Submerged, I grasped the end of the dock with white shriveled hands, my teeth clenched hard to silence the chatter. An icy breeze blew steady across the black water and my shoulders and back locked in painful knots.
When the hound found me, I knew I was caught. It stood over my head barking and whimpering, torn between a desire to attack me and its instinct to stay (x) dry. (x) It stepped to the edge of the wooden planks then backed away, whining with frustration.
“He’s underneath!” said the smaller man, his footsteps clunking (x) as he ran onto the dock. “He’s there!”
“I already checked und-” said the other as I slipped beneath the surface and plunged deep. Overhead, I could see their distorted, yellow flashlights waving lazily across the surface. The light shimmered warm and inviting for the better part of a minute and then bounced away towards the shore.
I surfaced, gasping and swallowing air.
“-boat or swimming for it,” said a voice as they shone their lights in slow arcs along the shore. The dog had been called to heel and it followed reluctantly, looking over its shoulder as they moved along the shoreline.
When they disappeared, I pulled myself, hand-over-hand, along the side of the dock until my feet found purchase. The mud was deep and greedy, it sucked at my shoes as I slogged to shore. When I reached dry land, I collapsed on my back and closed my eyes.
I awoke with a start. In a panic, I staggered to my feet and up the hill to a cabin that sat twenty or thirty yards away. The outside lights were on but I found the garage dark. An older four-door sedan was parked inside with its doors unlocked and I found a crocheted blanket draped over the back of the passenger seat. I wrapped myself in it and passed out in the back.
I was shaken awake. I came back to reality to find my teeth chattering convulsively and shivers wracking my body with violent spasms. A young woman, mid twenties in age, was leaning into the car looking at me with a conspicuous mixture of fear and concern shadowing her delicate features. In the dim light of the garage, I could just barely make out her reddish hair and green eyes as I tried to pull myself out of unconsciousness.
“What are you doing here?” She was repeating the question for the third time when I realized I hadn’t answered her. I groaned half lucidly, trying to form the words of my name, but numb lips and spasmodically chattering teeth twisted them into incomprehensible gibberish. Frowning at the state I was in, she grasped my hand and tugged; then, when I didn’t respond, she tugged harder.
“I’m trying to help you, but if you make one wrong move I’ll set Morpheus on you.” I gazed at her in confusion, then noticed the massive Great Dane standing behind her, staring into the car protectively. I nodded, but whether she could distinguish the movement from my shuddering I didn’t know. Regardless, she tugged my hand another time and I managed to push myself up from the backseat and leaned forward in a precarious attempt to get out of the car.
Little did I realize until I was upright that I couldn’t feel my feet, which made standing nearly impossible and the only thing I could do was reach out instinctively before I fell face-first at her feet. The afghan I had commandeered crumpled to the floor in a half frozen, half sodden heap and it was only then that she realized my clothes were soaked through.
“It’s not even raining; how on earth did you get soaking wet?” She apparently didn’t expect an answer because she didn’t wait for one before removing the blanket she had wrapped round herself to encircle me with it, leaving herself in an ivory nightgown that didn’t look warm enough to wear on a cold October night. I stared at her dumbfounded, but she paid my attention little heed as she pulled me by the wrist towards the door leading into her cabin.
Morpheus stalked behind me, growling.
To Be Continued….
Fred Rock of Fred Rock Fiction recently contacted me to discuss a possible, extended collaboration during which time we would write a short story based upon a piece he had begun and then hit a wall. I read the portion he wrote (designated above and throughout these posts in italics ) and was immediately intrigued. Inspiration sparked, we set about sending the piece back and forth between us for several weeks, adding to the tale, discussing possible stumbling blocks, and finally editing the ‘masterpiece’. Our final story is now ready to be shared, which we shall do in increments for your reading ease (and hopefully enjoyment!)