The Beach House

I guess I won’t escape the water on this spring evening. The rain pounds on me with the rhythm of an icy waterfall. It has gotten to the point now that the pain of the cold is warming me more than my nightgown ever could. The warmth of my breath fights through the bitter darkness of the evening only to be beaten back by the unrelenting frigidity of the wind at my face. Perhaps the warmness of the gulf would radiate just enough to find some comfort in this depressing storm.

The waves quickly roll in, one after another, bashing my stomach and chest. I turn my head to avoid the violent aggression of the water as it pummels me and attempts to intrude my body through my nose and mouth. The gulf’s hospitality sure is lacking tonight, a drastic change from the filled beaches of the morning past; children building sand castles, couples floating and drinking and cuddling in the water, snowbirds out to roost under umbrella tents and the shadow of books. No, tonight is so much different, so much bleaker. The kindness of the gulf seems to have set with the sun.

It is such a small beach community for so many people to litter this little slice of heaven. The beach house, light
tan with soft pastel and white colored accents with a large sun bathing balcony, only rents four beds and yet this beautiful beach had several dozens of visitors on its little stretch of land. They could have spread out to the shores on either sides of this lot but they did not. They did not because they knew what I knew, that this section of beach was perfect. The sun stretched over us and was offered no invitation for quarter by monstrous condos, gray clouds, or tall trees. The gulf breeze swayed against our bodies as though it were dancing to its own serenade while the sugary white sands warmed our feet and massaged our heals. The saltwater offered refreshing retreat as it frolicked on our lips like the rim of a frozen margarita. Gentle waves offered both play and coddling as the seabirds flying above glided almost still, resting on the wings of the wind. Even the small fish and baby crabs could be seen sashaying in the translucent emerald green water. Of course these people did not spread out past the boundaries. Who would ever abandon this glimpse of heaven bathed in sunshine?

Maybe it was just a test. Now that I am deep enough to float and not stand the waves seem to have let up a bit on its attack. As I bob up and down, four feet up and four feet down, I am thankful my stomach is empty tonight. The gulf is starting to show some compassion by lending me its warmth, something it was lacking on the shore and on my walk in. It’s becoming difficult to keep above water however as the crest always bows to the trough; and my body must follow like a knight kneeling before its king. As I rise to the peak of each wave, I glance ashore to see if they are all still standing there. They are.

Looking back, their touch was warmer than I would have expected. I am surprised they were even able to wake me since I am such a heavy sleeper. I was gently awakened by a soft grab on my ankle and the grasp was strangely lukewarm and damp. There was an old comfort to it much like how my father used to wake me for school when I was a child. It made waking up to a room full of a dozen shadows a bit less petrifying…A tiny bit less horrifying.

As I sat up and buried myself as far into the headboard of the bed as I physically could, I took survey of my surroundings. There were exactly twelve of them, these shadow people with their onyx liquescent bodies; gray smoke dancing off and through their bodies like black liquid ice. They stood there standing motionless with various displays of body language and height. The shadow that touched me to wake me sat there at the foot of the bed, legs crossed with its hands rested gracefully. It was looking at me, or I think it was looking at me, I could not tell since there were no facial features. But I could feel them all looking at me. I could also hear them.

They all seemed to speak in unison with the same consciousness but with different, muffled sounds. It was whisper-like voices, some tones dragging behind others as they spoke like rapid and soft little echoes. It was haunting yet beautiful, spiritual. They told me that things were going to be okay and asked me to follow them out of the room. And so I did, into the hallway where several other smoky figures lined each side of the hallway, some leaning up against the dimly lit blue walls, others squatting casually, and some more like soldiers on guard, all staring at me as though I were walking the red carpet. As I passed the other bedroom I remembered my two daughters and husband fell asleep in the bunk bed room after an evening of board games and ghost stories. I asked if my daughters and husband were safe and they ensured that they were. I cannot explain why I trusted them. Maybe it was the thought of risking waking my girls to this strange and frightening spectacle. They did not need to experience whatever this was and if they did then I wanted my husband to be there to protect them.

As I entered the kitchen I noticed several other shadows, all standing throughout the space and living room, watching me as the first group guided me toward the backdoor that was facing the gulf. As I opened the door a winter-type chill smacked my body. It was abnormally cold for this time of year this far south and the rain was twice as frigid. I noticed on the sunbather’s porch, down the wooden-decked pathway and on the tall dunes there were several dozens more shadow people standing and watching me. I asked the group of shadows ahead of me who all of these people, these things, were. I asked where they were taking me and why were they all staring at me. With each question my voice began to tremble and fear started to overwhelm me like the cold did once I opened that door. They said that I would be alright and that they were the same as me. They were watching me because they wanted to welcome one of their own.

Soon I was ushered past the berm and toward the shore of the gulf. I stumbled through the thick and wet sand as they pointed me toward the violent blackness of the gulf. I understood that they wanted me to go in but I paused and asked what if I did not want to go into the deep. They stoically answered that I must trust them, “for there is no other choice.” And so I have.

I am losing my ability to keep my head above the waterline. Now the saltwater is burning my eyes and throat and panic is starting to sink in. On the horizon I begin to see a few shapes emerge from the audience of shadows and approach the water’s edge. One by one they enter the water; their smoky bodies illuminate the water with a stunning silver brightness radiating from their bodies. They are swimming toward me. I can no longer resist the urge to purge myself under the unyielding juggernaut of waves.

I sink and have released the last of my breath. I gasp in the sea. My lungs drink in the saltwater with the pressure of a water balloon at the end of a hose. I flail out to grab anything and nothing in a final attempt to pull myself toward life. Unexpectedly, I feel a familiar touch on my face, the same touch that woke me and put me toward this journey; my final dip in the gulf. He is face to faceless face with me now.

Two other silver shadows glide to each of my arms and hold my hand in a loving embrace, one hand to the shadow’s cheek, the other to its chest as a child would hold a teddy bear. I notice the shape of her glowing pigtails, the same pigtails she was wearing as she jumped up and down on the bed during her playtime with her father. I notice the other wearing a silhouette of a nightgown just like mine, one of a mother/daughter matching set I chose as a Christmas gift this past year. I gaze back forward and think to myself and to him, “I knew it was your touch that woke me, my love.” As my consciousness begins to fade, they lovingly guide me into the tender abyss, to our Elysium, making me another welcomed guest at the beach house.

by StupidDialUp

First Date

We met on OkCupid. I don’t like admitting this, but unfortunately there is no time left for shame or reputation.

I had just been through a pretty rough break-up and I didn’t feel like the whole bar-pickup-routine yet. But browsing around for potential rebounds on the internet meant I could just continue sitting at home in my boxershort living on Jack Daniels and frozen pizza. We’ve all been there.

So, there she was. Brunette. Great figure, fierce eyes and a snarling smile.
Her screen name was ‘Araneae’ and she was a beacon of attractiveness in a sea of otherwise rather mediocre women at best. Her written profile was a bit awkward though. It seemed filled out in a rush, hardly giving any info. The only thing she did elaborate on was sex. She made it really clear that this was a big priority, making me think that this was either a fake profile or that of somebody with nymphomaniac tendencies. But those pictures. God. I clearly remember her sitting straight up with her legs crossed, naked but obscured by her long hair and shadows. Mockingly looking straight at the camera, as if to say ‘good luck, you bunch of socially awkward nerds’.

Writing this is the only way I can get my mind off of what’s to come. So forgive me if I digress, but escaping in this writing is all I’ve got left.

Actually, I didn’t even feel like messaging her. If it wasn’t a fake profile she probably got hundreds of messages from desperate guys anyway. Now, I’m not a bad looking guy, and this whole internet dating thing was just a convenient way to get back on the saddle, but still she seemed a bit out of my league. I was really wondering why the fuck she needed to be on a site like this.

Then she messaged me.

‘So yeah, I saw you checked out my profile. You seem different than the other guys. Wanna meet up?’ – Nea.’

Really? This easy? A small pinch of distrust gnawed at me. Then I took a look at the overflowing ashtrays and whisky bottles littering my room. I scratched my two week old beard. Ahw hell.

We met up in a bar. It would’ve been much better for this story if it was a seedy place, but it wasn’t. Neither was it swanky. It was just one of those regular bars, one that was convenient for both of us. It didn’t matter though, even if we had met in a sewage processing plant I’d still have been completely smitten with her.
As soon as she stepped in, all the guys in the bar turned their heads. And I am not exaggerating here. ALL the guys turned to look at her. And followed her with their heads as she walked up to me and kissed me on the cheek. I felt like the coolest dude in the world at that moment.

I hear sirens. Could it be that finally…no, they passed. I don’t know exactly how much time has passed, but I’m sure I’ve been reported missing by now.

So there she was. Tall. Low cut black dress. Eyeliner around almond eyes that made her face even more feral. That snarling smile baring perfectly straight teeth. And her smell, God, that smell. It was overwhelming. Musky. Animal. But I never met anyone that smelled that good. Every time she moved her arm to emphasize a word or raise her glass of wine I caught it, and it drove me wild. Each little whiff of that mesmerizing scent got me closer to a primal state of pure sexual lust.

We talked for maybe an hour. She was a good conversationalist, but there was still something awkward about our talks. It seemed she had no interest at all in regular topics such as music, art or movies. She was very quick in steering the conversation away from that. Back to me. She seemed extremely curious about my last relationship and history with women. I told her some funny stories about awkward moments I’ve had with women, at which she laughed before pressing on with the questions. I’ve never talked that much about sex on a first date ever, and she greedily ate up every one of my stories.

We went to her place that same night. I offered to take her to dinner but she said we could ‘order in’. Knowing perfectly well what that meant, I hastily paid the tab and basically hijacked the first taxi available.
As soon as we got in, she was all over me. If she hadn’t had her hand down my pants I might’ve taken notice of the address she gave the cab driver. If she hadn’t been smothering me with aggressive kisses the entire trip I might’ve known where the hell I am right now. But she’s smart like that.

As soon as we were inside (passionately making out the whole way from the cab to the front door) she offered me a drink. Her apartment was bare, all the blinds were closed and she had hardly any furniture. No pictures on the walls either. I didn’t think much of it then, thought she was probably one of those minimalists.
The cocktail she brought me was refreshing. Kind of like a Sidecar, really sour and tangy. But delicious at the same time.

Then she jumped me again. She threw me on the couch, one of the few pieces of furniture she owned, and before I knew it we were ravaging each other. I’m not writing this for you to get your kicks, so I won’t go into details. But it was hard. It was mean. Her scent unleashed all my primal desires. It was heaven.

Until the room started spinning. Until our movements got me into a trance and I started tripping out. I couldn’t move. And then the flashes started. Her perfect body distorting for milliseconds. There were too many black eyes. There were spindly, chitinous legs. Sometimes her body seemed to exist of too many sections. And her smell, so mesmerising at first, became rotten and dusty. Like flies that have been drying for too long in a windowsill. Her nails in my chest started to hurt, but she was still riding me with grim determination.
The flashes became quicker, like a stroboscope. She kept changing before me. Legs. Eyes. Mandibles. Chitin. Flesh. Teeth. I was horrified. I wanted to cry, to gag, to get out, but she had me pinned.

And I came.

As soon as I did, she started laughing. A horrible, triumphant laugh, while I lay sobbing beneath her. But suddenly the laughing made place for a snarl. A disgusted, disappointed grunt. She screamed. That scream. That horrible, animal, otherworldly scream. I still shudder when I think of it. She looked down at me with fierce hatred in her eyes, and started to maul me.

She beat me black and blue. I think she even broke my nose. I was covered in a flurry of punches, bites and scratches until I passed out.

And woke up in this room. This room filled with human bones. This windowless room with those strange, dried up leathery egg shaped things. Egg shaped things with holes in them, like something had crawled out some time ago.
I can hear her scuttling outside. Once or twice a day she comes in to bring me a sandwich and some water. Sometimes she sits with me and strokes my hair.

I think I know what she wants from me. I think I know why she´s keeping me alive. I must´ve been here for nearly a month now. It´ll be that time again soon.

I wonder how long it takes for her to find out I´m infertile.

by TeawithCrowley

Jellyfish

Let me tell you something about jellyfish.

    A typical jellyfish goes through four stages in life: it starts out as a floating larvae, which looks for a suitable site to evolve into a polyp, which then eventually strobilates into a medusa, or, the form of the jellyfish we are most familiar with. Strobilation means that the polyp pushes off a part of itself that becomes a medusa.
    Now, if that isn’t fascinating enough for you, there are also a species of jellyfish that can revert their medusa form back to the polyp stage, which then again creates a medusa, which can revert back to a polyp and so on.
    Basically, this type of jellyfish is immortal.
    As you probably can imagine, modern medical science is very much interested in this species. Very much indeed. I should know, because, well, let’s just say II have a ‘friend’ that used to experiment with this specific jellyfish exactly for that reason.
    My friend is a synthetic biologist, meaning he knows all about genes and how to manipulate, reproduce or alter them. So needless to say, when he got invited to join a project that gave him all the time and resources to truly study these creatures, he didn’t need to be asked twice.
    It started out innocently. The pharmaceutical company paying for the operation stayed out of it, and he had a lovely laboratory filled with all the equipment and assistants he could possibly need. Microscopes, separation centrifuges, a powerful analytic computer and of course state of the art salt water tanks with all the climate controlling options necessary. Months went by while he happily did his research, studying the jellyfish in it’s various stages. Analyzing it’s genetic structure, doing tests, basically practicing good, honest science.
    Then he isolated a couple of genes that might be of use. Genes controlling rejuvenation and transformation of the species. And of course, that’s when things went bad.
    It started with the new tanks coming in. Their shape and size had nothing to do with jellyfish. Then the assistants he had grown to like and trust all got fired one by one. New assistants came in, but they seemed cold, distant. Oh, they’d do what he’d tell them, but there was no friendly banter, no jokes, just bare professionalism. Then came the semen. And the ova. Human semen and ova. And he knew what was expected of him. He went to work.
    Changes were made to the laboratory while he worked. One part was cleared and a glass room build into it, outfitted with a bed, a table, a television, one of the new tanks and something that could only be an echoscope machine.
    One day, an employee of the undisclosed pharmaceutical company walked in. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked. My friend knew what the man meant. He tried to explain that while he had managed to add parts of the isolated DNA to both sperm and eggs and could potentially fertilise the egg with the modified sperm, they were no way in hell far enough to take the experiment further. The man’s reply was simple: ‘My employees think you are’.
    Any sane men would have stopped right there, but my friend had gone so obsessed and fascinated by his research that he let his curiosity get the better of him. So they brought in the woman. Young. Scared. Meth scabs on her face. It was obvious it was either this or getting beat up by her pimp for her. They put her in the room, supplied him with the necessary amounts of pharmaceutically engineered methylamphetamine to keep her from going cold turkey and that was that.
    He kept her there for a week at first just to clean her up, to put her on a healthy diet (well, as healthy as you can get while regularly administering generous doses of methylamphetamine in the meantime) and watched her getting more and more comfortable. I can’t even begin to imagine what her previous life would’ve been like if she’d prefer the sterile environment of this laboratory over it. She asked him to call her Lucy.
    After a week he couldn’t hold back his ‘assistants’ any longer. It was time for Lucy to be inseminated.
    He spend hours talking to Lucy the next months. He got to know her pretty well, and while she was not the brightest of the bunch, she was cooperative and liked to joke around. The contrast with her and his surly new assistants was so big it was hard for him not to take a liking to her.
    Then her mood changed. She started talking less and used to sit on the bed for hours, just staring at the tanks of jellyfish and polyps in the lab. When she was halfway through her pregnancy she stopped eating until the day some assistants were having sashimi for lunch. Suddenly she said she was hungry again and could she have some please. She ate nothing but raw fish and seaweed after this.
    Once a week another doctor came in to do the echoscopes, which were carefully hidden from my friend for some reason. Sometimes he tried to peek over the doctors shoulder but there were always some assistants ‘accidentally’ in the way for him to see anything. The face of the doctor meanwhile might’ve been cut from stone. No expression there that’d give away anything.
    A month before labor Lucy stopped talking altogether. She barely reacted to anybody, just sitting on the edge of her bed and staring. The only thing that could get any reaction out of her, if ever so brief, were the two daily doses of methylamphetamine she was still on. Since they were monitoring her day and night, they found out that she had also stopped sleeping. At least, as far as they could call her current state ‘awake’.
    My friend did sleep however, although he wished he didn’t. The dreams were atrocious. Something was talking to him, wetly, but always just beyond understanding. He often woke to the feeling of tendrils on his face, stinging him straight out of sleep. Must be the strain of the experiments, he figured.
    Then Lucy died. She just, well, stopped. With tears in his eyes he called his superior, to whom her death was obviously no concern. Within half an hour a team of men in hazmat suits barged into the lab and obscured the glass room with plastic sheets. He wasn’t allowed in, but he could hear things. A sickening ripping sound. Something, hardly human, that could’ve been the sound of a baby crying, had the sound not been so, for lack of a better term, gelatinous. It took them only fifteen minutes to walk out with one of the special, later delivered tanks. He couldn’t see what was in it for the briny liquid that filled it halfway to the top. Only a vague floating shape. A vague, moving, floating shape.
    After that it was all “thanks for your cooperation professor,” “hope to work with you again.” and then “off you go.” Of course, he never heard from any of them again, let alone worked with them.
    My friend still dreams every night, but now the moist, sloshing voice is more understandable. A lot of what it says he still can not decipher, but the final message, right before he wakes up, is always clear:

“Let me tell you something about jellyfish. Basically, they are immortal.”

by TeawithCrowley

(This was an exciting story for me because, as some of you may know, the New York Times recently published an article on this very subject.)