So I know I've told you all that I've got some other non-BPD things I'm working on. Many of you have been waiting patiently, while others.... not so patiently.
I originally was going to hold off sharing anything of my new project - well, one of two distinct non-BPD projects - until I had something polished. However, in the spirit of sharing (and because I'm beginning to suspect some of you think I'm NEVER going to finish ANYTHING new), I thought I would share the VERY VERY ROUGH work-in-progress writing i've been doing. I'm not sure if it will stay in all-text form like this, or if it will become comics, or illustrated stories (think "Dinotopia"), so the way it's written now may not be how it appears in the final version. This is mostly just me trying to get as much as I can down now. Editing will come later. And oh, there WILL be editing.
This is the first short story I've written like this that I've ever shared. It's rough. It will need editing. While critique is appreciated, please be gentle. ;^_^
Oh, and any names in bold are currently placeholder names. Just in case you're wondering.
She had met him only the day before. He and his family – his mother, father, and little sister - were on a cross-country road trip from Minnesota to Florida to visit relatives. Somewhere along the way they made a wrong turn, pulled onto I-47 when they should have waited for I-147, backtracked, retraced steps, and genuinely gotten themselves good and properly lost. They had driven through most of the night (praising all the while that they had taken his mother's hybrid Prius instead of their father's SUV), and were just running on the last few specs of fuel when they spotted the town on the horizon.
The town wasn't marked on any of their maps. Or it might have been, they couldn't be sure, as the town's name had long since worn off the huge and gaudy “Welcome to Here, Population whatever” sign that all these small country towns seem to have. At first glance, it was an uninteresting town, filled with boring homes surrounding a stereotypical main street half circling an unimpressive lake and a dull forest. But it had a gas station at least, who's tall illuminated sign stood out as a beacon of hope as they pushed their car the last few hundred yards into town.
Maddie had been working that morning. She wasn't a real employee per say; she didn't really have any official job anywhere, but she helped out at various places around town and in return they would give her a few dollars or free food or whatever. It gave her something to do at least. She had been surprised to see the family rolling in that day (or rather, slowly shuffling and shoving in). They didn't get tourists here. They never got ANYONE here, really. She was so distracted thinking about when was the last time she had seen anyone like them that she almost didn't notice the woman standing in front of her, waving a credit card around.
“Excuse me! HEY!” She said, practically shoving the blue plastic card in Maddie's face. “I want gas! What's the matter, you hung over? Or are you asleep? Is that why you're wearing those sunglasses!? It's 7 in the morning!!”
Maddie jolted back to reality. “Oh! Yes, of course. But, umm....”
The woman seemed to be looked past her, disinterested, still waving her card. “Here. I want to fill up. Should be about $40. That is if you're prices outside are accurate.”
“We don't take those, ma'am.”
Maddie hesitated and pointed to the card. “Those, ma'am. We can't take cards here.”
“What do you mean, you don't take cards!?” The woman shrieked. “This is America!!”
Maddie shook her head. “I'm sorry, ma'am. No cards. Only cash.”
The woman tensed and looked like she was about to try to murder Maddie with her eyes when her husband yawned behind her, “Angie, we've been driving all night. The kids could use some sleep.”
“But we're in the middle of nowhere,” Angie protested in a tone that suggested this really wasn't up for any kind of debate. “It'll take us at least a day to get back on the right track. We're supposed to be at my mother's in 3 days, and we don't even know where the hell we are! Besides, you know what these back-water motels are like. They all stink of piss and dead rat, and I will NOT force my children to sleep under those conditions!” She gestured then to her son and daughter, who had both followed their father in and were now staring at the girl behind the counter.
The only place for visitors to stay in town was Mr Ivory's Bed and Breakfast. It was relatively small, as the town saw relatively few visitors. The only people that stayed there were family members or friends of residents visiting from out of town who couldn't stay with those they were visiting due to a lack of space. Mr Ivory was excessively hospitable and excessively neat and tidy. Maddie could guarantee 150% that it would have been impossible for that place to smell like anything BUT cinnamon and jasmine, and that if there were any rats at all they were all in better-than-perfect health.
She didn't bother to say any of this though, as after a brief but intense argument it became a mute point. They were staying the day to rest, will continue on the road tomorrow morning, and you're mother in law is just going to have to wait another day to see her grandchildren.
With that settled, his parents on their way to Mr Ivory's to reserve a room with his little sister in tow, the little girl never taking her wide eyes off Maddie, the boy – Robbie or Ronnie or something, Maddie couldn't remember now – had stayed around to talk to what he perceived as the most interesting person he had ever seen in his entire life. Maddie appreciated the attention, and to be honest she felt the same way about him (but for entirely different reasons, which she chose not to disclose to him.) She left a quick scrawled note for Mr Black her boss, and locked the door behind her.
“You sure you won't get in trouble,” said Rory – YES, that was his name, Rory! - who had never held a job or any kind of real grown-up responsibility at any point in his 16 years of existence.
“Yeah, it'll be fine. We won't get anybody coming in till at least noon. I don't even really work here anyway. More of a favor, really.” She shrugged. “Just something to do.”
She had taken him on a tour of the town, or at least to the parts she liked. She took him by Jackson's Funeral Parlor and Flower shop to see if Andy was in. He didn't answer, but they could hear Mittens barking from inside so Maddie just assumed he must be busy working on something. Rory asked what breed of dog Mittens was, to which Maddie just looked at him blankly and shrugged. They passed by Mr Ivory's briefly for food, and inspire of not recognizing half of the names on the menu (they didn't have much vegetarian & vegan food in his home town) he gobbled it all down with surprising enthusiasm. They passed by the shops, many of which were still dark even at this time in the morning, and Rory wondered why so many of them had what looked to be halloween-ish decorations and tchotchkes in May.
Rory couldn't help but feel like something was odd about this place. It looked mostly normal, sure. But the parts that looked normal – the buildings, the street lights, the phone boxes, the houses – looked almost too normal, the kind of normal you'd expect to see in a 50's movie showing a perfect idealistic country town in the middle of nowhere. He half expected to turn a corner and find that the buildings were nothing more than flat facades, held up by a few hastily-constructed wooden struts, like on a movie set.
And here and there, there were flashes of things that seemed... off. If you had asked him he couldn't point out anything specific, but it kept nagging at the back of his mind. And had he not been a teenage boy being led around by a mostly attractive, exotic looking girl with tan skin, green dreadlocks, a pierced lip, RayBan sunglasses, and clothes that looked older than she was, he might have even had enough mindshare to be concerned about it.
She finished her tour by bringing him to the lake. The town was built around this lake, she said, it's very important. Rory was underwhelmed. The lake didn't look very big; even through the thin grey mist that hung over it, he could still just barely make out the other side. The surface was choked with atomic green algae, so thick he assumed it would be nearly impossible for anything else to possibly live inside it. A dense spotting of trees bordered the opposite bank, far enough away that it was impossible to tell what kind they were. There was a singular wooden dock that jutted out into the lake on the near side. It was gray with age, only slightly darker than the mist, and looked as though it might collapse into rotten splinters if you tapped it just the wrong way.
“So, what do you think?”
Rory looked towards Maddie. She was standing nearby on the center of the dock, which to his surprise hadn't crumbled under her feet. She looked proud, like a kid showing mom their new soccer trophy. She was waiting for something. It took Rory a moment before he realized she was waiting for his approval.
“Oh, uh. Yeah, it's cool.”
Maddie looked at him through her dark glasses. “What's cool?”
Rory shrugged. “This place, I guess. The lake. It's like, straight out of a horror movie.” He gestured towards the lake as he walked out onto the deck to join her.
“Why do you say that?” She looked like she hadn't ever considered this before.
“Just look at it! It's all fogged over and stuff. I half expect there to be a log cabin or something over there, just waiting for some college kids to show up and die one by one.”
Maddie laughs. “You're funny.”
Rory tried to hide his blushing. He never had good luck getting girls back home. He wasn't athletic, or funny, or smart, and most of the time anytime he tried to talk to girls he'd end up saying or doing something stupid. But here was this girl who was prettier than any girl he'd ever seen, and way, WAY cooler, and she thought he was funny. Him! This was amazing, the best feeling in the whole world. He knew come tomorrow his parents would be back on the road and he might never see her again, but maybe if he got her phone number, or her e-mail address, or...
He hadn't noticed the rumbling until it was right underneath them. It was a deep, burbling rumble that had enclosed in on them quickly and without notice. The air around them seemed to grow thicker, and his skin seemed to freeze and burn and prickle and itch all at the same time. The fog had grown closer too, and was swirling around them, and if Rory didn't know better he might say it was whispering.
The surface of the water broke with a sudden burst of green and black and mist and wet darkness, and a black form rose glistening and shivering in the fog. It's eyes – it had eyes, he was sure of it – burned with a black intensity that seemed to bore inside his head, into his mind. He froze in fear, his mind trying to see this thing in front of him, to assess this threat so it would know what to do, but his eyes wouldn't focus, or perhaps his brain wouldn't let them focus. The thing screamed, a scream that resonated every cell in his body and vibrated the air around him, a noise that should have been impossible for any living thing to conceivably make. It lasted only an instant, but in Rory's mind the terror lasted an eternity, and he did what any rational, sane human would do in this situation.
Maddie had barely registered what had happened before Rory was already gone, running as fast as his teenage legs could carry him in warm wet pants, faster than he had ever run before, back the way they had come. He ran up the short path back to the town proper, down main street, back to Mr Ivory's, and collapsed into a jabbering, sobbing mess at the feet of his confused parents. He didn't tell them what happened, as something blocked him from being able to recall it. No matter how much his parents begged and pleaded and demanded and bribed, the most he could do was babble incoherently and stare through them at something only he seemed to be able to see. They just piled back into their fully-fueled car (after changing Rory out of his urine-soaked jeans and tossing them into a trash bag) and got back onto the road, muttering about how that strange girl must have given him some of “the drugs”, assured that anywhere else they would stop would certainly be better than this. Rory would fall asleep a mile out of town, and then he would wake up 4 hours later remembering absolutely nothing about the town, the girl with the green hair, or the nightmare monster he saw emerge from the fog.
Back at the lake, Maddie stood annoyed, with her hands on her hips.
“You are a colossal asshole, Lu. You know that?”
She was standing on a dock, and even through dark sunglasses it was clear that she was glaring up at the huge, wet, shivering monster in the way a mother might glare at a child who's been caught with 'daddy's magazines' stashed under his bed. It looked down back at her slightly sheepish.
“Sorry,” it said.
To say it 'said' this, or anything for that matter, is really just an approximation. It didn't really have a mouth, at least that anyone could see, just a mass of wriggling tentacles jutting out disobediently from the area of it's head where a mouth really should be on any sensible creature. You couldn't really hear it's voice either, not in the way that you would hear most things talk. It spoke with words that drifted like smoke around you and over you and through you. If asked to describe how it sounded, you might say it sounded like a rusty nail being dragged across a blackboard, the diseased gurgling of sewage and bile, the low rumbling of thunder heard across an endless span of desert, and a horrific, savage, bestial, guttural roar just beyond the scope of imagination, all at once. Right now, it had the added flavor of 'sounding' like a wounded puppy.
“Sorry?” Maddie shrieked, her tiny, angry fists vibrating with rage at her sides, “Sorry!? That's it? What am I supposed to do with 'Sorry'?”
“I dunno,” Lu said, drooping it's huge head.
At full height, Lu was easily as tall as a 3 story building. He was black in the same way the night sky was black, and as previously mentioned the lower half of his face would excite some fans of Japanese adult cartoons. It was hard to see any real details about his appearance. Not because his dark-as-night skin made it hard to see, or because of anything having to do with the weather or atmosphere around him, but because looking at him was like looking at something in a dream. You know what he looks like because it's what he should look like, but if you really try to look closely everything sort of shifts and fizzes out of focus. There may have been a long whiplike tail, thick webbed fingers, fin-like ears, tiny bat wings, a short and thick tail, gnarled claws, spines, horns, large eyes or maybe beady eyes, you couldn't quite be sure. If you tried to REALLY look you could easily go mad; not insane mind you, just really and truly frustrated.
This was half why the girl never bothered looking directly at him; the other half was that she was so upset that she couldn't stand to even if she could. She was pacing back and forth across the edge of the dock, dreadlocks tossing about madly with each jerk, and she was ranting all the while about how unfair her life is and how nice that guy was and why couldn't anyone just leave her alone?
“It was just a joke, Maddie” Lu said.
“Jokes are only funny if everyone laughs,” she snapped. “I'm not laughing.”
“I thought it was funny. Did you see the look on his face?”
“The one he made before or after he wet his pants?”
“Before,” Lu said with confidence.
Maddie opened her mouth to say something extremely clever in response when a tiny voice said, in a hissing whisper just above her left ear, “I thought it was funny too.”
“Shut up,” Maddie said to the voice.
“I kinda liked him,” said another voice, this time just below her right jaw.
“You would,” said a third behind her head.
Suddenly, two of Maddie's dreadlocks seemed to spring to life and dart for each other, poking and stabbing at each other in quick, serpent-like jabs. A chorus of hissing laughter erupted from around Maddie's head as other locks seemed to perk up and point towards the two fighting. Maddie shook her head from side to side violently, and her hair calmed.
Maddie was smirking now in spite of herself. “God, you're such an asshole.”