Nobody ever believes a kid when they say they see something that’s out of place. They always get told “you’re seeing things” or, the very popular lines are said, “It’s just your imagination”.
Neal Farrow had always been fascinated by the flow of water. He could easily stare at the calmness of it; getting lost in what he imagined swam beneath the surface. All the eight year old boys he knew were excellent swimmers, all except for him. In all honesty Neal was afraid of the water. To him, there was a dark mystery about it. One he didn’t like, but one he couldn’t bring himself away from either.
His mother, Leah, often encouraged Neal to join the school’s swim team. If he had a fear of drowning, he wouldn’t anymore once he knew what he was up against in the water, or below it. Neal would half smile at the idea but would never go through with it. Regardless of what security it gave him to know how to handle the water’s unpredictability. In a pool he knew what he was up against, chlorine and piss. And it was always up for debate on which of the two stung more when it entered the eyes.
The ocean, or even the lake, was a different story. Neal had an idea of what animals swam underneath the glassy, murky surfaces, but his mind had a habit of telling him that it was much more than a school of fish that dwelled within its domains. Behind his quaint little house lies a lake and every day Neal walks up to the edge and stands, looking below. His eyes wandering every inch that he sees, searching for that other creature his mind conjures up. Little did he know, such a creature exists in the lake and sooner, rather than later, he would come face to face with disaster.
For an eight year old, Neal was quiet, shy and innocent. He was always into reading his books of dragon fighting knights and saving damsels in distress. He found those parts in the books humorous. But, every time there came a part in the book about a moat, or some type of water that had to be crossed Neal would immediately close the book. He’d put it back in his library and forget about it. According to him, if he didn’t read it, it didn’t happen. Neal convinced himself that there was nothing in the lake after all, that was up until he heard the gurgling noises in the middle of the night.
Two weeks of leaving, searching the lake alone he heard it. The noise his mind warned him about. At first, it sounded like someone drowning, but then the noise got louder. Neal slept wide awake, staring at the ceiling before making his move to the window to investigate. He swallowed a few times before sitting up and slowly sliding off his bed. He carefully tiptoed to the window and slowly leaning his head to the side peered out. His eyes widened in horror to what he saw. He screamed aloud fumbling backwards on his feet trying to get away from the sight. His mom came running in a few minutes later.
“Neal? Neal! What is it honey?” his mother called to him but Neal was too panicked to answer her right away.
His legs finally gave from under him and he fell on his butt. He stood there holding himself up while looking out the window at the dark, horrifying creature that had made itself known.
“Neal!” his mother shouted. Neal, while breathing heavily, turned to his mother.
“It’s outside!” Neal shouted back.
His mother furrowed her brows at him then turned her head towards the window, but whatever was supposed to be there wasn’t any more.
“What’s outside?” she asked with concern.
“The creature!” Neal exclaimed with such seriousness.
Leah turned to him and gave him a disappointing look. Neal’s breathing slowed and he began to feel dizzy. Neal shifted his gaze from his mother towards the window and saw nothing. Maybe it was his imagination. Maybe not. Neal knew better though and would make it his priority to search the lake later on in the day. When Neal picked himself up slowly and made his way back to his bed, his mother, somewhat aggravated exited the room without a word. All she did was shake her head mumbling something about not understanding him. When Neal was safely tucked under his sheets again, he stood staring at the ceiling again and began counting. Without realizing it, his hands were bunching up the sheets and when he finally closed his eyes, his hands had become fists.
As the hours passed, morning crept into Neal’s room but he didn’t wake up right away. He lay there contemplating his strategy for facing the creature he had seen in the middle of the night. When nothing came to him he sat up facing the closet. Outside his room he could hear his mother in the kitchen humming to herself. Neal looked down at the sheets and realized he had slept with his fists clenching them tightly. He exhaled. Then he threw the sheets off of him and jumped down from the bed and walked casually to the window. Something told Neal that the creature wouldn’t be out there in the bright sun, but beneath the warmness of the lake.
Neal smiled to himself and turned to walk out of the bedroom into the bathroom. His mother yelled out asking if he wanted pancakes and he answered a quick yes before closing the door. Leah continued humming as she laid the pan on the stove. She began mixing the batter. When the pan was hot enough she placed a stab of butter and smeared it all over to keep the batter from sticking then she poured the batter and waited. Neal had already left the bathroom, entered his room, dressed and sat up on the counter by the time she flipped the pancake over.
“How are you feeling today sweetie?” Leah asked using the spatula to lift the pancake off the pan. She poured some more batter into the pan and turned around.
“Better.” was all Neal could muster for an answer as he was uncertain to mention what he was planning to do after breakfast.
“Good.” Leah commented. But Neal could see she was questioning whether or not to inquire about his behavior late this morning. And she did. “Do you remember what happened?”
“No?” Neal replied.
“I think you were having a nightmare. You screamed and woke me up. I ran into your room and you mentioned something about a creature you had seen outside your window.”
Neal just sat still on the stool allowing his mother to speak. Not once did he deny or confirm what happened. When Leah turned around she placed the plate of three pancakes in front of Neal. She saw his expression of confusion and just shrugged it off.
“I guess you don’t remember, it’s okay. Perhaps it’s for the better.”
“Yeah, for the better.” Neal agreed.
Leah placed the syrup bottle in front of him and smiled.
“So, what do you plan on doing today?”
Neal hesitated to tell her he was going outside, but he answered her, “I want to go outside and get some fresh air.”
“Sounds like a good idea, it’s nice and sunny. Maybe you should go bike riding with your friends or to the pool…” Leah paused. She realized too late that she shouldn’t have mentioned the pool. She was about to apologize when Neal interrupted her.
“Don’t worry about it mom. I know you meant well. If anything I might take the bike out later.”
Leah just smiled at her son as she took his empty plate. After he wiped his mouth, he smiled, then hopped off the stool and headed back to his room. She reached for her plate and began eating her pancakes. A few minutes later Neal stepped out of his room with a backpack on. When he noticed his mother eating he offered to stay and keep her company but she kindly waved him off. He smiled again and headed out. As soon as he closed the door, fear entered his body. He was now out in the open with the lake just a few feet away from him. He knew the creature was there, below the surface, hiding and waiting. He took a breath, swallowed hard and held onto his backpack’s straps and started walking over towards the lake.
Neal found a spot on the grass that was close enough for him to observe and sat down. He noticed the spot, across from his house where he had briefly seen the creature. Above the space was a small tree hovering over the water supplying shade. He zipped open his backpack and pulled out his notebook and a pen. Just in case his mother decides to make a surprise visit he would pretend he was sketching the scenery. After a few hours of sitting in the sun attempting a sketch Neal grew tired and lay back on the grass. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift. Something below the surface was making movement.
The creature Neal had seen was coming up to the surface and it began to swim across to the grassy area. As it slowly glided through the water Neal stayed asleep. The creature slowly lifted itself up carefully, and using only its hands and body, pulled himself towards Neal. When it felt it was close enough it reached out towards one of Neal’s feet with its chubby, webbed hand. It struggled with its weight but it was almost in close range. When Neal shifted to his side, the creature had pulled its hand back startled. After seeing the boy was asleep the creature raised his hand again and felt the tip of the boy’s shoe. It pulled on Neal’s shoe slowly until it was able to reach his leg.
As the creature pulled Neal closer to the lake the creature was pushing itself back. It made a gurgling noise and that’s what woke Neal up. Neal began stretching not realizing he was being dragged into the lake by the creature. Once again the creature made the gurgling noise. This time Neal was fully alert, and when he looked down at his feet and saw the creature, he began kicking and screaming. The creature pulled on his leg harder now that it had his attention. Neal began turning his body to the left and to the right grabbing at blades of grass. Neal began panicking as he watched himself being dragged into the lake. Neal screamed out louder hoping his mother would hear.
All of a sudden the creature stopped and released Neal’s leg. Neal was an inch away from falling into the lake, so he tried picking himself up. But he was too frozen in fear from looking at the creature head on to move. Neal stood in silence staring at the creature and the creature stared right back at Neal making gurgling noises. After a few minutes passed between them, the creature disappeared once again below the surface into the murky depths of the lake. This time, from being up close, Neal could see the bubbles. But the longer Neal stared at the spot where the bubbles had been he could see the silhouette of the creature. He wasn’t gone, just inches beneath the water. That’s when Neal decided to pick himself up in quickened pace running up the little hill that leads to the lake. He found himself out of breath with legs trembling in fear. He could even hear his heart beating loudly within his ears.
Neal was trying to make sense of what had just happened. But nothing came to him, nothing that made sense. The end of his shoe was wet with slime from the creature’s hand but that was the least of his problems. How would he explain this to his mother? Would he explain it to his mother? Neal knew that his mother would never believe him, but, what if he sketched out the creature he saw into his notebook. Neal quickly grabbed his notebook, taking his pen he started sketching the grotesque creature that had stood before him. Neal speculated it wouldn’t be enough because who’s to say that he’s not just drawing to have fun. As so many thoughts rushed into his head he continued to draw out the creature. To Neal, the creature reminded him of a sick, hideous, yet overgrown seal with a bluish green tint to its skin. Its arms and hands were chubby which were webbed in places. And where the legs should be, were flippers, like that of a seals’. The face. What face could he draw? It almost seemed as if someone had smashed its face with a pan, flattening it. At one point, it almost seemed as if the creature had smiled at Neal, smiled at him with rows of sharp teeth glowing.
A shiver ran down Neal’s back and he threw the notebook and pen on top of his backpack. He was still shaking all over and when he composed himself back to normal, he realized that there was no one in his sights. No one had heard him, not even his mother. Neal held himself in place as he kept reliving the awful event that had just taken place. And as if on cue, yet way off, his mother came from around the corner to tell him lunch was ready. Neal called out to his mother telling her he’d be up in five minutes. Maybe ten. She didn’t think anything of it and headed back inside. Neal’s mind was racing harder than ever, but every time he closed his eyes to try and quiet his mind, the image of the creature was staring at him in the face. Neal decided to go inside and as he packed up his belongings, he half turned to stare down at the space where he last saw the creature’s silhouette. As he held on tightly to his backpack he counted the score, Creature 1, Neal 0.
“I’ll be back tomorrow. Just you wait!” Neal promised and walked off rounding the corner of the house and out of sight. And somewhere, down below in the lake, the creature responded in bubbles.
After eating his lunch Neal spent the rest of the day in his room. He sat on the chair, pulled out his notebook and laid it on the desk. He flipped through the book until he got to the page where the creature’s drawing had come to life. He stared at it, memorizing its features. Outside the sun had been covered and clouds had rolled in. Rain shortly followed. Perfect timing, Neal thought. Neal’s desk partly faced the view of the lake. But with all the rain he couldn’t see out. He considered this a good thing; the creature was the last thing he needed to see. Neal heard his mother shuffling her feet through the hallway so he hid the notebook. Seconds later, his mother knocked on the door. She peeked her head in.
“Hey! How about pizza for dinner?”
“Pizza sounds great, can we have wings with it?”
“Sure. I’ll go ahead and put the order in.”
Leah smiled leaving Neal to himself and hurried out to make the call. After placing the call she thought about how the delivery boy or girl would be getting soaked since it was still raining. Then she laughed to herself and walked over to the living room and put the T.V. on and waited. Thirty minutes later the pizza had arrived.
Outside it was still raining so Neal excused himself and went to his room. He was feeling tired and already he had forgotten about the creature. It was decided that in the morning Neal would tell his mother about the creature and show her the drawing. It took him a few hours to settle into bed as the thought of the creature paying him a visit kept him wide awake. When he convinced himself he was safe he closed his eyes, fists still clenching the sheets.
The rain carried on until the next day and Neal’s sleep was unsteady. The creature’s grotesque features kept him awake most of the time. And of course, the thought of being dragged into the lake was an added bonus to his unending nightmare. What seemed to confuse Neal was how the creature released his leg at the last minute, as if giving up on dragging him in. But Neal knew that the creature wasn’t done. It was a warning to Neal. The creature would eventually be back for him and Neal had to be ready. Whether his mother believed him or not.
In the wee hours of the morning, Neal heard thumping noises outside his window. He pulled the sheets over his head and squeezed his eyes shut. The thumping noises got louder and louder. Neal was shaking from underneath the sheets. The rain continued to tap on his window but even the noise of the rain was low compared to the thumping he heard. Neal began to grow anxious. Just before he was about to give a little scream the thumping stopped. Then the gurgling noises started and Neal sat up straight in his bed. He looked over by the window and saw a dark silhouette. The creature had made it all the way out of the water and was in close proximity to him. He felt his body trembling.
Neal kept the sheets over his head and turned towards his left side, facing the wall, away from where he can view the window. He stood still. Squeezing his eyes tightly began hurting so he released them but kept them closed. He felt something yanking on the sheets and for a minute he thought he was being taken again. He decided to fight it this time and turned back around and pulled the sheets away only to find his mother standing over him. He felt a great wave of relief but his expression was more of frustration.
“Honey? I heard you talking in your sleep. It’s three o’clock in the morning and I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay.”
It was too early to tell if he was feeling okay. When he looked over in the direction of his window, the dark silhouette had disappeared.
“I’m fine, mom.” Neal answered solemnly.
“Ok.” She replied.
She started to feel bad for waking him, more like startling him, and pulled the sheets back towards him and walked off and out of his room. Neal’s eyes followed her movement then he slowly closed them, unable to keep them open. In the rain, the dark silhouette he thought he saw was indeed the creature trying to find a way into the room. It knew the boy was in the room but couldn’t see him because the bed was more off into the corner of the room. It made thumping noises with its web fisted hands against the ground. But Neal was already off into deep sleep. The excitement he had experienced had tired him out. The creature continued to make the thumping noises, this time, pounding its tail against the ground. Still nothing, not even the boy stirred. The creature grew impatient as it thumped through the night in the rain. It finally gave up and rolled itself down the little hill back into the lake. It kept its head outside of the water and stared hungrily at the window for any sign of movement.
This time, as Neal slept a peaceful sleep, it was Leah, his mother that slept uneasy on the couch. She was having terrible nightmares of her son being dragged by some hideous creature. If only she knew, her nightmares weren’t that far off from the truth. But of course, whether or not she believed them was a different story. She kept tossing and turning and in one turn she fell off the couch. She stood up holding her head, and then she walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water. She yawned but instead of walking back into the living room she walked over to Neal’s bedroom. She didn’t knock, but she quietly opened his door to watch him sleeping. She smiled, closing the door quietly behind her as she headed towards her room. She closed her door and plopped herself on her bed and passed out.
The sound of rain was soothing, as they both slept in late, this time around. It was ten forty five by the time Leah woke up, but she still felt somewhat tired, so she turned on her side, closed her eyes and continued to sleep. Two and a half hours more passed. Both of them were still sleeping. Finally, at one o’clock on the dot, Neal woke himself up. His stomach began rumbling. At this point, he had missed breakfast but he didn’t hear his mother humming in the kitchen like he normally did. He walked over to her bedroom and saw her laid out on her bed snoring. He chuckled as he walked into her room, walking over to her. And there it was. The creature was staring directly at him, unmoving.
Neal didn’t make any sudden movements. He noticed that his mother’s bedroom was closer to the lake. As he swallowed hard he thought about his next move. Meanwhile, he watched as the creature lifted its tail and smacked it down hard against the ground.
Neal had no idea what it wanted. He swallowed hard, again, before jumping on the bed and shaking his mother awake. The creature roared for the first time. A noise Neal had never heard it make before. His mother, startled to see her son on her bed, sat up.
“What is it honey?” she asked rubbing her eyes and yawning. When Neal hadn’t answered her she repeated the question.
But Neal couldn’t answer her, he would have to hope she’d stare at his face and see for herself. She did.
“Hi mom. Just whatever you do, don’t make any sudden movements.”
“What? What do you mean?”
Ignoring her, he answered, “The creature is directly behind you staring through your window.”
Leah wasn’t sure what was going on, and if this was a trick, she wasn’t impressed. She fixed herself up as best as she could and as she turned around to see what all the commotion was about she froze. The creature was now standing on its tail looking eight feet tall. How it managed to balance its weight they both were wondering. Leah gasped placing her hand over her mouth in shock. She looked at the creature, then at her son, back to the creature. The creature was delicately balancing on its tail while keeping its chubby, webbed arms by its side. It had pressed its face against the glass with its mouth wide open showing off its sharp teeth. It was trying to figure out the object of interference.
Leah made a face of disgust as she noticed the slime dripping off of the creature’s body. It’s bluish green skin glossy in the sunlight. Its eyes, full of rage. It lifted its arms and using its chubby, webbed hands began pressing against the glass. Leah kicked herself back towards the middle of the bed. Neal alongside her, holding her arm. They both watched the creature as it kept pushing its weight against the glass. It would only be a matter of time before it broke through, and deep inside, they both knew it wouldn’t take long before it figured it out.
Leah was getting ready to leave, when the creature came tumbling through the room in a violent crash of glass and slime. Leah screamed covering herself and Neal. They heard thumping noises on the carpet. She grabbed a piece of broken glass that had landed on the bed and carefully crawled her way to the foot of the bed to investigate. Neal swallowed hard, he had a bad feeling about it and warned his mother to be careful. When Leah slowly peeked her head above the bed, she stood there, staring down at it.
“Mom?” Neal questioned.
She was leaning down too close and just when Neal ran to her side to get closer, a chubby, webbed hand grabbed a hold of Leah’s face, squeezing it.
“Mom!!!” Neal yelled out in panic.
His mother screamed as she pounded her fists against the creature. She still had the sharp piece of glass in her hand, but in squeezing it, she was slicing up her own hand. When she realized this she jabbed it into the creature’s arm and it yelled in pain releasing Leah’s face. It threw her back as it tried to pry the piece of glass from out of its arm. For a brief time Leah was able to breathe, coughing up slime that had made its way into her mouth. She had flipped over on her stomach, holding herself up on all fours coughing. Neal tried to comfort his mother. She lifted her head to stare at him and smiled. Neal smiled back, but then suddenly he saw movement from below the bed. His eyes gave him away and his mother turned her head to see a webbed hand reach up. She got out of the way and the creature missed its opportunity to grab her foot.
Neal was standing alongside the bed, out of danger, watching his mother struggle to compose herself. What the hell had happened? Somewhere below the bed the creature pounded its tail against the carpet. It sounded awful. When Leah got a hold of herself, she looked up and saw her son hovering over her. She immediately hugged him. The tail kept thumping on the carpet but they ignored it. She apologized for getting blood all over his clothes but he just chuckled at the comment. Neal turned to leave to get them a towel when he felt it. The nightmare, on the end of his foot. He looked at his mother and that’s when she knew. The creature pulled and Neal fell to the carpet hitting his head.
“Neal!” Leah shrieked and threw herself to Neal, her body hanging halfway off the bed with arms outstretched. Neal shook his head. He felt slightly dizzy. Something sharp pierced through Neal’s skin and he let out a scream. When he looked down he saw the creature’s mouth and all its sharp teeth eating his foot. As the creature continued to chew, it pulled Neal’s body. Neal continued to yell in horror as he was being slowly devoured. His mother grabbed his hands and tried to pull him up but the creature was too strong. The tail, this time, thumped proudly against the carpet.
“Goddammit Neal!!!” Leah screamed to the highest decimal her lungs could reach. The creature seemed to respond to the mother by screeching in its own tongue. Neal was hardly moving now so Leah jumped off the bed while still holding onto his hands. She stared into the eyes of the creature as it munched loudly on Neal’s leg. It stared back, grinning. Blood dripping from its teeth. Leah was disgusted as she struggled to pull her son out of the creature’s mouth.
“You can’t have him you sick son of a…” but her words were caught off as the creature pulled on Neal’s leg with just its teeth.
As they wrestled for Neal’s body, Leah noticed her son wasn’t struggling anymore. She panicked. Then something came to her, the creature’s tail was sticking out from the other end of the bed. She was sweating profusely as she lifted one of her arms to wipe off the sweat, letting go of Neal’s hand. Tears began to trickle down slowly on Leah’s face. She knew what she had to do, but was it too late? Staring down at her near dead son she became angered and stomped out of the room and into the kitchen. Leaving the creature to eat her son.
A few minutes later Leah came yelling into the room with a butcher’s knife held up above her head. Without hesitation she ran alongside the bed to where the creature’s tail was thumping casually. Leah brought her hands down and started slicing the creature’s tail. Blood squirted up in Leah’s face but she didn’t care as she, once again, lifted her hands and brought them down with steady rhythm.
The creature squealed in agony as it felt the sharp pangs of its tail being cut. It started to wiggle its body back out from underneath the bed but it was no use. It was too fat to squeeze out backwards. As Leah continued to yell and slice, the creature, tried moving its body but it was beginning to feel weak. Leah could see the creature was struggling to keep itself alive and she smiled. She might not have been able to save her son but she saved herself. Or so she thought. Once the creature had stopped moving, she stood standing above it, with the butcher knife gripped tightly in one hand by her side.
“You’re dead now you son of a…” Leah didn’t finish her thought. She inhaled and exhaled a few times, catching her breath. When she was calm and collected she chucked the knife at the wall. When she saw where the knife had landed on the wall she gave a nervous laugh to herself. Then she heard it. It was a thumping noise.
Leah’s eyes widened and she began trembling. She furrowed her brows as she looked down at the creature she presumed dead. The thumping noises were getting louder but that wasn’t the only problem. It was beginning to sound like more than one tail was thumping. She crouched down at the creature trying to understand how it was making that noise while being dead. It was lying in a pool of its own blood. It hadn’t occurred to her that there could be more than one of them. Until she turned around.
Thumping their way through the broken glass were five more gilled creatures. Leah swallowed hard. She slowly let her body fall to the ground as she fell to her knees. She felt the blood splatter beneath her. The creatures were closing in on her and she closed her eyes, thought of her son, and then reopened them.
“You sick sons of bitches!” she finally spoke out loud to no one in particular.
The creature that was leading them stopped directly in front of Leah’s stomach. It gazed up at her, grinned, then drove its face into her stomach and she screamed. Blood and guts flowed down from her body with ease. As the creatures slowly made their way closer to their meal, they each took a side, one right arm, one left arm, one left leg and one right leg.
It only took a few moments, but within those moments, Leah could be heard screaming. Then, the screaming stopped, and all that was heard were the breaking of bones as the creatures bit into her intensely. All of their tails thumping proudly.