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A woman stood in a cemetery looking out over the ocean. The sky was dark, the waves hissing and crashing with a vengeance. The woman strained her eyes into the darkness. A pair of eyes, wicked and hungry, returned her gaze. She jumped back, shaking. A priest, who had been standing a respectful distance away, hurried over.
“Are you all right?” He put a hand on her shoulder. She turned to him, her face pale and scared, and she did not seem to see him. “Ma’am?” Hesitantly, he removed his hand from her shoulder. Without the weight of his hand, she crumpled to her knees in the damp grass. “Ma’am!”
“Do you see it?” Her eyes were wild.
“I’m not sure what you mean, but why don’t we leave. It’s getting late.” He held out a hand, but she ignored it.
“It’s out there,” she said, her voice thick with unshed tears. “It killed her, and it’s still out there!” Her voice rose, ragged and hysteric. “It killed her, and it’s still there waiting for its next victim!”
“I understand that you’re upset, but Morgan drowned. There is nothing out there that hurt her or anyone else.” The priest took the woman by the elbow and tried to lead her out of the graveyard, but she resisted.
“Where is her body, then? Where is she?” The woman stared at the priest, willing him to believe her. He made no response, just gently tugged her elbow to lead her away. “It’s out there…”
The same priest stood beside her a respectful distance from the uncovered grave. The water was the same, still rough and dark and salty and frightening beyond the fence. There was someone standing at the fence, looking out over the sea with the same broken posture the woman had, but this was not that woman. The woman hurried forward and knelt beside a small girl who stood at the fence.
“Honey, let’s go. It’s late.” The woman held out a hand to the girl, her nine year old niece Morgan, her new ward.
“Yes, Aunt Lisa,” Morgan responded, but she made no move to leave, and left Lisa with her palm expectantly outstretched and empty.
“Honey, let’s go,” Lisa repeated, and she bent to take Morgan by the arm. As Lisa’s hand brushed Morgan’s arm, the child jumped away.
“Don’t touch me!” She hissed, her eyes filling with tears, and she whirled and ran.
Fog rolled in off the sea, dark and menacing as the ocean itself. It stretched out hungry fingers, wrapping them around the rotting, graffiti and barnacle covered legs of the boardwalk, around the tiny, worn houses teetering on stilts, around the long unused rides on the boardwalk that punctured the sky like rusted skeletons. People stayed inside on foggy days like this one, hiding from those clammy fingers behind shuttered windows and locked doors. The only person outside was Morgan, prowling the beach.
“Morgan!” Lisa stood on the weathered steps of her tiny house, peering hesitantly into the fog for her niece. The fog was too thick for Lisa to see anything at all. “Morgan!” She sighed and raked a hand through her hair. Morgan had been completely unmanageable since the moment she’d stepped into Lisa’s house six years ago. Something inside her seemed broken in a way that Lisa could not fix, and she would never let Lisa get close enough to try. Lisa leaned forward, straining for a sign of her niece, and heard the faint slap of sneakers on sand.
Lisa whipped her head around at the sound of Morgan’s sneakers. She lifted one foot to step into the fog, but couldn’t bring herself to lower it. Growing up in the town had given Lisa an inherent fear that once you had stepped into fog like this you never came out. She couldn’t let Morgan disappear into the fog. She shook herself briskly, then hurried after her niece.
Morgan reached the jetty, Lisa panting behind her. The waves broke so ferociously on the jetty that they seemed like sharks in a bloodlust. Morgan climbed onto the jetty and walked across the slippery rocks to the point. She stared down into the depths of the ocean, not seeming to notice the waves slamming into her ankles. A cry built in Morgan, raw and real, and she screamed into the fog. Far below the crashing waves, an ancient nightmare heard her, awakened from a slumber of many years, and slowly licked its lips.
Morgan reached into the pocket of her sweatshirt as the echo of her scream rang on in her ears and in the ears of her nightmare at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. A silver blade lit the area around her with the ghost of sunlight. Morgan pushed up her sleeves painstakingly slowly. Her arms were pale and thin, the left covered by a row of precise red lines. Morgan grasped the knife more firmly in her right hand, lifted it high, and brought it screaming down into her arm. Blood ran in rivers down her arm to the nightmare, whose face was slowly lit by an insane look of bloodlust, and to Lisa, who was shocked and horrified.
As every town has its history, so it has the legends that spring from it. The old men of the town sat in their rockers on their porches, sucking pipes, and talked of the nightmare in the water to the eager ears of children.
They say that there is a nightmare that lives at the base of the jetty in that very town. She haunts the jetty, forever searching for the blood of anyone who dares to swim. They say she used to be human, that she lived in this town many years ago. They say that in recent times she has hibernated, biding her time until a scream and blood awakened her and let her reign of terror begin again.
Lisa was determined to follow Morgan again. Since the week after the last fog, Morgan had disappeared down the beach day after day, and Lisa wanted to know why. Lisa wanted to know so much about Morgan, because the last time she had truly known Morgan was when she was nine. The silent, reclusive fifteen year old that lived in her house was so different from the bubbly nine year old chatterbox she used to know. Lisa sighed and let herself get lost in her memories. Morgan appeared suddenly, drenched and smelling faintly of rust. She reached out a hand toward her aunt, then shook her head and turned away, heading to the jetty again. Lisa jumped up, startled, and looked after her niece’s receding figure. The only sign that Morgan had been there was a set of wet footprints leading down the steps. Lisa glanced at the sky. Fog was rolling in off the sea, clammy fingers reaching toward Lisa already. Before she could chicken out, Lisa strode down the steps and followed her niece.
Lisa arrived just as the nightmare hoisted itself from the water. She gasped, nearly giving herself away, and quickly crouched behind the jetty to stare at this strange creature. Both her teeth and her nails were disturbingly sharp, and her eyes were fixed unblinkingly on Morgan’s throat. Lisa heard them murmuring back and forth but couldn’t make out the words, so she climbed onto the jetty and crawled hesitantly toward them.
“…it’s just that you’re the closest thing I’ve had to a mother in such a long time,” Morgan said, looking vulnerable and young. The woman reached out and tucked Morgan’s hair behind her ear, then put an arm around her. Morgan leaned into the woman, and Lisa felt a sharp twinge. Some strange woman meant more to Morgan than the aunt she’d lived with for six years?
“You’re like the daughter I never had. We can be so happy together down below.” The woman crooned.
“I… What about my Aunt Lisa?” Morgan seemed so hesitant and childlike that Lisa longed to hold her, and began to crawl closer to Morgan and the woman.
“If she cared about you the way I do, she wouldn’t leave you so alone,” the woman whispered. Lisa recoiled and let out a little whimper. Didn’t Morgan see how hard Lisa had been trying to be close to her all these years? Morgan didn’t appear to notice her whimper, but the woman stiffened and looked hungrily at Lisa. The woman reminded her of the legend she’d heard as a child. Goosebumps rose on Lisa’s arms and she began to crawl hesitantly backwards. Clumsy and frightened, she slipped and fell. Morgan turned around at the sound, shock in her eyes.
“Aunt Lisa! You-you’re spying on me?” Guilt flooded Lisa. Morgan looked so shocked and hurt.
“You see? She wouldn’t eavesdrop on you this way if she loved you like I do,” the woman said, but her voice choked on the word ‘loved’ in an odd way, as if she were lying. Lisa was suspicious, but Morgan was nodding, trusting the woman.
“I’ll come with you,” she said. The woman smiled, relief and happiness washing her face, but it seemed a mask over an insatiable hunger.
“Oh, darling, you’ve just made me very happy,” the woman said, hugging Morgan. Morgan was stiff in her arms, looking hesitantly at her aunt.
“Aunt Lisa…” She trailed off, apparently at a loss for words. Lisa nodded mutely. Something was wrong with the picture in front of her. The woman’s yellow teeth were lightly grazing Morgan’s neck. Morgan pulled back and stared at the woman, confusion slowly turning to terror in her eyes. The woman grabbed Morgan’s shoulders and pulled her into the ocean. Morgan’s head went under, blond hair fanned over the surface. Lisa screamed, thoughts of the old legend filling her head. Morgan’s head popped over the waves, gasping for breath. Lisa scrambled to the edge of the jetty and thrust her hand wildly at Morgan, but the woman intercepted it, pulling Lisa into the water too. Lisa screamed again and wrenched herself backwards wildly, slamming into the jetty. The woman calmly placed a hand on Morgan’s neck and began to squeeze. Morgan thrashed wildly, and soon her thrashing turned into the hanging man’s jig. Lisa threw herself forward toward Morgan, yanking desperately at her niece’s hair to pull her away from this woman. The woman bit viciously at Lisa’s hands. Shocked, Lisa jumped back, and the woman bit into Morgan’s arm. Lisa stared in horror at the scar covered arm. Unable to react, she sat back and stared as the woman messily devoured Morgan. The woman released what was left of Morgan and advanced on Lisa, who suddenly sprang back to life and scrambled away backwards. The woman smiled obscenely, her teeth red with blood.
“You’ll be next,” she whispered. She grasped Morgan’s neck and pulled her under, leaving only a trail of blood that slowly spread and sank as Lisa watched. Lisa bowed her head and sobbed.
“I know it’s out there! I saw it eat Morgan, and it’s going to eat someone else, but no one will believe me!” Lisa gripped the table before her with both hands and stared into the eyes of the therapist before her, willing the woman to believe her.
“Ma’am, the story you’ve just told me sounds highly unbelievable,” the therapist replied.
“You have to believe me! You have to!” Lisa’s voice rose to a shriek.
“Take a look at this, please.” The therapist handed Lisa a piece of lined paper.
Dear Aunt Lisa,
I’m sorry, but I have to do this. Don’t be upset that I’m gone, because I was never happy…
Lisa tore her gaze from the paper and shook her head wildly, crumpling it without finishing reading. “You forged this! You’re lying!”
“I’m sorry, but your niece wrote this herself. There is no monster.”
“There is! There is!” Lisa screamed, writhing. The therapist sighed and pressed a buzzer on her desk. Two men entered, one holding a straightjacket. They wrestled Lisa into the jacket and led her out the door as she continued to scream. The therapist wrote out a prescription for antipsychotic medication and faxed it to the state’s mental institute.