Gramma lived right across the river, in Mississippi. Her house was small, claustrophobic to most, but it was always a comfort to me. The smell of spices wafted through the home along with the borderline alarming scent of smoke.
I would sit out on the porch with her when my parents didn't have time for me and would drop me off with her. She didn't mind much, sitting on her chair of the porch and softly yet sternly ordering me around. Telling me to fetch her some water or take down the clothes she had drying on the laundry line. I didn't much mind her commands. It was something to do.
Every so often when I sat next to her on the porch and she was mending some worn clothes, she would whisper things to me. Things that she thought were important to know.
"Remember, never go out on the river at night," she said one day. This statement didn't strike me as odd, just as she had told me to never wear mismatching socks into a church and to never give your name to strangers in the woods. I was still curious as to why though.
"Why not gramma?"
"Best that you do not know the reason. Just remember to never go out on the river at night." She fell back into silence. Her face speaking of finality and I knew not to press her for more information.
"Whatever you say."
"Hello? Hello?" my voice wavered frantically as I spoke into the microphone attached to the radio. Static permeated throughout the air. The only sound I could hear was the fizzle of the radio, the engine puttering and the muffled sloshing of the water underneath the river boat.
"Dammit!" I exclaimed, sinking to my knees. My mind was whirling from what I had witnessed. I can't go back out onto the deck. I can't go back on the deck. I don't want them coming back. I'll die if they come back.
"I don't want to die," I whimpered out loud. As if verbalizing it would protect me.
It was supposed to be a fun day with friends. Go out on Charlie's dad's old river boat, explore some old places, take the metal detector and maybe find some old treasures.
Charlie laughed when I worried about being back to shore before the sunset.
"You're always so paranoid Laurel. We'll be fine!" He had smiled at me, charming as always. I figured he was right and I wasn't going to be a buzzkill, worried about being back by dark. I was seventeen, what was there to worry about?
I was such a fool.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
I returned to trying to get ahold of somebody on the radio again. The coast guard, the police, random strangers, anyone.
A loud wailing sounded from the banks. It started out as a deep resonating groan escalating into a high shriek that sounded as if hundreds of people were crying out in tortured pain.
"No. No. No. No. Not again." I sobbed. "Please! S.O.S! I need help!" I screamed into the microphone.
I felt the river boat lurching from side to side, as if being bombarded by waves.
The wailing outside only grew louder. The metal detector started going off without it even being turned on. It kept whirring and screeching as if it sat on top of a massive hunk of treasure.
"Please. Somebody please. Help." I whimpered.
This had all happened before. The wailing had begun, the boat had rocked, the air grew heavy. And the stench. The smell of rotting flesh was inescapable.
They boarded the boat and took Donny first. Then Lisa, then Patrick. They then took Charlie while all I could do was hide and watch from behind crates.
I couldn't unhear the screams of my friends as I watched them die. I couldn't unsee how the creatures seemed to get pleasure from inflicting so much pain before finally killing them.
And the blood. So much blood.
I thought that the creatures had left for good.
At least that was what I had hoped.
The fizzle on the radio started to fade in and out. To my shock and relief, I heard a fragmented voice.
"Coast Guar-" before it cut out again and then cut back in with a few more words.
"Hello?" I questioned with hope, my hands shaking as I held the microphone.
"Who is this?" the voice was still staticky but more distinct.
"This is Laurel, I need help!"
"This is Jerimiah Ward with the U.S Coast Guard. Do you know your location?"
"Location? Well-" I let out a startled shriek from another loud wail. This time it sounded closer to the boat.
The radio then cut out again, the static returning.
"Hello? Jeremiah Ward? Hello?"
The static cut out again.
My blood ran cold and I felt as if my heart stopped. On the radio came a low gurgled voice.
"No." I whispered, trembling.
"Whyyyyy prolooooong the .vit. ." rasped the voice.
Words dried up in my throat.
"Cooooooome oooouuuut. Coooome ooooout. Cooome ooout. Coome oout. Come out. Come out. COME OUT! COME OUT! COME OUT!"
The boat violently rocked yet again and the wailing outside intensified while the metal detector let out a high-pitched whirring.
"I'm going to die." I whimpered in tears. I felt my stomach churning and as I cried, I puked onto the floor.
I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to-
"When the devil comes to get you, fight him first. He'll still get you, but you'll feel better."
My gramma's voice echoed through my mind. Once again, one of her random words of wisdom.
My eyes settled on a machete hanging on the wall of the boat. It was an old weathered thing, used mostly to clear away branches and overgrowth.
I staggered toward the weapon and my hand grasped the handle.
"I'm going to die, but I might take one of those things with me," I whispered.
Taking in a deep breath, I threw the door open, machete in hand. My friend's blood stained the deck. Scattered across it were fingers, arms, intestines and more that I couldn't bear to look at.
There they were. The creatures with their glowing yellow eyes staring right back at me. I could hardly make out their shape as their bodies constantly wriggled and shifted as if they were made up by smaller entities. It was hard to get a good look at them with how dark it was.
"I'm out! I'm here! This is what you wanted, right!?" I was sobbing through my words despite my now steady hold of the machete. "Come get me!"
A creature ran at me and I slashed my weapon down across its torso, causing it to shriek and hiss while the others wailed at the action.
More swarmed me and attacked while I desperately swung my machete, chopping at whatever moved closest to me until finally-
One grabbed me by the throat.
I struggled to breath and the creature grabbed my arm, giving it a hard tug, dislocating it from the socket.
I then felt a large clawed hand place itself over my stomach. I knew what would happen next. I watched them do it to Charlie. They were going to rip me limb from limb, disembowel me and drag my innards around the deck.
The sun started to rise from over the tree line and I smiled.
At least I'll see the sunrise one last time.
Once the sun touched the creature's skin, they dropped me, screaming in pain.
In a matter of seconds, they dove back into the murky water, leaving me on the bloody deck.
I laid on the deck in shock, staring at the sky and trying to ignore the sticky wet liquid I was laying in. I didn't know how much time had passed before the helicopter flew in and people surrounded me.
Never go out on the river at night. My gramma's voice echoed in my head.
Why hadn't I listened?