A new piece

Maybe this is unfinished, but I think it stands alone as is. Enjoy!

Anne was certain she’d heard something behind her. Her father had always told her not to go near the woods at night. But, she’d been sharing margaritas and stories with her oldest friends, and one thing led to another as they so often do. The next thing she knew, they were trooping down the road toward the creaking dock, planning to skinny dip in the warm river.

The street was a bare outline in front of her, white light dripping between the leaves overhead. The grey moss draped over the branches blocked most of the moon, but she could still catch a few stars glinting when the wind forced the trees to dance.

She lagged at the back of the group, definitely not thinking about the mud people that lived in the marsh and ate bad children her father used to tell her about.

“Annie, come on! We’re gonna leave you and you’re gonna be all alone in the dark,” Lexi said.

Anne winced at the shrill taunt, waving them on and smiling.

Lexie shrugged and ran ahead, falling back into step, and laughing at some joke Rob had made as they walked on.

She heard the noise again, a rustling in the bushes she passed. She stopped, sucked in a deep breath and held it, considering her options. She could run ahead to join the group, or she could face her fears head on and investigate the noises.

Stumbling a bit, she blew the air out between pursed lips and veered into the trees, hoping to see a squirrel or a deer. Anything to prove her father wrong.

As she walked further from the fluorescent buzz of the streetlight, a moan sounded behind her.

“Alright, y’all, I get it. It’s ‘let’s scare the tiny blonde one’ time again, right? It’s not gonna work! I’m unscareable!”

No one responded.

She shook herself, and thought she heard a sharp crack from the darkness in front of her.

What in the hell is going on?

She pressed onward, pausing every couple of steps, but all she could hear were the 17-year-cicadas screaming in her ears.

She bit her lip and glanced back, but only for a moment. Her chapped lip still firmly caught between her incisors, she looked back at the deer path and noticed a person in front of her, schlumping out of the darkness.

“Rob, quit that. It’s not funny.” Her voice trembled, catching in her rapidly closing throat. The figure, of course, did not respond. Instead, he stumbled towards her, reaching his clawed hands out for her.

Anne automatically stepped forward, putting her hands out to help him if he fell. She didn’t think she’d made that many drinks, but clearly she’d either underestimated the number or overestimate Rob’s tolerance.

She smirked, taking a breath to poke fun at him for being so drunk, but gasped loudly instead when he — it — stepped into the light.

It wasn’t Rob. It wasn’t even human. Its skin looked like melted soy wax dripping from its bones, plopping wetly on the leaves beneath his twisted feet.

“Ho-lee shit. They’re real.”


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