Detective Farmer had finally thought of a suitable sacrifice. Nobody would miss Will Sloane. No registered address, history of drug dealing and abuse, shoplifter, pimp. A forgettable face she thought, as she studied his details she’d pulled up from the database, office finally to herself at 9pm. Yes. They’d welcome him into their world and ours would only be the richer. And then maybe they’d get off her back at last. Satisfied, Detective Farmer removed and pocketed the thumb drive, resolving to track the fucker down the next morning. The sooner this nightmare was over and she could get back to real work, the better for everyone. Well, except Will. She chuckled at that while she turned off the lights.
* * *
It had all started a fortnight ago when she and Detective Baker (if it’s nominative determinism you’re after, may I direct you to the children’s fiction section) were called out to Lake Satatnil. For the fourth time that year. Similar story to all the other cases connected to that spot over the years – teenage girls gone missing. Lake dragged. Nothing found.
“I swear we’ve got our own Bermuda Triangle here,” Detective Baker had grumbled. “Oughtta rename it as such.”
“What, and attract yet more troublesome teens?” Detective Farmer had countered. Baker grunted into his notepad and headed back to the car. Which is when Farmer first glimpsed a movement the other side of the lake. She made her colleague drive them round, keeping a keen eye out on the passenger side. Both agents walked along a little jetty and surveyed the surface of the water. All was calm. Farmer noted the fish sliding under the surface and wondered if what had caught her eye had been one of those boys doing a little backflip. Baker’s phone beeped, disturbing the rare moment of tranquillity.
“Boss wants us back. Let’s go.”
* * *
Farmer returned to the spot the next night, taking the neighbour’s Alsatian for a moonlit stroll. She longed for a dog of her own but knew it wasn’t feasible with the unpredictable nature of her work and its demands on her time, so she’d struck up a dog-sharing deal with Bert at No.21. Bert was getting on a bit and arthritis was slowing him down, so he was grateful for the help.
She hadn’t intended to walk all the way back to the little jetty, but her thoughts were a tangle of leads and cases, reports and suspects. It took the dog’s whines to snap her out of her mental maze and realise her feet were starting to slip as the pull of the lead dragged her down the muddy bank of the water’s edge. The reeds were rustling as though a family of water voles were having a wrestling match. Farmer felt a tightening around her ankle and cussed at the dog for getting her stuck into this debris, and then the words were swept out of her entirely as she was dragged by frightening force into the water.
Through the lake rushing past her ears at unnatural speed Farmer could just about make out Frodo’s howls. Farmer wanted to join the dog in the howling but instincts honed through years of training took over and she tried to conserve what little breath she had brought down with her. She tried twisting her body to see what it was that had captured her, but the lake was too dim and dirty. She briefly wondered, before she lost consciousness, why such a filthy site would be such a hotspot for daytripping teens.
Farmer’s eyes fluttered open and she tried to orient herself. Another slap bounced off her cheek and she turned to her attacker. The hand that had grabbed and dragged and was now pummelling her awake belonged to a 4’ urchin (a sea urchin, Farmer’s unhinged mind wanted to say), naked, hair looking like tendrils of seaweed floating around her and pallid skin that…wasn’t all there. Yes, Farmer could definitely make out the rocks that formed the lakebed through this thing’s ankles. Farmer’s lips parted while her mind, so used to dealing with the facts, tried to make sense of the image her eyes were reporting. She then realised she was breathing. Underwater. And a thin arm was raised as if to strike again. Her defence skills caught the blow in time.
“What the fuck is going on? Where am I? Who are you?” Farmer looked from left to right. She was standing in the centre of what appeared to be a whirlpool. She risked looking up and could see the moon. She turned back to the girl-thing. Her grey eyes met Farmer’s with an unsettling combination of steely resolution and desperate hope.
“We seek your help. We –”
“We?” Farmer glanced around again and saw faces emerging from the murky depths, drawing closer to her tunnel of precious oxygen. Moth-eaten-looking little hands pressed on the sides of the whirlpool. More and more faces, all female, gathered round as her captor said her piece.
“We need you to bring us a man. A good man, to worship. We will make him our king. All we seem to get down here is girls.” The faces all nodded in agreement. “Bring us a man and human visitors to the lake will be free from disturbance.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Farmer scoffed.
“Fail us and you’ll become us.” The walls of the whirlpool closed around her, and the faces, including that belonging to their spokeswoman again faded into darkness. Propelled upwards by an unseen force, the detective burst through the lake’s surface where she floundered, gasping for a moment, until Frodo’s barks had her swimming for the jetty.
* * *
She tried to put Tuesday evening out of her mind. Surreal, unexplained...these things did not belong in Detective Farmer’s world. She could manage that easily enough in the day, sure, but the words of the creature came back in her dreams. One morning she woke up shouting, thinking she was drowning, but she was just lying in a puddle of her own sleep-tossed drool.
Then it wasn’t just dreams. There was a bubbling in her glass of water. Whispers coming from her tap. She saw grey eyes in puddles. The last straw was the seaweed she found in the plughole of her bath.
Thank god she found Will Sloane. He was easily bribed to go with her to Lake Satatnil after she picked him up in one of the local dive bars. There you go, fishygirls, Farmer thought, as Will was dragged away as she had been two weeks prior. Have fun doting on your new boyfriend.
* * *
Farmer snapped her alarm off and rubbed the dust out of her eyes. Best night’s sleep she’d had in a long time. She swung her legs out of bed and heard her knees pop when she stood up. Oh no, best not be going the way of ol’ Bertie. Too young for that still. As she pulled on her dressing gown she wondered if Frodo would be free for a walk that evening. Sticking to woodland or well-lit roads this time.
She turned the bathroom radio on and hummed along to Elvis as she got into the shower. She turned her face up to the stream of water, no longer flinching from it. She swayed her head from side to side. Elvis became muffled as too much water went into her ear canals. Shit. She wiggled her earlobes with her fingers a bit and her hearing came back. The Elvis track was no longer being played and the radio presenter was chatting.
“Ugh, less talk-y more music please,” Farmer grumbled.
“You failed us!” The unmistakable voice of the lake creature hissed out of the radio. “We asked for a good man!”
Farmer screamed, stumbled and went crashing backwards into the tub. The last thing she saw as her world went dark were the ropes of seaweed slithering out of the shower head, up her writhing body, wrapping themselves tightly, too tightly and with familiar force around her neck.