The Dead Walk Out of the Sea by Rachel Frankki
“Mom do we really have to go to the beach today? It’s so cold out!” I groaned and dragged a withered beach towel over my shoulders. It was the middle of October and my Mom wanted to go the beach. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t understand it. All I could expect from today was a swimming trip that left you unable to feel any source of warmth for the next few days.
“Yes, Jessica! You know it’s going to be so much fun!” She shouted from behind the red cooler she was pulling out of the trunk. The sky looked as though a storm was going to roll in within a few hours and of course we were going to be the idiots stuck in the thick of it. Fully submerged in black lake water nonetheless.
“Didn't you see the radar for today? It’s supposed to be a precursor to the start of winter storms.”
“Bullshit! Quit your whining and come give me a hand.”
Reluctantly, I helped her haul the other towels and food over to a sandy spot on the shoreline. It wasn’t even heated by the sun that was barely peeking through the clouds. More so, the dismal sand was damp and solid under my feet. My legs were covered in goosebumps but that didn't stop my mom from lathering sunscreen all over my face like she was spreading margarine in a cookie pan. The sentiment was appreciated but at the same time, the sunscreen was totally unnecessary.
After we were fully protected from the fading sunlight, Mom ran full speed into the water while shrieking with delight. The water shot up in droplets that would have been more beautiful in July. I tried to be happy as I ran after her, but something just didn't feel right. The air was ripe with the stench of dead fish and a bitter wind had picked up. Any beauty that the lake had held was easily diminished due to the time of year.
I plunged head first into the frigid dark water and didn't feel any sort of relief that I would have if it had been perfect swimming weather. Instead, my insides instantly froze in shock. People really did this for fun? Kicking back up to the surface, the autumn air whipped at my face. This must have been how Rose felt with icicles in her hair in the middle of the Atlantic. It’s no wonder so many of those people died of hypothermia, my extremities were already going numb.
“Isn’t this fun?” Mom splashed water at me. “Ugh, it is the perfect day for a swim.”
“Mom this water is colder than what comes out the fridge, why are you having so much fun?”
“Why aren’t you having fun? I mean c’mon, the fish are nibbling at our legs and the wind is giving us a nice breeze!”
I had noticed something seemed to be grabbing at my legs, but it didn't necessarily feel like fish. Not to mention the fact that fish typically stayed away from any source of jagged movement. Unable to generate any source of body heat, I swam myself back to shore. Wrapping myself in all the towels we had, I still couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering against one another. Mom was floating around on her back. All she needed was a mimosa and sunlight to make it actually seem like a summer scene. I shook my head and pulled the towel over it. I probably looked like a little Russian lady preparing for winter while wrapping myself in every fabric I could get my hands on. Closing my eyes for a second, I tried to rub my hands together to gain some sort of warmth but to no avail.
Looking up over the horizon, my mom let out a shriek. I figured she was just happy to be swimming in a frozen wasteland but then it seemed as though she was struggling against something. The second I opened my mouth to call out to her, she was thrust under the surface. Throwing off my protection, I ran back into the water to where my mom had been. Shouting and diving for her, it was as though she had fully disappeared in a matter of seconds. I went out to the middle of the lake, diving under with my eyes open but all I could see was the murky green water and my pruned skin trying to uncover something that wasn’t going to appear.
Surfacing again, I saw a figure sitting on the shoreline. I called out but they remained still as though they hadn’t heard me. I called again and they looked up. Running back as fast as I could, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this person looked as though they were dead but alive. Blood dripped down their skull as two black eyes looked at me with apathy. Their skin was a sagging pale color and devoid of life, as though they had crawled out of a grave. Long hair cascaded down their back in knots and a tangled mess as if they had been dragged to their death.
“Jessica?” The person asked. “Baby, please stop looking for me.”
“Who are you?”
“It’s me, baby, your mom.”
“No, my mom is alive. Something happened to her just now. You need to help me!”
“I can’t help you baby, I’m gone, I’ve been gone, you need to stop.”
“What do you mean you’ve been gone?” I shrieked in hysterics. “This just happened! Please, get your ass up and help me! She was somewhere not far from where I am now.”
“I know exactly what happened,” She said solemnly while laying backwards onto the sand as blood began to pool under her hand. The ground became darker. Fuming, I pulled myself out of the shallow water and approached the figure. It was my mother's body, but was it really her? The resemblance was uncanny almost as if my mother was the one who had been truly put through hell.
“What do you mean you know what happened? You look like you’ve been dead and decomposing for years! My mother just vanished, there’s still a chance to find her and get her help.”
“No, there’s not.”
“Yes, there is!” I threw my hands up. The woman rose up in a flash to throw her clammy hands stiffly around my neck.
“Jessica, I witnessed everything that happened. I am your mother you stubborn bitch. They took me and there was nothing I could do to stop their power. They’re too strong and now they’re going to come after you to enact vengeance on me!”
“What--? What the fuck are you talking about? Who’s coming for me? There’s no one here!”
“Them,” My mother’s corpse whispered before falling down to the ground. Had every single bone in her body just broken? I tried to help her back up but the body seemed to be devoid of life.
“No, no, no, you can’t play some sick prank on me and then act like you’re dead.”
Setting her body gently down on the rocky shore, seaweed began to grope at my ankles. Swatting it back into the water, I placed my hands together to start CPR. I pushed down and heard a loud crack as her rib cage broke through to her organs. My hands were wrist deep in what felt like raw pumpkin guts. My mother’s own intestines… A maniacal choral of laughter surrounded me and as I looked up, more of the half dead bodies were surfacing from the water. I had no choice but to run.
Giving my mother’s body once last look of agony, I sprinted out of the shoreline and ran back towards our belongings. Snatching the car keys from the top of the cooler, I continued to run away from the hobbling bodies. For people who were meant to be dead, they sure did move fast. Slamming my car door shut and stuffing the key into the ignition, Katy Perry’s voice came through the speaker. If only my Mom was still here with me to hear her voice one last time.
I glanced to my right. Mom was sitting in the passenger seat whole and human again. It was as though dead bodies hadn’t just come out of the water or as though I hadn’t just completely collapsed her rib cage. The blood was still on my hands, the goosebumps still on my skin, it had all been real.
And yet it somehow hadn’t.
“You thought you could escape me?” She chuckled before the world went black.