Ripples – Excerpt
Maureen sat up, startled awake by an odd high-pitched noise. The sound faded. Had it been real or dream induced? She was worn out—the clock read 3:12 AM.
Her vision blurred, and a wave of nausea rocked Maureen’s entire frame. She fell back onto the bed. After the moment had passed, she noticed the tall, thin shadow of a man standing next to her bed backlit by a pale yellow glow.
“Who arrre you?” Maureen asked. Her words came out slurred. Surely, this was just a nightmare? Where was that glow coming from?
“Don’t waste your strength. In another few moments, this will all be over,” he whispered.
“What…you…want?” She struggled to form the words. Was it just her imagination, or did his eyes sparkle in the darkness?
“Something your death will inevitably bring to me,” he replied. The glow intensified; its eerie illumination filled the entire room. Maureen’s body grew heavier and less responsive moment by moment. “Natalie.”
“Nnngh!” Maureen vocalized, no longer able to speak. No, you can’t have my daughter! Please, don’t hurt her! She wanted to scream, to fight against the intruder, but her body wouldn’t respond.
“Don’t worry. This is just the first step for her along her journey.”
Her entire body convulsed, and a golden nimbus surrounded it. He cradled her face in his hand, yet Maureen barely noticed his touch. Everything dimmed into a numb, eternal blackness.
* * *
Natalie awoke from a dream and, feeling disoriented, looked around; she was at her mother’s. What was that whistling? She didn’t remember putting a kettle on the stove, but then, she didn’t exactly decide to fall asleep on the couch either. Natalie wrote it off to the stress of the day. Burying one’s mother—her last living relative—surely earned her more than one day of forgetfulness. At least she remembered kicking off her black pumps when she’d collapsed in tears on the couch. Crying with her shoes on felt too…formal.
For a moment, the painful emotions of her dream returned. She’d dreamt of searching the house, the home she’d grown up in, for her mother. Natalie remembered thinking that if she could just find her, this nightmare would somehow end and her mother would no longer be dead. The temptation to crawl into that dark place and be consumed by it overwhelmed her.
Fresh tears welled up in her eyes, but the whistling grew louder and spurred her into action. She walked into the kitchen, but the stove wasn’t on. If it wasn’t the kettle making that whistling sound, where was it coming from? The piercing sound was oddly familiar, tugging at some long-forgotten memory.
An almost physical sensation drew Natalie to the guest room at the far end of the house. As she walked down the hallway, the sound intensified, and a slight breeze tugged at her skirts. She opened the door wide, revealing a bright and airy room. The noise dampened immediately as if a draft had been whistling under the door. Natalie walked towards the far window thinking that it might be the source of the draft.
She stopped in mid-step, her breath catching in her throat. A coppery glow emanated from a small tear in the far wall near the ceiling. The light contrasted sharply with the uniformity of the whitewashed walls. Her blood pounded through her veins. What in the world was it? Natalie stepped towards the tear. The edges weren’t attached to the wall or ceiling but appeared to ripple and sway in a sort of breeze, like a sea anemone. It simply hung in the air as if it had always been, oblivious to the incongruity of its existence.
Natalie fought the urge to run and cautiously reached up, bringing her hand within inches of the object. For some reason, she’d expected to feel a tingle of static electricity, but there was nothing—nothing except a skittish fear at the back of her mind. Curiosity won. Natalie brushed her fingertips across the bulbous surface, summoning a rush of exquisite pleasure, which radiated throughout her entire body. Its metallic glow illuminated her entire hand, making her skin appear harsh, mottled and alien. Natalie prodded the surface gently, noting a spongy quality to the object. It looked like a shining water balloon, filled to bursting.
The doorbell rang. Startled, Natalie gripped the elastic surface, and it gave way. Pleasure gave way to horror when her arm disappeared to the elbow in the gel-like substance. Natalie’s weight pressed into the unknown, and the rip expanded violently downwards, pulling her to her knees. Small, orange tendrils grew out of the gash, clinging and winding their way up her arm. She pulled a second time, and then a third. The tendrils dug into her flesh, unwilling to release their captive. A giddy sensation wound its way into her mind, and for a moment, she almost gave in. There was a promise of possibility, of future, of becoming part of something . . .
“No!” Natalie screamed. She frantically regained her balance and pulled back. On the fourth pull, her arm slid out against the suction of the gash and its tendrils. Immediately, she missed it, needed it back with undeniable fervor. Natalie stared at her arm, expecting it to look wet, bloody, or bruised from being within the object, but only red welts and a mild stinging sensation remained.
The rip howled, enraged by her escape. The tendrils thickened and lengthened, and the opening widened to accommodate their increased size. A diffused glow shimmered across the surface, reminding Natalie of ocean waves breaking upon the shore. A tendril made brief contact with her arm, bringing the sensation of languid joy again. However, this time a scream welled in her throat. Natalie’s skin rippled beneath the surface in response to the glowing tendril brushing against her. She flinched and stepped backward, regarding it as she would a poisonous snake.
In the glass-like opacity of the object, a dark shadow moved across the surface. Natalie’s heart skipped a beat. Had someone walked by on the other side? The shadow returned and darkened, slowly coalescing until the shape of a human, or nearly human, face manifested before her.
The doorbell rang again, and she fled toward the door—not looking back.
All works and material are copyrighted by Candice Bundy. Any transcription or reproduction is illegal.