I manage a residential pool near an elementary school. It only opens during the summer and it’s been a big hit with families for what I’m told has been a couple decades now. It pays alright and it’s easy work—hire a lifeguard, someone to replace the chlorine, and someone to fish out the crying kids that inevitably shit in the pool.
The pool itself is incredibly old, though, and I think that’s where most of the problems came from. The wooden fence around the pool was short and there were rocks all around it, meaning kids could hop it pretty easily. On busy days when they thought nobody was watching, young teens would hop over the wooden fence to get around paying the entrance fee. Little shits. I normally catch them and kick them out, but a few inevitably slip through the cracks.
And the security system. Blech. We lock up the entrance with a padlock, but that’s obviously not enough to dissuade people from climbing over the pool’s walls. That’s where our security system comes in. We have a camera that’s hidden away on the roof of the concession stand that picks up pretty much everything in grainy, 1980s VCR quality. And as manager, it’s my prestigious job to look through the tape every night. Worst part of the job, easily. I wish they’d upgrade the system but the city hasn’t touched the pool in thirty years so I doubt they’d start now.
I normally just sit down, fast-forward through the night tape and find nothing of note. There’s a fair share of people who sneak in at night to have a midnight swim. I don’t blame them—I’d do the same if I lived in the area. I do blame the older teenagers from a nearby high school who sneak in to have sex in the pool. Animals. I just hope the chlorine kills their chlamydia before the kids jump in the next morning and leave it at that.
Except one day—about a week before it happened—I saw the silhouette of a guy crouching on the fence. With the angle and grainy quality of the recording I couldn’t really see what he was doing there. He was just crouching, hunched over, his knees touching his chest, staring at the pool. I slowed the tape down, waiting for him to jump in, but he never did. He just stared at the pool all night. And then he was gone so quick that I didn’t even see him leave.
The next night, the same thing. Same guy, staring at the same part of the, not so much as moving a muscle. The way he was crouching, holding that unnatural position for so long, made me uncomfortable, but I showed the tape to my employees and they both found it funny. We figured as long as he wasn’t dumping any chemicals into the pool or setting up any video cameras to take pedo pics of the kids, there wasn’t much of a problem. I told them I’d keep an eye on it anyways, maybe use this as an excuse to get the city to put some damn spikes on the wall.
Some days the guy was there. Other days he wasn’t. The day before it happened, the guy had brought a friend. Both of them climbed onto the fence and then just crouched there. I couldn’t see their faces at all in the darkness, only their crouching silhouettes. Watching it made me feel sick, and I fast-forwarded through the entire thing. That afternoon I emailed the city, requesting some added security and through some ancient archaic methods converted the VCR video to something I could send them.
When I got into work the next morning, a police officer was standing outside the pool’s concession stand. She had a pencil in one hand, a notepad in the other, and was scrawling down something illegible. I tried to move past her, not seeing what she’d want with a residential pool, but she stopped me.
“You run this place?” she asked as I was unlocking the door. “Sure,” I said. I opened the padlock and turned towards the police officer, anxiety welling up inside of me. “We’re on the lookout for this girl,” said the police officer, showing me a picture of a blond-haired kid with a purple bow in her hair. “Sixth grade. Goes to the school around here. Did she ever come to your pool?”
I gave the picture a good, hard look. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, and then with some forced sympathy: “She’s missing?”
“Yeah,” said the officer, biting her lip. “We just started looking. Give us a call if you see anything.”
“Sure thing,” I said, and stepped inside my pool. And then I started to clean the pool. Grabbed my net. Got out some leaves, some dirt. But something was sticking out of the gunk. It was a purple bow.
I dropped my net into the water. My heart sank and then raced. I shook my head, and steadied my breathing. I was nervous from the talk with the police officer. That’s all.
I popped the tape in and saw an empty pool. Normal night, like any other. And then, in a split second, there was a dozen silhouettes all crouching on the walls of the pool, watching as a small figure thrashed back and forth in the deep end. It was a kid. She’d sink suddenly, forcefully, and then barely make it up in time for a short gasp of air before being pulled back down as if someone was beneath her. She kicked and screamed, her blond hair clinging to her face as I saw something clench around her ankles and pull her back down.
I couldn’t move my hand to turn the tape off. The silhouettes of the men who had stayed so perfectly still before now swayed back and forth slowly. And then, in unison, their heads began to turn so that I could see their faces, their noses hooked at odd angles, their mouths curved into smiles, their eyes bright and wide.
I jolted back, fell over on my chair. The girl didn’t come up for air again. Her bow floated to the top of the pool. The silhouettes turned towards where the girl once struggled and leaped into the pool after her. Blood started to bubble up to the top of the pool. Then a hand reached towards the camera and the tape ended.
I cried and vomited for about an hour before phoning the police. I told them what I’m telling you, though this version was a lot more neat and tidy. I wanted to snap the tape in half after I’d watched it but I knew I would need it to prove my sanity. Nobody else has watched the tape yet. I don’t know if people will see what I saw. I’m scared that they won’t. I’m scared of hooked noses and smiling faces. In my dreams they wait on the roof of my house for me. My house fills with water. I try to swim up but something pulls me back down.
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Get in line, join the bucket of dreamers and innovators too busy looking at the stars to ignore the train rushing towards them we
Are the disillusioned sort, an optimist writing tragedy, an idealist ruined by pragmatism we
Are told at every junction that we’re not good enough, or sometimes that we are good enough, but there are roadblocks that clog and choke
Us, worming their way into our throats, biting and gnashing, drawing blood, we
Cough and sputter our dreams out of our mouths, brain fluid mixing with prismatic ideals mixing with tears mixing with a scream the
Dream is still there living inside of us, it holds an axe and screams a battlecry over the dark clouds the suffocating depression the fear is chased away with a raw cry I
Can’t remember my dream, I lost it when I woke up
The Spirit turned to Drum. “Do you have any stories?”
“My people,” said Drum, “are not the story sort.”
“Come now, Drum!” said The Skeleton Lady. “You must know some story!”
Drum looked into the air and flashes his fangs in a smile. “There is one. I’m not sure you’ll like it. It does not carry well between our cultures.”
“Ooh, now I’m interested,” said The Psychic Girl, popping another snail into her mouth. “Let’s hear it.”
Drum looked into the fire. “Two walked in the woods. Death followed them. Thirst and hunger consumed them. Each was the only pack the other had left. Yet they marched on.”
Drum drew a symbol in the dirt. “Eventually, they stumbled upon a man impaled on a jagged piece of metal. Fresh blood ran down it. There was enough for one of them to live. The first said the second should take it; he was older and had less life to live. The second said the first should take it; he was younger and less likely to make it home.”
Drum looked at the Spirit. “The man saw these creatures arguing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a vial of acid. He held it above his head and smashed it. The acid dissolved his flesh and most of his blood. Both of them would starve to death because of this.”
Drum stopped talking.
“And?” said the Spirit.
“That’s it,” said Drum. “That’s the end of the story.”
“That’s the worst story I’ve ever heard,” said the Spirit.
“You were warned,” said Drum.
im not sure if this ok someone wanna tell me if this is okay or not
The Skeleton Lady smiled at The Psychic Girl one night and said, “Do you want to hear a story?”
The Psychic Girl stared at her bony grin with apprehension, unaware that this clearly inhuman abomination was able to tell stories.
The Skeleton Lady simply stared at The Psychic Girl. She wanted to tell a story.
“What sort of story,” said The Psychic Girl.
“I remembered a story,” said The Skeleton Lady. “My favourite story. My mother used to tell it to me when I was young. I remember things easier when I’m around you.”
The voice of the Psychic Ghost resounded in her head. Don’t trust Teysla. She shook her head.
“No?” said The Skeleton Lady, frowning. “You don’t want to hear my story?”
“No, no, that’s not why I’m shaking my head,” said The Psychic Girl, rubbing her temples.
“So you do want to hear my story!” said The Skeleton Lady happily.
The Psychic Girl rolled her eyes and sighed. “Why not.”
“Did you know,” said The Skeleton Lady enthusiastically, “that there was a world before ours?”
“What,” said The Psychic Girl, “like another planet?”
“No,” said The Skeleton Lady, “but almost. This world didn’t have psychics in it. Or lizardmen. Or vampires.”
“No?” said The Psychic Girl. She sat down. “Then what did it have?”
“Humans. People, they called themselves,” said The Skeleton Lady.
“People,” repeated The Psychic Girl. “They built all the ruined stuff, then?”
“That’s right,” said The Skeleton Lady, “only when they lived, it wasn’t ruined.”
“I could have guess that,” said The Psychic Girl. She bit her lip. “Go on, though.”
“When they lived, there were so many people. Millions and millions of people, all in one kingdom. They had food, as much as they wanted. They all had homes. And friends. They had technology, too, the kind of things we’re lucky to get running again. They had clothes and they could go where they wanted and do what they wanted. They were free.”
The Psychic Girl frowned. “I don’t believe that.”
“It’s true,” said The Skeleton Lady.
“But what did they do?” said The Psychic Girl. Her stomach rumbled. “If they had food all the time they wouldn’t have problems!”
“Maybe they didn’t,” said The Skeleton Lady.
“Then why are they all dead?!” said The Psychic Girl.
The Skeleton Lady looked around at the rubble. “Maybe they made their own problems.”
The Psychic Girl got up. She pointed a finger at the rubble and shot it with lightning. “Why’d they ruin a world where nobody had to be different? Where nobody had to be a psychic.”
“Sweetie,” said The Skeleton Lady, “are you… sad?”
The Psychic Girl’s mouth jumped into a frown and then a scowl. “No,” she whispered and then fired another blast at the rubble. It exploded in half. “I’m mad. I want that. And I can never have it. They wasted it.”
An eye-patched man came through the space café
Patting a boy on the back, he had this to say:
“Listen, everyone,” in a voice filled with delight
“This young gent had his first one tonight!”
All the patrons let out a drunken cheer
Cups clasped in their hands filled with alien beer
“Buy the boy a drink, then!” said one woman, “get in line!
It’s not every night one gets to celebrate their first time.”
When the boy settled down with green beer in his hand
The pub chanted and wailed like an unruly band,
“So tell us, oh tell us, what was it like?”
The boy bit his lip and smiled in the neon light:
“It was awkward, and quick,” the boy admitted
“But I know that after tonight, I am committed.”
The pub cheered again, and a woman came forward,
Dressed in black leather, she looked like a warrior.
“My first time was something I’ll never forget;
Our hands on each other; slow, and passionate
And the screaming…” smiled the woman playfully;
“You’ll want more, kid, there’s bigger fish in the sea.”
“My first time,” reminisced the man with a patch over his eye,
“Was very emotional. The night after, I cried.
Because I knew at that moment I’d never again
Have the innocence I had before I shot that man.”
For in the space café only mercenaries enter
And their talk of first times is the first ones they’ve murdered.
Everything terrifies and depresses me. Healthy relationships are swallowed up in complex complexes. Inferiority? Superiority? Both simultaneously? Not simultaneously. More consecutive. Alternating, re-alternating.
I’m scared I’m scared I’m scared. Of? Dying, ugly. My beauty will have faded away with no fame to speak of. Beat beat beat
This is not a natural fear. It is insanity. You are contemplative, caught up in a torrent of extremes. We gawk at extremes. The extremes become the norm. The norm becomes boring. Breathe breath.
I see other happy people. I’m not sure if they’re happy.
I’m still jealous of them. Jealous and spiteful. Jealous and unhappy.
It’s a welling in the pit of my stomach with no discernible cause, that good relations can qualm but not kill.
Every passing second is a regret.
In other news, popcorn: best with seasoning, or without?