Undertow

By Mysteri OusStranger

-

There are all sorts of people in the world, some are… well, just more different than others. People like me.

I've grown up in a pretty small town, the kinda place that only has one school, one store, and the next closest town is a good two hours away or so where everybody here has to go to get gas. Surrounded by mountains, an old river, and a forest about as thick as needles on a hairbrush. Used to be bigger but slimmed down after a couple generation when the kids wanted more than what the town had to offer.

Most people here are pretty tightly knit, but I guess I just always stood out. I'm the quiet type, with long, kinda oily black hair, gray-green eyes and an old fashioned white dress. I never wear shoes either if I can avoid it. Most people tend to think I'm a witch since I'm always reading about spells and voodoo and magic and all that stuff, but what can I say? It's interesting.

It wasn't until last year, when I was thirteen that I came to make something like a friend for the first time. New kid. Moved here from some big city on the coast. He doesn't like it here too much, too many mountains and green stuff, he says, plus there's the fact that big city people never seem to know how to entertain themselves out here in nature, but his parents wanted to retire early and had the money to do it, so there's nothing he can really do about it until he grows up. Always fiddling with this thing he calls an "Aye-pod" or something like that. The other kids know what it is, but I've never bothered to learn that kind of stuff. Mum's a single parent, so her income's pretty shallow.

There other kids are always asking him about me too. Things like: "Is she really a witch?" and "Has she tried to experiment any spells on you?" and even "Does she really have a collection of shrunken heads?" Nonsense sense. He's never told me what he says in response and I don't ask or stick around to find out. They say ignorance is bliss and I prefer to keep things that way.

Sometimes he comes down with me to the stream that flows into the river and talks while I listen. I really don't know how to socialize with people that well, so it's an okay way to start learning. I don't mind his voice that much and he don't mind me being so quiet. Gives him a chance to talk about how great and big his old town was, though it doesn't matter much to me.

My family's lived in this town since gold was found a good six generations ago, and I don't really have any plans of leaving. I'd likely get lost if I ever ended up in a big place like Twin Falls or Boise. I'd imagine the old mines are much easier to navigate through than someplace like that. They all seem like big mazes.

I'm at the stream again today, and he's followed me over like he sometimes does, talking away like the wild cat that sometimes begs for milk at our back door. Noisy and persistent, but you get used to it after hearing it a few times and eventually find it familiar and comforting in some strange way. I'm not sure how, but somehow he's gotten into the subject of old legends and tall tales, like the Greeks and that one giant with the blue ox whose name I can't remember.

"You know," I state, swirling my toes in the water, "There's a legend that tells of a girl who died in this crick."

"Creek, you mean." He corrects, though looking surprised that I spoke.

"Yea, well I say it 'crick.'" I retort, hackles rising for a brief moment. "Anyway, have you heard of the legend?"

"Nu-uh," he grunts, putting his elbows on his knees, "But then, I grew up over on the coast, so… it's only natural that I don't know it."

I only hum in reply, watching as the tiny trout-fry try to nibble the skin off my bare feet. They scatter whenever I move, small silver flashes lost within the current. I find them to be cute little guys, and sometimes I can catch them with my bare hands if I'm lucky.

"Well, are you going to tell me the story or not?"

I scowl. "Why?"

"Because I wanna hear it!"

I sigh, wave my foot around, and scare the fish away. "Fine. I think it was fifty years ago, give or take a while. There was this girl, you see, Patty McNelson, real tomboyish, you know the type. Flat chest, short red hair, heck, most people thought she was a boy until she got into high school and hit puberty. The town was more populated back then, you see, two schools 'nstead of one. She was from the coast, kinda like you only more further south. Surfer girl. Moved here to the Rockies when she was 'bout eleven. Never really liked being away from that flat, open sea, but she got used to it. Took up snowboarding, but it wasn't the same.

"Anyhow, the crick was wider back then and deeper too and Pat and all her guy friends liked to come down here and swim after school and on weekends. Pat dressed like the rest of the boys, so them guys always got a free show when they went swimming, but Pat didn't mind seeing as she liked other girls 'nstead.

"It was couple weeks before they were all gonna graduate and Pat and all the guys were down here in the crick swimming and laughing and playing chicken on each other's shoulders. See, there was an old beaver dam that was holding the crick back and it was scheduled to be ripped up soon, so they were making the most out of what time there was left.

"Well, teenage boys, being what they are, got to rough-housing not too far along and up and decided that they were gonna pretend to be a bunch of dogs and chase Pat around like she was bitch in heat. Pat was kinda put of, of course, but it wasn't to uncommon for her to be stuck with a role like that, so she went running off while the guys chased her howling and laughing their asses off.

"Pat ran around the crick, teasing the boys by letting them get close before skittering out of their grasp, for she was a good runner. Just as one of the boys was about to grab her ankle, she leapt up and landed on the beaver dam, hands on her hips and grinning like she was king of the world. The guys were hooting and hollerin' at her and she started jumping and dancing about on the sticks and out of nowhere the whole thing collapsed and scooped her down along with it, down the mini waterfall and right down the last hundred yards of the crick into the river. The boys managed to get out of the water and onto land real quick-like, but Pat, since she got swept clear down to the river, got swept up in the rapids.

"As you can imagine, the boys and everyone else was real worried when they couldn't find her and sent searches all up and down the river and had no luck. It was 'bout two weeks later she resurfaced. Had been sucked down to the bottom of the river and pushed up against a rock and couldn't get back to the surface. Drowned. And she certainly wasn't a pretty sight; all white and grossly falling apart like a dead goldfish left in the bowl too long. Funny thing was that her hands were missing and it led to lots of rumors, as that sort of thing usually does. Naturally.

"Now, these days, not many kids'll come down here, adults neither as a precaution, 'cause they say that Pat's hands is still in the river and her soul's haunting this very stream and if a boy is to push a girl into the water, why then Pat'll pull her right down to the bottom and drown her just like Pat herself drowned."

I finish my story with a lazy tone. I'm not too interested in the tale; it's nothing new to me and I've never been one for superstition. Sure, witches and magic is interesting stuff, but I've never seen proof of it being real, though it's better to be prepared. Small towns like this tend to be famous for that supernatural stuff.

I hear a haughty snort next to me and I turn, frowning. "What?"

"You people actually believe that crazy stuff? What a bunch of bologna!" he tells me, laughing somewhat.

I shrug nonchalantly, though I'm actually pretty annoyed a bit offended. "Well some people do, some people don't. Even if the story is true, I think I've hung around here often enough to have made peace with Miss Patty McNelson." I tell him, pressing my fisted hand against my cheek.

"Wanna find out for sure?"

"Eh?"

I feel a pair of hands shove me in the back and I gasp loudly as I soar forward, my arms thrust out, falling into the chill water with a huge splash. He stands up and laughs as I go under the water, holding onto his knees for support.

"Ah-hahaha! You should've seen your face. I told you stories like that are nonsense!"

A few silvery bubbles rise to the surface of the stream, distorting the ripples, but I don't come up with them. He waits for several moments, but still no sign of me. He begins to feel fear; any other person should have come up by now.

"Cam?" he calls. "Cam? Cam!" He rushed knee deep into the stream, splashing around in a panic. "Cam! Where are you! Come on, Cam! Oh, god, don't die on me, Cam!"

He feels something like a hand latch onto his ankle and screams in terror before falling back into the water, right on his butt. I surface, dripping wet and laughing.

"Ha! You city people get scared so easily! That was priceless!" I cackle.

He pouts up at me, eyes watering. "That was so mean! You…you… hey, you laughed!" he exclaims in astonishment. I ignore that last bit of statement.

"Suck it up, Tim." I say, extending my hand and helping him to his feet. "Stories are stories, sometimes they're a little more and sometimes they're a little less, but all in all they still stories. Come on, you can come over to my house for a bit. Don't wanna catch cold or your Mum'll be pretty mad at me."

He sighs, shaking off his wet, clay-colored hand and looking at me oddly with those sage-green eyes of his. I think he's still stunned at my laugh. "Yeah, I guess so." He mumbles.

He starts slightly when I push him lightly and run past, and he stumbles to keep his balance on the algae-slick rock bed. "Come on!" I exclaim. "Race you there!"

He smiles slowly. "You got a head start! No fair!" he laughs, following me through the trees and back into the open.

I look back briefly, laughing softly and my sopping hair clinging to my birch-pale cheeks like clumps of black spider web. Mayhap I should tell him some more of the local legends if they're all going to end like this.

-

Sheesh, I can be really arrogant when it comes to my writing. . Need to work on that. I wrote this the other day and am going to enter it in a fiction contest in January. I originally thought of having Cam die, but figured it was too cliché and the contest is not for Science Fiction.

Let me know what you think! This is the first time I've actually managed a short story under 2500 words! XD