I woke up to the smell of baking bread and melting butter. Rain pattered my window, and the light that seeped through my curtains was grey. I stretched my arms above my head and turned to see the clock on my nightstand.


Ah, crap, I'm late again. Oops.

I rolled out of bed and stripped off my sleepwear and hastily replaced them with jeans and a Nine Inch Nails shirt, spritzed myself with cologne. I went down the hall, dragging fingers through a sleep given rat's nest and slipping into the bathroom. I splashed my face and gargled with some mint mouthwash before jerking a comb through my hair. It's not very long or anything, just to my chin, but it's thick and likes to tangle itself up. I grabbed my black zip up hoodie off the bathroom door and pushed my arms through the sleeves.

After I figured I was halfways presentable, I sneaked into the kitchen, snatched up two fresh baked buns and stuck an apple in my pocket before going to the entry way and jamming my feet into a pair of tennis shoes.

"Victor! Did you get breakfast?" Grandma yelled from the living room as I was opening the front door.

"Yep, I'm good to go! I'll be back soon." The door slammed behind me after I crossed the threshold. It was early enough that there was a slight chill in the air, despite it being mid-August. Silvery tendrils of steam drifted off the golden bread. I ripped a piece off and ate it as I took off in a jog across the driveway.

I went right on the gravel road and finished the first bun, wiping rain off my cheeks. The inside of the bread had been soft and baked to perfection. There was a generous amount of butter on the crust, which always reminded me of how armadillos had thick, hard shells and squishy insides. I smiled at how the small things in life were the best, like flawlessly baked bread with butter. I sped up and started eating the second piece, approaching the part of the road that twisted and became a bit steeper.

As I went on further, I could hear birds chirping in the distance and I could almost hear the lake water lapping onto the shore. I came around the last bend, and searched for the spot I normally met Elliot at. As usual, he had brought the tattered wolf blanket we used as a picnic cloth of sorts. He wasn't sitting on it; I squinted after a raindrop landed in my eye. I looked around and went back to the blanket, and Elliot was standing a few steps to the left of it. I could just see his shoulders and up since there was a rock in the way.

"Elliot!" I hollered and waved to him. He didn't move. He was watching for something in the water. I tried watching where he seemed to be gazing. There was something coming out of the water, and it looked like . . . a horse? What the hell? I turned around for a second, feeling like I was being watched. There was nothing there.

Down by the water there were two people now, one was Elliot. The other was a tall and slender woman. Her black hair was dripping wet and hung down, covering half of her torso. Her bottom half was clothed in a simple white sheet, wrapped like a skirt. Her skin was smooth and grey-blue. She was holding her hands out to Elliot, like she wanted a hug. A chill ran through me. He stepped closer, and the rest of his body came into view, the rock was no longer an obstruction.

He got closer and closer until she wrapped her arms around him. She started moving backwards with Elliot in her arms, and it was unnatural. Her feet didn't move; she was drifting backwards like a phantom. She put her hand out and looked me in the eye, motioning for me to join.

I shook my head.

I raced down the rest of the muddy path, not caring about the ruts. "ELLIOT!" I screamed and my feet flew across damp rocks and sticks, down into the sand nearer to the water, eyes never leaving the woman. I sprinted over the blanket and stopped a foot from the shore.

"Elliot!" I yelled again, but he wasn't moving. She was drifting farther and farther back, the water covering her feet, then her ankles, exceeding her knees, until she was to her chest; to Elliot's head. "Bring him back!" I screamed. "You can't take him! I love him!" I screamed and screamed even after she was out of sight, submerged completely. "He was my best friend. He loved me and I loved him." My voice had cracked and become a hoarse whisper.

I crawled back to the blanket and wrapped myself in it. It still smelled like Elliot. I stared blankly at the water, misery ripping at me.

I stared for minutes, hours, who knew. Losing Elliot was worse than anything I had ever felt.

I numbly noticed something in the water. I glared, tears in my eyes.

"Fuck off!" I tried to yell at the water woman. But it wasn't her. It was drifting in with the tide. I denied it. I didn't want to . . .

I turned away and vomited.

Elliot's lifeless body had made its way back to land.