My first horror story, would love it if you comment on what you think. One more thing, English is not my first language, so I apologize for any errors. Have a nice read / Hanna :)
Not many people can stay underwater without any equipment for seven minutes and come back up alive.
One of Noah’s friends, Oliver, had freediving as a hobby. With his daily breath-holding exercises combined with diving practice every Saturday, his record for staying underwater was four minutes, and whenever he got the opportunity, he would brag about that to his friends. Noah and Oliver went to the same school together when they were kids and one time when they were in third grade, Oliver convinced Noah to go underwater and hold his breath to see how long he would be able to take it. He had gotten that idea when on that same day, all third-grade students went on a field trip together to a nearby lake with their teacher, Mrs. Johnson. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about water pollution and how to prevent it, but most of their classmates paid more attention to jumping into the water from the big wooden bridge and trying to catch some fish with a net that they found lying in a nearby field.
After lunch that day when all the students were sitting on the bridge and Mrs. Johnson had to go away to answer a phone call, Oliver seized the opportunity. He grabbed his phone, told Noah to get ready, and started the timer. Noah took a deep breath, jumped into the lake, and after about fifteen seconds, he felt a wave of panic through his body and swam up to the surface again. The feeling of not being able to get any air was something he still remembered, and even though he hadn’t been in a dangerous situation that day, his body reacted like he was about to drown. Mrs. Johnson had even called both their parents after another classmate told her what happened, and they got grounded for a week after that.
“Don’t you remember?”, he suddenly heard Oliver say from one of his air pods. He had forgotten that he was on a call.
Without replying, Noah touched the screen on his phone and looked at the clock. Eight minutes had gone by. He started to bite one of his nails as he looked at the surface of the water. The only people that he saw were a mom and her son. They were right next to the big wooden bridge, playing with one of those inflatable footballs that they threw at each other.
10 years had passed since the day he visited this exact area on the field trip, and it still looked very similar to before. There were only a few things that gave away the time that had passed. The wood on the bridge had started to become a bit bleached from the sun, some planks were missing here and there, and the old, rusty ladder had been replaced with a bigger one. The green wooden planks of the café had been re-painted, and they had built a whole new area with a small bar closer to the water.
The tables around where Noah was sitting were full of people drinking iced coffee and cocktails, everyone focused on the view of the lake and their friends or family they were spending time with. Even though the sun was out and the temperature was higher than the weather forecast had predicted the day before, almost everyone wanted to stay on land. The water had become dirtier and dirtier every year from people throwing their trash here, and just last week, signs had been put up all around the area, warning people about diving and swimming. It was almost impossible to see further than a decimeter into the water.
The danger of ignoring the signs was not because of all the dirt and trash in the water, but because you couldn’t see where the sharp rocks on the bottom of the lake were anymore.
Noah looked at his phone and got back to the call.
“I remember. 4 pm at the tram station. See you then”, he said to Oliver before hanging up the call. He removed his headphone and turned around to look at the lifeguard, who was drinking an iced tea while glancing at the water where the mom and her son were playing. He seemed to direct all of his attention to them and the surrounding area, which made Noah a bit more relaxed.
But it had now been eight minutes since the woman entered the water, and Noah hadn’t seen one trace of her since. What caught his attention about her was the fire-like red hair and her height. She must have been at least 190 centimeters tall. The odds that the lifeguard hadn't noticed her must have been close to zero, especially since the majority of the people at the café had turned their heads to her when she was standing on the bridge before jumping in.
Noah had been in many of these situations where he felt like he should say something, and each one of those situations had ended in a good way without him intervening. This time, he did the same. After putting his headphone into his backpack, he started walking.
The tram station, Waldemarsudde, was about 10 minutes away, and being a huge time pessimist, Noah wanted to arrive a few minutes earlier than he had to.
The street was surprisingly empty considering how many people had been at the café. The sides of it were full of bushes and trees, and in a few places, there were gaps where you could get a view over the lake. It was a beautiful walk to take in the evenings, with the sun shining through the bushes and the streetlights turning on just before midnight. Even though it was very close to the city, there weren't many people who knew about this place since it was all the way to the edge of the island. Most people stopped at the station before this one, where there was an amusement park and a zoo located.
Noah was about fifty meters away from the tram when he heard footsteps in front of him. It sounded like someone running with a lot of force, and then stopping instantaneously, almost like a character in a video game. He looked up and saw the woman who had entered the water earlier. She was standing right next to the tram tracks, staring at him with water dripping out of her mouth. Her clothes were soaked, and her red hair looked dark brown now when it was wet. There was blood all over one of her legs, which had a big cut on it and her skin was looking pale and blue in some places.
Noah felt an adrenaline rush coming and his fight or flight response had almost kicked in when a tram crossed the tracks. It had a red sign on it, which meant it was going straight to the end station without stopping to pick up or leave passengers at stations. After a few seconds, it went around the corner and as he had thought for a split second when he first saw her, Noah couldn't see the woman anymore. The only one he saw was Oliver, he had just passed the corner of the street and was waving at Noah with a big smile on his face.
Noah started walking towards the tracks, his legs shaking a bit from the hallucination that he had just that. This had happened to him a few times before, when he overthinks something, he would have dreams or nightmares about it the next night, or sometimes even hallucinations. He came up to Oliver and they greeted each other with a tight hug, right before their tram came. It stopped, opened its doors and they scanned their tickets before sitting down in front of each other, next to a window. The tram was almost always empty when you entered it at this station, but since the amusement park was next, it would always be crammed for the rest of the trip.
"Time optimist", Oliver said with a grin, referring to Noah being early once again. Noah smiled and gave Oliver a light punch in the stomach, before looking out the window. The tram started moving and after a few meters, Noah's gaze stopped at the ground right next to the tracks. His heart leaped up in his throat when he saw that there was a big puddle of water where the woman in his hallucination had been standing a few minutes earlier.