Ceile Miller was in danger of drowning.
Somehow, she managed to swallow one last mouthful of crisp October air as she felt herself pulled down again. The cold tendril wrapped tightly around her ankle contrasted sharply with the warm water surrounding her.
She looked up through the shimmery surface of the water and saw the full moon dancing in the black sky. A small air pump for inflatables was a wrinkly silver box sitting next to the pool.
Ceile had just wanted to take a quick swim before going to bed. By herself. In the quiet. To calm her down in order to help her sleep. She had found being physically spent often made the arduous task of chasing slumber easier to play. The kids’ fake-scary costumes were packed away, the excess candy had been hastily stored in the pantry, and she had again refused to take her medication.
A whole week had gone by and she felt more alive now than ever. With her husband away for a few days on business (another ill-timed trip, if you asked her), she hadn’t been sure if she could handle her job, the kids, Halloween chaos, everything. But her doctor had said she’d be fine. That this could even be good for her. Her husband half-heartedly offered to cancel his trip. She refused, deciding to be stronger than she felt.
When he returned tomorrow, would he find nothing more than her body floating in the pool?
Her lungs began to hurt.
She definitely felt something solid around her ankle. Ceile flailed her arms and legs, scrambling for the tiled edge of the pool for a bit of leverage. Too far away. The cold vice tightened its grip.
Ceile looked down past her body, through the warm-yellow glow of the pool lights. An outline. Like oily film. A human shape of water on water.
It even had a face. Twisted, grotesque, malformed, its mouth-hole open wide.
Ceile heard a muffled underwater scream and realized it was hers. With her free leg, she kicked in slow motion against the water thing. Her foot landed against solid cold.
Ceile’s lungs burned.
She kicked again into the cold pocket and this time the grip loosened. She was free!
She rocketed to the surface, exploding into the warm, Florida night, gulping in huge mouthfuls of sweet lilac-saturated air. Without stopping, she scrambled out of the pool.
Behind her, a column of water slowly rose, morphing and taking on a human shape.
Ceile looked down at the air pump. Moving swiftly, she kicked the small box into the pool, its long black cord still connected to the outlet.
As soon as it hit the water, sparks shot out, the pool lights flickered, and blue tendrils of current danced along the surface. In the strobe effect, Ceile saw the water shape convulsing in pain. An inhuman cry of fingernails on a chalkboard slid out of the monster’s gaping mouth.
Smoke from the fried pump scorched Ceile’s eyes and she turned away for a moment. When she looked back, the watery assailant was gone.
There was no creature. The pool was empty. Except for an unmoving, shadowy figure floating on the surface.
A thousand spiders creepy-crawled along Ceile’s spine.
She would have to start taking her meds again.
Smoky tendrils wafted up off her husband’s body. Home early from his business trip.