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At the Water's Edge: A Short Story

(Photo Credit: Creative Commons)

By Henry Fisher | October 30, 2021

This really wasn’t the weather for a late-night candy corn run.

My precious cargo lay stashed in my hoodie, already opened. It was all that kept me going back to my dorm, the sugary nibbles being the only silver lining among the howling winds. What few leaves remained on the campus’s trees had been ripped away. Not only was it a strong wind, but it was a cold one–one that drove all warmth from the body.

To add to my troubles, I was now leaving the well-lit part of my trek. The final stretch was a dark gravel path along the edge of the pond. It never used to be that bad, but a broken line killed almost all the lampposts.

Shivering in the icy chill, I continued forward.

Considering the gale, the pond’s waters were surprisingly flat–an inky plane of glass. A lone goose sat upon its surface, struggling as I was against the gusts. Never did I think I’d feel sympathy for a goose.

Two candy corn and a couple of moments later, I heard a shrill sound, quiet against the onslaught.

Startled, I looked around me, squinting to get a better look around the windy dark. I saw no one. The lights had shrunk behind me, like distant fireflies. I was not too far now from the lights of my dorm. I picked up my pace.

Glancing back towards the water, the goose was nowhere to be seen. Probably just flew off.

Oddly enough, I began to hear a loud tapping sound. It pierced the howling wind, like an echoing key on a piano–though it was more like tapping on a pane of glass.

That was definitely my cue. I did not want to be out here much longer. Luckily, I was not too far from the safety of my room. Rifling through my hoodie pouch, I took another candy corn. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something that made my heart stop. A face, beneath the surface of the pond.

Were they dead? What should I do? Who do I call?

It was then that I discovered the source of the tapping.

The figure, hair floating around them in the shallows, looked up towards the surface– face emotionless. One finger tapped at the surface of the pond, though they could not pierce the surface. There was no ripple from their efforts, just the tapping. The tapping. Like a piece of glass.

Their eyes locked with mine, eyes murky and gray.

I yelped, throwing the candy in my hand at the figure. It made a small splash upon the surface, and the figure was gone. I really needed to get inside.

Running to the light, I felt the wind die. Not fade. Die. It was as if someone had just turned it off. The air became still and stagnant. I did not want to spend another moment out here.

The brown brick buildings lay before me, their light a haven for my beating heart. I could see people outside, though they did not notice me.

I struck something, falling backward. There was nothing there.

A little more cautiously, I stood up, hand forward. Though nothing appeared to be there, my hand touched something. It was cold and smooth. I tapped it. It echoed the note on the pond’s surface.

I slammed my fist against it. Nothing changed. It was getting hard to stay focused. Trying to control my breathing, I ran my hand along the barrier, trying to see if it had any end. I got to a point where I realized that if it had any end, I’d have to turn away from the dorm hall.

The people who had been outside started to walk toward me. Thank god. I shouted, yelled, screamed as they approached, continuing to slam against the wall. They didn’t react as they passed right by me. I tried to lunge towards them, but I could not reach.

“No! No no no no no! Help me! Please!” I shouted and shouted but to no avail.

It was then that I noticed the wind had never died. I was the one who could not feel it. The trees still shook with the winds, and odd bits of debris rolled across the paths. I could not hear it, nor feel it.

No, there had to be a way out of this. Maybe the barrier wasn’t complete. I resolved myself to follow it until I found a gap, an escape. There had to be a way out, right?

It was much easier to retrace my steps without the wind. Though it took me maybe ten or twenty minutes, the whole bag of candy corn was gone when I reached my terrifying conclusion. The barrier went all the way around the pond, but not only that.

The wall had moved.

When I returned to where I had first found the invisible barricade, it had moved several feet closer. The same was true the further I went along.

It was pushing me towards the pond. Slowly, maybe–but soon I would be at the water’s edge.

Tired, I leaned against the cold barrier. Was there any hope of escape?

The tapping started again. From the pond. The figure was there again, beneath the surface. Tapping, tapping, tapping.

Nowhere else to go, I slowly approached them.

“What do you want?” I asked hoarsely.

They continued to tap.

I got closer, “Please, help me.”

No reaction.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

Their head snapped, clouded eyes meeting mine. They smiled, skin tearing as their mouth widened to an unnatural degree. I jumped back, only to discover the wall had moved much, much closer. I had only a mere couple of feet before the pond’s banks.

I pressed against the barrier, staying as close to it as I could. The figure continued with their tapping, but it would eventually fade. My eyes darted across the inky water, trying to find where it had gone.

My exhaustion soon caught up with me, and I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

I woke up to the feeling of the cold pond water on my foot. The wall had moved again, leaving me right at the water’s edge.

I had no strength left as the pond began to ripple. No voice to cry out.

A hand shot out of the water, grabbing me by my ankle. Its skin was wrinkled and rotten, with skeletal fingertips. It was cold. Another arm reached out, and another. Sourceless. Cold. They began to drag me in, though I futilely clawed at the earth. The water was an arctic shock, sapping what little energy I had left.

It burned my lungs as I struggled, thrashing in the pond.

Once I was fully submerged though, it almost felt welcoming. The hands suddenly released me, and I floated up to the surface.

All I could manage was a tap upon the glassy surface.


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