Black Petals Issue #98 Winter, 2022

Samantha Brooke: Beneath

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Worm Food-Fiction by Michael Dority
Bells in the Woods-Fiction by Richard Brown
The Smiling Dead-Fiction by Guido Eekhaut
Beneath-Fiction by Samantha Brooke
The Reality Engine-Fiction by M.T. Johnson
Bug-Fiction by David Starobin
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Hoola-Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
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Creature of Habit-Poem by Joseph Danoski
Joe Schmoe & Jayne Doe-Poem by Joseph Danoski
The World-Poem by S. Wiseman-Rose
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Edwardian-Poem by S. Wiseman-Rose
Bloody Fingers-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Pathway Down-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Another Red Nightmare-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Avenue of Pines (Re-visited)-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Lover's Meadow-Poem by Brielle Amick
Scarecrow in Female-Poem by Meg Smith
Regards to Buzzards-Poem by Meg Smith
Failed Conjuring-Poem by Meg Smith
Missing Among Wildflowers-Poem by Meg Smith
Lords of Extinction-Poem by Meg Smith

98_bp_beneath_kjhannah.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2022

Beneath

by

Samantha Brooke

 

'Vance! Vance - please, wake up!' Laura's heart was racing, and she felt sick with terror. She had tried mouth to mouth and done the chest compressions as best she was able to—not even sure if she was doing them correctly. But still, her boyfriend lay completely motionless upon the cold wet grass by the side of the vast lake. 'Vance!'

 She closed her eyes, sobs wracking her body. She was shivering violently, despite the warmth of the late summer evening.

 And then she heard it—a spluttering cough, followed by harsh, gasping breaths. Her eyes flew open, some of her panic giving way to light-headed relief as she reached out to Vance. He was struggling to sit up, water still dribbling out of his mouth.

 'Vance—thank God. I thought you were—' But she was crying too hard to get any more words out. Instead, she simply cried some more and clung onto him as he heaved and retched. She pressed her face into his throat and felt the pulse of blood racing wildly against her cheek.

 'It's okay...' he gasped out, putting his arms around her, and patting her clumsily on the back. 'It's okay, I'm alright now.'

 For a few moments, they simply remained like that—clutching each other tightly and trying to allow what had just happened to sink in.

 'How did I—I mean...' Vance's voice was a stutter.

 'You don't remember?' Laura asked. He shook his head, chest still heaving somewhat. 'We were out on the boat—' She jerked her head towards the little rowing boat that was bobbing, so harmless and innocent-looking, on the surface of the water nearby.

 'Yes—I remember that part. We were laughing about something, and then - ' he scrunched up his eyes, trying to remember. 'I thought I saw something...' His eyes darted towards the line of trees which surrounded them. 'It looked like there was something—someone—following us. I stood up to get a better look , and then all of a sudden...' He shuddered, and Laura did too. That image of him, suddenly toppling over and out of the wildly rocking little boat. Plunging into the water below—the splash. And then the horrific silence as he drifted down beneath the surface...

 'We need to get you back home,' she said abruptly, getting to her feet. 'Your sister was right about this place, we should never have come. Do you think you can manage to walk?'

 'Yeah—' he said. 'Just give me a minute.'

 She nodded. A moment later, he stumbled upright. She reached out with both of her hands to try and help steady him.

 'What's all that?' she asked.

 'What?'

 She gestured down at his body. She hadn't noticed before, in the daze of panic, but now she could see that his clothes—as well as being completely water-laden—were also covered in some kind of sticky grey substance. Looking down at her own clothes, she saw that some of it seemed to have transferred itself onto her as well. Looking at it, she was filled with an overwhelming, irrational sense of revulsion.

 'It's in your hair, too. What is it?'

 'I dunno,' he shook his head. 'Must be from something in the lake.'

 As Laura's eyes found his face, she was alarmed to see the ashen color of his skin. She placed an arm around his waist and let him lean some of his weight against her.

 'Come on,' she said. 'Let's just get you somewhere that you can rest.'

*

Their progress was slow, and she hadn't realized how far they had walked to get to the lake in the first place. The towering trees that surrounded them made Laura feel deeply disoriented and uneasy—several times, she thought she saw darting shapes and shadows moving all around them. But she told herself that she was just being nervy. And little wonder, after what the two of them had just been through. She just needed to concentrate on getting Vance safely back home, so that he could start to recuperate from his terrifying experience.

 'There is one thing that I don't understand,' he said, after they had been trekking along for what felt like twenty minutes at least.

 'What?'

 'How did I get back out of the water after falling off the boat? I mean, you can't swim—so you wouldn't've been able to—'

 'No,' she shook her head. 'I didn't.'

 'So?'

 She frowned, stumbling over a rock concealed on the ground and lurching forwards slightly before righting herself and once again gripping Vance's waist to help keep him upright.

 'I don't know—it was kind of weird, actually...'

 Now that the initial blur of horror was over and her mind had time to think back over the events, she was starting to realize that she didn't fully understand what had happened back there at the lake. Or why.

 'I tried to reach out and grab you—but you just sank beneath the water so quickly. I couldn't see you, you'd just disappeared. I didn't know what to do—I was just standing there, calling out your name, over and over. And then, all of a sudden, there was like this... this rumbling kind of a sound from somewhere underneath the water, and then you just came flying out and landed on the bank.'

 She'd been far too distraught at the time to really question it - but she realized now that she could come up with no explanation at all for how he had gotten out of the water. He had been unconscious at the time, after all. Quite incapable of even attempting to swim.

 They lapsed into silence once again. The only sounds were their footsteps crunching through the undergrowth, and Vance's increasingly ragged gasps. Laura's heart beat fast with worry. She would call a doctor out to see him as soon as they got home. Just to be on the safe side. Glancing sideways at him, she saw that his damp skin had grown paler than ever, glistening almost translucently beneath the glow of the setting sun above them. Very soon, it would be growing dark, and the thought made Laura even more on edge. Already, she felt that she could sense living things lurking somewhere nearby, just out of her sight—things that shifted and moved restlessly. An odd sound reached her ears—a deep, guttural, throaty sound. An animal, she told herself. Although it was unlike any animal that she had ever heard before.

 'Not much further to go now,' she said loudly. The reassuring words were as much for her own benefit as they were for Vance's. She felt breathless—from both the exertion and her increasing anxiousness. 'We'll soon be—what are you doing?'

 For Vance had come to a dead stop—his feet planted firmly upon the ground, his body like an immovable statue.

 'Vance—come on, we have to keep going. We're nearly there now.'

 'I have to go back.' His voice was a gurgle, as though his throat was still full of water—and the sound of it made her wince.

 'Go back? What are you—'

 He turned around, and—before she could even attempt to stop him—began marching back in the direction of the lake. His breaths were silent now.

 'Vance?' she yelled out. Her words seemed to hang in the humid air, the strange guttural noises growing louder to accompany them like a bizarre symphony. 'Vance!'

 She went after him, having to run to catch him up. Confusion and fear crowded her brain, making it impossible to think straight.

 'Vance—please, stop it. We need to go back home. You need to rest, recuperate—' She grabbed at his arm and tried to pull him back, but it was to no avail. His eyes were fixed unblinkingly ahead, and it sent a chill down her spine just looking at the empty expression that was within them.

 'Vance..' she pleaded, her voice quiet and despairing now. 'Just come back home with me.'

 He didn't respond, or give any indication that he could hear or see her at all. He just kept on walking, briskly—and before Laura knew it, they had found their way back to the lake. Dusk had fallen fully now, and the surface of the water was glimmering with the same dark blue hue that stretched above it. The very sight of it made her feel queasy.

 'Vance, please... This is crazy!' Tears of frustration gathered in her eyes and she blinked them quickly away. To her horror, she saw that Vance was now rapidly shedding his clothes. The garments dropped to the ground and he made a dash toward the water's edge.

 'Vance, no—'

 He plunged in, spreading his arms and legs wide and floating there with an expression of delight upon his face. Laura's thoughts swam. Maybe he was suffering from some kind of brain damage due to the oxygen deprivation that he had suffered earlier? Or perhaps he had struck his head on a rock or something when he had been in the water. If only she could get back to the car and get her phone. She needed to call for help. It was—

 A sudden sound close by made her jump, all other thoughts fleeing her mind instantly. It was the same sound that she had heard earlier—that deep, throaty sound—but this time it was much nearer. Goosebumps crawled across her flesh.

 'Vance—' she called out to him again, trying to keep her voice from shaking. Panic threatened to overwhelm her but she tried to stay calm—even as pulses of dread shot through her body, her nerves tingling. Something was wrong here. Very wrong indeed. And they needed to get out of there before—

 A gasp escaped her lips, but she didn't hear it over the rush of blood in her ears. Amid the trees in front of her, just feet away, there was a figure. Tall and almost human in its appearance. But not quite...

 The skin which covered its body was reptilian and as she watched, a forked tongue snaked out from between thin lips to touch the air. She caught a glimpse of long, razor-sharp teeth and she couldn't stifle the scream which rose up from deep within her.

 'VANCE!' She was frantic now, backing away from the creature as it lurched ever closer. 'Vance—get out of there now! There's something here! Vance—quick, it's coming...'

 But as her eyes darted briefly away from the creature and towards her boyfriend, she saw the truth. He swam sinuously towards the bank, a forked tongue darting out from between his lips as he did so. Another gurgle sounded from deep inside his throat, and the creature that was approaching Laura made an answering sound.

 'No—no, no, no, no...' she cried, fisting her hands into her hair as she continued to back away. She knew instinctively what it was that they wanted. To take her and drag her down into that water, and turn her into a creature like them. But she couldn't let it happen. She wouldn't.

 'Vance...'

 But she could see in his eyes that he was gone. They weren't even his eyes anymore. They had turned a sickening shade of green, the pupils thin and vertical.

 A whimper escaped her lips and she turned to run. But as she did so—she saw that there were more of them, closing in on her from all sides. Hisses and gurgles filled the air, like mocking laughter.

 There was no escape. Nowhere for her to run—just the glimmering body of water that awaited her as the darkness of night descended.

 

Samantha has been writing horror fiction for several years now, ever since completing a writing course in 2012. Since that time, she has completed three novels, the most recent of which is currently being looked at by agents. She also regularly write short stories and poetry for magazines.

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