Fiction logo

Down Where It's Wetter

A Short Horror Story

By Em StarrrrrPublished 5 months ago Updated 2 months ago 8 min read
Runner-Up in the Improbable Paradise Challenge
Down Where It's Wetter
Photo by Kym MacKinnon on Unsplash

At first glance we look like two kids eating tacos under the boardwalk, and since there are no second glances in a place like this I don’t bother hiding our haul.

Twelve wallets are fanned into a blatant spread in the sand - a bounty of pleather, leather, Glomesh and hemp, set up as a game of Memory between brothers.

“Patsy Fiske.” Blair repeats the name, brow arched.

He’s better at this game than me, but the moniker is a dead giveaway. There’s no way Patsy wasn’t rocking platforms and metallic gold in ‘77. I make my selection - Glomesh.

“Wrong. Again”

“What?” I snatch up the purse, check its contents. According to the ID inside, it belongs to a butcher named Harold.

“Patsy was the pleather girl, remember?”

I don’t.

Blair claims his prize. “Twenty-two dollars and an expired card. Thanks for nothing, Harold.” He pockets the goods, and tosses Harold onto the discard pile, next to Sarah Jakowski and Peter McSween Jr, then downs the last of his fish taco.

“You gonna eat that?” he asks, mouth full, gesturing to my untouched dinner. His manners have improved, at least. There was a time when he didn’t ask at all. I give him the taco.

“You don’t like the fish?”

“The fish is fine.” I have other things on my mind.

“You thinking about staying?”

I don’t reply, and he won’t ask again. He knows we never stay. Not even here on the island, where the pickings are easy, and the ocean air is thick with wholesome normality. We’ll move on and never speak of this place again - not a word about our spot under the pier, the waves at our feet, the hum of the half-shut amusement park. The beach, always empty, save for us and some harmless old geezer feeding cotton candy to the gulls.

Blair wants to stay but he knows I know best, so he bites his tongue along with the fish taco.

“If you could be anything in the sea, what would you be?” His words are minced with seafood and tortilla.

I shrug. “I dunno. A shark?”

“But you eat shark.”

“What can I say? It’s a shark-eat-shark world.” I cast my gaze out to sea. The sun is low on the horizon, scattered like gold dust on the water - should be a crime to witness such beauty.

“I know what I’d be,” he says. “A merman.”

“A what?”

“A merman.” As if a second uttering should make it more believable. “Half-fish, half-man. I’d wife me a mermaid, and live in the sea.”

“Live in the sea? You can’t even swim.” I don’t like it when he talks girls. The kid is a roadmap of broken promises - Olivia in Oregon, Sarah in Santa Rosa, Penny in Pescadero…he got that one inked in Old English on his pinky finger. An identifying mark, of all things.

“Yeah - well - fantasy.” Blair says no more about it.

Nothing like one of my put-downs to silence the mer-talk, and I know the swimming thing is a real sore spot with him. When I have time I used to promise him and then it was another town, and another town, and never any time. And now we’re in a place with palm trees and endless seas, and the kid can’t swim a stroke. He says none of this to me and takes another taco-bite.

We watch the sun fall and the sky burn black.

It’s best here when it's dark - when the ocean is murky, and the half-lit amusement park paints colours and shapes across the water’s surface. When we can hide in the safety of shadows.

“We’ll leave first thing tomorrow,” I announce.

He stays quiet. Probably still bummed about the swimming.

I gesture to our game of Memory. “Your turn or mine?”

He scores sixty-five bucks on the first round back in, thanks to Jennifer Hughes and her leather clutch, and his mood picks up. By the third round, we’re laughing again, and he’s up by a hundred bucks, and it makes no sense when he suddenly freezes. Back stiff. Head cocked.

“What?” I’m on instant alert.

“Do you hear that?”

"Hear what?" I reach for the blade in my pocket.

”That singing.”

I hear only lapping waves.

“Listen!" he hushes me.

I am listening - there’s nothing but the rhythm of the ocean, the click-clack screaming of a roller-coaster that should’ve been decommissioned ten years ago.

“You don’t hear that?” he says.

“Hear what?” My patience is waning.

“The singing. That…singing.”

He stands up. Digs at his ears. Steps towards the blackened sea. “There’s someone out there."

“What are you doing?” I grab at his arm.

He shakes me off. Heads for the water, and keeps going. Starts moving through waves like a fish to a lure, oblivious to the incoming tide that crashes against him. Further out to sea, as if called by some soundless lullaby...

Shin deep.

Thigh deep.

Waist deep.

"Blair!" I shout. "You can’t swim!”

He surges forward. Ignores me. He's chest-deep now. I shout his name but he doesn’t stop, just keeps traversing that watery path to nowhere.

“Fuck.” I charge after him...fuck!!!...and retreat. And the waves are crashing over his head, knocking him off balance as he chokes on salt and sludge, and I am watching it all play out, hazy and scratchy like a bad home movie.

And that's when She emerges. Rises up from that old rippled brine.

A maiden of piscine proportions.

She shimmers in the moonlight, all scales and tail and siren's song, swaying with the push-pull of the current. Her hair is red flame licking at salt-spray. She scoops Blair up and rests him safely atop a crest of foam.

“Nick!” Blair waves from his prime position in the sea. “I’m swimming!”

I wave back, blinking away disbelief.

The mermaid hovers in the water, her eyes glistening green. There's something familiar about those peepers.

“Why don’t you join us, Nick?” Her voice is like mother-of-pearl, and I feel an intense pull toward the ocean.

I step back. “Why don’t you bring him back to shore?”

Blair throws his hands up. “Nick, come in the water!”

“Yes," She whispers. "Come into the water. There are such wonderful things in here. Entire worlds. Places you can call home.”

Her green eyes glow and it unsettles me. “Sounds swell, lady. Here's an idea - bring my brother back to shore, then we can talk about worlds.”

She smiles, her perfect lips parting. “Why don’t you come and get him?”

With a shimmer and a splash, she drags Blair further out to sea. She dredges him through mouthfuls of seaweed and foam, and he comes up gasping. The delight has left his face.

“Please," I cry out. "He can’t swim.”

"I know! Isn't it hilarious!" She laughs and her eyes are jade fire. “Why don’t you swim out and help him, Nick? Isn't that what big brothers do?”

I step into the ocean and the shaking begins. I step back. "Let him go!"

She does as requested. He bobs and sinks, gulping at air and finding only seawater. She scoops him up and the game starts over.

"Look at him drowning," She muses. "So confused. He doesn't understand why you won't help him."

I charge at the bay again, but each wave is a reminder that water is a stranger to me, and not the kind of stranger I can cheat. I seek the safety of sand, betraying my brother, betraying myself. Frustration comes in hot salt tears. "I can't!"

"Nick!" Blair’s cries are fast-fading bleats. "Help!"

"I can't swim!" I howl, and my words echo in sonar waves. I can't swim, I can't swim, I can't swim...

Before my brother dies, I see two things -

The first is Her gaping mouth, lined and layered in shark-toothed rows. The second is the disappointment in Blair’s eyes, right before those teeth mince his brain.

After that finishing bite She dives beneath the water, taking him with her to the worlds below, but that look of disappointment lingers like the stagnant ocean air.

I stand on the shore, waiting for them to come back. I stand there 'til the amusement park lights go out.

And then I understand why Her eyes were so familiar.

For the past three nights, I've been admiring their glow - their colour and shape on the surface of the ocean - mistaking them for the reflection of a Ferris Wheel and not the stalking eyes of an apex predator.

The theme park is closed, but the green lights remain. There has to be thirty, maybe forty of them.

They glide across the water, circling me and that’s when I feel it - the sea at my ankles. The tide has risen to envelop my feet. I turn to run but the water fights me - I trip and the waves have won.

The eyes close in with a splash and a shimmer and teeth like a shark. And for a moment I am home.

FantasyHorrorShort StorySci Fi

About the Creator

Em Starrrrr


~twisted fiction~

email enquiries

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  4. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

Add your insights

Comments (17)

Sign in to comment
  • Kendall Defoeabout a month ago

    Okay, I prefer this one...and I am glad it is too cold to go for a swim... ;)

  • Donna Foxabout a month ago

    Such and engaging and thrilling read! Well written, nice work!

  • River Joy2 months ago

    This is wonderful, and that is one hell of an intro sentence, it sets the mood and pacing for the rest of the story. I love it.

  • Aphotic2 months ago

    Excellent. Your descriptions, pacing, dialogue, etc. All so good. “The theme park is closed, but the green lights remain. There has to be thirty, maybe forty of them.” So creepy, I fricken love it!

  • Tiffany Gordon 2 months ago

    You write Beautifully! This had me on the edge of my seat! Very well done!

  • Baltizare2 months ago

    Good work. This kept me all the way to the end. Everything before " Do you hear that?" could be cut and it would be the same great story.

  • Dana Stewart4 months ago

    Exceptional! I loved everything about this Top Story! Congratulations 🎉

  • Megan Alysse4 months ago

    I felt like I was under boardwalk watching the events unfold! Love it.

  • zaineb abrar5 months ago

    loved the depiction of the sunset. it should be crime to witness such beauty

  • Ben Shepherd5 months ago

    Great storytelling!

  • Gonzaga5 months ago


  • Kendall Defoe5 months ago

    Rather perfect...

  • Mi Lui Vori5 months ago

    Great! I want to give you credit!

  • JD Bickle5 months ago

    I used to work for a street shelter, and I really related to the gritty reality of kids hiding in the shadows, playing their own little game they made out of surviving on the streets.

  • Rodney Roberts5 months ago

    As a connoisseur of all things horror and macabre, this gets a big tick from me. Five stars out of five!

  • Natalie5 months ago

    Great! I want to give you credit!

  • Melissa Ingoldsby5 months ago

    Very good dialogue and excellent story hearted

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.