by Lisa McCourt Hollar
“Did you ever see Deliverance?”
“Huh?” Katie glanced at her boyfriend, then back to the swampy water that their boat was floating in. An eerie fog had rolled in and she thought, for about the hundredth time, that she saw something moving just beyond the haze.
“Deliverance, with Ned Beatty, Jon Voit and Burt Reynolds.”
“Burt Reynolds?” Katie snorted. “You have got to be kidding me. No.”
“Oh. Well this reminds me of the movie. Four friends go river rafting in the sticks…”
“Four friends? Who was the fourth?”
“Admiral Jellico,” Katie said, smiling.
Robert shook his head. Katie had never seen a classic like Deliverance, but she could quote Star Trek episodes by heart.
“Yes,” he she said, pushing the paddle through the water and moving their boat forward. A beam from the light barely cut through the fog and he searched ahead with his eyes, hoping that the way out through this mess was just ahead. “They went rafting down a river and were stalked by some of the inbred locals. There was a really gruesome rape scene…”
“Stop. Why are you telling me this?”
“Just trying to pass the time.”
“By telling me about inbred locals that stalk some men on a river rafting trip and rape them?”
“Not them… just Ned Beatty. He squealed like a pig.”
“Lovely. Well one, we aren’t on a river. This is a swamp. And two, I don’t think there is a living soul out here.”
Again she turned, movement from the corner of her eye catching her attention. She shivered, wondering about the truth to that statement.
“Why did you agree to come, if you weren’t going to even try and have fun?”
Katie looked at Robert, anger spreading across her face. “Are you kidding me? You said we were going to go to New Orleans. I pictured shopping in the French Quarter, festivals, colorful music and Anne Rice. You didn’t say anything about taking a boat ride into the middle of a swamp to pick up some fucking drugs from one of your creepy friends… who obviously gives bad directions!”
“Funny, you don’t mind spending the money I make off the fucking drugs. What do you think pays for your clothes? What do you think pays for your car? What do you think…”
“Don’t you shush me, bitch. What do you think paid for your trip to Vegas and that private party with the entire cast of Deep Space Nine?”
“I said hush!” Katie’s voice was shaking with fear and Robert fell silent. He’d yelled at her before but had never hit her. He would never hit her, he just couldn’t understand why she constantly criticized his line of work.
“There’s something out there,” Katie whispered.
“Probably some swamp creature, muskrat maybe. I don’t think it could be a crocodile.”
“Robert sat there, his paddle hovering above the water. Somewhere to his right he heard what sounded like someone laughing.”
“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah. It sounded like a child.” Robert turned the light in the direction the laughter had come from. A pair of eyes glimmered for a moment and then vanished as the fog swirled thicker around the boat. Then from the other side of the boat came a low yowl as something bumped up against the side.
“Want to tell me again how this isn’t anything like Deliverance,” Robert chuckled, trying to act calm.
“It’s not,” Katie said, holding onto the side of the boat. “That was just a movie with actors that got paid to act scared. This is real.”
“It’s probably just Thomas fooling around.” Robert looked around, moving the small light, hoping to catch a glimpse of his friend. Something splashed just ahead of the bow and he aimed the beam in that direction. A shock of red hair caught the light and Robert grinned, seeing his friend’s familiar locks. “See, I told you,” he said. Training the light on his Thomas’s face he yelled, “Hey Carrot Top! Don’t think I don’t know it’s you been trying to scare the piss out of us.”
Katie gripped the side of the boat, her fingers digging into the wood. A splinter lodged beneath one of her nails but she didn’t notice. “Something’s wrong. Why isn’t he answering? Look at his head… it’s tilted funny.”
“He’s still trying to scare us,” Robert said, laughing nervously. “Listen here, dick, we’ve been out in this swamp for over an hour looking for you. My lady’s not too happy and you know the saying, when mama aint happy aint nobody happy. Now get a move on and let’s make this trade.”
Thomas didn’t move. A small splash in the water caused Katie to turn her head and she thought she saw a small boy slip into the fog. She leaned forward to get a closer look and something brushed up against her hand. Letting go of the side, she scooted towards the middle, causing the boat to rock unsteadily.
“What are you trying to do, sink us?” Robert snapped. “Come on Thomas, Katie’s about to lose it. Get your ass over here.”
“Robert, something is wrong. There’s… things in the water.”
“Of course there’s things in the water. This is a swamp. Thomas, I’m going to turn this boat around and you can keep your shit if you don’t get over here now.”
Thomas’s head twitched and he moved forward a bit, moving through the water.
“Why is he in the water?” Katie asked. “Where’s his boat?”
Just then Thomas raised up out of the swamp and went flying through the air, landing in the boat with a thud. Katie screamed, shoving him off of her. His neck was partially severed from his body and hung limply to the side. Small hands grasped her arms, wet fingers worked their way into her hair as she felt herself being pulled from the boat. Beside her Robert screamed. Just before she went over the side she saw a girl, no more than five years old, take a bite out of his neck and a boy who looked to be seven or eight rip into his ear.
Then she was under water and her flesh was being torn from her bones. She opened her eyes and saw a child with razor sharp teeth smiling at her. Then his fingers dug into her eyes and she knew no more.
Word Count: 1,071