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Anime Fuel Newbie
A Darker Tale: Chapter One
*Blushes* this is my first real post outside of the introductory one...this piece is a short story I'm working on to get into the advanced fiction workshop at my college. This is just the first few pages. Please let me know what you think! Thank you!
She came here every year on the Twelfth of October, every year since she was ten years old. There were so many memories tied up in the green ripples; memories like the rainbow bursts of spray when the trout leapt like small miracles out of the water; memories like the dark swirls of mud and grit just along the shore. Deep, painful memories. She preferred the softer ones, the ones full of the syrupy sweetness of honey smothered on white bread with peanut butter; the cotton candy smiles, the sticky little hands covered in mustard from the hot dogs. But on the Twelfth of October, those memories always seemed far away. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite taste them, dangling just out of reach as if she herself were Tantalus bound to Hell.
Brennan stared listlessly outward as silver mist rose like steam over Widow’s Lake, unaware of the drizzle that clung to her carrot hair, filling it with crystalline jewels. The beads grew and grew, until the weight was too much, and they fell down, tears on the back of her neck. Her eyes, a cloudy grey-green like the lake itself, were dry and focused. Even though she hadn’t been there, she could see the boat in her mind’s eye. She could see her parents, laughing one moment, and the next gasping as the little fishing boat her father had saved up for crashed, broke, splintered into nothingness. Her parents fell, sunk like skipping pebbles, and the boat came back together, floating off towards the stream, empty as Cheiron’s hungry eyes. They never had found the bodies.
It haunted her dreams, the little white boat with green striping. For years, whenever she would lie down to sleep, it was there, waiting. Unable to resist it, she would get in. Each time she hoped it would take her to her parents, to wherever they had gone—that place she could not follow on her own. And yet every time it drifted peacefully across the still waters of the lake, moving without wind, but as if guided by some unseen hand. Brennan would look into the water and see dark shapes swimming beneath her, the size of porpoises but writhing like eels. She would close her eyes and the water would rise, spilling over the sides, filling her socks, reaching higher, insatiable for more to consume. But the boat would continue forward, unhindered by the added weight. It was cold, the water, and numbed her. It would reach her forehead and she would breathe it in like air. She never drowned. When she opened her eyes, there in the distance, so far below her, would be a golden light. Two shapes would wave at her from the light, and she knew somehow that those two swirls of blackness against the bright light were her parents, waiting for her. The boat would disappear, and she would be left sinking in the night-dark waves. She would try to swim, try to get to her parents, but each time, every god damn time, hands hard and cold as ice would grab her shoulders and pull her back, bring her back to the surface.
Brennan stood abruptly, her legs aching, pins stabbing at her feet as blood began to pour back through her stiff limbs. She had been squatting too long. Her Aunt Zelda was waiting in the car, would be wanting to leave. For the ninth year in a row, Zel had refused to come.
‘There are things out there, Ren,’ Zelda would say, her brown eyes watering behind violet owl-glasses, ‘things that don’t want to be disturbed, and I don’t mean memories. Now I’ll take you—Lord knows it’s important—but don’t get too close, sweetie. Promise me you won’t get too close.’
Brennan glowered at the lake. There was something out there, all right. Not a monster, or demons, or whatever it was Zelda thought it was. Secrets. Her parents’ secrets. What had happened that night lay out there, buried beneath the too placid waters. She wanted to rip the lake apart, to force it to give up those secrets and give back her parents. Quick as lightning she bent down, grabbed a stone, smooth, egg-shaped, perfectly fitted to her hand, and threw it as hard as she could. It skipped once, then sank with barely a splash for her effort. Brennan stared angrily a moment more and turned on her heel to stalk back towards Aunt Zelda’s brown 1974 Cadillac sedan Deville. She got half way to the small parking lot when she heard a splash and then a kathunk beside her. Startled, she turned wide eyes toward the source of the noise.
It was a smooth stone, egg-shaped and looked the perfect size for her hand.
Brennan swallowed once, and weak in the knees, bent to pick it up. Her fingers trembled as they grazed the wet surface of the rock then curved around it. She raised the stone to stare at it in disbelief. Was it…No, it couldn’t be. All the same, she stuffed it hurriedly into her pocket and, not sparing a second glance to the lake, ran as fast as her legs would take her. There was a little symbol, carved on the underside, worn and smooth as if it had been there for centuries. Brennan’s thumb swept over it in her pocket, but felt nothing.
“Did you see that?” Brennan panted as the passenger seat seemed to rise up to meet her. She buried herself against the leather and slammed the door. She locked it, just for good measure.
“See what, honey?” Zelda looked over her large glasses at her niece, a small frown making two wrinkles between her eyebrows. She folded her Spirits Weekly journal, setting it aside across her knees.
“Nothing, never mind, just go. Let’s go.”
Zelda gave Brennan a considering look but nodded once. “If you’re sure you’re ready, sweetie.”
“I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. I just want to leave.”
Zelda caught her lip between two white teeth but decided not to press the matter. If Ren wanted to talk about whatever it was, she would, in her own time. She started the engine only to have it idle and putt out. She revved it again, holding the ignition.
“Zel, you know the mechanic says not to do that. Press the gas.”
Zelda shook her head, pushing one wild curl back behind her ear. “I’ve done it this way for years. It’s always worked for me.”
She held the key down and surely enough, the engine roared to magnificent life and soon the two were driving back the gravel path from whence they came.
That night when Brennan had the dream, instead of pulling her up to the surface, the ice-hands dragged her down. The fingers lanced her blood with cold, bound her kicking legs—bound them until she could not move without the other. When she tried to breathe, taking big gasping breaths through her mouth, she choked.
She woke that morning to find river weed twined about her legs. She reached out slowly to touch it in disbelief. Her fingers slipped over it. It was still wet.
Brennan walked downstairs, clutching the slimy weed with trembling hands.
She sat down at the kitchen table, staring blankly ahead as Zelda busied herself at the stove.
“I was wondering when you would be up. I made your favorite, green eggs and ha—”
She stopped mid-sentence, looking at the dark green clutched between Brennan’s hands.
“Ren, what are you doing with that?”
Brennan blinked dizzy eyes at her aunt. “It was there. When I woke.”
Zelda gave the weed a stern look and cautiously reached out to take it from the girl. “I’ll take care of it Ren, you don’t need to worry. Just give it here.”
Ren shook her head slowly, feeling dazed—as if the wind had been sucked from her lungs and she was left gasping, just like in her dream. “You don’t get it, Zel. I woke up and it was there. Just there.”
“I understand, sweetie, but just give it to me.”
Her hand, shaking with age rather than shock, was open, waiting. It would be easy to hand it over, to pass it on, but if Ren did, she would never know. There were enough things, she decided, that she didn’t know.
Zelda jumped as if startled by the question. But it was such a reasonable question, why.
“Why do you understand? I don’t. It makes no sense for river weed to just show up—”
Ren stopped, swallowing her words. She had been working up to a good tirade, her voice rising, ringing in the kitchen, but…seaweed?
“But how could seaweed get here?” she demanded, as if it made more sense to have been from the river, from the lake. Widow’s Lake.
Zelda shook her head, shoving a hand through her mane of tangled curls, pulling them straight with frustration.
“Just give it to me, Ren. Please.”
The two women stared at one another, neither willing to give up or in. Ren’s fingers tightened around the slippery plant.
“Sweetie, honey, you don’t understand what it means. Just give it here. I will take care of it.”
“Why? What does it mean? Why does it need to be ‘taken care of’?”
Zelda sat, defeated, across from her niece, staring at the girl with tired eyes. Zelda never looked tired, never. She was always full of energy, lighting around the house with an airy grace that reminded Brennan of a faerie. But now Zelda had her head in her hand, as if even that were too much to support, too much to bear. Zelda was in her early fifties but had never seemed it, had never seemed her age. She did now, her entire body sagging with fatigue.
“Does it matter why, Ren? Have I ever asked you for anything? Just this one time, would you do something for me, without knowing why? Trust me, please honey.”
Brennan caught her lip between her teeth and worried it. Zelda had never demanded anything of her other than that she attend school, and even then her aunt gave her leeway, allowing her to miss classes now and then, just for the fun of it. And that was precisely why Brennan couldn’t do it. Zelda would have to have a good reason for wanting to keep her in the dark. Ren needed to know.
“Zelda, I’m sorry, but I’m sick of this not knowing. So no, I’m not going to give it to you, and no, I’m not going to let this go. Tell me. Please,” she tacked on as an afterthought.
Zelda closed her eyes and once more pulled on the wild mane of her hair.
“Okay,” she said, defeated. “I’ll tell you what I know.”
Brennan stood at the edge of the lake, staring out at its placid waters, at t he storm-grey sky that kissed the tops of the evergreens. She held the seaweed, dry now, and delicate, and felt the weight of the stone in the pocket of her jeans.
“If you’re out there,” she said, breaking the silence that had settled like frost over the water, “I want you to know I’m on to you. I know you’re there and I know you took my parents. But you can’t have me. Do you hear me? I AM NOT YOURS!” She screamed the words, her face throbbing, throat straining against the sound. She crushed the weeds in her hands and threw the dead pulp back at the water. It landed lightly on the skim and, drawn by the lapping of the water, drew away towards the stream. The stream which led to the ocean. She had never known that, had never been told.
“If you think I’ll go quietly,” she whispered, her throat sore, scratchy and aching, “you’re wrong. Dead wrong.”
'I know you don’t believe it, Renny, but there is something in that lake. Jaemes—your father—told both your mother and I that one day it might happen. That’s where Isabeau met him, you know. He was just sitting there, on the shore. She was maybe thirteen at the time. He said he came from Aleutia. I thought he meant the Aleutian islands. He meant in the ocean. The trenches, Jaemes came from the trenches. Isabeau believed him. I do too, now. He said he was given a certain amount of time here, but eventually he had to go back. He would know when. He would “see the water” and know. It was why he went every year, back to that lake, that damn lake! When your mother married him, she went with him. And then you came along and they took you too. They meant to take you. But he said he wasn’t sure if you were too young to “cross the barrier”. And you got sick, so sick that year. They didn’t want to risk you, but he had to go. Jaemes had to go. If Isabeau ever hoped to go as well, he had to take her then. And he said to me—I remember it so clear, so clear—he grabbed me by the arm and looked me right in the eye, and his eyes were so green, and that’s when I knew he meant it, I had never seen his eyes look so green, they always looked just like yours, Renny, just the same—and he said to me, “I will send someone for her, when her time comes. You will know and you must let her come”. But baby, I can’t let you go. I don’t know what will happen. Promise me! Promise me, you won’t leave me too, Brennan. I want to hear you say it.’
Brennan watched the weed drift out, so far away now it was just a dull spot on the glimmering surface. Then it was gone. It sank, dropped down into the water as if its pressure were too much. As if it too had been called. Her words echoed in her ears, the last one ringing as if whispered across the wind.
The stone was a sinking weight in her pocket. Though it was trapped against her body, had been for hours, it was as cold as Christmas. Brennan let her hand slide into the pocket, let her fingers curl around the little egg-shaped rock. She removed it, slowly, uncertainly. Turning it over in her palm, she saw the mark for the first time. It looked like an infinity but square instead of round. It was sharp, and if she stared at it too long, she was afraid it would cut her somehow; cut into her mind. Hadn’t it already marked her?
“No,” she said, her voice quaking, then with more strength. “No. No!”
Ren squeezed the rock and threw it with all the force she had. “I won’t go! I won’t!”
Without waiting to see where it landed, where it sunk, she turned and ran. She ran until her lungs were kindling to the fire of her muscles. She ran until she could see Aunt Zelda’s porch, ran until she was in her arms and being rocked as if she were a small child again.
“I didn’t think you would come back,” her aunt whispered, burying her face into Ren’s carrot hair. “I didn’t think you would come back.”
That night Brennan refused to dream.
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