Fiction Suspense

Last night I was in the black water. It happened the way it always happens. I wake up lying face up on ground that is covered by 2 inches of black water. No sky, no land; it’s a void. Yet the water ripples in places all around me. Somewhere far away, I hear The Elk slowly walking through the black water, the splashing sound playing against the sound of hooves against glass. The ground is obsidian. The Elk is a ghost. He will have left hoofprints of blood in his wake; they will have melted and spread through the water in ephemeral swirls until they are gone. He follows me everywhere, but I never see him here; I only hear him. The black water is an omen. The Elk is a harbinger. I sit up, my bones slipping against the black glass, to look around. Sometimes, I see a hand reaching from one of the ripples. Not this time.

I wake up, lying face up in bed. My chest feels like haunted wind chimes and everything is too bright. Remembering the void, I lift the blankets to look down at my clothes, as if they’d be wet. But there are only the usual signs of the previous night - marks where I dug my nails into my palms, and blood smeared on the sheets from the bleeding. The metal feeling. It’s too bright; I can’t breathe. I turn to the night table and open the drawer to find my klonopin. One is not enough and three is too many.

Someone is going to die.


“Someone is going to die,” I tell my friend, sitting across from her at the marble breakfast bar in her brand-new kitchen. “I’m telling you, every time I have The Blackwater Dream, someone dies. Like, within a couple days.”

She looks at me, incredulously. I watch her try to quell her reaction, think about how to respond, and then finally say, “I don’t want to say I don’t believe you. But that’s a lot. I thought you weren’t even religious.

“I’m not. It’s not religion, it’s a pattern. Literally every time I have this dream someone I love disappears.”

“How do you know? Have you ever seen it happen? And do they die or disappear? You honestly sound like you’ve just been mixing klonopin and wine again, you get fuckin’ weird on that shit.”

Exasperated, I roll my eyes and sigh. I know it’s a lot, but she’s supposed to be my person. I didn’t think we had boundaries. So I look down, stir my tea with that ridiculously small spoon and mumble, “Yeah, you’re right; it’s probably nothing.”


But I can’t get the dream out of my head. Or the sound of The Elk’s hooves against the flooded obsidian. Or the cold. The empty. I just have this overwhelming feeling of foreboding. So I try again.

Walking up the hall stairs to my brother’s apartment, I get more nervous and more calm at the same time. He loves me. He has always understood me. But I haven’t told him this before. I’m worried he’ll think I’m just like Mom. She was about my age when it started.

Knocking on the door, I take a deep breath. If I seem rattled, he’ll think something’s wrong with me.

When he opens the door, he immediately gets that familiar smirk on his face and gives me a hug. “What a nice surprise! Wait, why are you here?”

“I need to talk to you about something,” I reply as I walk in, wriggle out of my coat and throw it on the sofa table.

“Well that sounds serious. Want a beer?”

I nod my head and he turns towards the kitchen, reappearing moments later with two glass bottles in his hands. He pops the cap on one of them with his teeth and hands it to me. 

“Thanks.” I sit down in the chair across from him, sat on the couch.

He takes a long sip - “Alright, so spill. What’s up?”

“I had that dream again. The one with the black water.” I look up at him from my beer bottle to gauge his reaction. He furrows his brow and takes another sip.

“The one that like, “predicts the future?”” He sarcastically does the finger quote thing, rolls his eyes, then leans back and takes another swig of beer. He burps. “You’ve really gotta cool it with this shit, sis; people are gonna think you’re like Mom.”

“Fuck - seriously, dude? You’re gonna pull that on me right out of the gate?” I’m angry. “Do you not remember your friend from football who got in that random car accident? Or our cousin who - perfectly healthy - just dropped dead the day before graduation five years ago? Christ, do you not remember Mom? You know she didn’t hang herself; that’s just what they wrote on the chart to avoid liability.”

“Mom was sick. You’ve got to stop with these conspiracy theories. People die randomly. Accidents happen. And I do remember Mom. I remember when we were little I’d wake up to grab you into my room with me because she would stand over your bed for hours like a fucking ghost. I remember the time she showed up at my piano recital screaming about the demons that were coming to get her. I remember the time I found you outside in the fucking snow with nothing but a diaper on and she was just standing in the living room, staring out the window at you. And, christ - when I carried you inside - you were TWO - and asked her what in the actual fuck she was doing, she said she had to clean the evil off of you. So yeah. I remember.” He spat the last sentence at me as if he saw her face in mine.

I don’t know what to say. And the way he is looking at me feels like blood that will never dry. So I set my beer down on the coffee table and leave. He didn’t move. He didn’t say a word.


There’s only one other person I can try to warn: Grandmother. So, putting myself back together after that awful scuffle with my brother, I head to her house. It’s getting dark outside. Almost one day down. And I never know when it’s going to happen. Or to whom.

When she opens the door to see me on her stoop, she smiles at me the way no one else ever has and takes me in her arms. Within minutes, she’s making me something to eat as I sit in her kitchen wondering if this will be too much. After everything with her daughter. But I know Grandma believes in the supersensory. She never called Mom crazy, not once, and most of the time when things got really bad she would try to keep Mom with her instead of The Ward. But as she got older she just… couldn’t. I know she blames herself for Mom's death.

“So, Grandma? I need to talk to you about something. And I don’t want you to worry about me. But nobody believes me and I just need to know what to do.”

“Oh, dear,” she mutters. And then in one quiet, graceful move, she sets the potato peeler down on the cutting board and comes to sit across from me at the table. “What’s going on, dear?” She looks worried. Of course she is.

“I had The Blackwater Dream again. And I know you used to tell me it was just nightmares, but Grandma - every time I have it, someone dies soon after. No one believes me. I don’t know what to do.”

She looks down and is silent for what seems like an eternity. She finally sighs and then slowly raises her head to meet my eyes, looking at me as if I’m someone she shouldn’t have let in her house. “Listen,” she grasps one of my hands in both of hers. “Listen. I love you, and I will always love you. But I can’t do this again. It’s too many years of my life. You need to get help, sweetheart. I can’t do it. I love you, but I need you to leave.”

When I look at her again, I start to cry. This is like all the nightmares where I scream until my teeth fall out, trying to warn everyone that something terrible is coming. But no sound comes out. Or no one believes me.

No one believes me. Maybe I am just like Mom….

And then the phone in the kitchen rings. Grandmother is probably the only person in this city who still has a landline. She gets up to answer it. “Hello?”... “Yes, this is she, what-”... “No, you can’t be-”... “No,” and she puts her free hand on her forehead. She looks stunned, and her eyes are becoming wet. She barely musters a “Thank you” before hanging up the phone and turning to look me dead in the face.

“What?” I ask.

“They found your father.”

I lose all the breath in my body. We hadn’t seen him since they found Mom hanging from the light fixture in her room at The Ward two years ago. All I can manage is another, “What?”

“They found your father. He’s... he’s in Colorado, he’s… he’s dead.” She never breaks eye contact with me while she struggles to get it out. “He was murdered on the street. They’re calling it a hate crime. Someone… someone stabbed him 13 times in the face and chest. He bled out before an ambulance could get there. He’s gone.” She looks down and then mutters, “I have to call your brother. You need to go.”

I’m not wanted anywhere. Not when I’m insane. Not when I’m an oracle. Not as myself. Not as anyone. So I leave what should have been a safe space for the third time that day. Cast away by each of the three people who are supposed to love me the most. And walking home in the dark, in the cold, hands tucked into my coat pockets, I can’t stop myself from quietly crying. Eventually, the tears run down my face and fall to the ground.

And against the snow covering the sidewalk, the water is black.

June 19, 2021 00:03

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Sarah Reilley
02:04 Jun 25, 2021

Oh. My. God. Have you read "The Only Good Indians"? This gives me that kind of creepy vibe... and it's brilliant! Your writing style is so strong and the clarity pulled me in. I have goosebumps. This is awesome!


Tatiana Olin
17:55 Jun 30, 2021

I haven't, but I'll check it out! Thanks so much!


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Stevie B
10:47 Jun 24, 2021

Tatiana, your tale had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. You have a very strong command and control of tension in your writing style.


Tatiana Olin
17:55 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you so much!


Stevie B
18:02 Jun 30, 2021

You're quite welcome!


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