This story was originally released as an 18 mini-part serial. Here it is, in its entirety.
“It looks like the ferry is down to one barge. Something about the water being too high, that’s why it’s taking so long.” Kathy sighed as she slipped behind the wheel of their hatchback. Andre opened his eyes a crack, grunting an acknowledgment. “It’s hotter than they called for. I’m going to put on the a/c.”
“What? Why not?”
“Car needs to be moving… I think.”
Kathy turned the knob. It didn’t take long for the cold air to blow. Andre, or Dre as Kathy called him, he called her Kat, was thankful for the closed windows blocking out the raucous van full of 20-somethings behind them.
“Do you remember being like that? Young and horny, full of life.”
“Yeah, but I was never that irritating.” As if to emphasize his point, one of the young men threw trash into the ditch.
Kathy laughed in response. “I’m sure. Oh, hey, we’re moving.” The line of cars in front of them started rolling their engines over in a domino of sound. At last, they rounded the last bend and could see the cars being directed onto the decrepit-looking ferry. “You sure that’s not the broken-down ferry?” Andre tried to make his voice sound light and affable, but his apprehension and fear of water made itself known.
“Don’t worry, baby, it’s completely safe. You gotta think, with all the water splashing against it all day, it is bound to look a little rough. I’m sure it’s fine.” By the time she stopped speaking, she was no longer certain if she was reassuring Dre or herself, as the large ship creaked ominously. There was a discernible chill about the place. At first, she believed it to be the proximity to the water. Now she was not so sure. She turned the car off as they waited for the last time, but not before opening the windows again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would take so long. At least we know it’s only 20 minutes longer. I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
“Alright, I’ll wait here.” He watched her walk away before closing his eyes, listening to the surrounding songbirds. A gentle breeze floated through the car from off the lake, making him feel drowsy. He was about to drift into a light nap when he heard a faint female voice whisper, “help me.” He sat bolt upright in his seat and looked around, but nothing was to be seen. The vociferous van behind them was still carrying on without missing a beat. A couple standing by the rail on the other side of the road were unmoved as well. He poked his head out of the window to see if it was Kat playing a trick on him, but she hadn’t yet returned; besides, it sounded nothing like her.
This story was written as part of a Halloween contest. After a double blind drawing, Samantha and Dennis were chosen as the lucky victims of my new short story, In The Shadows. Both winners were interviewed and character profiles were built off the answers provided. Any similarities to any person living or dead is purely on purpose.
"Look, I'm not saying you should quit your job. I'm only saying that you need to believe in yourself more. You're a great writer. You should be doing what you love." Dennis pulled his coat a little tighter as he saw his breath frost in the air for the first time this season.
Samantha glanced over at him, "I know what you mean, but I do enjoy what I'm doing. I'm helping people. Besides, we can't both be risk-takers. We need some assurances that we keep a roof over our head."
"Why can't we?" The old light was burning brightly in his eyes once more, "There are no assurances in life. Hell, someone could jump out of those bushes and kill us right now!" He grabbed her arm suddenly when he said now, causing her to jump and scream. She slapped his chest, "Dammit. Don't do that. These new street lights are bad enough."
Dennis laughed, pulling her in for a quick kiss, "How am I supposed to stop when you get so damn cute when you're scared?" He began to laugh harder at the colour flooding her cheeks.
She took a step back, a look of false hurt on her face. "Why must you be so mean to me?" She almost kept a straight face but lost it at his smile, "Seriously though, I'm alright with the amount of writing I am doing now. I'm happy to watch your star rise."
"I don't believe that for a minute. But, alright, I won't push." He stared at the mist of his breath, "It's not even Halloween yet. It's too early to see your breath."
"I know. That crazy wind storm took out a bunch of trees and dropped the temperature by about 10 degrees. Let's go home and cuddle by the fire."
Dennis smiled in agreement, and the pair continued their nightly stroll. The air had fallen cool and crisp, with a haunting wind rustling the freshly fallen leaves on the ground. The couple walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes, each lost in thought and the rhythmic scratching of the dry leaves whispering around their feet.
Dennis was lost thinking about Samantha's comment on the new street lights. They were meant to make the streets safer by being ungodly bright but did the opposite. They blinded you to the shadows. It made the shadows darker than dark, like driving into a tunnel on a sunny day. A part of his mind thought he should write a letter of complaint to the city council, then another part of his mind told him to check his birth certificate. How old was he? 21 going on 50? No, he would leave council letters out of his portfolio for at least another 20 years.
Samantha was thinking about the insistence from Dennis that she write more. But really, what is more? She writes now and feels satisfied with the level she is doing. It's not like she stopped altogether. Besides, she viewed writing as an old friend. One which she could pick up with whenever she felt. Although, the sounds of the leaves were getting her creativity flowing. Each rustle beneath the leaves could be a giant rat, each stem brushing her ankle, a hair on a giant tarantula's leg, alerting it to her presence. She could almost sense it lurking beneath the leaves, watching, waiting to-
"Holy shit," Dennis screamed, jumping back, causing Samantha to do the same. She jumped behind him, screaming, "what is it," while looking around frantically. Dennis took a defensive position in front of her, as though ready to fend off an attack. He was breathing hard, his senses on high alert.