Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
A gentle breeze pushed through the screen and tickled my short black hair against my forehead. All the windows were open, but I knew I would have to close them soon, it seemed like a down pour would start momentarily. The waves pushed and crashed against the boats and dock just outside. I began to go around closing the windows, not sure if there were any procedures I had to follow if it began rained; I had only been working here at the Marina for three days.
My radio beeped and shook me from my tranced state, “Sean, you there?”
I knew the rough voice anywhere, “Yeah Ron, what’s up?” Ron had never failed to surprise me. I knew just by his complexion when I saw him he was a veteran, but still, the stories he told rattled me to the core.
“I’m coming in, it’s about to rain,” he grumbled in the usual gravelly voice. I chuckled to myself, it reminded me of Batman.
“Alright, doors unlocked.” I set the radio down and peered out the glass door leading onto the docks. There, I saw Ron, slowly limping because of his bad knee. He had told me about the injury and said it was from a grenade but refused to go into detail. I made him and myself a cup of coffee as the rain began to come down. We both sat and I continued to look out the window, waiting for the work day to come to an end. Lately, storms had plagued this side of the bay, causing the tide to rise and bring floods.
“Looks like the Marina is going under again,” Ron said breaking the silence as he glanced at the rising water.
“Hopefully not too much this time,” I took a sip of the coffee, “last time it was up to our knees.”
“Your knees,” he corrected me and chuckled his raspy laugh. He had always enjoyed making fun of my under average height.
“Hey, at least my eyes aren’t as grey as my hair,” I grinned and we both snickered.
The tide slowly rose as the day went on; Ron had decided he would cut his work day short since it was far too flooded to work on the boats. I stayed, hoping at least one customer would show up since we also sold beer and cigarettes. For a long while I stared out the window before I noticed something on the other side of the boatyard. Past the bobbing ships, I saw a man. He was kneeling beside a dead bird. I gagged thinking of bad it must smell and why this man was even near it. Slowly, he reached down and picked it up by the legs, blood trickled down its neck and dripped to the ground. I stood and walked over to the window, staring at him, disgusted, but very curious.
Suddenly he snapped his head towards me, causing my legs to go limp and nearly fall backwards when I saw him. What I believed to be his face had no features, any exposed skin seemed completely out of focus. His clothes, however, were clearly visible. The polo he wore was stained a sickly green color. The longer I looked at him the more nauseous I felt. I forced myself to look away from the misty complexion. Slowly rubbing my eyes I looked back up through the window.
Streams of rain snaked down the glass. The “man” and bird were gone. Not a trace that I could see was left. An open field stood all around the area they had been. The only place he could have gone was the water, which seemed to have risen an unusual amount.
I instantly called Ron in a panic. He answered, clearly annoyed by my phone call on his break.
“What do you want?” He grumbled.
“I have no idea,” I blurted without thinking, “this guy picked up a dead bird and just ran away with it.”
“Why is this problem, Sean?” There was a pause as I thought about it. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t natural and not just my mind playing tricks on me, but I sure didn’t want him thinking I was mentally insane. “See? There’s no problem. Just some weirdo,” he reassured me in a calmer tone. We both hung up and I went back to my duties, sitting in a chair and hoping I wouldn’t see that scene again.
The hours passed and the rain continued to fall. There was no sign of anyone or anything so I decided to close up for the day. I grabbed my things and made my way down the aisles, setting the alarm and stepping outside. The rain pounded my head as the keys slipped around in my hand, finally making it to the door. Locking it, I began walking to my car, already soaking and in no rush. As I walked I began to slowly notice figures, all standing perfectly still with their backs to me. The same pounding feeling in my head returned, matching the rapid beats of my heart. Taking slight glances around me I counted five of them. Somehow, they hadn’t caught my attention moments ago; I failed to see them when I was locking the door.
They all stood next to the ever rising tide, their ankles half submerged in the water. The clothes they wore didn’t seem to be drenched like mine were; everything about the situation unfolding bothered me. Before I knew it, I was in a full sprint across the parking lot. Water splashed my legs as I ran and clicked the button on my keychain, unlocking the doors to my car before I could grip the handle. I pushed myself into the front seat, bashing my head against the door causing the pounding feelings in my head to seem like grenades exploding. Horror fell into the pit of my stomach, and as the tide rose, they advanced—growing closer and extinguishing the feeling of safety my car provided. My breathing became strained and tears began to sting my eyes. The ignition refused my many attempts to start the car and escape whatever horrors were approaching. Opening the door, I stepped back out into the rain.
I made a quick dash back to the store. Fumbling for my keys, I jammed them into the lock and swung the door open. Not thinking about the alarm, I slammed the door and hurried behind the counter. I heard the light beeps as the system prepared to scream for help, being too scared to move, I simply sat and waited. A piercingly loud alarm was raised within a mere few seconds, something accompanied it though, something I couldn’t explain. Peering out the window I saw one of the figures, hands on the sides of its head and mouth wide open. An unhuman shriek came out from between the black, glossy, jagged teeth scattered around in its mouth.
I ducked back behind the counter, a legion of screaming creatures surrounding me and the tide continuing to rise. After what seemed like forever they finally stopped. Slowly, I peeked out the window once again and saw the tide, rippling from raindrops, now even higher, but without the creature. Two bright headlights approached the store and a truck came skidding to stop, none other than Ron jumped out, shotgun in hand.
“What did you do this time!?” I heard him yell from outside.
I pressed my fingers to my lips and hissed, “Get in here!”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but if I came down here for nothing I’ll-“ I could hear the air being forced from his lungs as his body lurched forward—the same out of focus creature from earlier standing behind him. Ron stumbled a few feet before regaining his balance and swinging around, his skin clearly becoming pale as he glared at the creature. Its hand flinched as if it were about to grab Ron. Without hesitation, he fired. Pellets speckled the green polo, but the creature didn’t so much as move; the surface of its skin rippled and shimmered like water after being struck with a stone.
“Run!” I screamed at him, but before the word could leave my mouth he was already in a sprint toward me, his limp greatly hindering his speed. The shotgun clattered against the pavement and the creature began its pursuit. They got so close to the store I could hear the strained gasps as Ron tried to flee inside. Again, the creature lunged at him, this time they both crashed to ground and came skidding to a stop inches in front of me. I grabbed his wrist and yanked him halfway through the door frame before a strong resistance came from his other side. A look of suppressed agony was painted on his face; the creature had grabbed him by his injured leg. A firm tug jostled one of his wrists free from my grasp.
For the first time, I could see Ron with a look of true terror in his eyes, “p-please—don’t let go.” The tone of his voice shook me deeper than any of his stories ever could. There was a light pop as his leg gave way and the agony plastered on his face echoed through the Marina. I tripped and fell forward, scraping my hands as I caught myself. Ron was being dragged away when I looked up—his knee twisted at an unnatural angle.
He shrieked, clawing the pavement trying to slow his decent into the water. I forced myself up off the ground and darted after him. My feet splashed through the water as I chased the duo. Ron was being dragged through the water like a heavy sack, his leg suspended in air by the creature. A light trail of red swirled in the water as the skin on his back was tore apart by the cement.
The adrenalin began to wear off and I became more aware of my surroundings; water splashed against my chest and I realized just how deep I had gone into the water. Panic leaked through my body as my mind took me back ten years. I could almost remember the exact feeling as water filled my lungs; the sun became darker and more distant as my exhausted twelve year body sank to the bottom the pool.
A chill ran down my spine and I forced the memory out of my mind, Ron no longer flailed about in the water. His body seemed limp and his arms floated behind him. Tearing my eyes from the scene I turned back and got out of the water as quickly as I could, retreating back into the store. The alarm had become a simple background noise; I focused more on the threats that caused it to sound in the first place. Knowing they would converge on the store I found a place to hide, two small cabinets in the furthest corner from the water seemed like my best option. I climbed in and waited—seconds, minutes, hours passed by as I sat there. The rain had slowly stopped and by what I could tell from the small crack in door nobody had come inside.
My heart pounded like a drum line as I pushed my way out of the hiding spot. The moon sliced through the dissipating clouds and reflected off the now calm water. Slowly—cautiously—I made my way down the seemingly endless aisle to the door. I could already tell the tide had gone down drastically. The parking lot was how I had left it, Ron’s truck and my car were parked a short distance from the store and the shotgun lay untouched in the headlights. Making my way around the store I saw them, hundreds of the creatures making a hazy, unfocused wall along the tide. One by one they melted back into the water, their cloths going under with them.
A slight feeling of relief washed over me as they and the water fell back into its usual place, though the feeling was quickly overtaken by something stronger—pure dread. Not over the fact that Ron was gone, not that everybody would never believe a single thing I tell them, but I knew I would see them again—I knew I would see Ron again. There was one thing, no matter how hard I tried, I knew I could never change—they came with the tide.
Credit: James Davis