Riptide, Part 3

(Missed where it started? Click here!)


“You worry too much.”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere around her, a husky drawl that bubbled with amusement but that echoed somehow false to Rachel’s ears… like her friend was hiding something under the joviality.

Rachel glanced back to the corner by the bed, the spot of shade caught between the bookshelf – piled high with schoolbooks that had last been accurate somewhere in the 1920s and religious tracts – and the large shutter of the central window. There was nothing there, at least at first; a moment later it looked as though dust motes and raindrops were swirling in that dark and somehow heavy air, enough to darken and warp the errant edges of ancient issues of The Watchtower before they took a more cohesive shape.

As always, that shape was amorphous at first, a mere mass that was both unpleasant to look at and somehow frightening, quickening Rachel’s pulse. Brief flickers as it throbbed and swelled, a vision of something behind that shape, something dark and wet, that Rachel always thought of as hungry, somehow. Then it took a more recognizable form. Despite her pain, the fear that always came with it, when her friend stepped from the corner, Rachel was smiling.

The other girl was on the short side and overweight, though she carried it well; her shoulder-length hair was two-tone, black and white split straight down the middle. Her thin lips were coated an exotic purple that shimmered, the right corner twisted up in a sarcastic and somehow angry smile.

The eyes were what always froze Rachel, made her picture herself as nothing but an ant drowning in the ocean. She adored staring into those eyes but was unable to do so for very long. Locking her gaze with the brilliant green orbs that her friend looked out onto the world with for any length of time seemed to invite madness.

Stealing a brief glance at those eyes, as always leading to them by tracing the intricate patterns of kohl along the rim and the lid before flicking to the iris and back away again, Rachel shuddered, trying to regain at least some of her composure before sinking to the ground in a painful lump.

“She did it again,” she muttered. “Where were you?”

Her friend stepped out of the corner, padding on bare feet that left perfectly-shaped puddles of seawater behind for several seconds. She reached out one chubby, ring-bedecked hand and placed it under Rachel’s chin, stroking it like one would a baby’s.

“Business. I came as soon as I could. I always do, don’t I?”

Rachel thought about that for a moment. It was true; her friend did always come. Maybe not swiftly, and sometimes lacking any real solace or relief, but she did always come.

“Yeah,” Rachel sighed.

The girl grunted as she lowered herself to the floor, cradling Rachel’s head against her breast, shushing her.

“What about Celia?”


“Celia. What happened to her? I heard her scream.”

Despite the resentment she had for her sister, free to wander the beach while Rachel was left locked up here, always Mother’s favorite, never subject to the switch or any of the other implements Mother’s temper was so fond of using on her, Rachel didn’t have any particular desire to see her sister hurt. Not in any lasting way, at least. The scream had sounded genuinely pained, and even though it had bought her a temporary reprieve, she didn’t want to think about what it had cost. The heavy pillow she lay against heaved in a sigh, and even though her eyes were closed Rachel could easily imagine the other girl’s emerald eyes rolling in their sockets with exasperation.

“She’s fine. Just scared her a little. Not even a bruise.” She paused for a moment. “Your mother will probably be too busy hauling her to the emergency room for nothing at all to be a bother the rest of the night, at least.”

Rachel nodded. “Mmmkay.”

“Enough about her, though. We have a while. C’mon, and tell Bertie what happened. We’ll make it all okay.”

Rachel, her head against Bertie’s chest, eyes closed, snuggled in like a baby about to go to sleep, didn’t see her friend’s thin lips split, or the jagged grill of spears that seemed to rise from the gums, the extension of an obscenely lolling tongue that danced in the air like a snake’s for a moment.

“It’ll all be okay,” it whispered.

(The story continues here!)

KA Spiral no signature

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