nose and eyes filling with water, but I couldn’t break their hold. Black spots peppered my vision, and a sudden excruciating pain radiated from the center of my chest.
Muffled and mournful, their hisses filled my head. “This one’s empty.”
Looked like Hailey’s swath of disappointment and broken dreams continued. If I’d had the breath I would have laughed.
That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories, too.